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Movement director

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Title: Movement director  
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Movement director

A Movement director is involved with actor movement in a variety of production settings that include theatre, television, film, opera and animation. Within these settings, Movement directors usually work closely with the director and the actors, collaborating with the creative team to realise the physical life of a work. They propose a physical language to performers and directors, and devise training methods or teach skills that will help facilitate a specific physical style. The Movement director may create, or research and pass on, embodied information about etiquette, ethnicities (proxemics, gestural language, social codes), a character’s condition (medical conditions, inebriation, pregnancy, historical facts), a character’s journey (for example ageing), specialist movement (for example period, dances, dexterity in falling and lifts, animal work, cross-gendered performance) or chorus work.

Although choreography is part of a Movement directors’ skill-set, this does not mean that every choreographer is also a Movement director. There are also important differences between the Movement director and the Fight director, where although the Movement director will engage with the effect of the relevant weapons on posture, movement and emotional state, the fight choreography itself is directed by the specifically qualified Fight Director. Specialist Movement consultants may work in other specific areas, for example Peter Elliott, with his seminal work in the field of primate movement and film (Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1983).


Movement directors in Britain

The role described by the title of Movement director today has been in existence since at least the start of the 20th century, although rarely mentioned in programmes or credits. Movement directors often work at a crossover point, shifting between teaching and directing movement for actors, and have also been termed as Movement coach, Theatre choreographer, or Movement support. Sue Lefton, Ita O'Brien, Liz Ranken, Dennis Sayers, Toby Sedgwick, Ayse Tashkiran, Sian Williams.

Movement directors today emerge from a rich heritage of movement pedagogues and practitioners. French Director and practitioner Jacques Lecoq, and movement theorist and pedagogue Rudolf Laban offer important influences. Many of their students and contemporaries became influential teachers of movement and Movement directors in British theatre, often influenced by and interweaving with the lineage of contemporary dance as influenced by Laban, and the heritage of social and cultural dances. Claude Chagrin, who trained with Jacques Lecoq, was the ‘movement person’ with the National Theatre Company before and while it became permanently resident in Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre Building in 1976. She was also the first person to be credited for movement, on a production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Dir. Peter Shaffer, 1964). Michel Saint-Denis taught movement in London and was an influential associate director alongside Peter Brook at the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1962–1966, introducing influences from his work in Paris with his uncle Jacques Copeau. Other notable teachers who have shaped British movement work today through a heritage that is passed on from body to body, are Trish Arnold, Geraldine Stevenson, Jean Newlove, Litz Pisk, Yat Malmgren and Belinda Quirey. Their work underpins the practice and understanding of contemporary movement practitioners and gives physical life to actors’ performances at Drama Schools and in productions across Britain.

Contemporary developments

Movement Directors have sought to be named, in recognition of the existence of their profession, for many decades, and are increasingly gathering recognition. Relevant training for practitioners is now offered through recognized Higher Education degrees focusing on Movement in theatre, such as the MA in Movement studies at The Central School of Speech and Drama, founded by Vanessa Ewan and Debbie Green in 2004 and the MA in Training Actors Movement, led by Wendy Allnutt at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Manchester Metropolitan University also offers an MA in Movement Practice for Theatre. Movement director and MA Movement Studies course leader at The Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD), Ayse Tashkiran, is researching a comprehensive history of movement direction and creating a platform where movement practitioners are able to share their work and facilitate an understanding of their profession by a wider audience. Industry initiatives to draw out the work of movement directors include the Young Vic and the RSC with a variety of workshops, apprenticeships and placements.

See also


  • [1]
  • Callery, D. (2001). Through the Body, London, Nick Hern Books.
  • [2]
  • Chambers, C. (2004). Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company, London & New York, Routledge.
  • [3]
  • Conway, M. (2008). Tea with Trish: the movement work of Trish Arnold, Parts 1 and 2 New York.
  • Dennis, A. (2002). The articulate body: the physical training of the actor, London: Nick Hern.
  • Flatt K. and Melrose, S. "Finding – and owning – a Voice: Choreographic Signature and Intellectual Property in Collaborative Practices", Dance Theatre Journal Vol. 22 – 2
  • Evans, M. (2009). Movement training for the modern actor London, Routledge
  • [4]
  • Hodgson, John & Preston-Dunlop, Valerie (1990): Rudolf Laban: An Introduction to his Work and Influence, Plymouth Northcote House.
  • Hope-Wallace, P. (1966). The Guardian, Review of ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’, National Theatre, 1966
  • Mitchell, K. (2009). The director's craft : a handbook for the theatre, London, Routledge.
  • [5]
  • [6]
  • National Theatre Archive, accessed 27.01.2009.
  • [7]
  • Pisk, L. (1975). The actor and his body, London: Harrap
  • Tashkiran, A. (2009). "Movement Directors: the secret weapons of theatre, Research Presentation by Ayse Tashkiran at Central School of Speech and Drama", CSSD Library, May 2009.
  1. ^ "The Theatre Archive Project - archives". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "about us". Cheek by Jowl. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  4. ^ "Guildhall School of Music & Drama: Acting". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  5. ^ "| Postgraduate Study | Manchester Metropolitan University". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  6. ^ "Site Unavailable | UK2". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  7. ^ "History of the National - History of the NT". National Theatre. 1963-10-22. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
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