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What is Delsarte?

The source material for much of the work of Isadora Duncan, Ruth St Denis, Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weideman, Etienne Decroux. This fact is known by most dance history students. But did you know that it was a key element of the actors training for such luminaries as Rosalind Russell, Ruth Gordon, Edward G Robinson, Agnes Moorehead, Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor and Spencer Tracy? All of these actors were students at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before 1944. The 1944 Class descriptions include a pantomime class that although never mentions Delsarte, was clearly Delsarte based. The school was founded by Steele Mackaye, Delsarte's own protege'.

The real Delsarte System of Expression is:

  1. A complete and universally accurate map of the symbolic meanings of most parts of the body and of basic  human movement patterns. It is based on fundamental laws of physics and on the ancient wisdom of yoga, cabala and hermetic traditions.

  2. A system of  body training to awaken the innate athletic prowess and expressive power of the human body. The system consists of:

  3. Relaxing exercises to eliminate tension and ready the reflexes.

  4. Exercises in balance to harmonize all parts of the body, and base all strength and power in the security of poised and balanced motion.

  5. Exploration of universal meaning in the body according to the body's basic nature to express itself as Body, Mind and Spirit.   


Does it make sense to you that a person can be described as a combination of Body, Mind and Spirit? It is rather common language today. Nearly everywhere you look, there are promotions for classes, products or articles whose intent is to nourish or inspire the Body, Mind and Spirit. It is not difficult to imagine that the basic impulses of a human being are survival instinct, intellect, and that mysterious harmony we call spirit. In Delsarte training, one learns that body, mind and spirit are not esoteric ideas, but very real and very practical forces in the body, with very specific locations in which they show themselves.

Delsarte lacked our modern vocabulary, and used different words, (Vital, Mental and Moral), but his intent was clear. 

He observed that if Body, Mind and Spirit: are our three basic impulses, it follows that:

  • All human movement has to be inspired by one or a combination of these three. 

  • Every part of the body that willfully moves or gestures must contain all three and be able to             show all three. 

If that makes sense to you, you have found a starting point for understanding Delsarte's philosophy of human expression. A training in Delsarte awakens the student to the basic expressive meaning of every part of the body. 

  1. Any student becomes empowered to better understand the forces of life, and their own self expression and that of those around them.

  2. If you are a dancer, you will have a powerful tool for understanding choreography and styles, and for creating dance yourself. 

  3. If you are an actor you will awaken the unconscious power of your body for expressing  your creativity and responding to other actors. 

  4. The singer empowers gesture to reveal depth and subtext. 

  5. The yogi finds the intensely practical and tangible side of the normally esoteric "body, mind, spirit" trinity.

  6. The painter or sculptor finds universal tools for recreating emotion and expression in their medium.


An example

Can you see, in the pictures below, three different fingers and three different energies used?

  Index finger- mind                    Middle finger- spirit             Thumb- the force of body


Indicating, instructing                Sensitively caressing               Commanding, crushing 

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