Mime and its’ Place in Dance and Movement Therapy

There is no need for me to go into the history of mime and its’ different schools. This is not necessary for the purposes of our discussion. We want to view this art form as another means of using the arts to help children with emotional and learning difficulties. We have all heard of world famous practitioners such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton of silent movie fame and in more recent times of Marcel Marceau and his stage performances. No doubt we have all seen circus clowns of whom the Russian Grock was one of the greatest. Sadly the while faced, serious clown who never smiled or spoke seems to have disappeared from the scene.

Clearly the origins of mime like dance and drama would seem to be both spiritual and practical and to lie in our far distant past. It may very well pre-date speech. Like many other art forms it has a chequered history – sometimes admired and revered – at others dispised and forbidden

Basically there are two main forms.The literal and abstract or a combination of the two.The first form is mainly used for comedy and story telling.The abstract version is used to generate feeling, thoughts and images about a serious topic or issue. It is not usual in this form to have a plot or a central character. This type of performance calls for an intuitive response. Contemporary forms use, props and sets to assist in the formation of strong visual images. Sometimes the spoken word is added to lend additional impact.

Why do I advocate incorporating mime into dance therapy sessions for children with disabilities. There are two main reasons. Like in dance, the whole body is used expressively which is a healthy thing for all of us. The other reason is that everyone and especially children need to learn to appreciate silence and the spiritual and emotional peace which this can bring. Our everyday world is full of competing sounds, some of which we want to associate with and others which we wish we could permanently escape. Musak is used to manipulate our thoughts and feelings in directions often unknown to us. Large numbers of children with problems are often very sensitive to sound. For such children working in complete silence can be a very powerful experience.

Mime gives children an opportunity to play, explore and invent. Children mime naturally when they play games such as shops, going to the dentist etc. etc. When young children do not have the necessary objects or cannot express themselves they mime. As in dance the children are learning to physically and psychically differentiate parts of the body. Correct breathing and use of the spine are of paramount importance. The breath influences the speed and quality of the movement as well as the rhythm. Correct breathing brings about psycho-physical harmony, an enormous benefit. All our body positions are regulated by how we use our spine. The correct use of the spine will enable walking, lying, sitting, straightening or relaxing the torso, finger, foot or shoulder movements for example become an expressive means of communication. Our minds control our bodies.

Children need to be encouraged in ways that help them to make their inner life visible without words. A session of mime fits very well into a dance and movement session. Contemporary theatre exhibits a broad range of mime styles and forms while the advent of physical theatre offers new possibilities. To continue to exist mime must and is finding new forms of expression which help it to retain its relevance.

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