Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Imagination Makes Mime Come To Life Students Learn That Actions Sometimes Are Louder Than Words

Sat., July 1, 1995

In a white leotard and flowered ballet skirt, Mandie Diehl climbed aboard her motorcycle, revved it up and zoomed across the room.

She stopped just before she hit the wall.

The motorcycle was fake, but the wall was real. It was one of four in a classroom at the Spokane Valley’s new Academy of Dance. Diehl, 13, was learning to mime in one of the school’s summer workshops.

“I’ve been looking forward to it all week,” said Diehl, of the mime class. She learned how to use facial expressions, exaggerated body movements and specific gestures to convey meaning.

“When we have to tell a story on stage, mime will come in handy,” said Diehl, who’ll be in eighth grade at Evergreen Junior High School in the fall. “It’ll show other people what you’re trying to tell.”

Dance Academy owner Janet Wilder added mime, African dance, clogging and performance seminars to the school’s summer program as enrichment for students.

“It helps them to learn to use their bodies in different ways,” Wilder said.

On Wednesday, 15 girls and one boy learned mime from Roger Welch, one of four guest instructors invited to teach at the school this summer. Welch is the artistic director of the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre.

To teach the students body language, Welch seated them in front of him and acted out a scene, without using any words.

He walked into an imaginary movie theatre, stepping carefully past the other pretend members of the audience. During the movie, he roared with silent laughter, wiped away tears and shivered with wideeyed terror.

“You have to exaggerate your emotions. You have to take it to another level so it’s not a guessing game at all,” Welch told the students.

Welch also explained that “key gestures” differentiate one object from another.

When Welch held up his cupped hand and asked what he was holding, no one knew. Then he shined the pretend object on his shirt and the students yelled out “An apple.”

When Welch asked the students to act out an object using a key gesture, Deihl revved up her motorcycle and sped off.

Other students dribbled imaginary basketballs, leashed and walked dogs, or climbed into bed and pulled the covers up tight.

Newman Lake resident Ben Stellmon, 12, enjoyed the class. Stellmon is home-schooled now, but acted in plays when he attended Otis Orchards Elementary. Miming helps actors develop their parts, he said.

“You use your imagination,” Stellmon said. “You’d be better at imagining your part.”

Other summer instructors at the Academy of Dance include Lori Peckham, director of the Lilac City Cloggers, Sharon Randolph, chairwoman of the dance department at the Interlochen Arts Academy, and African dance teacher Jeanne Selvaggio.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


Click here to comment on this story »