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Shemouel, From Jerusalem to Boulder


By Moni Yakim, New York 1975,
Movement Theatre Director, Juilliard Drama Division, New York City, NY

"Mr. Avital is a remarkable man of astonishing depth and an artist of great magnitude and achievement. His profound knowledge of physical expression, teaching and performing is vast, rich and highly creative; his artistic fervor is contagious and his mastery is impeccable and practical... "His method of teaching, is very well elaborated in his classic books. An inspired teacher, a magnetic, enthusiastic personality with excellent dedication and commitment."

Occasionally, he comes out of his world of solitude, only to communicate and give the best of what he found within his depths of his soul.

I was fortunate to meet Shemouel on such occasion.

Restless, uneducated, undisciplined, stifling with boredom in a town where most people lay in their beds at 9:00 PM.; I was an outstanding member of teen gang.

Bursting with energy of youth, of frustration, angry, we roamed the streets, creating commotion, playing tricks often led to minor crimes. This was my Jerusalem of 1951.

One evening, determined to take a good look at the sexy pieces in leotards, we set out to the youth center where a dance class took place. It was a disappointment. There were only two girls in the class, and they were dogs. With some not refined gestures and sounds we started out. The biggest pair of eyes I have ever seen, staring at me disapprovingly suddenly encountered me. My immediate instinct was to punch the bastard little man right between his cow eyes. But he smiled and that was the turning point in my life.

It was a ritual, every Friday afternoon he came to my house. After gloating on my mother's cooking, comprising mainly of rice and bean soup, we went to his 'house.' It was a tiny little room with a small bed, a chair and a little desk. The walls were covered with drawing of Shemouel for at that time he was also a student of painting.

This was the room in which I learned that there are things other than beating and stealing and that one can actually get his kicks by sitting with Shemouel, listening to his words, daydreaming. He spoke of things foreign to me and gently, and gradually, they became familiar, Paris, art, culture, mime. Mime above all. Mime was the dome under which the world is awaiting its discovery, and we shall discover it.

Enchantment, mystery, flight on the wings of strange and lofty ideas. Sensing creation, touching the gods. This was the first magic temple I have ever been.

Consequently, I devoted more time preparing myself for the theatre and roamed less the streets. I joined classes in acting and dance and eventually we both took part in the founding of a theatre in Jerusalem.

Paris and Shemouel had to wait patiently until the completion of my long and miserable military service. Finally, the long awaited day arrived and we took the first step towards the realization of our dreams.

We were in Paris, studying with Etienne Decroux the creator of modern mime and with Marcel Marceau, the greatest performer in the world.

These were beautiful times. These were hard and trying days.

Living in a tiny room, at an old lady's apartment, our diet consisting exclusively of one can of sardines and one long baguette per daywe were studying and living with mime, and we were elated. We practiced on the table, which was the largest available area in the room. It was our 'stage.' We took turns practicing on it.

There were discussions, there were arguments.
Concepts began to form, ideas, opinions.
We were developing styles, but our styles differed.
We were together, yet we were alone.

Shemouel needed his solitude; it was means of survival to him. One thing was never in questionour love for Mime. We gave ourselves to it entirely. Years passed by.

We came to a crossroad and followed different paths. I toured Europe with Grillion's Mime Theatre (She was an old time pupil of Decroux's) and Shemouel joined Maximilien's Decroux Mime Company.

Meanwhile, our dear Master, Etienne Decroux, was preparing to leave for New York to open a Mime School there. I followed his steps about a year later to join his school and newly formed Mime Company. Shemouel stayed with Maximilien's company.

A few years later Decroux decided to return to France and I have decided to open my own school and mime Company. I urged Shemouel to come and join us, which he did.

But this reunion was different from our partnership in the past. He joined the company yet he was elsewhere. He has developed his own ideas and philosophical/practical method, which I admired but which were different from my own; Vive la difference!

Shemouel needed his solitude to make his plans, to structure his thoughts. He needed his own self-reliance.

Shemouel in Boulder, Colorado since 1971 where he founded Le Centre Du Silence Mime School leading his Unique Mime Workspace and his International Summer Mime Workshop, and I am in New York, leading my own Mime workshops and school.

However we are together. Shemouel of 1951, for the better and the worse is what I am today.

That was and is our adventurous journey from Jerusalem to America.

Today, Shemouel has become a remarkable man of astonishing depth and of great achievement, his profound knowledge of the physical expression, teaching and performing is vast, rich and highly creative. His artistic fervor is contagious and his mastery is impeccable and practical. His well-known method of teaching called BodySpeak™ Method taught by his numerous students is very well elaborated in his classic books. I know Shemouel is an inspired teacher, magnetic, enthusiastic personality with excellent dedication and commitment .

If you seek some truth in life and art, stay close to Shemouel for he might just crawl out of his shell and give you of his soul.

Editor's note:
Moni Yakim is Head of the Movement Department of Juilliard Drama Division in New York City, and author of Creating a Character: A Physical Approach to Acting. Back Stage Books New York, NY 1990

This article was published in the first edition of the Mime Workbook, self-published by Samuel Avital in 1975. And partly revised for this issue of The MovingEdge© newsletter.

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.