Alongside new ones, the same or similar exercises with augmented difficulties as studied on level I should be developed further and applied. The difficulty grade of the classes should increase step by step, according to the level of the students – by combining movement, change of tempo, etc.

Energy grades – and changes of energy

At the first level, exercises for the development of energy, to retain energy, to project and to withdraw acting energy was studied. On the second level, the changes from one energy type to another and the energy grades are an important topic. Various energy types (animal energies, the energy of the elements, of moving materials, of processes in nature, the four temperaments, etc.) are studied and applied.

The energy grades below are studied one by one, along with the side coaching of the teacher. The group members invent small actions and interactions in each grade of energy. The exercise below (from Jacques Lecoq) is here developed further:

Energy grades exercises 2.1–2.4

Exercise 2.1: The participants lie relaxed on the floor, coached by the leader through the eight energy levels for 2–3 minutes for each grade. Important exercise!

Changes from one grade to the next should happen smoothly:

1. Lying relaxed on the floorpassiveneutralinside
2. Awake, rising slowly, walking around, looking around, unconscious perceptionpassiveneutraloutside
3. Stage manager is checking: everything still works! Observe, test, recognise, classifyactivepositiveoutside
4. Doubts to check out – (as a movement or a function) but it still works! It is not what I expected! activenegative or positive
negative and positive
5. ‘Christmas Eve feeling’, surprised, happy: Wonderful!hyperactivepositiveoutside
6. ’Too bad!’ Negative surprisesactivenegativeoutside
7. Attack from all directions, chaosconfusionnegativeoutside
8. Horror, panicpassive, immobilitynegativeInside/outside

Exercise 2.2: A is the boss, who got two new workhands in B and C. They must arrange chairs in rows for a concert, move furniture (or deal with any other physical activity). A has chosen an energy grade to act in, and workers B and C together chose another. They start to work, and the boss manages it: how does the work progress? Are there problems arising? Improvisation.

Exercise 2.3: (as above): After some time, perhaps, B and C influence the energy level of A (he adapts to the energy of the workers?) or vice versa.

Exercise 2.4: A, B and C act with energy grade 5, with big movements, pushed to melodrama (Improvisation).


Energy and breathing are closely connected.

Exercises 2.5–2.15

Exercise 2.5: Up from the floor by breathing[156]: Move through the following positions:

  • Lying on the back.
  • Turn to supine position.
  • Kneel down, arms extended forwards on the floor, ‘prayer position’.
  • Still kneeling, raise the spine, ‘Japanese sitting position’.
  • Rise from one knee, right foot on the floor, ‘knight’s position’.
  • Upright position.
  • ‘Banana’ position.

Exercise 2.6: Inhale. Move from one position to the next with a very slow exhalation.

Exercise 2.7: Move from one position to the next with a short and light inhalation.

Exercise 2.8: Inhale, hold breath (apnea), and wait for 3 seconds. Move with ‘the last drop of air’ violently to the next position and exhale immediately thereafter.

Exercise 2.9: Up from the floor with sound. Do the previous exercise by emitting a long, open Aaa… sound, exactly together with the expiration.

Exercise 2.10: The locomotive. Sit on the floor, spine erect, long neck, the head turned diagonally to the left. Inhale, and see an old-fashioned steam locomotive, exhale, follow it moving to the right, with small pushes of the diaphragm (not inhaling in between!) until the air ends and the locomotive has disappeared.

Exercise 2.11: Watching an aeroplane: In the samurai position. Inhaling, make a big horizontal scope of the sky, holding the breath, seeing a splendid aeroplane, a long exhale, and follow it with head and eyes, until the last drop of breath.

Exercise 2.12: Same exercise as above, only with the eyes.

Exercise 2.13: Same exercise as 2.11 From a forward lunge, follow the aeroplane exhaling, coordinated with a big, melodramatic gesture.

Exercise 2.14: ‘The Gong’. Inhale immobile, exhale with a ‘panorama movement‘ of the head, with a quick start, getting slower and slower.

Exercise 2.15: Previous exercise with sound.

Lecoq connected the act of hearing (and the development of energy) to different grades of breathing in five degrees:

To hear in five degreesRespiration[157]
Unconscious perceptionExhale*, turn the head casually and back, in flow, then inhale.
Percept, classifyExhale*, turn the head by holding breath (low) and return with the head (listening consciously), then inhale: ‘ah it is…’
‘It is nevertheless not …, what is it, then?’Exhale, inhale, turn the head to the right, then holding the breath, turn the head to the left, occupied, considering.
Strange and frightening situationExhale, inhale, hold breath, turn the head, turn back holding breath, uneasy.
ShockExhale with reaction to protect the body, lift the head and inhale through the lungs (pneumatic), search for ‘the fearful thing’, exhale. With the pneumatic inspiration you get a shock: escape by holding your breath. Pose, exhale.
*= towards the end of a breathing phase

Grotowski’s cat exercise

The lower back, the motor of this exercise, must be well warmed up before! Study first the movements. Later they are freely applied and communicated with. (Make sure the buttocks rise high, arms and legs extended and the feet flexed.)

Exercises 2.16–2.22

Exercise 2.16: Listening. The participants lie in a prone position in a circle, heads towards the centre, and listen together to sounds coming from outside, from fellow participants and from their own bodies.

Exercise 2.17: Back up. After some time, drag the palms of the hands beside the ears on the floor and flex the feet. On a sound impulse (real or imagined), push with the arms, lift the pelvis with extended legs as high as possible (A-shape of the body) and react to the sound. Then lower the pelvis again, the stomach touches the floor, the upper body lifted high (cobra position), before lowering the head to the floor. Repeat about 8 times: each time the movement is caused by a sound.

Exercise 2.18: Stretching the back. On a sound stimulus, lift the pelvis high and extend the arms, lift the head, bend one knee, and bend the head towards it, extend the leg again (the head straightens), thereafter the other leg or both legs, stretching the back in all directions like an awakening cat.

Exercise 2.19: Stretching one leg high up, falling over. Lift the pelvis high. Lift one leg as high as you can, stretch it, move it over the other leg and fall softly and in a relaxed way onto your back, return (with a sound) onto the belly and continue.

Exercise 2.20: Kicks. The cat observes another cat, kicking it by lifting the knee towards the bent head, and kicking with impulse from the lower back (extend the back, lift the head, and extend the kicking leg), relax, hold the pelvis high again, descend.

Exercise 2.21: Rounds. The cat shows importance and strength. Push hard on the arms, pelvis hight, describe (with impulse and a certain tempo) big circles with the pelvis (sustained by the arms) to the right or the left. (The cat displays flexibility and force).

Exercise 2.22: Improvise with these elements with the others in the group.

Giving and taking impulses through physical contact and using weight as partner exercises

These exercises are inspired by martial arts training.

Exercises 2.23–2.28

Exercise 2.23: Actor A starts in a well-balanced samurai position. Actor B touches A’s chest and pushes. A realises B’s weight and gives counterweight. B realises the weight of his partner (If he withdraws suddenly, A will fall).

Exercise 2.24: A gives a part of his weight – of his finger(s), hand(s), arms, feet, head, whole body (standing in front, behind, or from the side of B) to the partners finger(s), hand, shoulders, head, arm, back, hand etc. A reacts by realising the weight of the partner and gives counterweight.

Exercise 2.25: To carry the partner’s weight in various ways: (Actor A in different basic positions, standing, kneeling, lying, etc). A (B hanging over his shoulder or sitting on his back etc.) is moving with B as a burden.

Exercise 2.26: Falling with the burden. Actor B, by his weight impulse, makes A fall under his burden.

Exercise 2.27: Help the partner to rise from the floor. By physical contact (giving a hand, or a hand supporting a shoulder, etc.) A helps B to rise quickly again. (‘No total service!’).

Exercise 2.28: Walking or running through the space, A uses B as a springboard.

Further exercises from contact improvisation can be used. They also serve as preparation for simple lifts, or pair acrobatics, not mentioned here. For building ‘pyramids’. Focus: weight and counterweight, contact and respect.

The isolated movements of the spine

The bends have previously been practised in body education I. Now the different phases of the bends, rotations and translations of the spine movement are isolated. First, complete the exercises in the Eiffel Tower position – it gives stability to the centre, the pelvis and the legs. Later they are practised from other positions as well.

Exercises 2.29–2.37

Exercise 2.29: The forward and backward bends of the spine: (eyes) neck – head – chest – waist – pelvis – legs, with isolation (a stop), from the top down: Neck – head – chest – waist – pelvis – legs, upwards: legs – pelvis – waist – chest – head – neck.

Exercise 2.30: Sideways bends of the spine, right and left, with isolation.

Exercise 2.31: Rotation of the spine with isolations. Start the rotation from the samurai position, turn to the right side by eyes-neck-head-chest-waist and, with frontal and centred pelvis, move further to the right side by extending the left leg. Return via eyes-head (from top to bottom) or via weight shift (from bottom to top).

Exercise 2.32: Counter-rotation (twist) with isolations. From the samurai position as above. Start by moving the pelvis, maintained horizontally, to the right (by bending the right knee and extending the left leg), rotate the waist to the left, then the chest, neck, head (and eyes) and back again.

Exercise 2.33: The translations of eyes, neck, head, chest, waist, and pelvis with isolations. (With leg movements – one leg is bent, the other extended). Shoulders and hips stay horizontal. Start from top to bottom or from bottom to top. The segments of the body move in parallel.

Exercise 2.34: Counter-translations with isolations. Move the eyes to the right, the neck to the left, and return to the centre in the opposite way. Alternatively: eyes to the right, neck and head to the left, chest, and waist to right, and return to the centre in the opposite way. Or: move eyes, neck and head to the right side, chest and waist to the left, pelvis and legs to the right side, return from bottom to top.

Exercise 2.35: Further isolations of shoulder(s), arm, hands, fingers, knees, and feet. Isolate a part and move. Improvisation.

Exercise 2.36: Isolate the elements of your walk. Improvisation.

Exercise 2.37: A simple, concrete action is isolated, such as putting on a coat. Improvisation.

Some pendulum movements (Cuḷippu[158]) of the spine

The pendulum movements of the upper body are the most effective movements for expression. They are a combination of bends, arms, head, neck, and hand and eye movements. The basic position is the samurai position, with bent knees, legs 1.5–3 feet apart, as a basis for the swinging movements of the torso. The lower back is arched (energy-centre). Pendulums are always practised with arms, hands, fingers and eyes together.

These are seen as very basic and important movements. My Indian kathakali teacher used to tell me jokingly: ‘If you are bored or have nothing to do, practise cuippu!’ Perhaps that shows how important cuippus are for the movement culture of Kerala. Small pendulum movements as in mohiniyāṭṭaṃ, from one side to the other, or from front to back, have an undulatory quality, and can be connected to breathing.

Exercises 2.38–2.46

Exercise 2.38: Circle in the direction of the thumb. Start in the samurai position (in kathakaḷi, the feet are kept parallel, standing on the outer edge of the feet), hands with lifted elbows in front of the breast (about 18–25 cm), hands in mudrakya-mudra[159], fingers upwards, palms to the front. Change your right palm to hamsapaksa-mudra, palm towards the body, fingertips to the inside, the thumb raised. The right thumb gives the direction of the movement – (and an otkas-movement!) the sideways bending of the spine, which changes in a quarter arch to a forward bend (to the middle), straighten the upper body again by changing to mudrakya-mudra again. When you have arrived in the starting position again, make an accent with the right heel. Start the quarter-circle to the left side (by changing the left hand into hamsapaksa-mudra). During the pendulum movement, push on the lower back that is unmoved as the pelvis and the legs. The lower back is the fulcrum of movement.

Exercise 2.39: Development: Follow the movement (on 8 beats) with the eyes.

Exercise 2.40: Circle diagonally forwards-downwards and turn backwards-upwards. Start in the same position as in the previous exercise and keep pelvis, legs and lower back in position. Start again with mudrakya-mudra, bend diagonally right-forwards and move the right hand during the movement into ardhachandra-mudra, underarm extending, palm pointing diagonally forwards and downwards. Raise the upper body, twist back to the right side, describe a small circle with the wrist and upper arm, with the hand turning in an upward-right direction again into mudrakya-mudra in front of the body.

Exercise 2.41: Stone-circle: same position as previous exercises. Hand position: right palm upwards, left palm downwards, both in mushti-mudra(fists). Bend the upper body slightly to the right, (for taking otkas), open the hands into hamsapaksa-mudra, straighten the chest, describe a circle with the hands in front of the body (as you would push a stone from your right hand up to the left side) always the same distance from the body) (up to the height of the forehead, where you change the wrists with the left open palm up, right open palm down) and continue the circle to the right side down with the chest slightly bent to the opposite side, straighten the spine and close the palms into fists again in front of the body. The circles with the spine are smooth and start from the lower back.

Exercise 2.42: Circle in a deep plié, with palms outside, in front of a wall. Hands with palms outside, (about 18 cm in front of the body, just above the head), descend into a deep plié, arms describing a big circle. When you arrive in plié, after a half circle, the hands are in front of the chest, palms inside, turn the palms outside again, the circle continues upwards and the body rises.

Exercise 2.43: Snake forward. Stand in a deep lunge, palms of the hands together. Describe the first half in line with the body, in front of the head and downwards, close to the body, turn the hips 180 degrees into a deep lunge and continue the other half of the figure of eight.

Exercise 2.44: Little figure-of-eight[160]: Samurai position. Right hand palm up, left hand palm down. The fingers bend and grip each other into a fist. Hold the position in front of the body. (When the bend goes to the right side, the head is still on the left side!) The movement of the figure-of-eight starts with a sideways-wave between the shoulder blades and ends with the head and neck. It is more of ‘a lift’, a breathing of the chest.

Exercise 2.45: Figure-of-eight with small side bends and leg movements[161]. Same exercise as above, the movement of the figure-of-eight starts in the middle under the shoulder blades with flowing side bends (waist-chest-neck-head) while the upper body travels from the fulcrum to the right side, the left leg is on the way to extending, but never extends fully. The right knee is bent (into a grand plié) the more the left leg extends.

Exercise 2.46: Stand in a female position, left arm in front of the body, supporting the right elbow, right hand in the orchid position touching the right cheek. Minimal natural wave, starting from the lower back: waist-chest-neck-head.

Shoulders and arm movements

Exercises 2.47–2.50

Exercise 2.47: Junshow (Chinese cloud movement, female version)

  1. Start in the female position (right leg behind the left foot), left hand 15 cm in front of the body, palm up, right arm extended to the side, elbow slightly bent, palm outside, fingers upward, wrist turned up.
  2. The left hand moves straight to the right side, palm inside, the right arm moves to the left side, the arms cross in front of the chest, right hand over the left, palm outside.
  3. The arms describe a circle in front of the body and the head, to the left side, palms outwards.
  4. The left arm, with bent elbow, at an angle of 45 degrees, left palm forward. The right hand stays beside the left hand, in a loose fist, palm outside, wrist flexed upwards.
  5. The right hand moves to the right side, so the elbow is gently bent, looking diagonally in the direction of the right hand.
  6. Open the right hand, turn the palm forward, and while turning the head, look up diagonally to the left side (as accent).

The following exercise is built on arm swings and flow:

Exercise 2.48: Lemon exercise. Parallel position, on 8 beats.

  1. Swing the right arm to the right side, then drop it.
  2. Then swing it to the front.
  3. Describe a circle with the arm, starting downwards and backwards, upwards, then forwards, right hand close to the chest, palm inwards, fingers pointing in towards the chest, contract.
  4. Open the chest again, starting to move the right arm sideways and outwards.
  5. Pull the arm in towards the body by the right elbow, close to the body (right arm from the centre somewhat to the left).
  6. The right wrists describe an inside circle (downward-outward-upwards).
  7. and 8. The figure-of-eight (right-up-left-down, the arm goes in a sway down to the right.

Exercise 2.49: Study the movement in flow, right and left, then both arms together.

Exercise 2.50: Weight shifts and knee movements. Find adequate weight shifts and steps to the movement above, by letting the body decide.

Combined movements

The following two exercises from kalarippayaṭṭu develop dynamics.

Exercises 2.51–2.52

Exercise 2.51: Moving forwards deeply and backwards diagonally[162]. Start in the elephant position (see level I). Step diagonally to the right: ‘Bringing the right foot to the inside of the left foot and moving it in the form of an arc towards the front on the right side. Then the left foot is brought to the inside portion of the left foot…’

Exercise 2.52: Kalarippayaṭṭu kicks: Stand with parallel feet, kick the right leg upwards from the hip, let it relax and return behind the body, where it bends, and step forwards (in a line) with the right leg, from heel to toe, and kick with the left foot. At the end of the space, step with the left leg forward, turn the body to the left, quasi around the left leg, and fall into a deep fencing position with the right leg, continuing the kicks. (The feet should not be extended as in ballet exercises!)