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Teaching & the Alexander Technique

       My teaching practice includes private lessons in the Alexander Technique for civilians, actors and singers, as well as one-on-one acting coaching. Currently, I'm on the Alexander faculty at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, and I'm a teaching assistant at the Balance Arts Center in Ann Rodiger's teacher-training program. I am also an acting coach, working privately with actors on scene work and auditions.

     The Alexander Technique is infinitely adaptable, since the focus is on how we process and integrate stimuli. I have found it to be the single most profound method for improving my own creative work in performance.

     Private lessons are held in studio space in midtown Manhattan or Park Slope, Brooklyn. Ask me about coming to your workplace to work with your team on site. For FAQs and a mini-CV (full version available upon request), scroll down.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is it?

The Alexander Technique is a method of understanding and developing one's own movement patterns, and by declension, one's whole self.

The focus is on becoming attuned to one's entire "psycho-physical" functioning, which F.M. Alexander referred to as a person's "use." This includes habits of mind and emotion as well, although we begin by looking at the relationship between the skull and the spine.

Studying the Alexander Technique can result in greater presence, breath capacity and vocal function; diminished chronic pain, improved coordination & balance, a better relationship to gravity, increased proprioception & spatial awareness; and a finely tuned sense of the learning process in any human endeavor. 

 

What happens in a session?

Students wear loose clothing that permit movement. A session usually includes a "turn" in a chair during which a teacher will use light touch and verbal directions to guide the student's patterns.

Part of the session may occur with the student lying on a table. Additionally, if the student would like to integrate the Alexander Technique directly to an activity, part of a session might be spent working with some spoken text, or playing an instrument, or typing at a computer, or simply walking. 

 

Who does it? 

      Well, anyone can do it. Often, actors and musicians do it, having encountered it in training programs, since it is so effective at developing a performer's sensitivity and awareness of their learning processes and habits.

      Actors use it for the freeing impact it has on breath and voice, for the ease and expressivity of movement that come with the practice, for the imaginative release as well as the general increase in emotional permeability and presence onstage. 

      But all kinds of civilians have found great relief and improved quality-of-life by studying with an Alexander teacher. Because of the emphasis on re-training habits that impede freedom and effectiveness, it can be a powerful tool for those suffering from chronic pain due to repetitive-stress patterns in their work, whether they play the violin or type at  a computer all day.

      Longer answer: Often, we have unconscious patterns we have developed over the course of a lifetime that aren't optimal, and inadvertently those patterns cause chronic issues (e.g. back pain, shoulder pain, etc.). In the Alexander Technique, we work to uncover the unconscious pattern, if not the cause itself, and then gently re-teach a more balanced, functional way. Unlike physical therapy or other more familiar modalities, the Alexander Technique approaches injury holistically, with the understanding that your shoulder pain (for example) may originate somewhere besides your shoulder. We look at the whole person, gradually re-integrating into the whole self the parts that may have lost their rhythm. 

     But everyone -- not just those who are injured, or professional performers -- can benefit from this work.

Why do you do it? 

       As an acting student, I found that the Alexander Technique freed me from a nervous-system storm I experienced every time I had to audition. In general, acting felt freer and more relaxed, it improved my voice, and made me feel both more self-aware and less self-conscious. It gave me a set of tools that improved my capacity for paying attention, for being available to stimuli. My work got more dimensional, I became braver, simpler, more expressive. It has also transformed my singing.

       And it made my body feel better. From a lifetime of dancing, I had some patterns that were based on aesthetics rather than anatomy, and these had become painful over time. My Alexander Technique teachers helped me unwind those old chronic injuries and they are virtually gone.

Who was F. M. Alexander? 

       The short answer is that he was an actor with vocal trouble.

       Born in Tasmania in 1869, he spent most of his life trying to hide his humble Australian roots, attempting to appear like an Edwardian English gentleman. In his twenties, he had started to earn a living in Melbourne performing Shakespeare's great speeches in large concert halls (un-amplified), when he began to lose his voice. After a battery of doctors and specialists failed to "cure" him, he began the process of studying himself, only to discover that he had a habit of sucking in air and tightening his neck before he spoke -- every time. Over time, as he worked to unwind his habit,  his voice recovered. This process was the beginning of what we now call the Alexander Technique. 

      Today, it ranges in scope well beyond vocal work, from highly technical patterns in the body, to more subtle psychological/emotional shifts in a person's learning process.

Who are you?

      I'm a professional actor with an MFA from the University of Washington.

      Before getting certified to teach (with Ann Rodiger at the Balance Arts Center, 2016; 1600-hour AmSAT certification), I studied the Alexander Technique with Cathy Madden as part of my graduate acting training at UW. Prior to that, I studied Alexander with Jed Diamond at the Actors Center. I understand intimately how this work supports actors.

      I'm also a singer with a long background in classical technique, as well as more contemporary musical theater. The Alexander Technique has given me improved facility to incorporate the adjustments my voice teachers give me, to integrate everything with my acting choices. My understanding of the anatomy of singing has given me a great set of tools for working with singers.

      As an injured dancer (aged 16), I began studying the Pilates method while my right foot healed. When it did, I discovered that I was stronger than I had been before the injury. I was certified to teach Pilates in 1999 by the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado by Amy Alpers and Rachel Siegel. Over the next 15 years, I taught in studios all over New York City, including at the Hospital for Special Surgery, TruePilates in Tribeca, Equinox, Bridge Pilates and the Pilates Garage, as well as privately in Southampton, Barbados, Salzburg, London, Seattle and New Orleans.

       Areas of specialization include (but are not limited to): 

  • helping actors find greater expression and freedom in their work
  • navigating the physical effects of the crises of performance, character work and integrating direction
  • coaching auditions of any kind
  • acting coaching specifically for singers
  • working with non-actors find greater ease and amplitude in their general daily experience, addressing somatic patterns in quotidian life (e.g. sitting or standing at a desk) to prevent work-related injuries
  • teaching Pilates-based movement to dancers (and civilians) using the Alexander Technique as a set of first principles

 

Mini-CV

University acting faculties:

  • American Academy of Dramatic Art, NYC (fall 2017 - present)
  • Montclair State University Department of Theatre and Dance 
  • Tulane University Department of Theater and Dance -- visiting Assistant Professor, 2010-11
  • University of Washington School of Drama 

 

Areas of expertise:

  • MFA -- Professional Actor Training Program, University of Washington, 2003
  • AmSAT Certificate, 2016 -- certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, Balance Arts Center
  • Trained singer: Mannes College of Music, Indiana University, University of Washington. Past teachers include Ray Fellman, Julian Patrick, Vicki Clark, Ellen Shade, Bruce Kolb, Marc Schnaible, Aaron Hagan and Paul Lincoln (current)
  • Trained dancer for twenty years, Joffrey Ballet School, David Howard, Maggie Black, Simon Dow, Zvi Gotheiner, Paul Taylor school.
  • Pilates instructor for 15 years -- resume available, certified in 1999 at the Pilates Center in Boulder, CO

 

 

...I learned that not everything which is clearly understood may be clearly expressed — not, that is to say, in words...there are many important things which must be learned from personal experience, and frequently from a teacher. I have had several Alexander teachers and I have never had one yet who could explain the work adequately. The alignment of the head, neck and back must be felt, and I doubt if any two people feel it quite alike....
— Robertson Davies, theater critic -- on experiential learning and the Alexander Technique.