While teaching a recent workshop, one of the students reminded me of mysef back in my student days. It was soon after arriving at Marceau's school that I realized I had a personality problem. You see, I was by nature a quiet, patient, unaggressive person. Now, you might think quiet is a good characteristic for mime school. But you would be wrong. Because that demeanor also affected my movement. My teachers were constantly telling me to be more explosive. No matter how hard I tried, movements that needed to be quick and sharp always had a maddeningly soft edge to them. I lacked snap. And maybe a little crackle and pop too.
Looking around, I realized I wasn't alone. My classmates with more gentle personalities had the same tendency, while classmates with more explosive personalities had a hard time making a movement soft and tender. It wasn't just a matter of speed, either. A movement could be fast, yet without punch. Or a movement could be done slowly yet still have an abrasive or pointy quality to it. This was not something I could overcome through technique only. I needed a holistic approach.
I found my answer in fencing class, which was a part of the curriculum (Marceau said it taught us to perceive distance). By nature a defensive fighter, I adopted a very simple new strategy. I attacked. Whether I saw an opening to attack made not a whit of difference, I attacked anyway. More often than not, this resulted in me being stabbed by my opponent and the only bouts I won were against my fellow gentle personalities, who I hope weren't too traumatized by my sudden indiscriminate yelling and charging. But after a while, between the fencing bruises and learning to shove my way onto the crowded Parisian metro, I began to awaken my inner Viking with the result that, with concentration, I could achieve a more aggressive edge.
For folks on the other end of the spectrum, I am not too sure what to suggest. A ballet class or yoga, perhaps? Gardening? Anything that allows you to focus on having a gentler or nurturing touch. At the very least, being aware that your natural state of being, for better or worse, affects the way you move can help you choose roles (or understand why you get particular types of roles) and identify moments that may require particular attention. And know that it is a continuous process. I still have to check in and make sure my snap, crackle, pops aren't turning mushy.