Judo as a devising practice: Yves Klein, La Mancha and Chile

Nixon, Ellie (2022) Judo as a devising practice: Yves Klein, La Mancha and Chile. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training Martial Arts Revisited, 13 (3).


This article describes the creation process of Arquitectura del Aire (Aerial Architecture) devised by La Mancha Theatre Company, Chile, a company I co-founded. The point of departure was the ‘Painting’ exercise initiated at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris and continued in La Mancha Escuela Internacional del Gesto y la Imagen (La Mancha International School of Image and Gesture). The aim of this project was to explore the exercise’s potential for developing a theatre production, inspired by the work of French artist Yves Klein (1928–1962). What was unanticipated, was the intimacy and intricacy with which Klein’s fascination and expertise in judo infused the work. A devoted practitioner of judo, Klein became a fourth dan judoka in the early 1950s, a level that no other French person had achieved at that time. Training with a judo sensei (teacher) for this project, the actor-devisors, including me, experienced a rigorous system of preparation: ukemi (falling safely), kuzushi (breaking the opponent’s balance), throws, counter-throws, grappling techniques, falls, and recovery. Judo’s principles of giving way, maximum efficiency and mutual respect became the essential cornerstones of our approach. In this production, judo shaped both the process and outcome, in effect as co-creator, prompting the question: what performer training practices might engender an imagining disposition for attending to the creative possibilities, movements and dynamics of martial arts as a material devising practice?

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