Online course in Creative Arts & Media

Physical Theatre: Exploring the Slap

Learn about Meyerhold’s form of physical theatre, biomechanics, and understand and perform ‘The Slap’.

  • Duration 2 weeks
  • Weekly study 2 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $34 Find out more

Why join the course?

This course introduces you to world-renowned Russian director Meyerhold’s technique of biomechanics. It invites you to study and experience first-hand his revolutionary biomechanical étude, ‘The Slap’.

Through a mixture of video, animation, discussion forums and practical exercises you will begin to understand Meyerhold’s Russian actor training technique – a two-minute repeatable exercise used to develop balance, awareness and expression. You will be invited to explore your own response to this unique approach to training and will share these responses with your fellow learners.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsI'm Jonathan Pitches, I'm chair in theatre and performance in the School of Performance in Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds. Actor training has proliferated all over the world in the last century, but our focus is going to be on the Russian tradition of actor training.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 secondsIt's designed to give you a taste of the techniques of the master director, Vsevolod Meyerhold. And most importantly, it's about the relationship of those techniques, to the history and politics of the region at the time.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsBy studying on this course, you'll learn about the rich tradition of actor training, about the Russian tradition, and about how Meyerhold actually taught biomechanics at the time. You'll also get to practise some of his specific techniques, including actions taken from one of his etudes, or physical studies. Finally, you'll document that experience, learning how to reflect on the relationship between the physical and the historical. It's a very dynamic way of exploring history. You might call it history through the body. The course isn't intended as a training in itself, but as a taster of the practical techniques which have inspired actors in the 1920s and is still inspiring theatre directors and actors today.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsI've been teaching and researching actor training for almost 20 years now. And each year, I'm more and more fascinated about how the practicalities of the technique are embedded in the history of politics and ideology of a particular country. I'm lucky enough to be working in the perfect environment here at the stage@leeds to explore this relationship. I'd like you to join with me on this course to explore the theory and practice of physical actor training.

What topics will you cover?

  • Meyerhold and the Russian Revolution: why biomechanics was invented and why he felt it was necessary
  • Exploring ‘the Slap’ through biomechanical training exercises known as études
  • Meyerhold in action: working safely by preparing using warm up techniques
  • ‘The Slap’ in action: techniques for the ‘shake and shake’, ‘slap and taking aim’, and ‘the slap and return to neutral’
  • Production of a video, image or prose demonstrating actions from the études

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 30 Sep 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explore and discuss events in Russia during the first half of the 20th century to help understand the development of Russian theatre, and the lives of Meyerhold and his contemporaries.
  • Assess your understanding of biomechanics and the études.
  • Reflect on the week’s learning by contributing to the discussion regarding moving in a biomechanical manner.
  • Perform the biomechanics and études warm up activities.
  • Explore the three components of ‘the Slap’.
  • Develop your physical experience of moving biomechanically.
  • Investigate historical examples of writing, still images and moving images and consider how you would like to record your experiences.
  • Assess your understanding by completing the test which concludes the course.

Who is the course for?

This course is part of the Going to University collection which has been specifically designed for students at schools and colleges. They provide a taster of undergraduate study at the University of Leeds and help students to decide which subject to study at university.

Completion of the courses will also enhance students’ university applications.

The courses can also be used as a teachers’ classroom enrichment resource.

Courses in this collection are also great for people that want an introduction in the specific subjects discussed in each course.

Who will you learn with?

Jonathan Pitches

Jonathan Pitches

I'm an academic and a Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds in the UK. A key enquiry for me is how embodied learning can be facilitated online using MOOCS.

Who developed the course?

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

Join this course

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  • Access to this course for 4 weeks


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Available until 31 October 2019. T&Cs apply.