As an actor you should be comfortable and confident in your body. Your body is one of the few things you can work on and develop as an actor. You should be flexible, strong and in control when moving on stage and behind the camera. There is a reason movement is such a big part of all major drama school curriculums.
During my time training as an actor, and since graduating, I have tried many movement techniques, and there are different benefits to them all. Tai Chi is my most recent movement practice and so far it is a game changer. Here’s a few points on why Tai Chi is good for actors.
- It’s not strenuous. Especially to begin with, Tai Chi and Qigong (Tai Chi’s little brother) consist of slow movements that don’t put a great deal of strain on the body. I am very tall and have always struggled with flexibility, so movement practices like yoga haven’t been enjoyable for me. This lack of enjoyment is made more apparent when the 70 year old man next to me is like a living rubber band and I can barely touch my toes. Yoga is me struggling through a rather outrageously shaped poo for 45 minutes. Tai Chi is more about the quality of your movement, not how far you can stretch or how long you can hold a pose.
- It’s a good community. Tai Chi classes, more than any other movement class I have taken, is a very relaxed and positive environment. This is drawn from limited experience, but it seems to be the case that it is a mostly non-competitive, welcoming space.
- Posture. Tai Chi helps you realign. After every class I am standing taller and more at ease. Posture is a large part of Tai Chi.
- Calm. For most actors, stress and anxiety is a real inhibiter. Tai Chi has been a great way to destress and relax. After every class I have a noticeable improvement in my overall sense of alignment and calm. There is a peace of mind and openness.
- You can take it home. So far I have been learning what is called the short-form. This is what you often see happening in parks around the world. This form and many of the other movements can be practiced and used independent of class. If you’re feeling stressed, tired, anxious you can use what you learn to make immediate changes in your mood and energy levels.
Like I said in the introduction to this article, movement work of any kind is imperative for actors. You have to have a weekly and preferably daily practice to get you relaxed and open to work. I recommend trying Yoga, Feldenkrais, Tai Chi, Qigong, or any of the other major movement practices.
Listen to your own body and see what works for you. The test is: are you standing taller and feeling more in your body after the class or session.