What are “Animal Exercises”?

By Webmaster

  • What are “Animal Exercises”?

    An actor can study how an animal or animals move and, then, use some of those movements when preparing to capture the physicality of their character

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    (Photo by Sander Wehkamp on Unsplash)

    In essence, “animal exercises” or “animal work” is a training technique that involves actors studying the movements and characteristics of animals, observed outside of the acting class, such as on a farm, in a zoo, or in nature. Once back in class, the actor attempts to emulate the movements and behaviors of the animals they studied.

    Animal exercises is, perhaps, most associated with Russian acting teacher, Maria Ouspenskaya. Ouspenskaya was an early pupil of Konstantin Stanislavski and the “Stanislavski System”, at the Moscow Art Theater in Russia. She emigrated to the United States to form the American Lab Theater with Richard Boleslavsky.

    At the Theater, Ouspenskaya sought to enhance the actor’s power of observation and concentration. She wanted to break them out of the traditional ways of movement, which is learned over the course of one’s lifetime. She wanted them to be able to use their bodies in ways they never imagined, enhancing the range of characters they could successfully portray, in the process.

  • So, as part of their studies, students were asked to observe animals, like squirrels, pigs, tigers and elephants, on their own time. They would mimic how the animals moved, how they behaved, how they walked, how they ate their meals, how they slept and how they interacted with other animals and humans. In the process, the actors could practice using new centers of gravity, new responses to stimuli, new behaviors, and new tempos and rhythms of movement.

    The actors could then incorporate these lessons of observation and movement into the characters they played. For example, a character without a physical disability must develop new ways of using their body when portraying a character who has an obvious physical disability. They must be able to develop the tempo, movement, center of gravity and motion style of a character who has a physical impediment that the actor does not possess. An actor can study how an animal or animals move and, then, use some of those movements when preparing to capture the physicality of their character.

    Recommended Posts

  • Ad

  • Don’t Audition Solely for the Purpose of Booking the Role

    Don’t Audition Solely for the Purpose of Booking the Role Always act in truth. (By Jim Webb) You are behind on your bills. You’re facing money shortages. You’re not entirely sure how you’ll…

    5 Good Reasons to Do Student Films

    5 Good Reasons to Do Student Films There are many actors who can cite chapter and verse their negative experiences doing student films. They can be a bit of a mixed bag. But…

    “If you want to be an actor…that has nothing to do with Hollywood.” (William H. Macy)

    “It’s one thing to become a better actor, it’s another thing to want to be somebody, or to want to be a star, or to get recognition. If you want to be an…

    What is a “Student Film”?

    What is a “Student Film”? It is the making of the film itself, rather than the content of the film, that usually provides the educational value (by Tonya Tannenbaum) A “student film”, as…

    “This is a business of rejection.” (Bill Duke)

    “There’s a difference between waiting to be discovered by someone and discovering yourself. Waiting to be discovered and discovering yourself is a different consciousness.” (Bill Duke) Duke went on to explain: “This is…

  • Ad

  • 3 Reasons Your Audition Ended Quickly

    3 Reasons Your Audition Ended Quickly The speediness of the audition may have nothing at all to do with the actor’s performance in the audition room (by Jim Webb) That sinking feeling you…

    5 Basic Facts about Lee Strasberg

    5 Basic Facts about Lee Strasberg Here are some basic facts about the life and career of Mr. Lee Strasberg (by Jim Webb) Lee Strasberg was one of the most influential acting teachers…

    “I think it’s important to stand out and make bold decisions.” (Dacre Montgomery)

    “I think it’s important (for actors) to stand out and make bold decisions. And I think that, there’s not enough people in the world that encourage that for artists. And I think for…

  • Ad

  • 5 Funny Feel-Facts About Acting

    5 Funny Feel-Facts About the Business of Acting They’re not necessarily true for all actors. You can argue that they’re not true at all. But they feel good to say, so I said…

    3 Minor Violations to Avoid on Your Acting Résumé

    3 Minor Violations to Avoid on Your Acting Résumé When it comes to an actor’s résumé, there are differing levels of crime that an actor can commit. Here are 3 Minor Violations. (by…

    “If you get good enough, all that other stuff will take care of itself.” (Ed Harris)

    “I would just say, if this is something you’re pursuing as an actor… It’s one thing to learn about acting, it’s one thing to become a better actor, it’s another thing to want…

    What are “Profiles”?

    What are “Profiles”? Profiles give casting a more complete picture of how the actor looks when performing on-camera (by Tonya Tannenbaum) Profiles are a request for additional information about an actor’s appearance, particularly…

    You’re Not Really Acting When You’re Over-Acting

    You’re not really acting when you’re over-acting It’s amateurish and does a disservice to the script, your fellow actors and to the audience. (by Jim Webb) It’s understandable for aspiring actors to want…

  • Ad

  • “Don’t become an actor, unless you HAVE to.” (Mandy Patinkin)

    “Don’t become an actor, unless you HAVE to.” (Mandy Patinkin) Here’s the best thing I ever heard about acting, that my wife said: “Don’t do it (become an actor), unless you have to.”…

    Today’s Rundown

    TODAY’S RUNDOWN Thought of the day: Thinking of quitting your acting career? Hang in there! You don’t have to have all the answers today. You only have to survive the day. #actorslife  …

    What is a “Sense Memory”?

    What is a “Sense Memory”? Armed with a sense memory, the actor’s experience is no longer rooted in fantasy. It is now real to them. (by Tonya Tannenbaum) Sense memory is an acting…

  • Ad

  • Booking Commercials: Talent, Looks or Luck?

    Booking Commercials: Talent, Looks or Luck? What does it take for an actor to be successful in commercials? (by Carmichael Phillips) What does it take for an actor to be successful in commercials?…

    What are “Notes, Adjustments and Redirects”?

    What are “Notes, Adjustments and Redirects”? Regardless of what one might call them, these changes are usually necessary for a thorough evaluation of the actor’s fitness for the role being cast (By Tonya…

    Never Apologize When You Make a Mistake During an Audition

    Never Apologize When You Make a Mistake During an Audition Don’t apologize during an audition. Ever. If you stumble over your words or make a mistake, simply correct it. Confidently. (by Carmichael Phillips)…

    Never Do This on Your Acting Résumé!

      Never Do This on Your Acting Résumé! This is a brief “NEVER and WTF Were You Thinking!” list (By Carmichael Phillips) Sometimes there are “Should and Shouldn’t” lists. Sometimes there are “Do…

    5 General Rules for Demo Reels

      5 General Rules for Demo Reels Before you get knee-deep into this endeavor, there are a few general rules you should consider. (By Jim Webb) Are you putting your first demo reel…

  • Ad

  • Before You Approach an Agent, Get Your S@#t Together!

    Before You Approach an Agent, Get Your S@#t Together! Before you approach an agent, make sure that you are ready to present yourself as an actor who understands the business and understands what…

    3 Helpful Suggestions When Slating

    3 Helpful Suggestions When Slating While the slating process may seem insignificant, it represents an additional opportunity for actors to stand-out, when done properly (By Jim Webb) You already know what slating is….

    5 Reasons Why Background Acting is a $h*tty Job

    5 Reasons Why Background Acting is a $h*tty Job Let us count the ways… (By Jim Webb) Recently, I listed five benefits to beginning your acting career as a background actor. To be…

  • Ad

  • Look to Acting to Be Your Creative Savior, Not Your Financial Savior

      Look to Acting to Be Your Creative Savior, Not Your Financial Savior Fame and fortune must not be your primary pursuit. They should be the fortuitous byproduct of a larger pursuit (by…

    5 Riddles Every Actor Must Solve

    5 Riddles Every Actor Must Solve So many riddles to solve. So little time. And on it goes… (By Carmichael Phillips) In a normal profession, everything is clear and easy to understand. The…

    What is “Slating”?

      What is “Slating”? (By Tonya Tannenbaum) The term, “slating”, for auditions, describes a standard industry practice whereby the actor briefly introduces themselves while facing the camera. This process usually happens right before,…

    5 Basic Facts About Method Acting

      5 Basic Facts about Method Acting Method acting refers to a collection of training techniques meant to aid actors in the understanding and building of their characters (By Jim Webb) Method acting…

    What are “Inner Motives”?

      What are “Inner Motives”? In order to consistently deliver natural, emotionally sincere performances the actor must understand their character’s inner motives (By Tonya Tannenbaum) Inner Motives are the rationales that an actor…

    What are “Animal Exercises”?

    What are “Animal Exercises”? An actor can study how an animal or animals move and, then, use some of those movements when preparing to capture the physicality of their character (By Tonya Tannenbaum)…

    Actor Stories: How John Krasinski Almost Gave Up on Acting

      Actor Stories: How John Krasinski Almost Gave Up on Acting (By Carmichael Phillips) Check out the story of how actor, John Krasinski, almost gave up on acting, right before his big break….

    Make Sure Your Name is Added to the “Nice” List

      Make Sure Your Name is Added to The “Nice” List You may not get the role you auditioned for, but make sure your name is added to the “nice” list (By Jim…