Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bip vs. Baryshnikov: How I learned Mime, ...from Dance.

Hello Everyone!

Last week I received a great amount of feedback and many complements on my diagrams of how you see the Coiling, (Suspension) by drawing lines over photos of Marceau and myself.

Today I will show how one of the most interesting ways I first learned how to see this in Marceau, which was by comparing his positions to dancer positions.

For months if not for a couple of years,  me and two very important people in my life, Jeanine Thompson and Rick Wamer would diagram photos and then go to the studio and see how they each felt different form each other.  No just looked different, but felt different.

This article comes as a follow-up to last weeks.  You'll enjoy them both the most if you also do what we used to do.  See, then imitate, then feel the difference. 

Print out both pages, too and compare how they look side by side.


Next week I will write a much longer comparison and speak about these differences as well as the similarities.  But for today, seeing is believing, so enjoy! 

Written by Gregg Goldston
(Coiling Lines also drawn by Gregg) 

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Marcel Marceau: Largest Mime on Earth.

Today I will write about one of the elements I've found to be the most captivating things about Marcel Marceau's technique, which is: "how large" he was on stage.  I've spent more than 20-years learning how to achieve this in my own work, and also developing a method of teaching this technique to my students. 

Over the past several months Haruka has written about:
"Coiling", "Off the Clock", "Throwing Thoughts" and being "Larger Than Life."  Today I will use a few photographs of Marceau to diagram what he is doing physically, in order to help you see the base of technique from which we work from.  Suspension, or "Coiling" is the root of it all and I hope these illustrations will help you begin to apply this technique to your own work.

When you look at how large the stages were that he performed on, it makes sense that he had to develop a new physicality to reach audiences that were often 3,000 people or more.
I once asked him: "Did Etienne Decroux develop this?   He said no, and then told me that he developed it by combining Decroux's technique with Chaplin's style of movement.  He said he was always intrigued by how Chaplin had a "compact" body, a look he hadn't seen before. 
Marceau then explained that his own style did not begin this large, but that it developed over time.  He said that as he became more famous, he was put into larger and larger theaters.  His illusions, as well as his actual "posture" had to become large and more powerful to reach the back rows of theaters that were 2,000 to 3,500 seats.

You would always hear mimes speak of this quality and over time there became a standard line to describe it: "If you want to see how good he really a seat in the last row of the theater."
I was fortunate and had a long history of 21-years with Mr. Marceau.  Many of these years were spent hosting a two-week Marceau Seminar at the Goldston & Johnson School for Mimes in the USA.  During these years I was able to not only see this technique up close, but he would often let me touch parts of his body in order to understand the different ways his muscle groups were moving, and with what amounts of tension and relaxation were happening "simultaneously."

And this is the secret I discovered:  "Simultaneously!"
Furthermore, this is also why it is so difficult for anyone to even "see" what he is doing, because it is "purposely hidden."  All the tension points, counter-points and contra-diagonals are hidden by relaxing the other body parts.
Most revealing is to look at how he stands when Not Performing.  Look below at the same photo and see how I diagram the "throw points."  (Throw-Point = how far his body reaches out into the theater.)

Note how he is often "rotating" parts of his body on 45 degree angles. And, rotating another part in opposition. (Creating what he called "suspension" and what we now call "coiling.")

Yes, its insanely difficult, and I've been working on this study since 1986.

What really helped me see this clearly was when I toured as one of his Assistant's holding the Title Cards in his solo performance.  I was finally able to see him from the side, not from the front. 
This is when I realized that you can only see the "effort" from the side, because he purposely hides the difficultly from the front view. 
I used to watch each show from a different angle each night in order to see the variety of coil points.


When I was first studying this, a Marceau student named Maurico Celedon described it like this:
Imagine a spring.  A large heavy spring like on a car axle or machine.  Now, imagine the spring is pushed together from the top, and from the bottom.
Now, see how the spring is pushing from the middle...upwards and downwards "simultaneously!"
Then he said the most important part of this image:
Our hips are the center of the spring.
We are "simultaneously" pushing up through our head,
and down through our feet. 
At the
"same time,"
"all the time."

All parts, all directions, all the time.
Yes, it makes Ballet seem easy.
One final point I'd like to make is that the reason a "spring" or the term "coil" is the best image we've found is because this technique is about: "Rotations" not just stretching.
Look closely at all of the red lines I've drawn to help you see this effect.  
You will see, for example with an arm, that the upper-arm rotates one direction, the forearm the opposite, and the wrist-hand opposite again.
All of these opposite create a "twisting-stretching" of the muscles,
...and consequently, they become "longer than normal" and become: "larger than life."


Finally, this is a technique which enables a person to look larger than life.  It enables a performer to throw thoughts all the way to the back of a theater. 
Most importantly, know that it is not based on a style of mime, and this can be applied to Decroux work, Ballet, even ice skating.

If you analyze my photos, you will see it in my work also.  Few people ever come up to me and say 
"...hey man, you're a Marceau copy."  
Because I've hidden these techniques within my shapes just as Marceau did.

But what people do come up to me and say is:
"Wow, you're so large, I could feel you all the way in the back row."

And that's the point, right?   


It may take some time.  It may be fatiguing to use all your muscles all the time in all directions.

But believe me, it's worth it...

"Gregg Goldston - Louder than Words"
at the
International Mime Art Festival
in Warsaw, Poland - 2011

Written by Gregg Goldston
Coiling Lines drawn by Gregg Goldston
Marcel Marceau Photos taken by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Off the Clock" 2: Sustaining our "Thoughts" in a different timing than our "Physical" timing.

Last week, we looked at the most essential element of our art form called "Off the Clock", the elastic speed of movement a mime sets up onstage.  

Yes, it is much easier to learn this technique if you are here in the studio with us, but we believe it is important for us to write about this and publish it for those people who might not be able to find related information in their own community, or be able to attend our workshops or summer intensive.

For this reason, today I will provide you with many visual examples and images that will help you better understand the concept of performing in "Real Time: compared to performing "Off the Clock."  Once you can visualize the difference, it will be easier to apply the techniques we are writing about to your own plays and transform your show.

"Off the Clock" makes the art of mime magical.  Period.  Often the public will use the word “Mesmerizing” and that effect comes from the off the clock sense they experience while watching a mime performance.  This "texture of time" physically induces the endorphins in the brain for both the audience and performer. 

The following statement is what my friend wrote about her impression after seeing her first mime performance.  She is definitely talking about the effect of "Off the Clock".  More importantly, note how she is not even describing her impression of the story, but the effect of the “art” itself.

"After only a few seconds, I was drawn into the world and felt like floating in a dream.  For some reason I was imagining some very old animation films like "Tom and Jerry".  It looked as if the world of expression was projected into the air like a film and at the same time there were many afterimages remaining around.  It was beautiful, nostalgic and mysterious.  It should have a lot in common with dance, but it felt very different because each tiny movement seemed to expand into a drama. Very impressive."

Gregg Goldston - Photo by Katarzyna Chmura-Cegielkowska

What does "Off the Clock" feel like?

First, we listed images that would give a variety of speed qualities.  I hope that visualizing these images in motion with an imaginary magnifying glass will help you identify and extract the qualities. 

Most importantly, please understand that "Off the Clock" does not mean staying at one constant speed.  It is not a constant slow motion or constant fast motion.  It is an “ever changing” speed and rhythm.  This is why we keep speaking of “elastic” as the mime will constantly be changing time as if it is like an elastic band.

Furthermore, we are not saying you can never move on the clock.  We are saying that after 4 to 5 seconds of real time, you must change your rhythm to another speed, or you will be in real time. 

Once a teacher said, if we move in a steady or constant speed, we become like a heartbeat.  The audience then is reminded of how soothing their Mother’s heartbeat was when they were a child in their Mother’s arms…then they fall asleep!

Regarding this, we often hear Gregg say something like, 
"Same (equally spaced) four beats are okay, but not six of them.  Break it BEFORE it sounds flat." Before you flat-line.

Here are a few images of being Off the Clock with a variety of speeds:

  • A falling snowflake or feather.
  • An astronaut jumping on the moon.
  • Two space ships "docking" together in orbit.
  • A spider lowering itself as it makes a web.
  • Fog drifting in a slow breeze.
  • Hands sculpting clay.
  • Honey dripping off of a spoon.
  • A butterfly drifting in the air.

You see?  These images in motion are the ones created by physics, and they are never in one constant speed.  Honey really isn't in a simple slow motion.  It keeps changing speed, i.e., accelerating as it drips down.  

Next, let's imagine, you are in the airport, sitting in the airplane looking out the windows.  Your plane is moving smoothly on the runway, speeding up and is about to take off.  You are remembering your friend’s smiles, hugs and last good-byes.  You slowly look back from the windows, knowing that your physical body is set in motion and now being taken away by the speed of the accelerating plane.  Your thought is floating behind your body staying in the past.

Generally speaking, "Off the Clock" combines two simultaneous rhythms happening on stage.  You separate your thought from your body.  Then you sustain your thought much longer/slower while your body is moving in a faster motion.  Later, your thought will be compressed and will catch up with the body like a stretched elastic band would.  In other words, both body movements and thoughts are "Off the Clock".

This elasticity of thoughts and body motion are racing back and forth in a playful and dreamy way creating this non-real sense of time for the audience.  This effect is the primary ingredient of this art form that separates Mime from all other arts.

The motion of your "physical part" can be a life's event or your own activity on stage.  Usually, separating actions (events) from reactions (thoughts) is the first transition people experience in their mime training.  

"Off the Clock" seems foreign and difficult to most people in the beginning.  However, it begins to feel so great as your body learns step by step the texture of it.  As I wrote earlier, this skill physically and pictorially triggers your endorphin smile.  In class, we look for that smile in our students' faces to see when they actually feel this sensation.  It’s also described as the moment your left brain connects to your right brain and the air around you feels like you are in a dream.

That is what made me cry when I found Gregg Goldston thirteen years ago in New York City.  I immediately felt the distilled air in the studio.  That was completely different from the air I felt in dance, drama, singing, rhythmic gymnastics, or any other art form I was training before.

Picture your body moving in the speed of dripping honey.  While the speed of your body motion is accelerating like the honey's physics, project a few thoughts in a different rhythm, like a drifting butterfly or a bouncing ball.  

Don't you get excited like we do?  I get chilled to bone while my imagination touches those words!  

This will transform your story into a deep experience for your audience. The rhythm created by your "time speeds of your body and thoughts" become the deliciousness of this art and the "air changer" of the space, which a mime masters in performance.

Here is when the famous saying becomes more clear:  It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

Next week we will write more about which physical elements and specific techniques are used to acquire and expand upon this most important and beautiful base of Mime.

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

The schedule of The GMI Spring Workshops in NYC will soon be available on our website.  The curriculum will include the "OFF THE CLOCK" and its physical, practical and philosophical step by step guidance.   It will be a vary rare opportunity for you to learn many hidden and essential techniques we cannot type out here in our articles.  Unlike our GMI Summer Intensive in July, we accept all levels for these workshops.  You will also get to see a lot of fun in New York City, the biggest city in the world!

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Heart of Mime "Off the Clock" and Illegally "Bending the Notes" - The Elastic Time in Mime

Happy New Year!

I hope you had beautiful and uplifting holidays.  I had my first week off from this blog writing since last summer, and had truly relaxing, aromatic, and delicious week! 

Today, I will write about the most essential topic in Mime called: "Off the Clock".  This term refers to the speed a Mime moves during a performance.  

Etienne Decroux once said, "If you are moving in real time, you aren't doing mime."  

Consequently, this subject will encompass many elements I have previously written about including Musicianship, Compression of Time, Expanding Thought, and Throwing Thoughts.   

I will describe how the speed of "Mime Time" differs from "Real Time" and how the public is rarely aware of this fact.  Furthermore, how a Mime performer sets up an on-stage speed that "seems real" but isn't at all and this is why this subject is often the most overlooked part of our art form.  (At the end of this article I have listed several mime plays where this is easy to see this effect in action.)  

What is "Off the Clock"?  – Elastic and Irregular Time Speeds

"Clocking" or "Off the Clock"

When a Mime is moving in "Real Time", we call it "Clocking."  It is a critical term that we do not like to hear someone say about our performance or have to say to one of our students.  However, there are several ways to change a "Clocking" phrase into an "Off the Clock" phrase and in today’s article I will focus on these methods.

First of all:
Contrary to how reliably the hands on a clock move, a great mime performance consists of only elastically expanded moments i.e., slower than real time, and squarely compressed moments, i.e., faster than real time.  A mime performance should be as far from a "metronome" as possible. (A Metronome is the object that musicians use to stay on time, on the beat.)

The Effect of being "Off the Clock"

As a result, only the moments (of thoughts and activities) that are chosen to be expanded will naturally grab attention of the audience.  In other words, "Off the Clock" gives the audience a perfect guide for where to focus and on which information to follow.

The more your "Off the Clock" speed is unreliably distorted, the more expressive and dreamlike your performance quality will get.  Often we say that when you are off the clock the quality of the air changes in the theater.  And more importantly, this enables the performer's projected thoughts to become "Off the Clock".

"Coiling" to Enhance "Off the Clock"

Here is a great way to enhance the quality of "Off the Clock" rhythm, and make the texture of "Mime Time" mesmerizing.  I have been watching Gregg and learning this technique more enthusiastically than any other techniques.

In short, the more coiled your body parts are, the better control you gain for the richer rhythm of "Off the Clock".  To understand what I mean here by "coiling", try to imagine that your “whole body” functions as the left hand of a violinist. 

Another way to explain "Coiling"

Coiling is a complex body tension control.  Imagine your whole body is a string instrument like a guitar or violin, and you have many strings lining on your whole body in many directions.  Those strings are naturally loose.  In order to tighten your strings, you lengthen various parts of your body to make the strings tight.  While you lengthen them, you can rotate and incline some parts to make your body three dimensional and even more tense.  The body part gets tense and elongated while coiling, and gets numb and slightly shrunk while uncoiling and searching for the next directions to go coiling.  Training of proper "Coiling" needs an experienced trainer.

For more step by step introductory technical guidance for "Coiling", please read my previous article:

Gregg once explained to me that his style is primarily based on the Marceau Grammar, but heavily influenced by the style of Stefan Niedzialkowski.  He explained that during the time he was studying the style and suspension of Marceau, he was also studying with Niedzialkowski (since 1982.)  He spoke of how Stefan's style of coiling uses more rotations, and contraction-expansions.  Over time these styles merged and became a unique blend of Marceau, Decroux and Niedzialkowski. 

Irregular Breath-like rhythm of "coiling" and "uncoiling" naturally generate layers of elastic resistance throughout your body.  And the resistance itself physically slows down our thoughts and movements, i.e., enables you to exploit strong thoughts (of "High Points") without freezing.  That is a very effective way to control and enhance the quality of "Off the Clock" rhythm. 

Below are a few photos Gregg chose to help you see an Off the Clock moment in progress.

Gregg stated that the best way to "see" Off the Clock, or how the Air seems Transformed or Distilled in a photograph is to look for how the body is in "motion" but the "thought" seems to be paused, or in a slower time than the body.

Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau
Photo by Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

"Bending the Note" - Throwing yourself into an unsteady balance point which creates "Passive" physics.

It was an eye-popping discovery for me when Gregg taught me how much he had been rolling and sliding his feet for the purpose of losing his balance point in order to create an outer layer of resistance.  Around when he started showing me this technique, he started saying to me "Bend the Note, Haruka!",  "Don't be careful!" , "Break the rules!" ...

It is a kind of self-created invisible outsider's force.  And with that force, you intentionally make the rhythm somewhat sloppy.  It is a sensation of "uncontrollable", "passive", and "playful" physics. 

The term "Bending the Note" came from the guitarist Jeff Beck, our teacher of "the Musicianship", who breaks the rules in order to do his job "properly."

Adding the "Bending the Note" (occasional sloppiness or looseness you create by pushing your balance point beyond a steady zone) on top of the "Off the Clock" rhythm control by proper coiling and uncoiling.  (We will again define these terms from different aspects in our following articles.)  That is the coolest combination of techniques I always find in Gregg's performance style.  

Please note that "Bending the Note" is a technique, which works well when you are "Off the Clock" and properly coiled.  Again, "Coiling" is a body tension control, and it is equivalent to making the guitar strings properly tightened so the guitarist can "Bend the Note" to show how to break the rules every so often as "ornamental" effects, instead of a base of the texture.  This sloppiness (or looseness) is created by so much force.  Yes, a tactile one, like Jeff' Beck's fingers.  

Gosh, I love this art, because it is so profound and whole and ever challenging like this particular one.

“I don't care about the rules. In fact, if I don't break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I'm not doing my job properly.” Jeff Beck

Below are a few photos that Gregg chose to show some extreme Note Bending.

"Once I'm onstage, I just concentrate on "bending my notes" by stretching every pose as far as it will go.  I also extend my acting moments by sustaining them as long as I can, like a blues guitarist bends his strings for as long as they will ring."  
-- Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

Gregg Goldston

A few words about Mime and Mime practitioners worldwide:

Although there are different styles of movement and choreography within the art of mime globally speaking, all schools of mime utilize the Off the Clock concept as well as some form of Coiling.  (Suspension as Mr. Marceau called it.)  

Analyzing this in photos and videos of a broad variety of artists will help you to see it, and understand how to achieve it physically.  For this reason, we are including a variety of photographs and YouTube links to start you in this research.  

NOTE: Please know that the "only" reason we use so many photos of videos of Goldston and Marceau is that we have a large library of these and have the legal rights to do so.  We are not doing it to push Goldston as some prime example of it all or that propose that Marceau is the top mime and so forth.  We encourage you to research the work of Etienne Decroux and his students and the broad range of mime artist from Poland that came from Henryk Tomaszewski.

Mime Links:

Stefan Niedzialkowski based in Warsaw, Poland.

Steven Wasson and Corinne Soum International School of Corporal Mime based in London, who also now run a summer project in the USA.

Alexander Neander & Wolfram Bodecker of “VISUAL THEATER” – Berlin, Germany

Bartłomiej Ostapczuk, Warsaw Mime Center and International Mime Art Festival

C. Nicholas Johnson, Alithea Mime Theatre – Kansas, USA

Other Mime associates and contacts can be found at:

Video Links for "Off the Clock"
Here are links to a few videos that may help you to see and understand the "Off the Clock" concept in action.  There are so many more we could post, but for now, here are these, and know we will post more links with our future articles.

The Mask Maker - Collage (Marceau)

The Small Cafe (Marceau)

Hey, What the?  (Goldston)

The Chair (Goldston & Ostapczuk)

Butterfly Meditation (Moriyama)

A Concert in Pantomime (Bodecker Neander)

Both Gregg and I will continue writing about this topic over the next few weeks, as we know that if you can truly capture this essence, it will change your work forever.

Until next Sunday!

Written by Haruka Moriyama, 
 with additional writings by Gregg Goldston

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, or our Summer Mime Intensives, please contact us at the links listed below.