Being interviewed in spring 2013 by Radim Vizvary in reference to his doctorate on the history of mime in the Czech Republic.

mcd = mime corporel dramatique
 
RadimVizvary: 1) How or what was your first impulse to do Mime Corporeal?

Oliver Pollak: When I was studying at Marcel Marceau's in Paris, mcd was part of the formation there, taught by Corinne Soum. I was immediately drawn much more towards this art form (and showed more talent) than for Marceau's illusion mime, so that I soon also visited the evening classes of Steven Wasson and Corinne Soum for mcd in Paris. When I then learnt that the two will move to London, to open a proper school, it became soon very clear to me, that that is what I'd rather learn. I therefor finished Marceau's after only one year to move to London, and yes, effectively stayed for 6 years with Corinne and Steve in the school, the post-graduate course and their company "théâtre de l'Ange Fou".
 
2) What is of this mime technique unique or special for you?

First of all it's a all-encompassing, very systematic and highly precise movement technique. It's very compelling, since it is very logical, almost mathematical. and it is quite challenging, since it requires a lot of training, repetition, dedication, rigour. On the other hand, it's somewhat universal, opening doors to many performance styles. It truly is a technique (which Marceau isn't) and a style (which you may like or not). It's technique is like non-codified letters of a movement alphabet… (while Marceau rather taught codified movements (and not a technique standing by itself), representing, what he found to be the best presentation of a certain emotion or circumstances)… which - if you have something to say - will give you a language to do so. Since mcd doesn't bother much about simple objects and circumstances of our "real" life, it points to a may-be more "real" life of ours, the inner life of us spiritual beings.


 
3) How you can describe Decroux´ style?

His style, not the style of mcd?! Well his style, his pieces I would say are often a bit convoluted, difficult to understand. They always have an outstanding beauty when looking at them, but often they are difficult to read. Since they don't want to be dance (where "understanding" plays a minor role), but acting without words, they often leave the audience confused as to their message and meaning. Decroux almost always based his pieces on a somewhat supernatural representation of a human, rarely on a clearly defined character or personality. Often, especially looking from our times, his pieces miss some certain "punch", it is often as if one is watching those performers thru a veil. They seem distant, remote, from a transcendental world, beyond the problems and circumstances of us "mortal" humans. Nowadays, most of what he has done looks old-fashioned. Which is not surprising. However they have some timeless quality, that will survive all the fashions. Often I find them soothingly calm and sincere, compared to all the fuss, one can see nowadays on stage.


 
4) How you can describe Marceau´s style?

First of all, Marceau was the greatest, most successful mime of modern times! His style? You mean his personal style? Well you have two kinds: his mimodramas (solo or group) and his "Bip". Well it is pantomime in it's best form. Funny, entertaining, direct, approachable, accessible, lyrical.


 
5) Do you feel differences between Decroux’ from Marceau’s style and why?

Yes, great differences. Example: In both techniques you could have someone pulling something on a rope. In Marceau's style, the most interesting is: what is at the end of the rope. in mcd, the most interesting is, how is that body working. I would say illusion mime is objective, it often requires illusionary objects to tell a story, it represents the visible world, mcd is more subjective, it wants to make visible, what is invisible: emotions, feelings. Therefor Marceau's style is more narrative, mcd is more situative. The stories told in Marceau style tend to be more mundane, every-day stories, mcd is by far more stylised and therefor abstract. Often, to me, seeing a pantomime story is a lot about understanding, what's going on. mcd stories are about feeling, what is the meaning, the inner meaning.
 
6) Where do you see the borders between Mime Corporeal and imaginary mime?

The hardly border. They are quite different. They share the love for the magic of silence and reduction to the performer, they are both acting without words, often with little effort in costume and set-design. but thats about it, what they have in common. mcd has some aspects of illusionary mime, but they are minor and not the ultimate aim. Imaginary mime rarely touches ground with mcd, only then, when illusionary doesn't mean to replace otherwise present object, but representing things beyond words and shape: feelings, emotions, thoughts. None of what Marceau does comes close to mcd, performers in mcd would not care much about creating illusions to tell their "story". So no, they hardly border.


 
7) Can you describe your teaching method?

That greatly depends on who I am teaching and for how long. Let's assume the best possible conditions: teaching students a) intensively, b) over a long period, and c) who want to become professionals. Then my teaching is twofold:
On the one hand, I try to teach as faithfully as I have been taught by my masters (Steve & Corinne), meaning, I try to teach all 4 aspects: the technique, the repertory, improvisation and composition. (It is amazing how many people teach mcd, however many only teach the technique, and of the technique only a minor part!).
The technique contains the sculptural aspects, meaning isolation and recomposition of different movements/parts of the body, the shape so to speak (this is the simplest. Decroux, by many, is falsely reduced to just this, since it is the most striking), then the rhythmicality, by which those shapes are moved or changed, the muscles of this technique so to speak, then - the heart of mcd: the counterweights (difficult to teach, often misunderstood, however, to my belief, the core of mcd) and then the 4 different categories of stylisation in mcd (=homme de sport, homme de salon, homme de songe, stature mobile).
The repertory are short little movement sequences (so-called figures of up to 1 minute) as well as pieces (2 to 15 minutes), passed on from one generation to the next, showing the application of mcd. This is to show the style of mcd, as Decroux envisioned it, which by no means, is the only way to perform mcd to my belief.
Improvisations are very important for a student to learn, that she/he is not only learning a movement vocabulary, but also how to articulate her/his own vision with the help of this "alphabet".

Same goes for Composition, though, here is the emphasis on creating repeatable perfection.


 
On the other hand, there are quite a few aspects of being on stage and performing, that are not quite well met by mcd. What I am missing most is "the play", meaning the basic conditions it takes to be on stage. And that is playing and awareness. mcd can be dull at times, intimidating, restricting. So I put a lot of emphasis on making the students move, just for fun, without thinking of the "rules" of mcd, and only then, once this free flow is reached, seeing, how the "rules" of mcd, it's style, it's richness can help to shape a meaningful presentation that can live in front of an audience. I also find, that the dynamical range, as it is set down by mcd, is somewhat limited, and I start adding new terms for new movement qualities. In teaching, I also try to have an eye on character, staging, choreography, lines in space, dramaturgy, some of which mcd only offers limited answers for, I find.


 
But in general, my way of teaching is strict and precise, based on doing rather than thinking (as Decroux said: It is the body that suffers). I always try to make room for contemplation though, for questioning the need to be on stage, to show an audience, what one wants to express.
In general, I put a lot of emphasis on shaping a class rhythmically interesting, altering between repetitive, very controlled exercises (in front of the mirror) and free, chaotic play. Almost like making a play. However each class new, again and again.
 
8) Can be Mime Corporeal platform for modern move theatre (pantomime, physical theatre, ...)? Why?

you mean as a jumping board to incorporate into something else? Most definitely: yes! You may like or dislike the style of mcd. As a training, mcd offers nearly everything a performer needs to survive on stage: a beautiful movement technique, precision, stylisation, efficiency in expression, roundedness, yet not banality. And, according to nearly every student I had: presence on stage! So yes, mcd can be a perfect platform for so many kinds of performing arts. it is my believe, that anyone acting on stage (not necessarily dancers, but physical performers, pantomimes, speaking actors) could do well with mcd. it depends on the performer what he makes out of it.


 
9) I think that Mime Corporeal is the most sophisticated techniques and science work with body. Do you agree and why?

No, I don't agree. Classical Dance is very sophisticated. Butoh-dance is very sophisticated. Some many great people have researched the body and its movement possibilities to move. Personally I even think that, when in comes to dynamism, choreography, staging etc. mcd sometimes lacks satisfying answers. But talking only about the systematical studies of mere movement possibilities of the body, then yes, I have not come across anything similarly systematic. Also mcd has a very sophisticated set of stylisations, unique in it's thoughtfulness. And mcd offers some great tools simply for being present on stage, neutral, empty with full of possibilities, none of which I have ever come across in another art-form.
 


10) What is the issue of Mime Corporeal today?

It seems a fact, that mcd still only plays a minor role in the world of physical theatre. This is not so much due to it's training, the technique, but to a certain lack of answering basic questions about being a performer on stage, on play, on dramaturgy etc. The style of mcd, the legacy of Decroux as an author seems not very appealing to modern mimes, seems old-fashioned. However I am pretty convinced, that mcd will survive (a few years back I wasn't sure), it seems to me that we today have reached the critical mass of sufficient students and scholars and practitioners who have studied this technique and art-form deeply enough. However, many things, especially the repertory will get lost. I hope there will be people to advance this technique, modernise it. To me, mcd as it is, is not an end in itself. It can be developed, it should be developed!


 
11) What are influences of Mime Corporeal on other move forms today?

Difficult to say. I think its influence is bigger than one might expect. Nowadays, due to the great schools in London, Barcelona and Cologne, many great student spread the word, conquer the stages of the world. Only few will perform in the style of mcd, but anyone, who has studied long enough (3 years and more) will be deeply touched by what he/she has learned and will use it in one form or another.


 
12) Is for you Mime Corporeal only technique or is there some spiritual dimension also?

Very good question! To me, mcd definitely has a very spiritual dimension. Without a doubt. First of all, some repertoire pieces of Decroux have a clearly spiritual theme ("The Meditation", "The Prophet", "San Sebastian", the various "Love Duets"). More-so, learning the technique and the repertory requires a lot of repetition, that sometimes has something of a ritual, if not a (physical) mantra. Thirdly: Already wanting to render visible the invisible (Decroux-quote), meaning finding an outside representation of inner movements (feelings, thoughts etc) in itself is highly spiritual. Forth, mcd in it's highest of its 4 modes of stylisation tries to get away the most of one specific character on stage, of individuality, towards a representation of man itself (it's often shows as naked as possible, with a covered face, to take away what makes us individual). In this style you could say, the performance is not anymore about "the thinker" but about "the thought". Fifth: A great deal of the training in mcd is just about being present on stage: here and now. Fully aware. What else can be more spiritual? And last: mcd is the opposite of codified movements (like we know it from Marceau), but a language, simple letters. Its up to the performer, to articulate with it. So it enables, empowers the performer. This is spiritual.