“Yoga and Actor Training: Movement Improvisation”, by Maria Kapsali from the DVD/Booklet “Yoga and Actor Training” by Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali (Routledge 2016), DVD filmed and edited by Arts Archives.

This series of video clips offer glimpses of the six Workshop Approaches documented in Dorinda Hulton and Maria Kapsali’s Yoga and Actor Training (Routledge 2015) DVD/booklet that focusses on ways in which the practice of yoga may be applied towards actor training purposes. Six Workshop Approaches are proposed, and contextualised with a historical overview of the use of yoga in the work of Konstantin Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski and Joseph Chaikin.
Within the six videos, as well as the publication as a whole, two key perspectives are proposed as being directly, or indirectly, helpful to actor training: the first is an understanding of yoga in relation to actor training that does not prioritise, or pit, ‘interior’ against ‘exterior’, ‘mind’ against ‘body’, ‘mental’ against ‘physical’, but recognises their interdependence and interconnections. The second is an understanding that the ‘internalization’ of attention, which may be perceived in aspects of yoga, is not inimical to the creative processes of a contemporary actor, but can contribute to the cultivation of an attitude of ‘alert receptivity’ that is particularly relevant to processes within actor training.

The second video clip derives from Workshop Approach 2 which explores ways in which yoga can be combined with movement improvisation activities in order to train the student actor’s kinetic and spatial sensibility, and proposes that such combinations can facilitate both areas. The approach views possible combinations of yoga postures and movement improvisation as part of a continuum consisting of three frameworks.

In the selected clip, a glimpse of one of these frameworks can be seen, based on the proposition that a variety of different relationships between body parts within the yoga postures can offer ‘themes’ for movement improvisation. These ‘themes’ can be grouped according, for example, to the parts of the body involved, or the spatial direction of the movement, and may then, potentially, be developed towards the embodiment of imagery. In the selected clip, the ‘theme’ explored within the yoga posture, and then within free form improvisation, relates to the articulation of the joints in the arm and the relationship between the centre of the body, and the periphery.

The overall intention of this approach, then, is that, as students become more familiar with both yoga, and movement improvisation, the imprints of yoga practice potentially help to develop a kind of psychophysical intelligence which informs improvisational activities. Parts of the body that were not previously ‘active’ during free movement begin to come to life; postural habits that dictated specific movement structures and relationships begin to shift; movers become more sensitive to one another and new possibilities are allowed to emerge.


Workshop leader: Maria Kapsali

Student Actors: Rachel Clegg, Erika Samenaite, Leanne Stenson (Leeds University, School of Performance and Cultural Industries)

Filming and editing:

Original filming, editing and DVD-ROM by Peter Hulton, Arts Archives www.arts-archives.org