Etienne Decroux and Corporeal Mime

ÉTIENNE DECROUX

Founder of Corporeal Mime

At 26, Decroux joined Jacques Copeau’s school, l’école du Vieux Colombier, where the idea first occurred to him of an art of representation through the movement of the body. This discovery was such a revelation that he devoted his entire life to the development of an art form: Corporeal Mime.
From 1926 to 1945 he pursued a fruitful career as an actor, playing many theatrical and cinematic roles directed by Copeau, Jouvet, Dullin, Artaud, Carné, and others. In 1940, seeking to reform the theatre, he founded his own mime school, and his own company in 1941. From that moment he never ceased to create, and gradually passed on the fruit of his research.
In 1946, Decroux abandoned his career as an actor to devote himself solely to mime. Resolute upon making his work known, he toured the world.
Through his research and his pieces, Etienne Decroux influenced generations of artists from diverse disciplines (theatre, dance, circus, etc.).

A travers ses recherches et ses créations, Étienne Decroux a influencé des générations d’artistes de diverses disciplines (théâtre, danse, cirque).

He is considered as the father of the “Moonwalk,” made popular by Michael Jackson.

Ivan Bacciocchi was the student, then assistance of Étienne Decroux

Etienne Decroux’s Corporeal Mime

It was on the body, and the body only, that Etienne Decroux founded his new mime with the aim of redesigning the profile and the form of the theatre of tomorrow. The work was a colossal utopian project, and yet Decroux, by the end of his life, had succeeded in giving his art a precise technique. The foundations of this technique were based on corporeal articulation, rhythm, interpretation and counterweights to make use of a physical dramaturgy to return to the origins of the most essential human theatricality. His art, the only physical theatrical technique developed in Western theatre, made Decroux an (often unknown) inspiration to a large part of contemporary gestural theatre.
Today, when a great cross-fertilisation between dance, theatre, puppetry and circus is returning to the fundamentals of the body, Decroux’s technique is an indispensable way for any artist, actor or dancer to improve their physical potential on stage.

His school of movement is also a school of thought which reflects upon this innovative and revolutionary physical method. Freeing it from the anecdotal, he pushed his art towards a universality where the human in movement expresses an essential human drama. These aesthetic choices, never solely aesthetic, leave the student open to assimilate this technique freely into their physical performance in a theatricality of movement which is always in keeping with its time and the performer’s individual artistic desires.

 

Bibliography:
Etienne Decroux, “Paroles sur le mime”, Gallimard, Paris 1963
Daniel Dobbels, Le silence des mimes blancs (livre multimédia), Paris, La Maison d’à Côté, 2006.
Patrick Pezin, “Étienne Decroux, Mime corporel, Les voies de l’acteur, L’Entretemps, 2003.

In memory,, Ivan Bacciocchi preciously guards the book which Etienne Decroux had dedicated to him.

Text of the dedication:

To Ivan Bacciocchi::

For whom I have copied down this from La Bruyere

“There is nothing as fine, simple and imperceptible as those ways by which reveal ourselves. A fool enters, exits, sits, gets up, keeps silent, and stands on his legs nothing like a man of spirit.”

For personal merit, page 125

Billancourt, 15 June 1984

Thus do thinkers, though sitting, sometimes think of that which keeps them standing.

Etienne Decroux.