Dancing the Art of Silence as Epitomized by Contemporary Mime Master Marcel Marceau

The “art of silence” is fundamentally a dance performance known as mimodrama, which mime master Marcel Marceau had injected into the American theater. Marceau combined pantomiming, dancing, acting, acrobatics and clowning, in popularizing mime as a form of modern performance art.

Touted as the world’s most popular mime performer, he has been acclaimed by many for having revived mime artistry as a drama dance form.

Dance drama is unlike formal dance acts that narrate actions and emotions or depict characterizations by using simple actions such as blowing a kiss, curtsying and other pantomimic gestures. Mimodrma can be carried out as a full-length theatrical presentation, in which mime artists silently portray specific rolls in telling a story.

It is actually reminiscent of the early motion picture comedies made popular by silent movie actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. In fact, in Marceau’s biography, it is said that as a young Jewish boy, the desire and ambition to become a famous mime was formed in Marcel’s mind after watching a Charlie Chaplin movie.

Mime Artistry During the Life and Times of Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau’s talent as mime artist first came into good use at the age of 16, when he joined the French resistance. After Germany occupied France in 1944, and while Jewish families were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps, Marcel’s contribution in helping many of them escape to Switzerland was significant, as he was able to keep the children still and quiet with his mime act.

Marcel Marceau, in truth, was also born a Jew, named Marcel Mangel. However, during the “Holocaust”, it became necessary for him and his brother to adopt the French surname Marceau. His parents had been captured and sent to one of the concentration camps, where Marcel’s father subsequently died.

After Paris was liberated from German occupation, young Marcel gave his first major performance to 3000 troops of the allied forces. After World War II, he went on to formally study mime and dramatic art. He was also recruited to join the French army as a liaison officer, in light of his fluency in French, English and German languages.

While receiving many honors and recognition for his services and contributions to the liberation of France, Mssr. Marceau established a pantomime school in Paris. He went on to set up the Marceau Foundation, aimed at promoting mime art in the U.S.

 

Calling mime as the art of silence, he performed professionally by creating several characters for his mime artistry; The most famous of which is “Bip” the clown.

Marcel Marceau, performed in stages, movies and television for more than 60 years even when he was already 80 years old. Marcel Marceau though, passed away at the age of 84 in September 2007. .