Monday, May 21, 2012

Characters Influence Dance in ‘Anton’s Uncles’

In the next installment of SCR’s Studio SCR, Los Angeles-based Theatre Movement Bazaar will present a reimagining of Chekhov’s classic Uncle Vanya. In this retelling, only the male characters remain, the original text is distilled and new elements are added. But even those unfamiliar with the original text will be able to keep up, thanks in large part to the introduction of movement and dance.

Theatre Movement Bazaar began in the 1990s as a collaboration between choreographer and dancer Tina Kronis and writer/mechanical engineer Richard Alger, with the goal of creating new works merging dance, text, cinema and theatre, with an emphasis on physical movement. “We aim to raise the level of physicality in our theatre to that of dance performances,” says Kronis.

Kronis grew up studying classical ballet all over the world, and later expanded her repertoire to include modern, African dance, folk dance and mime. “I found my voice in mime, ironically enough,” says Kronis, who performed with renowned Swiss mime company Mummenschanz. “Mime became the link for me between dance and theatre. With Theatre Movement Bazaar, we are able to mix those worlds even more. Now I approach theatre with the eye of a dancer.”

And though Kronis, who draws inspiration from Charlie Chaplin, modern dancer Pina Bausch, and Russian director Vsevolod Meyerhold, is responsible for the company’s choreography, the show’s movement is rarely solidified before rehearsals begin. The framework of each character’s movement style is informed by the character itself, but the actor lends his own mark to the role based on his physical talents and limitations. Even non-dancers have been cast in the show, which Kronis says lends an interesting aspect to the final product. “You get a different type of movement dialogue from non-dancers,” she says.

Once rehearsals begin, actors spend about two weeks exploring the movements of their character before incorporating much spoken dialogue, rather than participating in the seated readings that dominate most rehearsals. The actors learn to improvise, and approach their roles through physical means first. “Our world, our language, is created on stage,” says Kronis. “In the end, it’s all about the performance. It all comes together in whatever form it takes to create the performance.”

Though Uncle Vanya deals with some rather heavy subject matter, the movement and dance in Anton’s Uncles provide a touch of comic relief. “Sometimes it will look like dance,” says Kronis. “Other times, the movement will look rather pedestrian. But it’s a surprisingly funny performance.”

Anton’s Uncles will be presented in the Nicholas Studio June 8-10. Learn more or buy tickets on our website.


  1. Oh man, if Mummenschanz finds out you called them "German" they will beat the crap out of you with an invisible stick.

    They're Swiss. Oh so Swiss.

    1. Thanks for the info Michael! We've changed the blog so it reads correctly. Although the visual of being beaten by a mime with an invisible stick is quite hilarious.

    2. ...until it happens to you.