What is Mime?

As a Mimer, I get this question a lot.
Mime? O, the guy who’s in an imaginary box wearing a zebra costume?
*Person jolly full raises their hands and acts like they’re in a box!*

No…, that’s pantomime.

Although Mime has similarities with pantomime, it took a different turn thanks to Étienne Decroux. He followed classes with Jacques Copeau. Decroux got highly influenced and started exploring and developing the possibilities of mime. He continued developing corporeal mime into a highly sculptural form, taking it outside the realms of naturalism.
Several students of Decroux were Dutch; Will Spoor, Jan Bronk, Luc Boyer and Frits Vogels. They brought his teachings to Amsterdam in the 1960s. From there, corporeal mime started developing into new forms. They implemented the Decroux technique within the theatre field of the Netherlands. In 1962 a mime education was founded. It continued to grow till today and has been part of the ATD since 1968. Mime is a small niche within the field but develops a wide range of modern theatre, performances, modern dance and location-based plays.

Although this is just a part of the answer. Below I’ve added two quotes from Marijn de Langen. A post-doctorate researcher who has been describing and researching the history of Mime, more specifically Dutch Mime.

“A mime artist is a theatre maker with a special physical performance, grounded in the mime corporel technique, who has a great awareness of the space and the various possibilities of their body. A mime artist can use this stage presence to create diverse performances: aesthetic or daily, with characters or with abstract bodies in the space.” 

The question, “What is mime?” Is comparable to the question “What colour is a chameleon?” A clear answer is not possible. Mime is sometimes red, sometimes yellow, sometimes traditional, sometimes innovative, sometimes wordless, sometimes linguistic, sometimes public-friendly, sometimes elitist, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes endlessly fascinating and sometimes there is nothing to it. None of these properties are inherent to the mime. Its versatility is its power.“

In the past years, the Mime has been focused on self-willed players and makers. It created a broad spectrum and a wide variety of mimes. Each one invented their own mime, or what it means to them. The key to understanding is seeing and experiencing it.

Want to dive even deeper into the theory and history?

Marijn De Langen
Mime (ENG/NL)
Langen_50_jaar_mime_in_Nederland (1) (NL) (NL)

My essay
de mime niche, gewoon mime (NL)