JANUARY 25, 2010

Students at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center
Recreate Italian Futurist Puppet Ballet "Balli Plastici"

By Eric Sloss, CFA Press Release, January 25, 2010

Franco SciannameoPITTSBURGH—Depero Futuristi, a student team at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), is re-imagining the futurist puppet ballet "Balli Plastici," or the "Plastic Dance." Using a puppeteering software toolkit called ToyBox Futuristi, the group has digitized the ballet's original marionettes while developing a means for others to create their own futurist-inspired ballets.

Under the direction of Franco Sciannameo, director of the interdisciplinary degree programs at Carnegie Mellon, the ETC students hope to move the marionettes beyond mere appreciation and propel them forward as interactive and playful. The group designed ToyBox Futuristi using arrangements of original and re-imagined "Balli Plastici" puppets, set pieces and backdrops in an attempt to adapt and modernize Depero's pieces to the digital age while still keeping the artist's original vision alive. ToyBox Futuristi also features an intuitive user interface that is artistically consistent with Depero's work.

Created by Italian futurist Fortunato Depero in 1918, "Balli Plastici" uses geometric, fantastical, multicolored marionettes to encapsulate the futurist ideal of machinery striving to break free of human control. The machine-like puppets were intended to replace human actors and dancers while establishing a new way to present art. "Balli Plastici" has been featured on Performa 09, TimeOut New York, MeFeedia, Parson's Illustration department blog and the Seoul COMO tower.

The original music accompanying "Balli Plastici" was selected, orchestrated and conducted by Italian composer Alfredo Casella (1883-1947). For this re-imagined version of Depero's ballet, the Carnegie Mellon School of Music is producing a recording based on the newly discovered original scores and parts preserved in the Casella Archives at the Fondazione Cini in Venice, Italy. The composition is scheduled to debut in April.

"The composition adds a high degree of authenticity to a complex work of art, which although presented to the public in 1918 was indeed intended for audiences somewhere in a future time," said Sciannameo.

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Pictured above is an image of the "Balli Plastici" puppets.