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Acting And Mimicry:
 Acting And Mimicry

 What Is Mimicry?

 Acting—opera And Stage

 How To Study And Analyze A Part

 General Rules

 Exercises For Elasticity

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 1

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 2

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3

 Elements Of Mimicry - Part 3

 Read More Articles About: Acting And Mimicry

Elements Of Mimicry - Part 1

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The elements of acting and mimicry at the disposal of an actor or singer, are, first of all, motions or gestures. These gestures engage the whole body or parts of it, and create the language of mimicry.

A gesture must be natural, spontaneous and free. That operatic débutants often find more difficulties in the gestures and acting than in the vocal expression of their rôle is because they concentrate all their thought on gestures, trying too hard to be graceful, thereby obtaining just the contrary effect, sometimes even rendering themselves ridiculous, by creating many unhappy positions. For example, as in the case of the voice, concentration on one detail often destroys the harmony and effect of the whole. To have natural, spontaneous and free gestures, it is necessary to live the part, or, at least, to awaken within oneself an instinct which will guide the gesture. It is this instinct, in great part, which has produced the world's artists; for, in reality, it is talent, genius. Like the voice, it cannot be manufactured at command. It is a sublime gift of nature.

Motions Are Divided Into:

a. Instinctive, or those produced by sensations and emotions. These consist mostly of motions whereby the facial muscles are brought into play, sometimes as in the movements of self-defense of the body or parts thereof.

b. Indicative and descriptive, or those used to point out a certain person, place or thing. These are motions made mostly with the hands. Often a nod of the head or an attitude of the body conveys the same expression.

c. Active motions and gestures, or those necessary in daily life, such as walking, eating, being seated, etc., are motions in which the whole or parts of the body are engaged.

d. Characteristic, or those describing character, state of health, habits, etc., are motions which may also be brought into play either by the whole or parts of the body.

e. Additional gestures are motions which serve to complete the principal ones, thereby helping to gain plasticity and harmony.

Let us now analyze, separately, the gestures of the different parts of the body.


The movements of the head are of vital importance in mimicry.

By holding the head straight, attention and calmness are indicated.

By allowing the head to droop, shame and grief are shown.

By holding the head erect, or slightly raised, pride and courage are depicted.

Nodding the head vertically denotes approval.

Shaking the head laterally signifies dissent. The head slightly inclined indicates dislike or horror.

The bending forward of the head indicates affection, attention.

By throwing the head back, arrogance and defiance are indicated.

By inclining the head to one side, indolence is shown; slightly raising it denotes coquetry.

The head is held erect and stiff to indicate savagery, physical strength and tragic moments.

By allowing the head to fall back, weakness, fainting and pain are indicated.

The forehead gives the best indication of one's intelligence and intellectual development. Bell calls it "the seat of thought, a tablet where every emotion is distinctly impressed." In the fore-head the most active, independent, and associated muscles are located, controlling attention, doubt, reflection, pain, etc

The disposition of the forehead wrinkles presents an inexhaustible study for physiognomists, and offers unlimited opportunities to the actor.

In Joy, the forehead is serene, the eyebrows are not contracted.

In Attention, the eyebrows approach the sides of the nose.

In Admiration, the eyebrows are raised, the forehead is slightly wrinkled.

In Astonishment and Surprise, the movements are the same as in admiration, only more strongly marked exaggerated.

In Veneration, the eyebrows droop.

In Hope, the forehead is slightly wrinkled, the eyebrows are raised.

In Compassion, the forehead is calm, the eye-brows sink over the eyes as in sorrow, towards the middle of the face.

In Envy, the forehead is intersected with many lines, the eyebrows are lowered.

In Despair, the eyebrows descend, the fore-head is wrinkled.

In Rapture, the eyebrows and the forehead are raised.

In Acute Pain, mental or physical, lines inter-sect the forehead, the eyebrows are drawn near to each other over the nose, but are raised to-wards the middle.

In Simple Pain, we have the same motions as in acute pain, though less strong.

In Sorrow, the eyebrows rise at their starting point, the nose.

In Laughter, they rise toward the middle and bend down toward the sides of the nose. In Horror, the eyebrows are knit.

In Sadness, the eyebrows rise toward the middle of the forehead.

In Weeping, the eyebrows sink down toward the middle of the forehead.

In Scorn, the forehead wrinkles and the eye-brows knit.

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