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Mime is the most ancient performing Art in the world and, still today, attracts people in a very deep, intuitive way. Why? In its portrayal of emotion, thought and experience through the body, mime transcends cultural barriers because it is based on expression and not on appearance. Mime is a spontaneous language.


Historically, mime has passed through many different forms, from Primitive Dance to Greek and Roman Pantomime, from Commedia del Arte to the tradition of Debureau, from Asian Theatre to the Russian and Polish Schools of Mime, from the Music hall and Vaudeville to the Cinema... Over centuries, in both the west and east, many artists and masters contributed to the evolution of this art form. The art of mime is a multi-faceted world, at times totally silent and at others welcoming the use of spoken text and music.

Etienne Decroux

In the 20th century, Etienne Decroux (1898-1991), student of Jaques Copeau, actor with Charles Dullin, Louis Jouvet, Gaston Baty, Antonin Artaud, Marcel Carne...) known as the "Father of Modern Mime and one of the great luminaries of the theatre world" (Sunday Times), gave Mime a true autonomy with a specific vocabulary, Repertoire and philosophy. He invented the most modern form of mime, "Dramatic Corporeal Mime", an innovative method and precise technique focusing on the vital importance of the body and physical action in theatre.

To many theatre historians, Etienne Decroux belongs to that family of Director/Pedagogues such as Gordon Craig and his theories of the super marionnette, the biomechanics of Meyerhold, Stanislavsky's actor as the master of physical action, Chekov’s psychological gesture, Grotowski's laboratory and the visions of Artaud.


The quote on the right defines the guiding spirit of Corporeal Mime. It is about taking action and giving structure to ideas and emotions. It is learning how the human spirit might find the ultimate fulfilment in physical form. It is giving the actor the ability to do what he wants and not just what he can.

Corporeal Mime is a technique which allows the practitioner to learn, through a unique vocabulary how to express theatrically human behaviour from its most practical aspects to its more abstract and spiritual ones. It is the art of the thinking body.

Etienne Decroux said:"One of the characteristics of our world is that it is sitting down. Corporeal Mime stands up. It enjoys representing the world and all those who work with their body… To be in mime is to be a partisan, a partisan of movement in a world sitting down."

WMO is thankful to the Theatre de l'Ange fou and the International School of Corporel Mime for its contribution in texts and photos in this page. For more information please go to:

Mime artist

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A mime artist (from Greek "μίμος"—mimos, "imitator, actor")[1] is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer. Miming is to be distinguished from silent comedy, in which the artist is a seamless character in a film or sketch.

The performance of pantomime originates at its earliest in Ancient Greece; the name is taken from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus, although performances were not necessarily silent. In Medieval Europe, early forms of mime such as mummer plays and later dumbshows evolved. In early nineteenth century Paris, Jean-Gaspard Deburau solidified the many attributes that we have come to know in modern times—the silent figure in whiteface.

Jacques Copeau, strongly influenced by Commedia dell'arte and Japanese Noh theatre, used masks in the training of his actors. Étienne Decroux, a pupil of his, was highly influenced by this and started exploring and developing the possibilities of mime and developed corporeal mime into a highly sculptural form, taking it outside of the realms of naturalism. Jacques Lecoq contributed significantly to the development of mime and physical theatre with his training methods.[2]

In film

Prior to the work of Étienne Decroux there was no major treatise on the art of mime, and so any recreation of mime as performed prior to the twentieth century is largely conjecture, based on interpretation of diverse sources. However, the twentieth century also brought a new medium into widespread usage: the motion picture.

The restrictions of early motion picture technology meant that stories had to be told with minimal dialogue, which was largely restricted to intertitles. This often demanded a highly stylized form of physical acting largely derived from the stage. Thus, mime played an important role in films prior to advent of talkies (films with sound or speech). The mimetic style of film acting was used to great effect in German Expressionist film.

Silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton learned the craft of mime in the theatre, but through film, they would have a profound influence on mimes working in live theatre even decades after their death. Indeed, Chaplin may be the most well-documented mime in history.

The famous French comedian, writer and director Jacques Tati achieved his initial popularity working as a mime, and indeed his later films had only minimal dialogue, relying instead on many subtle expertly choreographed visual gags. Tati, like Chaplin before him, would mime out the movements of every single character in his films and ask his actors to repeat them.

On stage and street

Mime has been performed onstage, with Marcel Marceau and his character "Bip" being the most famous. Mime is also a popular art form in street theatre and busking. Traditionally, these sorts of performances involve the actor/actress wearing tight black and white clothing with white facial makeup. However, contemporary mimes often perform without whiteface. Similarly, while traditional mimes have been completely silent, contemporary mimes, while refraining from speaking, sometimes employ vocal sounds when they perform. Mime acts are often comical, but some can be very serious.

In literature

Canadian author Michael Jacot's first novel, The Last Butterfly, tells the story of a mime artist in Nazi-occupied Europe who is forced by his oppressors to perform for a team of Red Cross observers.[3] Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll's The Clown relates the downfall of a mime artist, Hans Schneir, who has descended into poverty and drunkenness after being abandoned by his beloved.[4] Jacob Appel's Pushcart short-listed story, Coulrophobia, depicts the tragedy of a landlord whose marriage slowly collapses after he rents a spare apartment to an intrusive mime artist.[5]

Greek and Roman mime

The first recorded pantomime actor was Telestēs in the play Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus. Tragic pantomime was developed by Puladēs of Kilikia; comic pantomime was developed by Bathullos of Alexandria.[6]

The Roman emperor Trajan banished pantomimists; Caligula favored them; Marcus Aurelius made them priests of Apollo. Nero himself acted as a mime.[7]

In non-Western theatre traditions

While most of this article has treated mime as a constellation of related and historically linked Western theatre genres and performance techniques, analogous performances are evident in the theatrical traditions of other civilizations.

Classical Indian musical theatre, although often erroneously labeled a "dance," is a group of theatrical forms in which the performer presents a narrative via stylized gesture, an array of hand positions, and mime illusions to play different characters, actions, and landscapes. Recitation, music, and even percussive footwork sometimes accompany the performance. The Natya Shastra, an ancient treatise on theatre by Bharata Muni, mentions silent performance, or mukhabinaya.

In Kathakali, stories from Indian epics are told with facial expressions, hand signals and body motions. Performances are accompanied by songs narrating the story while the actors act out the scene, followed by actor detailing without background support of narrative song.

The Japanese Noh tradition has greatly influenced many contemporary mime and theatre practitioners including Jacques Copeau and Jacques Lecoq because of its use of mask work and highly physical performance style.

Butoh, though often referred to as a dance form, has been adopted by various theatre practitioners as well.


  1. ^ μίμος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  2. ^ Callery, Dympha (2001). Through the Body: A Practical Guide to Physical Theatre. London: Nick Hern Books. ISBN1854596306.
  3. ^ Broyard, Anatole. "A Laugh Before Dying." The New York Times. March 7, 1974. p. 37
  4. ^ Stern, Daniel. "Without Shmerz." The New York Times. January 4, 1965. Book Review. p. 4
  5. ^ Bellevue Literary Review, Vol 5, No. 2, Fall 2005.
  6. ^ Lust, Annette. "The Origins and Development of the Art of Mime". From the Greek Mimes to Marcel Marceau and Beyond: Mimes, Actors, Pierrots and Clowns: A Chronicle of the Many Visages of Mime in the Theatre. 9 March 2000. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  7. ^ Broadbent, R. J. (1901) A History of Pantomime, Chapter VI. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ "Mime wizard's final act", The Times of India. 22 August 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  10. ^ "Modris Tenisons: Režisors un scenogrāfs, dizaina mākslinieks, profesionāla pantomīmas teātra izveidotājs Kauņā." Retrieved October 6, 2010.

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LE MIME ?...

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Mime is the actor, its acting before it is corrupted by speech. Mime is the substance of theatre as opposed to its accident, literature. By learning the axioms of the body and experimenting harmony and virtuosity, mimes perform as they would and not just as they could. From the very inception of a true language of the body, one with a potential for refinement close to that of human voice, actors can no longer justifiably behave in a trivial manner.

The artist of the body is conscious of what he does when he chooses, through silence, to transgress speech; he nurtures countless portraits of reality through his manners of being and behaving. All else is anecdotal and of little interest.

Mime focuses on the framework of acting, as it is not depraved by any aesthetic or literary complement. The mime’s body is pushed or enthused by its thinking, not the other way around.

For this contributing text WMO whishes to thank l'École de Mime Lárt du corps (


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Mime has similar origins to both drama and the dance. When the storyteller was at a loss for words, gesture took over. Because of its character as an instinctive part of the makeup of a human being, mime must, of course, have existed in some form as long as recognizable men have walked the earth. It must very early also have been a dramatic art used to entertain or interest the audience, just, as early, in fact, as the tribal gatherings around the campfires of primitive people. We can be sure of this because of what we know of the brilliant mime and mimicries of many African tribes and Australian aborigines.

When we get to Greece and Rome, we are on firmer ground. Aristotle in the Poetics writes forcefully about what he terms imitation. "Imitation is natural to man from childhood, and it is also natural for all to delight in works of imitation." From this is a short step to an audience delighting in a performance based on imitation - mimicry and its higher developments.

Dance and mime were then, as now greatly intermingled. The famous Phyrrhic dances of the Greek warriors, for instance, were partly a mimetic representation of different kinds of fighting. The importance of pantomime in Greek drama was underlined by the fact that the number of plays was severely limited, and therefore, much of the action had to be wordless.

In Rome, the completely silent mime climbed to immense popularity. The legendary Livius Andronicus, having lost his voice, had the chorister speak the lines, while he mimed to the piping of the flute and the rhythmic clash of cymbals. Unfortunately, as was the case with the other arts, pantomime too was to decline. Its popularity was its undoing - it became increasingly vulgar and indecent in theme and action, as it pandered to the lowest public taste, and not unnaturally, as the Christian Church became established. It fought against spectacles which were more and more reflecting and encouraging depravity.

Outside Europe, however, mime still flourished. Frequently, dance, mime and drama had religious origins, as in India, and usually mime pre-dated drama, and then continued to exist as a parallel theatrical art. Dance drama (natya) in Indian goes back to that country's earliest civilization, when Hindu belief maintains that the god Brahma invented it, feeling that the ordinary man needed an art which would have no barriers of appreciation. Its first great teacher was the wise man Bharata Muni, so it became known, and is still known, as Bharatanatya.

There was mime too, in China, which may well have the most ancient pantomime history in the world. A writer who lived in China in 100 B.C. tells us that there was a brilliant mime then called Meng, whose art was admired by one of the king's ministers. Chinese mime was beginning to develop into a tradition of total theatre, encompassing all the theatrical arts by the time of the early Middle Ages in Europe where the discredited players had taken once more to the roads and wandering life from which the Greek of medieval times were the link with past glory, although they had music and storytelling skills, as well as mimetic ability.

As time went on, mime also found its place in dramatic history. It was a feature of the mystery, miracle and morality plays that developed in and after the twelfth century in France, Germany, England and elsewhere.

During this time, the Noh drama, combining a gesture language with its song and intoned text, became famous in Japan. The static Noh theatre, which from the fourteenth century on used only three basic roles - the old man, the woman, and the warrior - became a rather highbrow type of theatre, with the result that a more popularized form of the art began to develop - the Kabuki.

Long before the seventeenth century, Europe had seen the start of a vitally important theatrical movement. Characters with some similarity to those of the ancient Roman mimes were appearing in a new form. Some authorities believe that the link between the Pappus, Maccus and Bucco of Roman days and the fifteenth-century Pantaloon, Clown and Punchinello is firm and complete. Along with these possible descendants came another - Arlechino (or Harlequin), who is supposed to be a memory of the god Mercury. Italian and Sicilian players were especially adept at this new type of mime play, which was called Commedia dell'arte all'improviso - a comedy improvised by professional actors. Its influence spread all through Europe.

The most famous of the Commedia dell'Arte characters are Harlequin, Pierrot and Columbine. When the Commedia dell'arte spread to France, mime took on greater importance. The actors called forains, appearing at the great fairs, the Foire de Saint Germain or the Foire de Saint Laurent. They acted out of doors and at first scrolls covered with explanatory verse were shown as an accompaniment to the mimes. (This custom is remembered when Marcel Marceau's assistant shows us a card bearing the title of the coming scene.)

In the nineteenth century, two supreme and very different Pierrot-Clown protagonists emerged: Jean Gaspard Deburau in France and Joseph Grimaldi in England. Deburau became famous through the Theatre des Funambules, was sought after by society, shouted for by his public, and eventually enshrined in history and legend. Deburau and his successors were subtle players, distilling understanding and sensitive feeling into their often rather muted performances. Grimaldi, on the other hand, had to broaden the technique to be successful. By his individual personality, he became the forerunner of the modern clown tradition in theatre and circus, so much so that clowns are sometimes termed as Joeys in memory of him.

What has happened to Mime in the twentieth century? Although, the vogue for Pierrot and the mime plays had died down in Paris after World War I, the art of mime still fascinated theatre people. From time to time various theatrical directors of genius included mime training for their actors. One of these is the illustre Jacques Copeau. One of his students was Etienne Decroux, who admired the idea of pure mime and was considered today to be the great teacher and theoretician, and "Father of Modern Mime."

In Copeau's theatre, there was also Jean-Louis Barrault, remembered mainly today by the film of Carne - Les Enfants du Paradis, and at one time was the director of the Odeon in Paris; and evidently Marcel Marceau who actually worked with both Decroux and Barrault, and is the living genius of mime, and legendary in his life time. Through his work, the American audiences on TV and in theatre halls have become familiar with mime. Charlie Chaplin's genius revival of his work makes one wonder about this marvelous art, and Jacques Tati, Jacques Le Coq, and others.

What are the present trends in the theatrical mime, and what kind of future can it have? There is Adam Darius who became inspired with Les Enfants du Paradis; in Poland The Wroclaw Pantomime Theatre, the Theatre on the Balustrade in Prague with Ladislav Fialka; The Theatre of the Deaf, who study acting, modern dance, and mime. Some of them worked with Marceau, the influence of mime in the work of the Living Theatre and Grotowski's work, and some of the actors of the Open Theatre who studied mime under Moni Yakim in New York, the American Mime Theatre that has been very active in the last 23 years directed by Paul Curtis, the Celebration Mime Theatre of Tony Montanaro, Claude Kipnis and others.

And of course, the International Mime Festival held in the summer of 1974 at Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin presented some of the actual mime workers of today. Names such as Dimitri from Switzerland, Mamako Youneyama of Japan, Geoffrey Buckley of England, Antonin Hodek, USA, Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell and Memagerie Mime of San Francisco, Yass Hakoshima, and Samuel Avital, who is a direct link to the great mime teachers of the 20th century, and who embodies in his work the spiritual aspect of the creative artist, in his Le Centre du Silence, Boulder, Colorado.

For this contributing text WMO whishes to thank LE CENTRE DU SILENCE and Samuel Avital, Director (


World Mime Day should belong to humanity but history should also remember the three initiators of this idea Marko Stojanović (Serbia) More...

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