Irina Sirotkina, Valery Zolotukhin

Pavel Urbanovich, Teacher of Biomechanics

Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, no. 11 (November 2020).
The paper publishes previously unknown photographs of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s biomechanics, from the home archive of the actor, stage director and teacher, Pavel Vladimirovich Urbanovich. Urbanovich was a student of the first class of the Higher State Theatre Workshops (in Russian abbreviated as Gvyrm and, later, Gvytm). Shortly after the beginning of his studies, he started teaching biomechanics and acrobatics himself. In parallel with building up the practical exercises, he collected various auxiliary materials related to Meyerhold’s training of stage movement. The fourteen photographs of biomechanical exercises, which were stored in his home archive, date back to the early 1920s. Some of them are duplicated by photographs stored in the A. A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum and are already known from publications devoted to Meyerhold and his students; other photographs are published for the first time. Several photographs picture the daily life of Meyerhold’s school at the time when the principles of theatre biomechanics were formulated, developed and intensely practiced.

Key words: biomechanics, Meyerhold, Pavel Urbanovich, the Higher State Theatre Workshops

The authors are grateful to Tatiana Pavlovna Urbanovich, Pavel Urbanovich’s daughter, who preserved the archive and kindly agreed to the publication of documentary materials. We thank Natalia Smolyanskaya, who made our acquaintance with Tatiana Pavlovna possible, to Sergey Konayev, Nikita Kasyanovich Goleizovsky, and Natalia Maevna Zaitseva, the curator of the Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum, for consultations on photo-documents

“Gvyrm” stands for the “Higher State Theatre Directing Workshops”, and “Gvytm” for “Higher State Theatre Workshops”. Meyerhold founded his Moscow school for acting and directing in the autumn of 1921. After the first academic year, it changed its name from the “Higher State Theatre Directing Workshops” (Gvyrm) to the “Higher State Theatre Workshops” (Gvytm), and a year later to the “State Experimental Theatre Workshops” (Gektemas)

In the middle of the civil war, the amateur theater of the Red Army garrison left its home town of Ryazan for the Southern Front. The path lay through Moscow, where the theater was to appear before its superiors and get further appointments. The troupe included Pavel Urbanovich, Vitaly Zhemchuzhny, Erast Garin — in the future, a brilliant actor and performer of the main roles in the Meyerhold stagings of the 1920s — and others. The journey, though only about 200 km, lasted days. The train stopped all the time and, finally, arrived in Moscow without reaching the station. Urbanovich was sent to explore the situation. Garin remembered:
At last, in an early-morning haze, the figure of our avant-garde, always smart, up to a limit organized and purposeful comrade P.V. Urbanovich shows up. He has already been to the station and learned that the train will long stay here and has to be unloaded.
We quickly take the luggage from the cars. Heavy things will be delivered by transport; taking the bags, bags and suitcases, the staff go on foot to the place of our temporary stay in Moscow. Where to? We do not know.
Urbanovich knows everything.
Quick march! And the detachment has moved on its way

Garin 1974: 5
Fig. 1. Pavel Urbanovich
Unlike Garin, Pavel Urbanovich was not a native of Ryazan, as his childhood was spent in Grodno province. He was born on January 10 (old Russian calendar), 1898 in the town of Slonim, located to the south-west of Minsk, which became part of the Russian Empire at the end of the XVIII century. His father, Vladimir Antonovich, was a peasant and served as an excise officer, and his mother Elena Adamovna (born Fyodorova) was a housewife. From 1907 to 1914, Urbanovich studied in Brest-Litovsk (in what is now Belarus), and with the beginning of the war he was evacuated with his parents to Ryazan, where he graduated from a commercial school. In 1918 he was drafted into the Red Army and served as “instructor” at the Military Political Department engaged in organizing the work of garrison clubs, where he first encountered amateur theatricals. Soon thereafter he was put in charge of the Ryazan City Theater Studio. In the spring 1920 the studio merged with the Red Army Theatre Workshop, the garrison amateur theater. The new association was attached to the Ryazan Military District, and a colleague of Urbanovich, Vitaly Zhemchuzhny, was appointed its head.

Meanwhile, in September 1920, Meyerhold came back from the South and was appointed, though for a brief period, head of the Theatre Department of Narkompros (the Soviet Ministry of Enlightenment), in charge Moscow theatres, which he intended to revolutionize. The head of OSTKA, Vitaly Zhemchyzhny, of the radical left, attracted his attention. Meyerhold was eager to support Red Army studios who played for the masses as opposed to the ‘bourgeois’ public. It might be with his recommendation that, in October 1920, the garrison theatre was summoned to Moscow (Grishina 1987: 26).

In his memoirs, Erast Garin described the trip and the following months during which the troupe settled in Moscow and was renamed the First Amateur Theater of the Red Army, then the District Amateur Theater of the Red Army (OSTKA). With the end of the civil war, in 1921, the OSTKA was disbanded due to the demobilization of a large number of members of the group. In the same year, several of its former actors, including Urbanovich, Garin, Nikolay Bogolyubov and others, enrolled in the Higher State Workshops for Theatre Directors (Gvyrm) which had been just opened by Meyerhold. In the autumn of 1922, Gvyrm was merged with the newly founded State College of Theatre Art (GITIS), and, together with other students, Urbanovich was enrolled in the class of the second year. Yet, after Meyerhold broke with the College in 1923, he rejoined his workshop (which had changed name to the State Experimental Workshops - Gektemas) and studied there until 1925.

From the first months with Meyerhold, Urbanovich was intensely involved in biomechanical training. Strong, athletic and agile, he appears to have excelled in biomechanics, succeeding better than other students. Not long after the beginning of his studies, he was promoted teacher of biomechanics in various Moscow studios that were under the care of Meyerhold. He also taught biomechanics to his fellow students in Meyerhold’s workshops. In the autumn of 1924, the Biomechanical Laboratory, led by Urbanovich and two other Meyerhold students and actors, Mikhail Korenev and Zosima Zlobin (February 1976: 270), was established in Gektemas (Feldman 2017: 328).

Having accumulated teaching experience, Urbanovich became Meyerhold's right hand in his project to turn disparate movement sketches into a methodically organized exercise. It is known that some etudes of future biomechanics, such as "Jump on the chest of the opponent" or "Strike with a dagger”, were practiced by Meyerhold back in 1915-1916, in the studio at Borodinskaya (Smirnova-Iskander 1978: 236); in the early 1920 they were became part of the routine training. At that time, Meyerhold conceived "biomechanics" as a project that would distinguish his own method of actor training from other systems, primarily from the “system” of Konstantin Stanislavsky. In the curriculum for the 1922 academic year, Meyerhold contrasted the “three systems of play: 'gut’, ‘experience’, and ‘motor’, or ‘biomechanical’”. He first wrote the word, "motor", but crossed it out and replaced it with "biomechanical" (Meyerhold 1998: 26). The idea was to focus on gesture and movement rather than on "psychology", "gut" or "experience" in the actor's training. And if Stanislavsky proposed a number of "psychological" tasks for the actor, Meyerhold wanted, by contrast, to develop a system of exercises of "motor" or "biomechanical" character.

In the new concept of the theater school, which Meyerhold and Leonid Vivien developed immediately after the revolution and embodied in the Courses for the Art of Stage Directing (Kurmastsep) founded in 1918 in Petrograd, physical training was given a big place. The actor of the revolutionary theater had to be agile, athletic, and able to play on city streets and squares, in mass action. After moving to Moscow in September 1920, Meyerhold became closer to Nikolai Podvoisky, the head of the Military Training Department, Vsevobuch, and together they conceived the project of Tefizcult, the theatricalization of physical culture (Sirotkina 2014). Planning to open theater courses in Moscow, Meyerhold included in the curriculum a year-and-a-half long course of gymnastics. The training of the “actor-citizen”, in his own words, required "the production of normal movement, gymnastics, biomechanics" and was to include "gymnastic games, fencing, dance, military movements, strengthening of rhythmic consciousness (the Dalcroze system), the laws of stage movement, the alignment of movement with the size and shape of the stage, and pantomime" (RGALI 998-1-2922-24-25).

In its early period, biomechanics appeared as a practice on the border between physical education, actor training and the art of stage movement, and it developed simultaneously in all three directions. Pavel Urbanovich became one of Meyerhold’s main assistants in its creation – or, at least, he saw himself as such during his years of study with Meyerhold and parallel teaching of biomechanics. In a letter to Meyerhold in December, 1924 (see Appendix 2), Urbanovich called himself the Master’s "closest collaborator" in the field of biomechanics. His letter contained a work plan that goes far beyond the purely practical exercises in biomechanics and acrobatics with students that he invariably conducted. This work concerned, on the one hand, the development and systematization of a common teaching method and, on the other hand, the archiving of biomechanics as a system; in this regard, the prospect of cooperation with the Museum of the State Meyerhold’s Theater (GosTIM) was outlined. The photographs in Urbanovich's archive were not just memorial evidence of his first years in the theater - they were materials for teaching biomechanics and could serve for learning exercises.

His fellow student, Sergey Eisenstein, blamed Urbanovich for conceiving biomechanics as solely a system of physical culture exercises. “There is also Urbanovich, who made biomechanics purely physical exercises and a form of drill back in the period when we all together studied with Meyerhold”, he said at a lecture about biomechanics in 1935. “He had such a tendency even at that time, and when he took his own road, if he was then a lumberjack, now he became a bricklayer in the field of biomechanics" (Eisenstein 2000: 725). This small memoir, in which irony borders on arrogance, reflects well the divergences in the approach to biomechanics that existed in Meyerhold’s circles. Urbanovich's own approach, at least in the early 1920s, was characterized by: 1) a bias toward practical work; 2) a close approach to physical education and acrobatics, and to a much lesser extent, to systems for the development of acting skills; and 3) a relatively low content of theory. It contrasted, for instance, with Eisenstein’s view of biomechanics, where descriptions of exercises are analytical, theoretical and even, at times, poetic, or with the work of Mikhail Korenev, who thoroughly recorded every word by Meyerhold on the “principles of biomechanics”.

What was new for theater and symptomatic of the period is the attention Urbanovich gave to the two media, photography and film, as instruments to record exercises and preserve them for future students. Photography turned the movement into a chain of "sequentially-static moments of main exercises", as he wrote in a letter to Meyerhold (see Appendix 2). This required preliminary analysis of the exercises, which were either separate complex movements (such as a shot from a bow or a throw of a stone) or small theater scenes, etudes. As an instrument of recording exercises, photography was congenial to biomechanical exercises, which themselves constituted of a number of elementary movements, were inherently analytical. Each exercise was divided into parts, or “moments”, and a description of consecutive parts formed the so-called "title" (titul, in Russian), like the content page of a book. The photographs corresponded to the list of movements in the “title”. Together with actor and photographer, Aleksey Temerin, in the early 1920s Urbanovich worked on shooting biomechanical exercises, and thus he created an archive of the earliest photo evidence of Meyerhold’s method.

In 1925, Urbanovich was still on the books as a member of the laboratory of stage directing attached to the GosTIM, and a student of Gektemas, but in the following years he worked at the Theater of Revolution. From 1924 to 1927 Urbanovich directed the Theater Juniors School, where he also taught acrobatics, biomechanics, mime and acting skills (Zolotnitsky 1976: 129), and then he became deputy director of the Technical School of the Theater. There he got closer to the director Aleksey Popov, with whom he later moved to work (from 1935 to 1943) at the Central Theater of the Red Army: Popov, as artistic director, and Urbanovich combined the duties of stage director, teacher and head of the theater school. In 1943, Urbanovich headed the Front Hospital Brigades organized by the Central House of Art Workers, and a year later he was sent to Yakutsk, in Eastern Siberia, to work at the Russian Drama Theater. For four years he worked as an artistic director and teacher of the theater, after which, in 1948, he was sent to Germany as a director of the army theater of the Soviet occupation troops, where he worked until February 1951. Later he taught at the Moscow Circus School and the Central Studio of Circus Art. Pavel Vladimirovich died in Moscow in 1955.

The photographs of biomechanics from Urbanovich's private archive (Appendix 1) consist of two series: (A) pictures of Urbanovich demonstrating the solo exercises, "Throwing a Stone" (fig. 1) and "Archery" (fig. 2-4), and pictures of the actor Konstantin Vasilyevich Sholmov (1903-? ) and himself performing an exercise in a couple, "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity" (fig. 5-6); (B) photos of group exercises, which are shown by pupils of Gvyrm both inside and outside the building (fig. 7-8) where the Meyerhold school was located in the very early 1920s (fig. 9-14). The first series dates back to 1923-1924, and the group photos were presumably taken earlier, in 1922. Both series are interesting because they appear to have been created as methodological material, a visual aid for those studying biomechanics. Thus, Urbanovich's performance of the exercise, "Archery" (Fig. 2-3), is broken down into stages, or "moments": "Lifting the bow", "Targeting", and the "Shot". Copies of some photos are in the Bakhrushin Museum (the GosTIM collection), and from the signatures on the back of the copies we learn that Figure 2 (which we identified as an exercise, "Throwing a stone") was a "trial of light” (for the photographer). This series includes two shots of the duo exercise, "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity". It was performed by Urbanovich and the actor, Konstantin Sholmov (Urbanovich sometimes wrote his name as "Sholomov"). The exercise is also known from the pictures where it is performed in a group of six or more actors, but a close-up photo of one pair of performers is unusual. Most likely, it was intended for the same didactic purpose, to serve as a model for students of theater biomechanics.

The second series (B) are photographs of group exercises in biomechanics. In part they were made in a hall in the building where Meyerhold’s school was located in the early 1920s. One of the photographs, apparently belonging to this series (taken in the same hall), was published by Vadim Shcherbakov as an illustration for an article by one of the authors (Sirotkina 2014). Like Series A, this series is not dated; yet, together with Shcherbakov, we tend to believe that the photos were taken in 1922, during the period of Gvytm (as evidenced by the Constructivist inscription on the wall). The workshops were then in a building located at 32, Novinsky Boulevard. (Meyerhold and his family lived in the same house, one floor above; the building was destroyed in the early 1950s during the construction of a residential building located at 18, building 1, Novinsky Boulevard.)

The life on Novinsky Boulevard was described by Tatyana Sergeevna Esenina (Esenina 1991) and some of Meyerhold’s students. The Dutch stove, which one can see in two photos, was mentioned in several memoirs, including by Garin:

Vitaly Leonidovich Zhemchuzhny (1898-1966) was theater and film director, scriptwriter, and organizer of the Red Army amateur activities. Author of the LEF (The Left Front) and New LEF and a prominent figure in the amateur theater movement, he was close to the constructivists, in particular, Alexei Gan, who developed the concept of mass action and, according to Garin, taught the OSTKA actors. In the early 1920s, Zhemchuzhny collaborated with Meyerhold and another avant-garde stage director, Nikolay Foregger

The dates in the article coincide with that given by the theatre historian, David Zolotnitsky (Zolotnitsky 1976: 83), but differ from the information in some other sources, including the memoirs of Erast Garin, "With Meyerhold", where it is said that the studio left Ryazan for Moscow in the autumn of 1919 (Garin 1974: 3). In the autobiography of P.V. Urbanovich, which was kept in his private archive, it is reported that "in 1919, he was transferred to Moscow...". It is possible however that Urbanovich was indeed in Moscow in 1919 by himself, and not with the studio, but on the business of preparing the trip. This would explain why, according to Garin's memoirs, he was better acquainted with the capital than other studio members. That 1920 was the year the studio moved to Moscow is indirectly confirmed by a certificate of the Ryazan provincial political and educational department issued to Urbanovich in October, 1920 and kept in the home archive. According to this document, he was employed in Ryazan until the autumn of 1920, after which he was recalled by the Political Department of the Moscow Military District

In 1922, a newspaper article mentioned Urbanovich and Valery Inkizhinov as teachers of biomechanics at the Bolshoi Theater (Panfilova, Feldman 2014: 181). According to documents from his private archive, in 1923 Urbanovich taught at the Lunacharsky State Theater College (Gitis). In 1924 he taught biomechanics at the First Moscow Collective Film Studio, as well as in Gektemas; see his letters to Meyerhold (in Appendix 2) and to his fellow actor, Mikhail Korenev (RGALI. Fond 1476 (M. M. Korenev), Inventory 1, File 458: Letters from Urbanovich Pavel Vladimirovich to Mikhail Korenev. January 12 to May 19, 1924)

There is an extensive literature on the history of theater biomechanics; see (Law&Gordon 1996; Pesochinsky 1990; Sirotkina 2011; Shcherbakov 2010), etc

The function of the museum was not only to preserve documentation, but also to help teaching actors and stage directors. The Museum existed almost until the closure of GosTIM, after which its materials were deposited in the Bakhrushin Museum

In his memoires, Grigory Roshal called Esenstein “the soul” of Meyerhold’s workshops: “Meyerhold with prophetic clarity singled out this high-brow student, and Eisenstein immediately became the reliable supporter and interpreter of his thoughts and plans. Meyerhold entrusted him to conduct classes in biomechanics with the students of the Gvyrm. While Urbanovich and Zlobin were brilliant in their purely technical skills, in overcoming all the difficulties of this synthetic science of movement, Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein penetrated into its depths and grasped its philosophy” (Roshal 1974: 180)

Some descriptions of biomechanical exercises by Urbanovich can be found in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art; see, for example, "Jump on the back" (RGALI. F. 998, Inventory 1, File 740: V.E. Meyerhold. "Biomechanics". Theses of lectures, excerpts from articles, statements, exercises, tasks. 1921-1922, p. 66-67)

See the description of the exercise “Archery” in (Shcherbakov 2010: 410-411)

Formally P. Urbanovich did not finish Gektemas, the first class of which graduated in 1928 (Fevral’sky 1976: 269-270). We have no information about why he left the Meyerhold Theater

Tatyana Esenina (1918-1992) was the daughter of Zinaida Reich from her first husband, the poet, Sergey Esenin. Esenin and Reich divorced in 1921, and Reich remarried Meyerhold next year

He [Meyerhold] walked through the door in a green soldier's overcoat thrown over his shoulders (one of the allies supplied Russia with such overcoats before the revolution). The temperature in the hall was always low. It didn't prevent us, the youth, from moving hard. Meyerhold sat down to a semicircular concavity to the tiled stove, smoked a rolled cigarette (he was the only one allowed to smoke) and looked at us, as if studying everyone. That's how I remember him, sitting alone at the tiled stove of the former mansion of the former lawyer and orator, Plevako. He was watching his brood. He looked like a good grey wolf. Grey eyes, grey hair, grey jacket. Eyes closely examining, kind and cold

Garin 1974: 34
Eisenstein remembered the Dutch stove in "Treasure", the chapter of his "Memoirs" dedicated to the salvation, at the beginning of the Second World War, of Meyerhold’s handwritten archive:
When I see you for the first time [a Javanese puppet belonging to Meyerhold], behind you shines a white simple "kitchen" tile: a white Dutch stove.
Not patterned tiles of fabulous Holland of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Simple tiles of a simple house on Novinsky Boulevard.
Grumping, fat Dunyasha [female servant] stokes the stoves.
However much you stock, it is never enough…
Just a little warmth and light of the shining white tiled background for our princess

Zabrodin 2005: 281
The second part of Series B (six shots, Fig. 9-14) can be considered unique. Photographs of biomechanics, taken in the open air, and not in interiors, are rare. We have not met any others photographs shot in the historical locations of Meyerhold’s school. This series was taken in the yard of the same house (no. 32) on Novinsky Boulevard, where Gvyrm-Gvytm was located. Classes were sometimes transferred to the yard. One such moment is depicted in these photographs. The background for the exercises, performed by a group of biomechanists, was the facades of the surviving building (now no. 18a, also known as the Plevako House, a name of the pre-Revolutionary owner) and of the adjoining one-story building, which was later to be demolished. The photographer recorded one of the regular classes of students, which can be judged by the everyday clothes in which they are dressed, which differ, for example, from prozodezhda (short for proizvodsvennaya odezhda), the worker’s uniform clothing, in which Temerin photographed performers for another well-known series of biomechanical exercises.

The students in these photographs were identified partly due to pencil marks made, probably, by the photographer, Temerin, when he gave similar photos to the Bakhrushin Museum. Irina Vsevolodovna Hold (1905-1981), Meyerhold’s daughter (her stage name, Hold, was a shortened version of her last name), was a student of the workshops, from the very beginning and deeply involved in biomechanics classes (her performance of the exercise "Archery" was filmed in 1924). She later moved to Leningrad, where she staged performances and taught biomechanics and acting. Rakhil Moiseevna Genina (1902-?) was an actress of the Meyerhold Theater until its closure. Before he joined the workshops, Lazar Kritsberg (1899 - 1950?) was a student of the School of Stage Art at the GOSET, State Jewish Theater in Moscow (Ivanov 2007: 429). As a teacher and stage director, he worked at the Moscow Proletkult Theater. Valery Ivanovich Inkizhinov (1895-1973) studied with Meyerhold before the Revolution, in his studio on Borodiskaya in Petersburg. Later he became a film director and actor, starring in the films of Lev Kusheshov and Vsevolod Pudovkin (Inkizhinov is best-known for the title role in Pudovkin’s film, "The Descendant of Genghis Khan"). In 1930, while on a tour in Europe with the theater, he refused to return to the USSR and later continued to shoot in the West. Nikolay Vladimirovich Eck (1902-1976), in 1920, was a laboratory assistant at the Meyerhold Theater and a playwright; later he became a film director and shot the first full-length sound film ("Journey into Life", 1931). Grigory Vladimirovich Khavis (1900-1962) was an actor of the Meyerhold Theater and later stage director; he worked in Krasnoyarsk and was repressed in 1937.

The photographs from Urbanovich’s archive are supplemented by the publication of a document (Appendix 2) which was deposited in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI), collection 963, of The State Meyerhold Theater. It contains Urbanovich’s letter to Meyerhold where he argued for the need to make a photo-recording of biomechanics exercises. He compiled a program for such a work, which included a list of exercises together with a list of students who would perform them. The letter was written in the middle of December, 1924. We learn from it that Urbanovich was working on the description, systematization, and preservation of biomechanical exercises with the aim of transferring the material to the museum of the Meyerhold Theatre. He proposed to record fifteen exercises, including solo, duo and group ones, as well as preparatory exercises. Not all of these exercises are preserved today; the best-known are the "Slap on the Face" and those that were filmed in 1924 (including "Archery"). As for preparatory exercises, they probably included training of balance (in particular, with a stick) which biomechanics teachers continue practicing today.

As we learn from the estimate attached to the note, it was planned to take up to 400 photos (by the photographer, Aleksey Temerin); the work was to be finished by the end of the 1924-1925 season. Urbanovich attached to the letter five sample photos of biomechanics (apparently, they are now in the Bakhrushin Museum). Appended to this article, we publish 14 original photos from Pavel Urbanovich’s private archive, together with his letter to Meyerhold from the RGALI. Why the project of photographing all the biomechanics exercises was not realized, is a question for further research. Yet the filming of several exercises did take place, and thanks to this we have a good idea of what Meyerhold's biomechanics looked like.

See, for example, the archival photographs at;

Annex 1
Series A, 1923-1924. Photographed by Aleksey Temerin
Fig. 2. Pavel Urbanovich performing the exercise "Throwing a stone"
The identical copy from the Bakhrushin Museum is signed “A Test of light”. In Urbanovich's "Shooting program" (Appendix 2), it is listed no. 1 and is followed by the exercise, "Archery".
Fig. 3. Exercise "Archery", moment "Taking Archery". Performed by Urbanovich
Fig. 4. Exercise "Archery", moment "Targeting". Performed by Urbanovich.
Fig. 5. Exercise “Archery", moment "Shooting". Performed by Urbanovich.
Fig. 6. Exercise "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity". Performed by Urbanovich and Konstantin Sholmov.
Fig. 7. Exercise "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity", next moment. Performed by Urbanovich and Sholmov
Series B, 1922-1923, photographer A.A. Temerin (?)
Fig. 8. Exercise "Falling, catching and lowering of gravity”
In the first row, on the right is Rakhil Genina, in the back row, on the right is Irina Hold
Fig. 9. Exercise "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity" (?)
From left to right stand: unknown persons, Nikolay Eck holds Rakhil Genina, Valery Inkizhinov holds Irina Hold
Fig. 10. Exercise "Horses", moment "Mounting horses"
From left to right, the first group of three: unknown person, Urbanovich, L.M. Kritsberg; the second group of three: Inkizhinov, unknown person, Hold; the third group of three: unknown person, Eck, Genina
Fig. 11. Exercise "Horses" (next moment?)
From left to right: Urbanovich, unknown person, Kritsberg; Inkizhinov, unknown person, Hold; Eck holds Genina; unknown person holds Grigory Khavis
Fig. 12. Exercise "Horses"(?)
From left to right, the first group of three: Urbanovich, unknown person, Kritsberg; the second group of three: Inkizhinov, unknown person, Hold; the third group of three: unknown person, Eck, Genina
Fig. 13. Exercise "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity", moment "The opposite movement before jumping down"(?)
From left to right: two unknown persons; Urbanovich, Kritsberg; unknown person, Havis; Inkizhinov, Hold; Eck, Genina.
Fig. 14. Exercise "Jump on the back and transfer of gravity", next moment (?)
From left to right: unknown persons, Urbanovich holds Kritsberg, unknown person holds Khavis (?), Inkizhinov holds Hold, Eck holds Genina.
Fig. 15. Exercise “Archery”
From left to right: Urbanovich, two unknown persons, Hold, unknown person, Genina, Kritsberg, Eck, Khavis, Inkizhinov. The building at the background has not survived
Annex 2
RGALI. Fond (collection) 963 (The State Meyerhold Theater). Inventary 1. File 1354. State Experimental Theatre Workshops (Gektemas). Letter of Urbanovich to Meyerhold with estimates, plans and programs for shooting biomechanical exercises. Dec 5 to Dec 18, 1924
P. 1

From P. Urbanovich
To the Master - V.E. Meyerhold

I submit for approval as follows:

I. Plan of consistent work on the theory of Bio-Mechanics. With a general check by you and an examination of physical training and reflexology by professors Gorinevsky and Sep.
II. Programs of photo-shootings of Bio-mechanical exercises. Shots will give sequentially-static moments of the main exercises. They are made for the TIM Museum.
III. Explanatory note (7 photo cards)

Please, approve and allow starting work.

12/XII-24 P. Urbanovich.

P. 2.

Plan. Bio-mechanical excursions

1. Setting up the actor's body

2. Leverage and stump training

3. Preparation systems
a) Physical education and sport
b) Rhythmics
c) Plastique–barre–dance
d) Acrobatics

4. Bio-mechanical training
a) Bio-mechanics - the game system
b) Effective elements
c) Exercises and method
d) Music
e) Work with an object
f) Sound-movement
g) Mise-en-scène

5. Bio-mechanical pantomime

6. Stage director: to the actor, in the course of staging

5/XII-24 P. Urbanovich

The program of shooting (static moments of) exercises of V. Meyerhold’s Bio-Mechanics
11/XII-24 P. Urbanovich

P. 4

Explanatory note

Vsevolod Emilyevich!

Although the need to organize a Bio-mechanical laboratory was repeatedly emphasized, because you are too busy, it has not been possible to do it so far. I want to try, as an activist and your closest collaborator in the field, to do this work by coordinating the work of (qualified specialists in medicine, physical education and reflexology) professors Gorinevsky and Sep with your own work.

I will carry out all the preparatory work myself (based on the principles and practical provisions that you provided in the course of 4 years, as well as on my own conclusions drawn from my teaching of Bio-Mechanics). Check where it is needed with the help of com[rades] Gorinevsky and Sep and other competent persons, and then the work will be transferred to you for corrections and editing. After that, the work can be used where you need.

The proposed work is broken up into two parts:

The first is the plan called by me "Bio-mechanical excursions" - the work of the basic order including also preliminary stages of the Bio-mechanical system (excursion [do you mean exercise?]1, 2, 3), the system itself (excursion 4 ditto) and finally the acting (excursion 6 ditto) including stage directing for the already organized actor. The plan of interaction of excursions [ditto] is established by me in the order of teaching. It will be worked out depending on the accumulation and verification of materials of this or that part, but approximately in the order of the plan presented.

The second. Recording and summary of all practical work on Bio-Mechanics to date. This work should give a historical summary of the work of V.E. [Meyerhold] in Leningrad, including 1) Meyerhold’s studio at Borodinskaya; 2) Courses for the Art of Stage Directing; 3) the School for acting, and the consolidation of his work in Moscow (Gvyrm, Gvytm, Gitis, Gektemas). Here I enclose a program of shooting some exercises, which should establish the order of static moments in the main exercises. The shooting will be conducted under my supervision and guidance, and will be transferred to the museum by agreement with the museum commission (one copy of the cards, for pedagogical purposes, remains with me). Each exercise is preliminarily divided into static moments. There will be from 300 to 400 pictures in total. Photography will be carried out by comrade Temerin. (Samples are attached.) The second part of the work should be finished by the end the season 1924/25.

If in the future funds are found, it will be necessary to film the exercises.

12/XII-24 P. Urbanovich

Valentin Vladislavovich Gorinevsky (1857-1937) was the Soviet hygienist and pediatrician, one of the first Russian scientists in the field of medical control over physical development and education. From 1923 he was a professor at the 2nd Moscow State University and at the Institute of Physical Culture. "Sep" stands, most likely, for Yevgeny Konstantinovich Sepp (1878-1957), neurologist, founder of the Higher Medical School, and professor of the 2nd Moscow State University

The body is compared with a mechanism or a part that requires technical treatment: the torso is called a "stump", and limbs are "levers

Urbanovich referred here to three kinds of dance training, in so-called plastika (the plastique, or modern dance), ballet and ballroom dance

It is known that biomechanical exercises were performed to music. For example, S. Eisenstein recorded that "Archery" was performed to the music by Grieg, Chopin, Bach, and Schlosser (Shcherbakov 2010: 401). However, by contrast with dance, in biomechanics the accompaniment was used only for the counting of time

It is not clear why Urbanovich preferred writing of “ekskursii”, or “excursions”, rather than of “exercises”

Number 11 is omitted in the original

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Fevral’sky, A.V. 1976. Notes of the Contemporary of the Century. Moscow (in Russian).
Feldman, O. M. 2017. "Meyerhold in Gvirm and Gvitm." Voprosy teatra (Questions of the Theater) 1-2: 313-335 (in Russian).
Garin, E.P. 1974. With Meyerhold: Memoires. Moscow (in Russian).
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Meyerhold, V.E. 1998. "Plan of the course in biomechanics [1922].” In Meyerhold, Vs. To the History of Creative Method. Publications. Articles, edited by Е. Kuhta, 26-28. Saint-Petersburg (in Russian).
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Roshal, G. 1974. "Through Life." In Eisenstein in memories of contemporaries, 180-188. Moscow (in Russian).
Sirotkina, Irina. 2011. "Biomechanics between science and art." Voprosy istorii estestvoznaniya i tekhniki (Issues of History of Science and Technology) 1: С. 46-70 (in Russian).
Sirotkina, Irina. 2014a. “Mysterious Dr Petrov, biomechanics, Tefizkult and Vsevobuch” Voprosy teatra 1-2 (XV): 168-175(in Russian).
Sirotkina, Irina. 2014b. "Theatre of collective enthusiasm: Meyerhold, Podvoisky and the birth of the genre of physical parades." Fashion Theory: clothes, body, culture 33: 105-125 (in Russian).
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Archival Material
A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum. Fond/collection 668 (The State Meyerhold Theatre, GosTIM)
Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Fond/collection 963 (The State Meyerhold Theatre, GosTIM); 998 (Vs. E. Meyerhold); 1476 (M. M. Korenev)
P. V. Urbanovich’s Private Archive