I’m reading a book at the moment called The Mime Book by Claude Kipnis, and I came across the following passage comparing the mime to the actor and dancer. I thought it was interesting in that it shares an opinion that is similar but yet at the same time quite different to my own:
Actors and dancers coexist rather pacifically because they have so little in common. Once the mime enters, discord follows. No one will give the poor fellow room. The actor wants to claim the mime's speaking body, and the dancer claims his silent movements. It seems that many people will not let a mime be a mime. "All right, so you do Mime, but which are you, an actor or a dancer?" But there are differences among these three, even though they all appear on a stage.
The actor is primarily verbal; the mime is not. Take away the actor's words, and he is a silent actor. We wait for him to commence talking again. Whatever his other virtues, and he may have many, the actor is judged by how well he manipulates his words, how well he creates a space in them for his acting. The actor approaches his text in the way a mime approaches his body. The actor makes plastic his words, flexing them, giving them tension, shaping them to give feeling and direction. As we have seen, this is what the mime learns to do with his body. Both produce the illusion of reality, but one has his hands and legs and torso to use, the other his voice and all of its sonorities.
To understand the weight of language for the actor, consider the production of a play in a foreign language. Although you may not grasp what is being said, the total effect of aural rhythms, intonations, pauses, and the rest will make sense. Now tune out the sound, as though this were television you were watching, and the production will lack sense. It does not simply lack comprehensible words; it lacks the sinuousness of language itself The mime creates the sensuous forms of reality by first excluding sound. Words are to him objects, almost figurines which he could admit to his stage as he might an interesting stranger - with curiosity but caution. The problem for the mime is that the addition of words can sometimes break his illusion; the problem for the actor is that the absence of words can sometimes jeopardize his.
Dance would seem to be Mime's twin; after all, they both use the non-verbal body. But, despite appearances, Mime and dance are probably more clearly separated than Mime and acting. "Dance is evasion; Mime invasion," said Etienne Decroux. Dance can avoid the consciousness of knowing, for one can watch a dance without giving it meaning, or understanding its meaning. It is a celebration, in which "to celebrate" is the operating verb, bypassing our need to know, reinforcing our desire to participate and be. For this reason, dance, like music, is perhaps a purer form of the theatrical art. The shape is total; the relationship immediate; and therefore no mediation is required between the dancer and his audience.
Mime, on the other hand, must be comprehended. There must be consciousness. The mime fails when he is incomprehensible. Perhaps the dancer fails when he can too easily be comprehended, when his dance is too full of significance and articulate meaning. The dancer becomes heavy, too "verbose." In his turn, the mime who leans toward dance lightens his ability to make meaning and becomes equally heavy. His audience can only lose track of what he is saying.
The dancer, the actor, and the mime share the stage, but each takes a different part of it. Their angles of vision form a common triangle, but at the same time it keeps them separate. Each should know more about the particular visions of the other, but it is not enough merely to give the actor a little dance, the dancer a little acting, and for both of them a little Mime. One does not learn a new language by taking a short vacation in a foreign land.
-- The Mime Book, Page 142, Claude Kipnis
I happen to believe that art, not just theatrical art, exists on a big spectrum. I see each art form as occupying an area in this spectrum, and these areas have diffuse edges where one form mingles with another. The final sentence of the above quotation holds a lot of questions for me. I think there is a great deal to be learned in studying the work of artists in other, sometimes quite different, fields. All art has more similarities to me than differences.