In his later years, the great teacher and director Stanislavski began to focus on a new approach to acting - one that he called the Method of Physical Action. The general principle of this theory was that physical action - movement and gesture - could trigger emotional responses, opening up a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for the actor.
Stanislavski was not the first - nor has he been the last - to stress the importance of movement in an actor’s training. Ancient theatre forms the world over - from Greece to Japan to the most isolated island tribes of the Pacific - incorporated a prominent physical element in their performance traditions (often including the type of ritual dancing that can still be seen in indigenous cultures everywhere today). Contemporary director and theorist Tadashi Suzuki has re-appropriated several of these traditions for his training method - a rigorous physical regimen which includes ritual stomping and other means of exploring the body’s relationship to the earth. Suzuki’s colleague Anne Bogart, who adapted the Viewpoints method of dance training for actors, also focuses on the movement of bodies in space.
In recent years, conservatory programs and acting coaches everywhere have placed a renewed emphasis on the physical aspect of actor training, often combining elements of several popular methods. Many of these methods originated in non-dramatic areas - as systems of holistic healing and pain management, for example, or as exercises for expectant mothers. Many, like Viewpoints, began as methods of dance training and have since been adapted for actors. Despite their disparate origins, however, these methods all seem to share a basic common goal: reacquainting the human body with the forgotten or repressed instincts that allow it to move freely and without restraint - sharpening the perceptive abilities and restoring the body’s connection with the world around it and with the earth itself.
For most actors, movement training is only one part of a multi-step process. Some, however, find that this type of work opens up a door for them - that it is the most useful and effective type of work they can do in developing the instrument of their body. For this reason, we will treat movement training as a discrete approach to acting, focusing on several of the most widely-used methods. As with acting pedagogies, most movement techniques share many common characteristics, and choosing between them can often be very confusing. In this section, we will attempt to outline the qualities that make each of these methods unique.
Bloom, Katya with Rosa Shreeves
Moves: Sourcebook of Ideas for Body Awareness and Creative Movement
Through the Body
The Body Speaks: Performance and Expression
(with foreword by Yoshi Oida)
The Well-Tempered Body: Expressive Movement for Actors, Improvisers, and Performance Artists
Movement for Actors
An Acrobat of the Heart: A Physical Approach to Acting Inspired by Jerzy Grotowski
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By Jenny Marlowe, LoveActing.com Updated Nov 3, 2008
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