A skilled actor in the naturalistic style (moving and behaving as ‘normal people’ do), can show us the world as it really is. But a performer that has developed his body acting skills – makes us dream about the world, how it could be.

Directions for use

The stiffest talking heads among actors will tell you that all theatre is physical. And they are of course right! But besides the mainstream – the psychology- and realism-ridden theatre – and the norm-critical performative arts, there is movement-based theatre, with the body as the main vehicle of expression.

Theatre reformers of the past all began with the body: from Gordon Craig, Jacques Copeau, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Rudolf von Laban, Etienne Decroux, Jerzy Grotowski, and Eugenio Barba to Jacques Lecoq.

This collection contains some important techniques and exercises of movement-based theatre and does not by any means cover the full range of possibilities. However, it does give an impression of the main fields: about body techniques, acrobatics, objective mime, analytic mime, characterisation and action, voice-and-movement, and mask work. On their basis, the instructor invents further exercises needed in the classroom.

The sketches illustrate only the important points of movements and actions.

For the commedia dell’arte, buffoons and clowns, and pantomime and gesture language, no specific exercises are given.


I have taught movement-based theatre for over fifty years. I have collected its exercises and researched the paths, difficulties and aims of movement-based theatre. I document and share here my tacit knowledge of what has successfully been done in classrooms since the 1950s, with the hope of serving future generations of theatre practitioners. I describe aspects created by others and also my own, and place them in their artistic and pedagogical context. I do not present my method or the sole method of somebody else, but instead present possibilities. The provenance of exercises (as far as it is known) is mentioned as well as their applications. I know each exercise through practice. But the collection is not complete!

Exercises change and develop over the years. Their purposes change. Good exercises should not be lost. Even if they are not useful in the moment, they may be important later, somewhere else. I chose exercises I found useful and that have their place in movement-based theatre education. I analyse them and hope to create a sourcebook for directors, pedagogues and theatre students. The collected techniques and exercises are described,andare connected to learning and remembering processes under two systematic viewpoints: As acting qualities to develop and as acting skills to acquire.

Exercises depend not only on their efficiency, but also on the physical and mental level of the training group, the level of skills and knowledge, the fashions of the day, and of the aspirations of students and teachers – how exercises are taught and received.

Only after discussing these questions may the exercise material – what is useful to teach – be defined by its artistic and pedagogic effects, benefits and advantages, and then be described.

But first a look at the context of movement-based theatre training is necessary. What are its ideas, conventions and fashions? How is the body looked at by directors and actors? What kinds of bodies is the training supposed to develop? What kinds of techniques are used?