Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alexander Technique Part I

The principles of Alexander Technique that I will talk about in this post are principles that I have some personal experience with. I feel it is important to have direct personal experience of an idea in order to truly understand the idea and bring it into form. The principles I touch on are all experiences I have connected to through both Alexander Technique and self-awareness.

In Christy Harris’s article The Influence of the Alexander Technique on Modern Dance Aesthetics, she addresses an Alexander Technique principle of not end-gaining. She talks about how it is “a deeply ingrained habit for dancers to end-gain or misuse the body in order to achieve the appearance of movement”; I feel that is very true. She suggests a heightened sensory awareness and the discipline to stay present with the directions enables the dancer to maintain integrity in the process of movement, rather than end-gaining for the result.

Christy Harris also talks about the idea of faulty sense of awareness. This was very interesting to me; she says faulty sense of awareness is the recognition that our habits feel right to us. That our perception about the world is clouded by our own habitually conditioned patterning. She says it is important that we take responsibility for our habits, recognizing that they control us, and that they govern our choices and how we respond to the environment. This is very spiritual advice and is the basis; I feel, for a happy, healthy life. The idea of taking responsibility for ones behavior and use both physically and in our environments is where the truth lies.

Phyllis Richmond addresses, in her article The Alexander Technique and the Dancer –Preventative care during Activity, kinetic chain dysfunction. She says every thing comes back to technique, to the dancer working in a way that encourages injury. I definitely know what that is about, and she goes on to say more. That if the way of working interferes with normal joint stability and mobility, then the bones and muscles cannot perform their functions of posture and movement in the way the body is designed to function. The brain will compensate by automatically recruiting other muscle groups that take care of these functions and we develop compensatory kinetic chain dysfunction, which may prove to be the primary cause of injury.

Phyllis Richmond also addresses the idea of poor use, which she says is the underlying principle behind faulty technique. I feel like poor use is very influenced and caused by kinetic chain dysfunction. She says that a dancer with poor use is not only performing choreography but also is also expending additional, unnecessary energy and misapplied muscular bracing that interferes with the performance of the choreography. I spent years looking for ways to untrain my body’s habitual use while dancing. I was in pain so often, during performance and even while I slept. I was rolfed over and over and that helped some but I truly needed to change my use. My use did become better from the self-awareness and the rolfing, but I feel it improving in an accelerated way through practicing the Alexander principles and I am thankful for that. It still is an evolving process and I know that but at least I have some concrete teachings to work from and apply.

The Actor and The Neutral State by Joan Diamond interested me very much when the neutral state was addressed. She says the neutral state is the basis from which everything else should arise and express itself. She relates it to a driver who must go into neutral before changing gears, an actor needs to cultivate the neutral state in the body before entering the character one is going to play. Joan Diamond also talks about the idea of healer in the performing arts rather than critic. She says she encourages actors to observe each other in performance from the neutral state in the workshop setting. “Sitting in the neutral state, aware of one’s own structure and energy, staying well in one’s back, the actor comes into a big hearted, wide seeing perspective that the actor can observe his colleagues’ structure: where energy is blocked, where it could be released, where the sticking point lies. Observing one’s fellow colleague from this perspective enables the actor to bring constructive observations that help, rather than destroy.”

What a revolutionary idea this is to me. It seems like the perfect working model to create an atmosphere that I know people are wanting more and more in classrooms and workshops, but that is actually hard to create because people are so conditioned to be offensive and defensive. The idea of coming into this neutral state and then relating to the world, whether it be observing one’s classmate’s use or watching a performance, seems like a very enlightened and effective approach that I am experiencing in my own life.

This post continues.....

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