|By||Katherine G. Matzell (Portland, ME) -|
Chaulet guides the reader through a thorough and detailed explanation of the energetic system and its tremendous role as the powerhouse of the actor. In addition to this complete guide to the energetic system are wonderful stories of her own experiences as a working stage and film actress, and as a mother, daughter and wife. Chaulet takes on the role of the gentle and reassuring teacher in this book, encouraging us to clean up the energy we put out and filter the energy we take in, so that we can create a free-flowing connection with the world that is strong, healthy, and sustainable.
A quick and refreshing read, this book vibrates with the passion and care that Chaulet encourages us to create from our own energetic centers. It was over before I was ready to let go!
(see review on amazon.com)
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In A Balancing Act, F. Emmanuelle Chaulet clearly and effectively describes her holistic system of combining acting techniques with work on the energetic system within the body. She has been using this approach, which she calls “Energize!” for about twenty years as a teacher working with students; as a director working with actors; and as an actor working on herself. She focuses on the Strasberg [and Michael Chekhov]* technique[s] of acting, so actors trained in this technique would be the most likely to respond to the vocabulary she uses and to the exercises she proposes. As a young actress, Chaulet found that the techniques she was using left her unable to let go of the darker sides of the characters she was portraying, creating an unhealthy imbalance in her life. She discovered that by applying work on the energetic systems to her acting she could approach her craft from a healthier angle. The title of the book refers to balancing all aspects of one’s life and art, including the polarities within the human body, the use of varying acting and movement techniques, and finding balance between one’s life on and offstage. Through simple and precise descriptions of exercises related to acting, energy, and a combination of the two, Chaulet has written a useful and comprehensive book on acting.
The book is essentially divided into four sections. First, there is a brief autobiographical section, focusing on Chaulet’s life as a young actress in France and as a student at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City. Here she describes her problems with the techniques she was studying, and how she came to polarity therapy as a way to deal with the imbalances these techniques had left in her life. In the next section she describes in detail the energy systems working within the body, and how they affect one’s emotions and daily life. She illustrates how important it is to clear the energy system to create room for positive artistic energy, and provides many exercises on how to do this. In the next few chapters she describes how to use her system in combination with different acting techniques, and these chapters make up the bulk of the book. Using a vocabulary that will be familiar to most actors, she describes many exercises in their pure form, and then adjusts them to her system. She starts with the “outside-in” and “inside-out” approaches to finding characters; then discusses the importance of movement to finding characters and objectives; moves on to using her system to clear actors’ blocks such as stage fright and expectations; and finally has a whole chapter dedicated to playing real-life characters. The last section of the book is about letting go of characters after the run of a show and finding balance in one’s day to day life.
Structurally, the book is simple and comprehensive. It is broken up into chapters which are further divided into many small sections, though there is no division between sections and subsections. This can be somewhat confusing. For example, exercises on a particular technique seem to hold the same weight as the description of the technique itself, where there should be some distinction. But other than that, I found the book easy to follow. Chaulet cites diagrams and illustrations when discussing abstract energy systems, making it easy to cross reference her descriptions of colors, lights, images and energy flows with a tangible image. She includes appendices with step by step instructions of the long and short form of the exercises she discusses, lists of action verbs, and various resources for different forms of energy therapy, wellness centers, and acting schools that use energy work. For a book that begins with an apology to the reader for “stylistic peculiarities that will surprise an American reader,” I was in fact surprised at the clarity with which the Energize! technique was presented.
Whether or not the idea of energy and chakras resonates with you, this book presents effective acting tools. Her language is clear and precise, and the vocabulary she uses will be familiar to most actors. Many of the exercises that I learned in grad school and found very effective are presented here in new ways, and described clearly in step by step form. Furthermore, her explanations of the chakras and energy systems are tangible and never come off as ephemeral or wishy-washy. I found her take on some Strasberg and Chekhov exercises fresh and exciting, and some of her original exercises strike me as very useful. She seems to have found healthy and innovative ways of approaching a technique that can be emotionally draining and sometimes harmful. And although some background in energy and visualization work would help to understand some of the theories she explores, she writes simply and elegantly, and any actor with an interest in polarity therapy and the energetic system would find this book very interesting and useful.
*corrected by BalanceYourAct Blog