Embodying English Language: Jacques Lecoq and the Neutral Mask
Pascetta, Nikole Lauren
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My study explores the process of settlement for Newcomer-to-Canada youth (NTCY) who are engaged in English-language learning (ELL) of mainstream education. I propose the inclusion of a modified physical theatre technique to ELL curricula to demonstrate how a body-based supplemental to learning can assist in improving students’ language acquisition and proficiency. This recognizes the embodied aspect of students’ settlement and integration as a necessary first-step in meaning making processes of traditional language-learning practices. Foundational to this thesis is an exploration of the Neutral Mask (NM), an actors training tool developed by French physical theatre pedagogue Jacques Lecoq. A student of Lecoq (1990-1992), I understand NM as a transformative learning experience; it shapes the autoethnographic narrative of this study. My research considers the relationship between the body and verbal speech in English-language learning, as mediated by the mask. An acting tool at the heart of Lecoq’s School, the mask values the non-verbal communication of the body and its relationship to verbal speech. My study explains how the mask, by its design, can reach diverse learning needs to offer newcomer students a sense of agency in their language learning process. I further demonstrate how through discussion of an experimental applied practice field study. One of the overarching questions of this research is whether the ELL experience enhances or hinders newcomer youth in their settlement integration. Through the critical lenses of phenomenology and embodiment, I suggest reshaping the language-learning classroom into a pedagogical space that better fosters newcomer youths’ bodies-of-cultural origin as they begin to distance from their heritage language. Preparing to make Canada their home, newcomer youth can be provided with a learning space for the exploration of the body before the language – for the learning.