Sep 20, 2021
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29 Words You Need to Know to Learn Mime

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kay, need, is a strong word, but it is kinda helpful rather than trying to explain the-thing-where-you-do-the-robot-thing-with-your-body-but-isn’t-the-robot-thing… You know?

And yes, that might have been a quote directly from yours truly. 

Don’t sweat the vocab too much, joining a class, seeing Les demonstrate moves, and copying them is one of the most effective ways to learn for most, but as you delve deeper into the mime world you might come across some of these terms and we don’t want you to get confused.

So here’s your jargon-busting, vocabulary-building guide that will get you knowing the difference between you Toc and your Triple Design in no time.

Glossary of Mime

Counter Point

Getting your robot on? Before you move toward something, you move away from it.

Counter Weight

What’s the difference between a full glass and an empty one? Your audience can’t see inside your mind so you need to show them. The way you position and move it will do the job. How you show whether it’s half empty or half full is up to you…

Object Identification

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No - it’s a BirdPlane!

Through mime, show us what’s in your imaginary world. Think about rhythm, body position and the quality of your movements. If your spectators don’t know what you’re miming, you're just some strange creature flailing about... 

There will definitely be prizes if someone manages to send us a convincing BirdPlane. Which we will totally be sharing everywhere

Plum Line

Sit or stand straight. Now imagine a strong pulling up through the crown of your head. Feel even more upright now? That’s your plum line.

Fixed Point

It ain’t gonna move. Think of a stair rail, your hand stays still, and your body moves, then  your hand moves and stops as your body moves. Now take the hand rail away and you’re now miming with a fixed point.

This is one of the most important mime thingys because it creates the magic and makes people think you’re really good ;)

Rotation

Interested Owl GIF

Take a body part, twist it about without moving other body parts. If you look as cool as this owl you get a very big gold star.

Toc

A little bit like Counter Point, this technique helps to add life to your mime.

Think of the drag queen ‘tongue pop’, and now for a little synesthesi-esque moment, move your arm in the way that sounds. Or just copy the classic robot mime with the cool little jerky muscle contraction at the start and end of every movement.

Transfer of Weight

Here’s a fun trick question for the pub: 

Q: How often in life do you spend standing on one leg?
A: All the time! It’s called walking.

Maybe go for a little wander. Notice how weight moves from foot to foot, and through each foot. Try walking with all the weight in front, and now all weight on your heels. Have a play. That’s weight transference and is another important mime trick for believability. 

When you learn mime you start to develop a hyper-awareness of what your body is doing and messing around with what’s natural is how we create wonder for others. 

Equilibrium

Every mediator's goal. Bodily speaking it’s finding your centre of gravity. Your balance. Now staying standing, shift a little forwards and there’s a new centre for this specific pose. Can be backwards, either side... wherever your pose is in fact, find your centre. Ommmmmm 🧘

Focus

Okay you might think this is well obvious - however - I think as we’ve all found on video calls that it’s actually quite exhausting to give one’s attention at every moment, yet that is one of the skills of the performer. The audience will look where you look. Even if you are not the centre of attention in a scene, you still need to act. This is even more important in mime where only you can see the set and the moment you drop your imaginary world, it will disappear for your audience too.

Gesture

Communication through an action of the body. How often do people gesture while they talk…? Maybe start doing a discreet bit of eavesdropping next time you’re in town. The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other is a brilliant homage to gesture.

Illusion

Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

That’s the line every good mime wants their audience to walk upon. The art of making people see things that aren’t there. No medication required.

Inclinations

No Way Smile GIF by Apple Music

When you want to hear someone better, notice how your body tilts forward as though another 2 inches will help you hear better? Don’t think about it too hard, but we all recognise it. That’s an inclination, keep your body fixed, pick a direction and lean.

Isolation

If you can master this, you will look super cool. Just move one part of your body. Simple, but hard. Nothing else can move, just that body part you’ve chosen. It’s quite unnatural no?

Le Jeu (Game and Play)

This is a central part of Gaulier’s ethos which Les is heavily influenced by. We’ll let him define it for you 

“It is the source of everything; of the pleasure and desire to be an actor. Playing in the theatre is the same as playing at running, jumping, fighting as people and animals do: playing cowboys, Indians, soldiers, doctors and with dolls.”

Neutral Mask

Playing with a physical mask with ‘no’ expression, the Neutral Mask is a tool which helps performers to …

There’s a great article from Making Faces all about it, if you want to read further.

Clown

Gaulier: “the clown only exists around candour, naivety and simplicity.” ‘ nuff said.

Le Bouffon

The Art of Mockery…. This is another invention of Lecoq. This character is similar to the clown, however, strikingly different because Le Bouffon will make you laugh so they can keep misbehaving. From the cat who is just so adorable you can’t help but forgive their world-ending Loki levels of mayhem, Le Bouffon is a lovably naughty creature, potentially with a lot of darkness. 

Triple Design

Rotation Inclination. Depth.

Learn to isolate those movements with different body parts and you’ve got yourself a way to demonstrate effort. And as we know, effort = illusion.

Fun

The Les Bubb School of Mime

Attitudes

Also known as Mimoplastic art, this has a very interesting history that is linked to Lady Emma Hamilton (Napoleons mistress but more on that later). Sort of similar to voguing, where the moving body holds stances related to images

The Attitudes of Lady Hamilton by Francesco Novelli 1791

Movements

Ahem, not that kind of movement, rather Lecoq’s 20 Mime Movements. Lecoq’s inspiration was drawn from his experiences in sport, and are examinations for the performer to practice focus movements in space. Similar to musicians practicing scales, Lecoq was very into students playing and experimenting and this was a tool for them to sink into the movement and awareness required to perform. 

Corpsing 

When a performer comes out of character.

Cod-Corpsing is when the pantomime dame loses their wig ‘by mistake’, until you realise that this happens in every pantomime… Art is a lie, NOTHING IS REAL

Pedagogy

A fancy way of saying teaching method. 

Crystallization

This is the art and physical practise of keeping one’s body in the same position as if it were a statue.

There is no articulation of any joint/limb at all. Ever seen those street statues where you put a coin in the hat and they’ll move? 

Give it a go but remember - not even the eyes should move - like Marceau’s notoriously difficult technique of achieving the effect of doll-like  “Painted Eyes” which remain open and yet do not focus as the head turns.

Corporeal Mime

“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.”

That’s a quote from Ange Fou, who Les also trained with. It was developed by Etienne Decroux through the Jacques Copeau lineage (to whom Ange Fou are some of the successors) and is a departure from Pantomime.

Pantomime

Sometimes referred to as Pantomime-mime to distinguish it artistically from the winter He’s Behind You season, pantomime has a lineage from the Ancient Greeks (and derived front the word mimos). Pantomime uses realistic gestures and symbols to show a character just through body movement, usually in a ridiculous fashion.

For all intents and purposes though, like the word decimate, the meaning of the word pantomime has been hijacked, but that’s just how language works. You might just find it here and there not linked in any way to horses arses.

Repertoire

What you’ve got in your backpocket, ready to perform. For a professional, it’ll be the shows you have, or could be the different skills you’ve mastered.

The Elements

You already know them - earth, air, fire, and earth (also ether, but no one really knows what to do with that one). In mime, we use these as a tool for instilling certain physicality in our bodies. What does a firey person do with their hands? How does an earthy person walk? You get the idea. Have a play.

Was That Helpful?

If your brain feels jammed full and all language has become meaningless, don’t worry about it. Once you start doing it, it all starts to make sense.

Speaking of which, that’s a nice little segue into a shame-free plug (because who has time for shame?) for our classes…

We have taster sessions if you want to just give her a spin before you take her home as well as our bloody fun 8 week courses.

If we’ve missed a word or two, feel free to post it in the comments below and we’ll have a go at defining it for you.

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