Sometimes, the best way to grow a passion is to look at things from a different perspective. Physical theatre is no different. Yes, constantly practicing skills and learning new techniques will help advance your practice, but if you find yourself wondering about the Why of the performance, then sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and see the objective through a different lens. How to do this? Simple. Read!
Books are powerful. They have a wealth of knowledge, but they also allow perspective. If you are feeling stumped or are lacking in creativity, then maybe the answer lies not in sweating it out, but in sitting down and observing your passion from a different viewpoint. Here are five books to help you out:
Physical Theatre: A Critical Introduction by Simon David Murray. Sometimes it is best to go back to the basics. This book is all encompassing, discussing the history of physical theatre as well as the theory behind it. It does a wonderful job of tracing the origins of physical theatre in a way that is clear and easily understandable. By going back to the roots, it allows for a more complete appreciation for where the practice started and where it is going today.
Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice by Baron Baptiste. Yes, this is a yoga book. However, yoga and physical theatre have many similarities, the very least being the emphasis on expression through physical movement. It is these similarities that make Baptiste’s book so intriguing, because in his work he discusses the spiritual and emotional ride that happens because of yoga and because of the connection and discussion that we allow our mind to have with our bodies. The perspective on listening to our physical movements and using them to help us have control over other aspects of our lives can be extended to our physical theatre practice, because the mind and the body will always need to be in equilibrium for truly meaningful progress to occur.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp. This book is perfect for anyone who is struggling with creating lasting work that they are sincerely excited about and proud of. Dancing and physical theatre are such creative endeavors, and they require a constant openness and engagement. Perhaps the most important part of this book is the emphasis on actual work and the steps needed to produce a result. Sometimes a creative spark ignites and works like magic, and other times the process of creative thinking is laborious and takes a lot of detailed, hard work. Both methods are allowed, and both will probably occur during a creative’s life.
The Empty Space: A Book about the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate by Peter Brook. While this book might not have a direct impact on your physical theatre understanding, sometimes it is just fun to learn about something you really love. Peter Brook is the co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and his insight and analysis of theatre and all it encompasses is just plain incredible. It is fun to read, insightful, and will remind you of the bigger picture.
Dance Anatomy by Jacqui Haas. This book is a true treat for all the science lovers out there. It is interesting to analyze the specific science behind each dance movement, and this collected work shows which muscles are specifically involved in each body movement. It is fascinating and is a true testament to the beautiful complexity inherent in dance movement.
This is a short list and is by no means all encompassing. In truth, any book that you find interesting will inspire you, regardless of whether it is about physical theatre or not. Appreciate the vast wealth of knowledge about dance and theatre that is available in the written word. Books make the world bigger. They make physical theatre bigger. Take advantage of them.