In 2013, I was lucky enough to become a recipient of the Ad Astra Scholarship for performing arts which provides opportunities for musicians, and in my case actors, to receive professional vocational training alongside our degree. Part of this training included an intensive week in the technique of corporeal mime, founded by Etienne Decroux in the early 20th century with Valentina Temussi and Oscar Valsecchi, along with our director Kellie Hughes who also studied the technique with them at Theatre de L’ange Fou in London. In Nicola Baylis’ article, she writes, “Many practitioners of Decroux’s art form now consider corporeal mime to be also a good foundation for the actor, a base to work from in developing one’s own style of theatre.”

Over my last year in the academy we have had weekly classes that would always involve exercises in corporeal mime in order to train our bodies to have full control over our physicality when we were performing. However we had never experienced the intensity of professional physical training and thanks to the academy, we could!

In the last week of August, six other scholars and I travelled to the Gracia area of Barcelona to work with Oscar and Valentina in their studio which was an physically intense and rewarding experience. We began to work on a piece of corporeal mime called ‘The Factory’ which involves a cast of 9 working together using only their bodies to create a magical reconstruction of mechanisms and workers. Along with that, we also were able to develop our own physical improvisation skills using only a chair and table which was a novelty experience for all of the scholars involved. I personally found it extremely challenging but two of my peers Katie and Caoimhe who were trained dancers looked so elegant and graceful when they took to the stage! Working with such a diverse variety of other scholars meant we were able to learn and grow from each other as well as from our teachers.

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We would work with our teachers in the studio for about 5-6 hours every day and then stay and work with each other, trying to master and control the movements we had just learned. Our evenings were spent enjoying the city and the beauty of Catalunya in the late summer. We managed to visit the festival of the Sants region where every street was decorated in accordance with their theme, whether it was angry birds or North Korea! Other excursions included the gothic quarter of the city, Gaudi’s Parc Guell and of course, the beach!


We had an unforgettable week training and growing together as a company and I can’t wait for the rest of the year when we can use the training we have received in performance – watch this space!

Over the next year, the Ad Astra Performing Arts scholars will be working on a piece called ‘The Typists’ which will be performed in 2015.