One subgroup of physical theater is corporeal mime. Its objective is to place drama inside the moving human body, rather than to substitute gesture for speech as in pantomime. In this medium, the mime must apply to physical movement those principles that are at the heart of drama: pause, hesitation, weight, resistance and surprise. Corporeal mime accentuates the vital importance of the body and physical action on stage.
It was developed primarily by Étienne Decroux, who was heavily influenced by his training with Jacques Copeau at the Ecole du Vieux-Colombier. He created this method and technique for creative performers wishing to transform their ideas into a physical reality, in order to devise a new style of theater "making visible the invisible," as Decroux put it.
The objectives of corporeal mime are to enable the actor to become more autonomous in creating metaphor-based physical theater pieces, which may include text, but are not based on text, i.e., to give the actor greater access to physical metaphors in work in traditional plays, and to increase the actor's strength, agility, flexibility and imaginative powers.
While Decroux’s movement style was quite different from the commedia dell'arte from which 19th century pantomime took as its model, Decroux was influenced by this classical art form. Decroux worked extensively with Teatro Piccolo in Milan, training actors and choreographing Arlecchino an adaptation of Galdoni's Servant of Two Masters directed by Giorgio Strehler. Concidentally, Jacques Lecoq, another famous mime teacher worked as a movement teacher at Piccolo Teatro until he was succeeded by Decroux.
Unlike classical pantomime, corporeal mime was also no longer an anecdotal art that used conventional gestures to create illusions of objects or persons.
Corporeal mimes seek to express abstract and universal ideas and emotions through codified movements of the entire body (but most especially the trunk--the face and hands are confined to a secondary role in this movement form) Some corporeal mimes write their own texts, as did the Greek mime-authors, integrating the mime-actor's art with the author's. They also include props, costumes, masks, lighting effects and music. Because it contains movement expression along with other elements, it is often loosely alluded to as physical or movement theater.