I started in 1964 as a trained teacher, interested in ballet, expressive dance and mime and in their professional education: what aims, techniques and exercises are developed for acting qualities or for skills, how to present and do them, and how to invent new ones.
I received acting training in movement-based theatre at Jacques Lecoq’s school in Paris (I fell for the mask and Lecoq’s methods for the analysis of movement). As assistant to the Romanian director Radu Penciulescu in Stockholm, I got professional directing training. When he joined my experimental theatre group ‘Vargteatern’ in Uppsala in 1973, I had to re-orient myself, because Penciulescu wanted absolutely no mime and acting skills on stage! I had to develop a new form of movement-based training for his theatre where heightened presence and close collaboration of actors were extremely important. These efforts later became the foundations, Level I, of my movement-based acting training.
As an actress, director and pedagogue, I got in touch early on with several contradictory styles, viewpoints and methods of movement-based ‘physical theatre’. I became fascinated with the work of Etienne Decroux, Marcel Marceau, Jerzy Grotowski, Eugenio Barba, and Vsevolod Meyerhold. In the late 1970s, working at Statens Scenskola in Stockholm, I got into a close encounter with the pedagogic work of Rudi Penka and Hilde Buchwald on Brechtian (movement) education. And the working methods of the ‘Open Theatre’ made their mark, too.
But the strongest influences I experienced were from Asian theatre. In 1965 in Paris I got the ‘Asian shock’, when I watched kabuki for the first time. Breathtakingly physical, colourful, beautiful and highly dramatic – such theatre I wanted to produce! Some years later, I travelled to Bali and learnt Baris, Legong, the voice techniques of the puppeteers, and of course, topeng (mask theatre). But that was only the beginning! I started long, practical studies of Asian theatre. In India, I studied kathakali, bharatanāṭyaṃ, mohiniyāṭṭaṃ and kūṭiyāṭṭaṃ. In Beijing, at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts (NACTA), I studied female characters of Chinese opera for three years.
The practice of Asian theatre made a mark on my acting, directing, teaching and research. Not the outer forms of Asian classical theatre, but the principles of movement and acting, as the know-how about the uses of body and space, and the stylisation of emotions and actions.
As a solo performer of movement-based theatre and mime, I performed and toured with several mime-and-mask solos in Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Canada and India.
I directed plays for many institutional theatres and free groups in Sweden, Germany, Finland and India, from Greek classics to Shakespeare, from Chekhov to Lorca, as well as modern plays, operas, mime and dance theatre productions, and devised theatre.
I worked as a pedagogue at theatre academies in Stockholm, Helsinki, Thrissur and Kaledy (India), and worked at the Department for Physical Theatre in Vaasa (at Novia University of Applied Science), for nine years between 2002 and 2011.
By and by I have distilled my own method. Between 1960 and 2022 I collected, reflected, applied and experimented with several techniques, and studied the effects of an uncountable number of exercises of movement-based theatre training. I have seen exercises and techniques, fashions and styles as well as performing practices come and go!
In my master’s thesis for the University of Arts in Helsinki, I dealt with the mask and mask-theatre as a tool for the actor’s mimesis. For me, the mask is still one of the most effective dramatic means.
For my doctorate in 2011, I researched gesture language and pantomime in Europe and India, and published The Techniques of Gesture Language, a Theory of Practice’ where I concentrated on the theatrical expressions of hands and face.