— Marcel Marceau, (1923-2007)
It’s a hot July day in 1994 at the Goldston & Johnson School for Mimes and Marcel Marceau is standing in the center of the humid dance studio in cotton khakis and a white oxford shirt.
Small, lean and wizened with age, at 71 Marceau’s body has the taut shape of a 17-year
old male athlete.
Gentle, dignified and wise, he is like a combination of your long lost grandfather, a high-level diplomat, and Obi Wan Kenobi all wrapped into one.
As we show him our short mime plays, he coaches us with a soft voice. “Don’t rush. Take
your time. Breeeathe the movement. Learn to perform with spirit.”
Marceau’s nobility and grace allow us to see the art anew. His movements are surprising,
magical, poetic, lyrical, breath taking – not at all the cliché of the street mime in white face.
It was exactly these street mimes who ruined the art, Marceau explained, because they
took the mechanics of mime and reproduced the illusions in an exaggerated fashion, but without soul.
Public opinion of the art soon came to be only this — the white-faced street performer in
striped shirt making oversized facial expressions, and waving white-gloved hands and annoying passersby. But that’s not the art of mime. It’s the caricaturized version.
What is the cliché in your industry? What is the inaccurate public perception? And what
can you do to perform your job in such way that your actions, style, integrity, humor, and elegance transform this misguided belief?
As Marceau said to us on the final day of class, “We live in a decadent time. A very
decadent time. As a society, we are going down not up. You must bring back the essential, what is invisible to the eye and felt by the heart. Try to make your work better, through your own spirituality, through your own sense of values. And learn to perform with spirit. Voila, this is it: perform with spirit.”
How can you perform your work on an inspired level?
It is a question worth asking and a calling worth pursuing.
Because in doing so, you will elevate yourself above the norm and live beyond the cliché.
You will bring art back to your industry.
And your interactions will shift from simple every day transactional moments to experiences that are — on the most profound level — transformational.
Your clients will return. And they will bring their friends.