Increasing age doesn't have to equate to diminishing artistry. In fact, for many dancers, it's the opposite, says choreographer Beth Corning.
Throughout her career, she's worked with dancers of all ages, she says, and "they were 20 and they were 30 and they were bloody brilliant and bright and smart and had depth, but not the depth of a 50-year-old performer."
She annually salutes the artistry of the 40 and older crowd with her Glue Factory Project productions, a name that refers to the practice of using aging horses' parts for making adhesives. She debuted her first one in 2000 in Minneapolis to great response, followed by three more there, before bringing the project to Pittsburgh.
The city's third annual Glue Factory Project, "The Life & Death of Little Finn," premieres Wednesday for a five-day run at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side.
Producing a piece for veteran dancers involves a different approach to movement and expression than choreographing for teens and young adults.
"You exchange a certain kind of physicality," Ms. Corning says. Instead of loading a work with trick after trick, she focuses on subtle details and nuances of dancers' steps.
This year, Ms. Corning has incorporated puppetry into the performance as another avenue through which dancers can share their art with audiences. Her production company, Corningworks, collaborated with Canadian-based puppet theater group Company X on an adult puppet show.
Company X's Marina Harris, of Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, has long envisioned mounting a puppet-centric piece.
"Ever since I was a kid, I was interested in puppetry, but I never did anything about it," except for a dance piece here and there, says Ms. Harris, a longtime dancer, choreographer, costume designer and writer. Ms. Corning's invitation to build this year's Glue Factory Project around puppets gave her the nudge to pursue her ideas.
The show shares the ups -- and many downs -- of Little Finn.
"He's an ordinary little puppet who goes through these mundane and sort of weird life trip-ups," Ms. Corning says. "It's humorous, it's poignant, it's funny. People shouldn't be afraid to laugh if they think something's funny."
Choreography and a mix of rod puppets, marionettes and hand puppets -- all handmade by Ms. Harris -- help tell Finn's story. In place of traditional backdrops, Ms. Harris produced animations to serve as scenery. She, along with Ms. Corning and Melinda Evans, former principal dancer with Utah Repertory Dance Theater, will make up the cast.
Although puppets are often associated with kid entertainment, these ones aren't of the Kermit or Cookie Monster kind. Some of the themes they grapple with are serious, sad and sexual in nature, Ms. Harris says. But there's also touching and fun moments, Ms. Corning says, and the museum setting further adds to the whimsy.
"Adults can become 5-year-olds at this," Ms. Corning says. "You can enjoy something for the simplicity of it. You can enjoy it for a more metamorphic reason. You can enjoy it for face value or something deeper."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org.