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An Actor's Eyes
Last updated 9/16/06

Health, Fitness, and Movement for the Performing Artist

An Actor's Mouth

Body Awareness Through Movement

Performing artists, including actors, athletes, dancers and non-dancers should become knowledgeable of various body awareness techniques that can addresses their individual movement needs. Generally, these techniques comprise stretching, improvisational dance methods, and relaxation. These techniques, once acquired, could help to develop a new comfort level with the body, a greater sense of space and increased ease of motion. More specific examples of such techniques includes the following:

Ch'i kung exercise for health. Ch'i kung is a mental and physical training method that promotes the circulation of ch'i (a form of bioenergy) in the body. Ch'i kung is said to help prevent and treat illness, increase strength, release stress, reduce body fat, improve work efficiency, resist premature senility, and achieve harmony of body, mind and spirit.

F.M. Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique does not involve exercises, forms of psychotherapy, or spiritual healing techniques. It is also unlike the manipulations of bodywork or manual healing techniques: Rather than approaching the body as a set of separate areas, a skilled teacher guides a student through movement, observing and working with whole patterns of coordination, which include tension and postural patterns, how a student thinks about moving, and active movement itself. The student actively participates in this process, learning to apply his own intelligence to change habits effectively. Benefits reportedly include easier movement, improved alignment, more natural breathing, and, most importantly, the development of skills to deal with habits on a general basis.

Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini yoga, also called the "yoga of awareness", reportedly offers a powerful technique for relaxation, fitness and spiritual development. It combines stretching, flexing, twisting, balancing, breathing, deep relaxation and meditation. Benefits include enhanced physical and mental flexibility and balance, reduced stress, and more focused energy.

Pilates Conditioning Floor exercises that correct posture, improve range of motion and strength, and help develop a firm central support for movement.

Qi Gong (Chinese yoga). Moving and standing meditation techniques said to integrate the body, mind and breath. These exercises are practiced to help relieve stress, calm the mind, build stamina, and improve flexibility and overall health.

Stretching, Strength and Balance. Stretching leads to enhanced flexibility and increased range of motion. Newer techniques of facilitated stretching (PNF/CRAC), active-isolated stretching, and Swiss ball stretches have evolved and supplement the traditional stretches. Techniques should also integrate breathing, relaxation, and mental focus, and strengthening of the trunk and legs.

Swiss Ball. Exercise techniques with an oversized inflated rubber ball. Both strength and flexibility are worked on, with a special emphasis on core/trunk stabilization, balance and coordination.

T'ai Chi. T'ai chi ch'uan is an ancient form of Chinese exercise. Quiet, supple movements are performed in a calm and peaceful manner that cultivates the spirit and body. Common routines focus on the 24-forms t'ai chi sequence.

Yoga. Yoga is known to engage and balance the body, mind and spirit. It stretches, strengthens, and relaxes your body while tuning vitality and overall health. It can also promote body awareness, breathing techniques, and self-acceptance to help you experience inner peace and develop a trusting relationship with your body.

Developing Your Voice and Improving Your Body

As an actor, your job is to communicate to an audience with your voice and your body. If no one can understand what you are saying, no amount of acting ability can help you land a role. Voice lessons can be as simple as learning how to breathe and project your voice. By learning these techniques, you can speak clearly for long periods of time without straining your voice. For added versatility, you may also want to consider taking singing lessons. Singing lessons can teach you how to control your voice, while also giving you the chance to audition and perform in musicals or commercial roles that may require a trained singer.

Besides developing and training your voice, you also need to develop and train your body. Start a regular exercise program to keep your body in good shape so that you will be healthy enough to attend auditions and play any role you can get. Additional training such as movement classes can help improve the body gestures that are part of acting. Learning the art of miming can teach you how to express yourself without relying on words. Dance lessons not only exercise and coordinate your body but also improve the chances of landing a role in a musical.

Because many films and television shows emphasize the martial arts, consider taking martial arts classes to get your exercise and also to gain another important skill that may help you land a particular acting role requiring stunts and combat actions. Fencing classes can improve your coordination while teaching you to use a sword in case you get a role that requires a sword fight.

Performing Arts Clinics 

There are medical clinics around the country specially geared to the needs for performing artists.  Here is a listing of some of them:





Performing Arts Physical Therapy  
Mindy Boehnert, RPT  
8704 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 300  
West Hollywood CA 90069
Phone: 310-659-1077  
Performing Arts Medicine Program  
Glendale Aventist Med Center  
1509 Wilson Terrace  
Glendale CA 91026
Phone: 818-409-8070  
Southern Cal Arts Medicine Program  
Martha Patterson, OTR  
3413 Suite 204  
Burbank CA 91505
Phone: 818-953-4430
The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.  
Frank R. Wilson, M.D.  
7601 Stoneridge Drive  
Pleasanton CA 94588
Phone: 510-847-5545
Health Prog for Performing Artists  
Dr. Peter Oswald  
San Francisco Medical Center  
401 Paramus Avenue, Room 369  
San Francisco CA 94143
Phone: 415-476-7465
University of Colorado Health Science Center
Dr. Stuart Schneck
Department of Neurology Box B 183  
4200 E. Ninth Ave  
Denver CO 80262
Phone: 303-270-7566  
Speizer Chiropractic
220 Sandy Springs Circle
Atlanta, GA 30328  
5 chiropractors, two massage therapists, one hypnotherapist.
Dr. Rick Speizer is also back stage for most of the Broadway tours at the Fox Theatre.
Phone: 404 255-9075
Medical Prog for Performing Artists  
Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener
Rehab Institute of Chicago  
345 E. Superior Street  
Chicago IL 60611
Phone: 312-908-2787  
Musical Medicine Clinic  
Dr. Fred Hochberg  
Mass General Hospital  
1 Hawthorn Pl. Suite 103  
Boston MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-8657
Performing Arts Clinic  (changed)
Department of Neurology
Harvard Medical School
Brigham and Women's Hospital
75 Francis Street
Boston MA 02115
Phone: 617-732-7432
Michael E. Charness, M.D.
Department of Neurology
Harvard Medical School
1400 VFW Parkway
West Roxbury, MA 02132
Phone: 617-325-2815
Fax: 617-363-5592
Email: michael_charness@hms.harvard.edu
Spaulding Neigborhood Rehab Center
Dr. Clay Miller  
Performing Arts Med Program  
410 Stuart Street  
Boston MA 02116
Phone: 617-859-9971  
Jan Dommerholt, PT, MPS (changed)
Pain & Rehabilitation Medicine
7830 Old Georgetown Road,  
Suite C-15
Bethesda, MD 20814-2432
Email: dommerholt@painpoints.com
Phone: 301-656-0220
Fax: 301-654-0333
Arts Medicine Division  
Wayne State University Heath Center  
4201 Street Antoine, Suite 4J  
Detroit MI 48201
Phone: 313-577-6859
Instrumental Artists Hotline
Dr. Jeanine Speier
Sister Kenny Institute
800 E. 28th Street
Minneapolis MN 55407
Phone: 612-863-4495
Medical Center for the Performing Arts  
Dr. Jerome Gilden  
Jewish Hospital  
216 S. Kingshighway  
Street Louis MO 63110
Phone: 314-454-7827
Neurologic Restoration Center  
Dr. Simon Horenstein  
Bethesda Hospital  
3655 Vista Avenue  
Street Louis MO 63110
Phone: 314-776-8100
Clinical Rehab Associates  
Suzanne Sesnie  
4505 Fair Meadow Lane Suite 104  
Raleigh NC 27607
Phone: 919-420-0006  
Arts Medicine Program  
Dr. Patrick Kenan  
Duke University Medical Center  
Box 3017  
Durham NC 27710
Phone: 919-684-2027
Harkness Center for Dance Injuries  
Dr. Donald Rose  
Hospital for Joint Disease  
301 E. 17th Street  
New York NY 10003
Phone: 212-598-6022
Performing Arts Physical Therapy
Sean Gallagher
311 west 43rd Street, Suite 405
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-245-PAPT (7278)
Fax: 212 245-7461
Email: spgpt@aol.com
Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine
Dr. Matthew Lee  
NY University School of Medicine  
400 E. 34th Street  
New York NY 10016
Phone: 212-263-6037
Miller Institute for Performing Artists  
Dr. Mitchell Kahn, medical director  
Street Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital  
425 W. 59th Street Suite 6A  
New York NY 10019
Phone: 212-523-6200
Performing Arts Physical Therapy
Sean P. Gallagher, P.T.
2121 Broadway Suite 201
New York NY 10023
Phone: 212-769-1423
Helen Hayes Hospital  
Dr. Vasoma Challenor  
Dept. of Rehabilitation Med  
Route 9W  
West Haverstraw NY 10993
Phone: 914-947-3000
Performing Artists Clinic
Dr. Alan Lockwood  
State University of New York  
50 CFS Addition  
Buffalo NY 14214
Phone: 716-829-2600
Ithaca College's School of Health Science and Human Performance and the School of Music have been closely involved in developing many aspects of performing arts medicine.  The Health and Performance Institute for Musicians is held at Ithaca College.  Musicians and health care providers from around the country attend lectures and workshops concerning the human body's function and learn about prevention of music-related injuries.
Medical Center for Performing Artists
Dr. Richard Lederman
Cleveland Clinic Foundation
9500 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland OH 44195
Phone: 216-444-5545
Clinic for the Performing Arts
Dr. James Sammarco
2123 Auburn Avenue
Suite 235
Cincinnati OH 45219-2963
Phone: 513-651-0094
Arts Medicine Center
Dr. Robert Sataloff  
Thomas Jefferson University
1721 Pine Street
Philadelphia PA 19103
Phone: 215-545-3322
Performing Arts Physical Therapy
at The Pennsylvania Ballet  
Sean P. Gallagher, PT
1101 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: 215-551-4694
Texas Arts Medicine Center
at Personal Physician Group
Rebecca Clearman MD, CEO
5219 Caroline
Houston, TX  77004
Phone: 713-524-9800
Fax: 713-524-1115
Clinic for Performing Artists
Dr. Michael Weinstein  
Virginia Mason Medical Center
1100 9th Avenue P.O. Box 900  
Seattle WA 98111
Phone: 206-223-6600



Useful Books

Through the Body: A Practical Guide to Physical Theatre
by Dymphna Callery
256 pages; (May 2002)
Theatre Arts Books; ISBN: 0878301240

Diet for Dancers: A Complete Guide to Nutrition and Weight Control
by Robin D. Chmelar, Sally S. Fitt
164 pages; (May 1995)
Princeton Book Co.; ISBN: 0916622894

The Articulate Body: The Physical Training of the Actor
by Anne Dennis
212 pages; (February 1995)
Drama Book Publishers; ISBN: 0896761339
TAP! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955
by Rusty E. Frank, Gregory Hines
342 pages; (April 1995)
DaCapo Press; ISBN: 0306806355
The Souls of Your Feet - A Tap Dance Guidebook for Rhythm Explorers
by Acia M. Gray, Elizabeth Cruger
186 pages; (September 1998)
Grand Weaver's Publishing; ISBN: 0966744500
Frank Hatchett's Jazz Dance
by Frank Hatchett, Nancy Myers Gitlin, Nancy Myers Gitlin
184 pages; (March 2000)
Human Kinetics (T); ISBN: 0736000259
Martha Graham: The Evolution of Her Dance Theory and Training
by Marian Horosko, Madeleine Nichols
274 pages; (June 2002)
University Press of Florida (T); ISBN: 0813024730
Jazz Tap: From African Drums to American Feet (African Diaspora)
by Anne E. Johnson
64 pages; (July 1999)
Rosen Publishing Group; ISBN: 0823918564
Dancers’ Body Book
by Allegra Kent, James Camner, Constance Camner
220 pages; (March 1984)
William Morrow & Co; ISBN: 0688015395
The Tap Dance Dictionary
by Mark Knowles
264 pages; (July 1998)
McFarland & Company; ISBN: 0786403527
Luigi's Jazz Warm Up: An Introduction to Jazz Style & Technique
by Luigi, Lorraine Person Kriegel, Francis Roach
181 pages; (May 1997)
Princeton Book Co Pub; ISBN: 0871272024
The Body Speaks  Performance and Expression
by Lorna Marshall; Yoshi Oida
240 pages; (Dec 2002)
Palgrave MacMillan; ISBN 1403960283
The New York City Ballet Workout: Fifty Stretches and Exercises Anyone Can Do for a Strong, Graceful, and Sculpted Body
by Peter Martins
256 pages; (January 1997)
William Morrow & Co; ISBN: 0688152023
The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education With Emphasis on Dance and Drama
by Annelise Mertz (Editor), Joseph Roach
148 pages; (June 2002)
Southern Illinois University Press; ISBN: 0809324199
The Joffrey Ballet School’s Ballet-Fit
by Dena Simone Moss, Allison Kyle Leopold, Joffrey Ballet School, Steve Ladner
208 pages; (March 1999)
Griffin Trade Paperback; ISBN: 0312194706
Movement for Actors
by Nicole Potter
288 pages; (July 2002)
Allworth Press; ISBN: 1581152337
At Work With Grotowski on Physical Actions
by Thomas Richards, Jerzy Grotowski
160 pages; (September 1995)
Routledge; ISBN: 0415124921
Environmental Theater
by Richard Schechner
384 pages; (April 1994)
Applause Theatre Book; ISBN: 1557831785
Ear Training for the Body: A Dancer's Guide to Music
by Katherine Teck
321 pages; (September 1994)
Princeton Books; ISBN: 0871271923
An Acrobat of the Heart: A Physical Approach to Acting
by Stephen Wangh, Andre Gregory
288 pages; (September 2000)  
Vintage Books; ISBN: 0375706720
The Grotowski Sourcebook
by Lisa Wolford
480 pages; (May 2001)
Routledge; ISBN: 0415131111

Click the titles of the above books for their availability, or enter the title of a book not shown in the above listing in the search box below.


Search for magazines by entering the title or keywords in the search box below.


Relevant Associations & Organizations


Actors' Fund of America
729 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, New York  10019
Phone: 212-221-7300
Fax: 212-764-0238
A nonprofit organization founded in 1882, committed to helping show business professionals in times of need with programs in health, human services and work programs.
Email: ccooke@actorsfund.org

1156 15th Street, NW, Suite 820
Washington, DC, 20005-1726
Phone: 202-833-1717
Fax: 202-833-2686
Advances the art form of dance by addressing the needs, concerns and interests of the professional dance community through journals, monthly member bulletins, specialized listservs, and a collection of studies and booklets.
Email: danceusa@danceusa.org

Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC)
EIC West Coast
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA  91521-7283
Phone: 818-955-6845
Fax: 818-955-6870
Founded in 1983 to provide information, awareness and understanding of major health and social issues among the entertainment industries and to audiences at large.
Email eicwest@eiconline.org

Feldenkrais Guild UK
P.O. Box 370
London, W10 3 XA
Phone: 07000-785506
Fax : 0122-861530
The Feldenkrais Guild UK is a non-profit professional organisation of practitioners and teachers of The Feldenkrais Method®. The Feldenkrais Method® teaches how to improve movement, flexibility and posture, reduce pain, stiffness and stress.
Emial: enquiries@feldenkrais.co.uk

Health & Retirement Funds (AFTRA)
261 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212-499-4800
Toll Free: 800-562-4690
Provides you with the most current information regarding your health and retirement benefits.
Email: info@aftrahr.com

Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation
55 Bethune Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212-691-9751, ext. 30
Multi-faceted support group for dancers, musicians and media artists.
Email: info@merce.org

Motion Picture & Television Fund Social and Charitable Services
335 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA  90036-2584
Phone: 323-634-3800 or 818-876-1080
Serving the health and human service needs of California's entertainment community through health care, child care, retirement and social/charitable services.  Particular emphasis is placed on the Motion Picture & Television Hospital, five health centers, financial assistance and community outreach programs, a retirement community and the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children's Center.
Email: webmaster@securemptvfund.org
Performing Arts Medicine Association
PO Box 61228
Denver, CO 80206
An organization of physicians and other allied professionals dedicated to improving the health care and treatment of performing artists through education, research, and teaching.
Phone: 303-632-9255
Email: ArtsMed@aol.com
SAG Pension & Health Funds
Burbank Plan Office
3601 West Olive Avenue
P.O. Box 7830
Burbank, CA  91510-7830
Phone: 818-954-9400 or 800-777-4013 (outside the Los Angeles Area)
Fax: 818-953-9880
This site provides you with the most current information regarding your health and pension benefits
Email: psd@sagph.org
The Shiatsu Society
Eastlands Court
St Peters Road
Rugby CV21 3QP
Phone: 0845-130 4560
Fax: 01788-555052
The Society was set up in 1981 to facilitate communication within the field of Shiatsu and to inform the public of the benefits of this form of natural healing.
Email: admin@shiatsu.org
Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique
1st floor, Linton House
39-51 Highgate Road
London, NW5 1RS
Phone: +44-020-7284-3338
Fax: +44-020-7482-5435
The Technique is taught in music and drama colleges worldwide and, due to its positive influence on coordination, is seen as an essential element in a performer's training.
Email: info@stat.org.uk
Tarjan Center for Developmental Disabilities
c/o National Arts and Disability Center  
UCLA University Affiliated Program
300 UCLA Medical Plaza Suite 3330
Los Angeles, CA 90095-6967
Phone: 310-794-1141
Email: oraynor@mednet.ucla.edu
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here

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