• University of Leeds

Physical Theatre: Exploring the Slap

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

24,809 enrolled on this course

Physical Theatre: Exploring the Slap

24,809 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 2 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

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  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours
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    $189.99/yearLearn more

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 seconds I’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 seconds It’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 seconds By 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 seconds I’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.


  • Week 1

    Meyerhold in context

    • Welcome

      Before you get started take some time to introduce yourself and meet your fellow learners from around the world.

    • Meyerhold and Biomechanics

      In this first activity you will be introduced to Meyerhold before moving on to consider how and why he developed his system of biomechanics.

    • Introduction to The Slap

      In this activity Jonathan introduces you to one of the five classic études devised by Meyerhold and his collaborators in the 1920s: the Slap on the Face.

    • Summary

      To close this week we would like to introduce you to some of the options for studying at the University of Leeds. We also look forward to next week.

  • Week 2

    Meyerhold in action

    • About week 2

      This week shifts the focus to Meyerhold in action. We're going to put to the test the idea of exploring history through the body.

    • Preparation for practical activities

      This is an important activity providing preparation for 'the Slap in action'. It will help you to understand the importance of working safely through a range of warm up exercises.

    • The Slap in action

      In this activity you explore in greater detail the movements involved in 'the Slap' étude. Watch the videos and have a go.

    • Your turn

      In this activity you will decide how to record your own training exercise and share it with other learners. You can also reflect and comment on the posts from other learners.

    • Summary

      Having reached the end of this course, you can test your understanding and then look forward to further courses from the University of Leeds.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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?

I'm an academic and a Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds in the UK. I am lead educator for the Physical Theatre online course.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

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.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$189.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$44/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 12 Oct 2022

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 14 November 2022 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 14 November 2022 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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