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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 secondsI'm Jonathan Pitches, your lead educator and Professor of Theatre and Performance here, at the University of Leeds. We're going to be focusing on the hugely popular phenomenon of physical theatre and looking back to its roots in Russia in the 1920s and '30s. We're going to be concentrating on one key director and actor-trainer from that period, Vsevolod Meyerhold. We'll be trying out some of his practical techniques-- his system of biomechanics. And we'll be testing out some of his theoretical ideas. Meyerhold came from a remarkable moment in history when theatre and culture were being radically reconsidered before and after the revolution in Russia and all over Europe.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsIt was a period that witnessed the rise of the theatre director and the birth of the professional actor-trainer, when new systems and approaches to acting were cropping up all over the continent. But this isn't just a course about history. Meyerhold's ideas and approaches are still taught all over the world and are documented in many different forms. We'll be looking at this translation of 20th century acting into the 21st, scrutinising the documents of old, and developing new records of biomechanics using 21st century technologies. In doing so, we'll be asking what is the current state of physical theatre, and how does it relate to the past?

Skip to 1 minute and 24 secondsWe'll be working with specially prepared animations of these studies using my original demonstration of the etude as a starting point. You'll have the opportunity to reflect on these exercises. And if you choose to, share your reflections in writing, stills, or moving images with fellow students all around the world. So there's lots to get your teeth into in this course and to keep your mind and body active. I really hope you enjoy the course, and now we'd like to hear all about you.

Welcome to the course

Welcome to this short course which explores Meyerhold’s form of Physical Theatre, biomechanics. Your lead educator on the course is Jonathan Pitches, Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds.

This course is just one of a series designed by the University of Leeds for school-based learners and their teachers. As this is an open course, we also welcome other learners: as you will have seen from the welcome area, we have a diverse cohort signed up. However, it is important to recognise that this course, and the content and activities within it, has been specifically designed to help those studying at school or college make the transition to studying at university or the work place.

We have provided a course map to help you navigate your journey through the course: click on the image to access, or you can download the map from the Downloads section at the bottom of the page.

An image showing the course map - find the full version in the 'Downloads' section below

It is anticipated that it will take around two hours to complete the tasks during this week. This includes watching videos, joining discussions, reading articles and completing any exercises. If you have more time, we have also provided some links to additional reading and resources.

In the first week of the course you’ll be introduced to Vsevolod Meyerhold and learn a little about life in Russia around the time of the Revolution in 1917. You’ll also learn about why Meyerhold invented biomechanics and why he felt it was necessary. Then you’ll go on to study one of his biomechanical training exercises, known as études, called ‘the Slap’.

In week two, you’ll be asked to practise and produce your own version of ‘the Slap’. This is your chance to get creative and present your interpretation through a medium of your choosing. This might be by creating a video, or through a photography project. You’ll then share your work with other learners and be encouraged to comment on what others have done.

Have your say:

Please use the comments to share your reasons for joining this course. Please also let us know where you are from: this course is open to learners world-wide.

Take some time to read the posts from other learners. If you come across someone with similar interests to you, you may choose to ‘follow’ them; you can then filter the discussions to view only the comments from those you are following. This can help to make discussions easier to manage.

Next steps

When you are ready to move on, click ‘Mark as complete’. You can monitor your progress through the course by clicking the ‘Progress’ tab at the top of each FutureLearn page. This will show you the steps you have completed. You can also click the ‘Activity’ tab to see all recent posts, and the ‘Replies’ tab to see responses from other participants to your comments.

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This video is from the free online course:

Physical Theatre: Exploring the Slap

University of Leeds