How to Understand the Essentials of Movement in Acting – Weight and Lightness


Every part of the body returns to its natural position because of gravity; raise an arm and let it fall. It can Ml with a bang and a slap, or it can fall as lightly as a feather fan. The whole body can fall slowly and gently, melting to the floor, or it can fall with a crash (the most difficult and dangerous type of fall). Walking, sitting, rising, handling objects, touching people, all involve the muscular effort of raising, the effortless passivity of falling, and the sense of resistance in controlling both lowering and falling. The actor must be acutely aware of his centre of gravity; for round that point everything happens. Bob Hoskins playing the great clown Grimaldi made his first entrance with several slow, perfect light cartwheels, rotating round his own ‘centre’: a perfect example through stylized movements of the clown’s mastery of his physical world, and an example of that special dimension of the actor’s art, performance. Most acting is not what it seems to be. ‘Being natural’ – to Grimaldi being natural was performing remarkable actions apparently effortlessly. So the sense of balance is essential to the appearance of lightness and heaviness.

Weight and Lightness in Acting

Try these few simple exercises to feel out the movement of weight and your centre of gravity.

1 Stand with one foot advanced about two feet. Keeping your torso and head upright, transfer your weight to the back leg, bending the knee of that leg a little. Now, still keeping the body upright, bring the whole weight of your body forward over your front foot, bending the front leg, so that you end up in a position like a swordsman’s lunge. Repeat the exercise with the feet as far apart as possible, then move the feet gradually closer together, so that the transfer of weight from leg to leg means only a very small movement.

2 Now stand with the feet wide apart; transfer your weight first to one side, then slowly bring your weight to the other side, over the other leg. Repeat, with the feet closer together. During these two exercises you will find out two things, that an actor needs strong thighs, and that you must ‘feel’ the floor under you with the whole of the foot, since the small and subtle changes of weight are made by the slightest of pressures from the ball of the foot. A standing or moving actor should ideally be carrying all his or her weight on the balls of the feet, the heels touching the floor as lightly as possible, so the actor needs strong and supple calves as well.

A picture is emerging of the actor as quite an athlete, performing ordinary acts with lightness and agility, strength and economy, in command of his ‘centre’, with all movement and gesture flowing from that point. Try this exercise for lightness.

3 Stand with the feet slightly apart, and be aware of the comfort of your whole body; shoulders, spine, pelvis all in the right place, arms hanging easily, head relaxed, eyes looking forward. Check that the legs are straight but not taut or braced, flex the knees a little. Now go into as low a knees-bend position as is comfortable, breathing easily and rhythmically. Take a deep breath, and spring upright raising your arms above your head, propelling yourself a few inches off the floor, rebounding onto the balls of the feet. Bounce on your feet, bounce lightly from foot to foot, forward, backward, sideways. Don’t be disappointed if at first you’re heavy, clumsy and off-balance; the magical lightness of dancers is the result of long patient practice – they are in reality solid muscular men and women of about eleven and a half and eight stone respectively, with bones and sinews of steel!

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About the Author: Cody Riffel is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo. She likes to write on variety of topics, whatever interests her. She also likes to share what she learns over the Internet and her day-to-day life.

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