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Online course

Physical Theatre: Meyerhold and Biomechanics

Learn how to practice Meyerhold’s biomechanics and study its place in the history of physical theatre.

Physical Theatre: Meyerhold and Biomechanics

Discover Meyerhold's technique of theatrical biomechanics

Experience the revolutionary approach to acting by world-renowned Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold and his technique of biomechanics. You’ll explore key players in Russian actor training, and through expert panel discussions you’ll consider Meyerhold’s contribution and how his work is still relevant today. You’ll learn Meyehold’s techniques and be introduced to one of his études – a short repeatable exercise used by him to develop balance, awareness and expression. You’ll be invited to explore your own responses to this unique training approach and share your work with experts and fellow students.

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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 and 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. The course is about the training techniques used by Soviet actors in the 1920s, which is still being used today all over the world. 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 51 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 his 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 will document 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.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsPrimarily, this is a course aimed at those with a passion for 20th century theatre. It may be particularly applicable to those who've studied Meyerhold's teacher Stanislavski at A-level, or perhaps those on theatre and performance undergraduate programmes. There's also a broader appeal to this course, which might relate to Russian studies, cultural studies, or even history. 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 are still inspiring theatre directors and actors today. I've been teaching and researching actor training for almost 20 years now.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsAnd each year I'm more and more fascinated about how the practicalities of the technique are embedded in the history, politics, and ideology of a particular country. I'm lucky enough to be working in the perfect environment here at stage@leeds to explore this relationship. I'd like you to join with me on this three week course to explore the theory and practise of physical actor training.

What topics will you cover?

  • Theatre history and its connection with theatre practice.
  • The growth of actor training in the 20th Century.
  • The principles of theatrical biomechanics.
  • Biomechanical études; how they were taught and by whom.
  • The importance of working safely in physical theatre.
  • Preparation exercises and practical activities.
  • The six actions of the biomechanical étude, the slap.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service: This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

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

  • Explore theatre history and describe its connection with theatre practice.
  • Describe factors that led to the development of actor training in the 20th Century.
  • Explain the principles of theatrical biomechanics.
  • Explore how the études were taught and by whom.
  • Explain the safety guidelines that should be used when practicing biomechanics.
  • Perform preparation exercises and apply the theory of biomechanics to practice.
  • Model and summarise the six actions of the biomechanical étude, the slap.
  • Explain ways of documenting the experience of biomechanics.

Who is the course for?

The course is for anyone interested in theatre and training. You may be a student at school or college thinking of going into theatre or you may be at university wanting to widen your areas of interest and experience. Alternatively, you may be a teacher, an actor, a dancer or theatre professional or a life-long learner in the performing arts with an active curiosity for history and theatre training. There will be some movement work, so students need to be of sound physical health, but the physical actions to be explored in the course are manageable for anyone with an average capacity for movement – lifting the arms, rotating the hips, shifting weight from one leg to the next. No previous experience of physical theatre is necessary.

What do people say about this course?

…I can honestly say that the past week has been a revelation. Not only has the teaching been clear, it has also attacked such a range of ideas in an intellectually rigorous way…. I studied alongside students from across the world…The supportive, cross-cultural community…was wholly unexpected and reflected Meyerhold’s transnational intentions…. An amazing course that has been thoroughly enjoyable and informative.

Claire Warden
Author of ‘British Avant-Garde Theatre’ who took the course in March 2014

My grateful thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to make such an enriching experience possible - first rate!

Anonymous
This comment is one of many similar comments made by other students who joined the course in March, 2014

Who will you learn with?

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.

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