Jerzy Grotowski was born on August 11, 1933, in Rzeszow, Poland. He studied at the Advanced School of Dramatic Art in Warsaw and Academy of Stage Craft in Moscow. He traveled extensively to Central and East Asia where he was introduced to Oriental philosophy and Chinese opera.
He opened his Laboratory Theatre in Warsaw in 1965. The theater is aptly named, for it is not a place where one goes for dramatic entertainment; rather, it is a place of research where the acting troupe explores the potentialities in any given text.
According to Grotowski, when the theater was still a part of the religion it liberated the spiritual energy of the tribe by incorporating myth and then by profaning and transcending it. The spectator had a renewed awareness of his personal truth in the truth of the myth, “and through fright and a sense of the sacred he came to catharsis.”
The actor is vitally important because, according to Grotowski, the myth is incarnate in him, and through his actions, speech, wails, and gestures he stimulates the audience to confront the truth of the myth for themselves. Grotowski’s theater is called “poor theater” because he believed that theater could exist without makeup, costumes, and scenery, but could not exist without the actor-spectator relationship of perceptual, direct, and “live” communion.
He eliminated elaborated costumes and makeup to identify the character of the actor, he foregone fancy lighting and scenery to help to describe the plots, as well as music and sound effect from his theater and insisted that the actors’ physical ability is sufficient and infinitely more interesting than costumes or makeup. Direct lighting and shadows can be utilized effectively without the need for elaborate lighting schemes and mechanisms. The actor can make his own music with his voice.
Grotowski’s methods, which put great emphasis on preparation, exercise, and physical conditioning and discipline was aimed to produce an actor that truly connects with his archetype - the ritual performer whose body is so purified that he becomes the vehicle for the deity to communicate with masses, to demonstrate his will or, to deliver his prophecy.
Grotowski’s training methods are varied. Many of them aim to free the body from the habitual “cliche” movement and develop fluency and flexibility that is both expressive and enhancing the flow of energy. Some of the exercises such as “Motion” has a great sense of ritual with a meditative quality, requires great control over the muscular-skeletal system. To create movement in any given posture is generally emphasized, this includes many inversion postures such as headstands and shoulder stands as well as exploring the body’s relationship with the gravity such as “fall and recover”.
Few exercises are repetitive in movement in nature yet emphasis on core mobility is evident in many of his exercises and requires constant exploration from the participants.
Tanggao’s experience with Grotowski methods have expanded ArtAnvaya’s moment vocabulary beyond the realm of Yoga to explore the movement fluidity in both standing and floor postures, a good example is the “walk with the sitting bones” (click for video)