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Posts from the ‘Anatomy’ Category

A Reading: The Lost Procedure – The Gift of Rotation and Spiraling In Walking

“So we saunter toward the Holy Land,

till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done,

shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts,

and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light,

as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.”  

Henry David Thoreau

Walking

08 Swing and Sweep_1 copy (2)

Photo: B. Fertman – Trevi Fountain

 

A Reading by Jenny Quick

Text

Salmon Rising/Water Falling – Understanding Alexandrian Directionality – For Trainees and Teachers – Dorset, England – Saturday, October 14, 2017

 

Alexander’s sequence of verbal directions, let the neck be free, etc., I see as a shorthand that, when deeply understood, triggers a directional weave of inherent support that pervades and frees one’s entire body and being. Have you ever wondered what that weave would look like if you were able to see it?

In April at CTC in London, I began teaching what I call my Salmon Rising/Water Falling Patterns, the complimentary oppositional kinesthetic pathways that course their way through us and that, when awakened, integrate us, allowing our bodies and beings to become light and substantial, soft and strong, firm and flexible, calm and clear, articulate and unified.

In this workshop we will review the Water Falling Pattern we learned in April and learn the Salmon Rising Pattern as well. It is truly beautiful to see and understand the interplay between them.

If possible, I strongly suggest attending the following days introductory workshop and learn how I use these patterns to introduce Alexander’s work to new students. I also invite you to stay over for one more day after the intro workshop and join our Dorset Graduate Training Program as we take a closer look at the structural components necessary for good group teaching.

The cost for the one day workshop is £120. You are welcome to take both workshops for £175. Staying over and spending a day with us inside of the Dorset Graduate Program is free. If you do spend three days studying the Salmon Rising/Water Falling Patterns you will leave  Dorset able to begin incorporating the patterns into yourself and your work.

 

Bruce Fertman

He is the embodiment of his work. His touch is like a butterfly settling down on the very turning point of your soul. And then you know, “That’s who I am, that is who I could be.”

Tueshaus, Alexander Teacher / Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

Bruce has been using his hands, helping people to move well, for fifty-five years. He trained with five first generation Alexander teachers: Catherine Merrick Wielopolska, Marjorie L. Barstow, Richard M. Gummere Jr., Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. Bruce brings a lifetime of training as a movement artist and educator to his work as an Alexander teacher, having trained in Gymnastics, Modern Dance, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Chanoyu, Argentine Tango, and Kyudo. In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school. Currently director of the Alexander Alliance Germany, Bruce also teaches annually for Alexander Alliance training programs in Japan, Korea, and America. He conducts post graduate training programs in Dorset and Zurich. Author of Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart – Delving Into The Work Of F.M. Alexander, soon to be published by Mouritz Press.

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, an exquisite touch, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.

Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher
Cornwall, England

One of the foremost representatives of Marjorie Barstow’s lineage, Bruce’s work is unique and innovative. Bruce is especially gifted when it comes to teaching in groups. He’s a philosopher, poet and writer who gives voice to what is wonderful about the Alexander Technique.

Michael Frederick – Founding Director of the International Congresses for the Alexander Technique

Workshop Details:

When: Saturday, October 14, 2017 – 13:00-18:00/19:30-21:00.

Where: Gaunts House, Dorset

http://www.gauntshouse.com/

Fee: £120. £175 for three days of study. Fee for AT trainees £100. £150 for three days of study.

Accommodation: There are a variety of accommodations available at Gaunts House, allocated on a first come first served basis. However their policy is that you must stay over for at least two nights. (If you should wish to stay over only one night there are bed and breakfast establishments close by.) Basic cost for a twin room at Gaunts House is from £80 per day. Costs include all meals, (vegetarian), breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as unlimited teas and coffee throughout the day. Please indicate your preference when registering and any dietary requirements.

To register for the workshop contact Ruth Davis at:

Email: ruth.a.davis@me.com

Phone: +44 (0) 7590 406267

To Make Payment: 

BACS

(Please reference your payment with your full name.) Sort Code: 40-47-59

Account No: 12037351

Acc Name R Davis

International Transfers via:

IBAN: GB24MIDL40475912037351 BIC:MIDLGB2172

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to me, bf@brucefertman.com or to Ruth Davis, ruth.a.davis@me.com.

See you at Gaunts House!

Bruce Fertman

 From Here To Really Here – A Workshop For Alexander Teachers and Trainees – July 2, 2017 – London, England

 

Inhibition and Direction go together like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, like Abbott and Costello, like Batman and Robin, like Tonto and the Lone Ranger.

Like Yin and Yang. Actually a lot like yin and yang. First there is nothing and then there is something. First there was evening and then morning. Inhibition and Direction.

On July 2nd, at the beautiful CTC space, we will spend a whole day together playing with a number of directional systems, all variations on a theme, that theme being Alexander’s classical directions.

According to F.M., as we all know, direction is…the process involved in projecting messages from the brain to the mechanisms and in conducting the energy necessary to the use of those mechanism.

My imagistic mind sees a bottle floating up on the shore and in the bottle hides a message. Imagine the message as a map, directions, or instructions giving us a hint as to how to get from here to really here. The message may be communicated via words, but may be communicated non-verbally as well, geometrically or graphically. The message, in whatever form, excites us, energizes us and off we go in some direction toward our destination, from here to really here.

Join me for a day of improvising with helical, spherical, anatomical, verbal, imagistic, and spatial expressions of Alexander’s classical directions.

Bruce Fertman

About Bruce Fertman

 

He is the embodiment of his work. His touch is like a butterfly settling down on the very turning point of your soul. And then you know, “That’s who I am, that is who I could be.”

M. Tueshaus, Alexander Teacher / Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

Bruce has been using his hands, helping people to move well, for fifty-five years. He trained with five first generation Alexander teachers: Catherine Merrick Wielopolska, Marjorie L. Barstow, Richard M. Gummere Jr., Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. Bruce brings a lifetime of training as a movement artist and educator to his work as an Alexander teacher, having trained in Gymnastics, Modern Dance, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Chanoyu, Argentine Tango, and Kyudo. In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance International, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school. Currently director of the Alexander Alliance Germany, Bruce also teaches annually for Alexander Alliance training programs in Japan, Korea, and America. He conducts post graduate training programs in Dorset and Zurich. Currently, Bruce is near completion of Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart – Delving Into The Work Of F.M. Alexander, which will soon be published by Mouritz press.

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility – a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, an exquisite touch, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruce’s work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexander’s Technique.

A. Turner – Alexander Technique Teacher
Cornwall, England

One of the foremost representatives of Marjorie Barstow’s lineage, Bruce’s work is unique and innovative. Bruce is especially gifted when it comes to teaching in groups. He’s a philosopher, poet and writer who gives voice to what is wonderful about the Alexander Technique.

Michael Frederick – Founding Director of the International Congresses for the Alexander Technique

Workshop Details:

Where:

Alexander Technique
The Walter Carrington Educational Trust
13, The Boulevard
Imperial Wharf
London SW6 2UB

020 7727 7222

http://atiw.org/find-us/how-to-find-us

We are only three minutes walk from Imperial Wharf Station.
Imperial Wharf Station provides a direct link to Clapham Junction (4 minutes) in the South and Willesden Junction in the North. Change at West Brompton (5 minutes) for the District Line or at Shepherds Bush (9 minutes) for the Central Line.

 

When:

Sunday, July 2nd: From Here To Really Here – One Day Workshop

10:00 – 1:30 morning class.

1:30 – 2:45 lunch break

2:45 – 5:30 afternoon class

Fee:

£120.  £100 early registration.

£75 for those of you who took my workshop in April, if you bring another teacher or trainee who would like to take the workshop.

£50 for all Alexander teachers enrolled in the Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Training Program in Dorset.

Early registration ends June 3, 2017.

 Monday, July 3rd: Private Lessons.

Fee: £60 for a 45 minute lesson. If you or anyone you know is interested write to me, or have them write to me at: bf@brucefertman.com

To register for the workshop contact Ruth Davis at:

Email: ruth.a.davis@me.com

Phone: +44 (0) 7590 406267

To Make Payment: 

BACS

(Please reference your payment with your full name.) Sort Code: 40-47-59

Account No: 12037351

Acc Name R Davis

International Transfers via:

IBAN: GB24MIDL40475912037351 BIC:MIDLGB2172

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to me, bf@brucefertman.com or to Ruth Davis, ruth.a.davis@me.com.

I look forward to meeting you and to working with you.

Bruce Fertman

Just A Hunch

on innocence

photo: Bruce Fertman

Just A Hunch

Through the pressure generated between the growing head and the growing heart, the face is sculpted. Three ridges. One will become the brow, one the nose, one the chin.

Then suddenly the unfurling begins. The head floats away from the heart. Organs begin to form in newly available space. Space precedes substance. First there is nothing, then there is something.

The baby enters the world, C-shaped, one simple curve. Over the first few months, through olympian effort, the baby acquires the needed strength to lift its head and look around, gradually forming a flexible and stable cervical curve. The lumbar curve develops as the baby begins creeping and crawling, and fully establishes itself through the herculean task of learning to walk.

The head becomes the center of orientation, the pelvis the center of locomotion.

We grow, we evolve from zygote, to embryo, to fetus, to infant, to baby, to toddler, to child, to teenager, to young adult, to adult, to maturing adult, (young-old), and if lucky to very old adult, (old-old). 

Somewhere between young-old and old-old another spinal transformation begins, as natural perhaps as all the other spinal transformations. In Onsens, Japanese hot springs, I have spent hours studying the shapes of boys and men of all ages, the children with arching lower backs and rounded bellies, with soft, supple necks, their heads balancing loosely atop naturally upright spines. The young men, unbeknownst to them, but evident to me, already foreshadow how they will sit, stand, and walk as old men. And the now old men, some more, some less beginning to wilt, droop, sag.

Its as if the thoracic curve wants to re-incorporate the cervical curve into itself,  making the head, and with it the mind, the eyes, and ears orient inward, away from the outer world, toward the world of in-sight and hindsight.

Its as if the sacral curve wants to re-incorporate the lumbar curve into itself, tilting the pelvis under, making locomotion more difficult, venturing out more trying, increasing the impulse to sit, perhaps to read, perhaps to write, perhaps to listen to the stories of others, or to give counsel.

I have begun to feel the pull of my primary curves wanting to reclaim my secondary curves. Is it natural, inevitable? I dont know. Ive chosen, however, not to give in to this subtle, seductive undertow. I want my head above water. I want to continue orienting outward to the world. I want to walk onto dry land, feel the earth beneath my feet. Perhaps one of the reasons four out of five of my Alexander mentors taught into their mid to late nineties was because they knew how to feed and nourish their secondary curves. Perhaps those curves allowed their eyes to see and to care about others. Perhaps those curves provided more space for their organs, allowing for greater oxygen intake, better blood flow, good digestive motility. Perhaps those curves helped lengthen their legs under them, kept those feet firmly on the ground.

If our primary curves pull us back to the past and our secondary curves beckon us forward into the future, then having a balance between them might bring us into the present.

Yes, perhaps it was their secondary curves that kept them so vibrant, so engaged, so present, so here, here with us, for so long. 

Its just a hunch. But Im going to follow it.

The Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Training – Switzerland – With Bruce Fertman and Robyn Avalon – Accepting Applicants for April 2021

Alexander Alliance Post Graduate Training Program

In Europe, Asia, and America, classically trained Alexander teachers are asking me to teach them how I work. They seem especially intrigued with how I use my hands, while also expressing their appreciation for my simple way of articulating complex Alexandrian principles without the need for jargon. They seem to like how I see people in their entirety, seeing through the body into a world of being and becoming.

As an apprentice, and later assistant to Marjorie L. Barstow, with whom I trained for 16 years, and as a person with 55 years of experience as a movement educator and artist, I have learned how to teach Alexander’s work effectively in groups, how to teach others how to work effectively in groups, how to apply Alexander’s work to the physical demands of everyday life as well as to the emotionally trying situations all of us encounter along the way. Having also studied intensively with four other first generation teachers; Elisabeth Walker, Erika Whittaker, Catherine Wielopolska, and Richard M. Gummere, Jr., I have gained a deep respect for Alexander’s classical procedures as well.

Many of my post-graduate students became curious about my training program, the Alexander Alliance Germany, and began visiting. They found a rigorous, demanding, disciplined training that at the same time was warm, friendly, lighthearted, and fun.

While at the Alliance Germany many of my post-graduate students encountered the teaching of Robyn Avalon. Like virtually everyone, myself included, they fell in love with her work, its depth, its clarity, its effectiveness, and perhaps above all, its joyfulness.

Robyn and I have been working together for 30 years. We are two teachers who have figured out how to be successful and effective AT teachers in the world at large. We will share our practical, hard earned wisdom with you so that you can do the same.

Our Post Graduate Training Program Switzerland will be composed of four 7 fullday retreats, two taught by Robyn Avalon and two taught by me. These four retreats will take place over a two-year period, totaling 200 hours of study. Retreats will be held in April and October. This Post Graduate Training Program is open to all certified teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Bruce and Robyn

We are excited to be co-teaching this Post Graduate Training Program, and we hope you are too.

Robyn is by far the most down to earth visionary I know. Fearlessly and lovingly she constantly pushes borders within herself and others. Her teaching is based on seemingly infinite knowledge and driven by sharp instincts. She creates exceptionally safe playgrounds in which limiting belief systems drop away like worn out clothes. With her everything becomes easy, exciting, meaningful, and definitely more fun. Magically, the impossible becomes possible.

Margarete Tueshaus – Alexander Teacher, ATVD, Tango Teacher, Equestrian

Gone is the straight-lined striving, the stopping and oughting. Instead curiosity, inquisitiveness, and permission to experiment, to play, to open boxes and to climb out of them into a world of possibility a world both soft and strong. And all this through a quiet power, an exquisite touch, a clarity of speech, and a wealth of wisdom. For me, Bruces work is more than exciting; it is important, both to the world and to anyone involved in any way with Alexanders Technique.

Annie Turner Alexander Technique Teacher, STAT, England.

Here’s the material we’ll be covering.

The Physics and Metaphysics of Touch

 

To receive everything one must open ones hands, and give.  

Taisen Deshimaru

Hands close and open, grasp, cling, clench, and release. Hands express. They welcome, warn and inform, and in our case, hands educe. Educative hands lead out that which lies within. Together we will increase our tactual palette, become more tactually literate and learn how to access the whole person through myriad networks: skeletal, muscular, fascial, cellular, organ, and nervous systems.

We understand well the paramount importance of personal use while teaching, and the direct impact our use has on our quality of touch.  As important as good use is, additional knowledge into the hand’s inherent design can help us acquire hands that are, at once, soft and powerful, light and deep, stabilizing and mobilizing, quieting and energizing. As there are primary colors, so too there are primary touches: push, pull, slide, spin, and roll. In other words, physics.

We will also consider the metaphysics of touch. It’s a disservice to reduce a person to their body. We never really only touch a person’s body. We touch a person. Our goal is to touch a person’s being through their body. But to touch a person’s being through their body we first have to be able to see a person’s being through their body, which means knowing how to see beyond posture, beyond body mechanics, beyond use.

 

How To Teach An Engaging Introductory Workshop

We offer a template, a simple framework, evolved over 40 years of teaching AT, for clearly and effectively introducing Alexander’s work within a group setting. It’s easy to learn. It leaves you free to choose the content you wish to impart to others. Introducing the technique to a group of students can be intimidating for Alexander teachers. Knowing this simple structure makes it much easier.

Knowing lots of group explorations, movement etudes, and games are important tools when it comes to teaching AT in groups. We will share some of our favorites with you – games we have crafted and taught to literally thousands of beginners over decades of teaching. Learn how to create your own etudes and games, which impart important AT principles and skills.

We will be giving multiple introductory workshops inside of the seven-fullday training retreats. Each of these one-day workshops will introduce Alexander’s work from a different point of view. These days of introductory workshops are part of the Post Graduate Training Program. It’s the best way to learn how to introduce the work to people in groups. We encourage each graduate trainee to bring at least one person who really wants to take an introductory workshop in the Alexander Technique.

Systems Of Support

Alexander teachers excel in creating what I refer to as “tensegral support”. It’s the support system that creates the hallmark experience of kinesthetic lightness, the sense of suspension. But there are other essential systems of support, complimentary systems that most Alexander teachers do not excel at accessing, such as ground support, organ support, and spatial support. When these complimentary systems of support integrate with tensegral support the side effect of postural stiffness, so prevalent in our work, subsides.

Finally, and perhaps most important to self-support, is how we think; how we think about our bodies, ourselves, others, and the world at large. Distorted and/or untrue thoughts and beliefs are self-sabotaging. Knowing how to observe, question, and defuse internal stimuli – thoughts, emotions, and sensations – may be more important than how we respond to external stimuli. Knowing how to use our mind to come to our senses sets us free.

Walking as an Alexandrian Procedure

Its no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.  

Francis of Assisi

Walking, when understood, is the Alexandrian procedure that most naturally integrates rotational and spiraling motions into our upright structure, motions that are conspicuously absent in Alexander’s other procedures, as wonderful as those procedures are. Walking, when taught dynamically, helps dissipate postural holdings, often resulting in a profound sense of freedom and power.

When Erika Whittaker was asked what she felt like after working with Alexander, she said, “When the lesson was over, I could have said thank you, and walked out the door, or I could have said thank you, and walked through the wall.”

We’ll spend time learning about the mechanics of walking, as well as how to use our hands to help our students walk naturally, freely, and powerfully.

Working in Activity

Ironically, working in activity is not about activity. As Alexander teachers we are more than movement efficiency and effectiveness experts. Alexander work is not about how we do what we do. Alexander’s work is about how we are being when we do what we do. As T.S. Eliot expresses so profoundly, our work is about… the still point of the turning world…

We bring people in touch with the still point. Activities are the turning world. We cannot work on the still point without the turning world. Working in activity is the most straightforward way to work on the integration of being and doing.

 Life Work

 Have you noticed it’s relatively easy to make good use of Alexander’s work when we are doing well, but nearly impossible when confronted with something truly challenging or threatening? How can we practice sticking to principle under emotionally charged circumstances, when relating to family members, when encountering problems at work, while coping with physical injury and pain, when overwhelmed by stressful thoughts and emotions?

Life Work is a contemporary Alexander procedure, a way of proceeding to teach people how to employ Alexander’s work when under trying conditions and faced with harsh realities. Being able to work with people this way is enormously beneficial. It brings the Work to life and life into the Work.

Understanding Human Directionality

Photo: B. Fertman

Collectively, Robyn and I have been joyfully obsessing over human directionality for 81 years! That’s true. Robyn will approach human directionality via her Living in a Body™ material. My approach will be through the body mapping work developed by Bill and Barbara Conable, through the teaching of my Salmon Rising/Water Falling Patterns, and through an in depth look into the Albinus Copperplate Engravings.

Living in a Body™, a course in body mapping designed by Robyn nearly 25 years ago, has been translated into 5 languages and is now taught worldwide. Living in a Body™ teaches us how to see when a person’s map does not match their inherent design. It offers a multitude of etudes and games for helping them change the beliefs that interfere with their ability to live and work in accordance with their inherent design. In this training, Robyn will offer the essential highlights of the LIAB™ material.

Salmon Rising/Water Falling is an Alexander etude developed by me over many years, which helps make our invisible directional weave of support visible. Everyone seems to love learning these patterns. These oppositional yet complimentary kinesthetic pathways course their way through us and, when awakened, integrate us, allowing our bodies and beings to become light and substantial, soft and strong, firm and flexible, calm and clear, articulate and unified.

Constructive Conscious Surrender

In our work we know trying to make something happen and allowing something to happen are worlds apart. One is done alone, one in partnership. Allowing happens when we are in partnership with our nature, with what is natural within us, with our original design, with our innate coordination. Our job as AT teachers is to bring our students in touch with their inherent support, power, and ease. Gradually, our students begin to trust their innate coordination, and learn to live in partnership with it. Life becomes less of an effort and more of a dance.

When we lose touch with our partner, we lose support, and again we begin doing everything by ourselves. Trying and forcing return.

If we are to allow life to freely unfold, we must learn how to willfully and joyfully surrender, to “give up going it alone”. We learn to ask for how we want to be. We learn how to send clear directives to naturally governing forces deep within us. Paradoxically, learning to surrender to these deep governing forces gives us the control we always wanted.

We cannot force freedom upon ourselves or anyone else. Ultimately, the work does itself.

PROGRAM DETAILS

Our Post Graduate Training Program Switzerland will be composed of four 7-fullday retreats, two taught by Robyn Avalon and two taught by Bruce Fertman. These four retreats will take place over a two-year period, totaling 180 hours of study. This Program is open to all certified teachers of the Alexander Technique.

Organization and Registration: Magdalena Gassner (+41 (0)77 475 50 27 / alexander.technik@gmx.ch)

To learn more about Bruce Fertman, Robyn Avalon and the Alexander Alliance: www.alexanderalliance.org

If you have any questions whatsoever and you’d like to talk to me personally, I’d be happy to talk to you. Write to me at bf@brucefertman.com and we can arrange a time to talk. Also feel free to write to Magdalena Gassner atm.gassner@alexanderalliance.de

Robyn and I look forward to working with you,

Bruce Fertman

 

About Robyn Avalon

Robyn has been studying Alexander’s work for over 40 years, being first introduced to it as a young performing artist. She has worked with members of renowned opera companies, symphony orchestras, music ensembles, music conservatories, dance companies, and circuses including the American Ballet Theater, NYC Ballet, Joffery Ballet, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Maria Benitez, Meredith Monk, Orpheus, the Juilliard School, the Meadowmount School of Music, Cirque de Soleil, and Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey. Robyn has also taught for the US Olympic Dressage Team, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and the Texas “Aggies” Football Team. She offers continuing education workshops at National Conventions for Osteopathic Physicians, Dentistry, Fiber Arts, National Opera Association, NATS, Suzuki, and Centered Riding.

Robyn is a professional director, choreographer, and dancer. She was a founding member of two rhythm tap companies, and has done international and national tours, Off-Broadway, film and television. Her work has been seen in venues as diverse as NYC’s Blue Note Jazz Club, Carnegie Hall, and The White House.

In addition to her love for the performing arts, Robyn enjoys the healing arts, and is a certified practitioner of Cranial Sacral, Visceral Unwinding, Deep Imagery®, and Matrix Energetics®.

Robyn is the founding director of the Contemporary Alexander School, and co-director of the Alexander Alliance International and is on the core faculty of all Alexander Alliance Schools.

Incredibly broad knowledge, clear, to the point and exact, incredible energy, incredibly kind and loving,  profound and playful – that´s Robyn. 

Knowing Robyn has changed my life, given me more freedom and joy. Robyn has opened a whole new world of possibilities for me. She´s the Queen of Group teaching. If you want to learn to enjoy what you do, she is the one you want to meet. Robyn teaches ease, grace, high performance, curiosity and freedom. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

M. Klemm, MD, Alexander Technique Teacher

About Bruce Fertman

Photo: Soomin Park

Bruce trained with five, first generation Alexander teachers: Catherine Merrick Wielopolska, Marjorie L. Barstow, Richard M. Gummere Jr., Elisabeth Walker, and Erika Whittaker. He brings a lifetime of training as a movement artist and educator to his work as an Alexander teacher having trained in Gymnastics, Modern Dance, Ballet, Contact Improvisation, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Argentine Tango, and Kyudo.

He has worked with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Radio France, The National Symphony in Washington DC, the Honolulu Symphony, for the Curtis Institute of Music, and most recently for Jeong Ga Ak Hoe, a traditional Korean Music Ensemble in Seoul, Korea. Bruce taught for the Five College Dance Program in Amherst, Massachusetts for 13 years, and for the Tango community in Buenos Aires. For 6 years, he taught movement for actors at Temple and Rutgers University.

For ten years Bruce taught annually for the College of Physiotherapy in Gottingen, Germany.

In 1982, Bruce co-founded the Alexander Alliance with Martha Hansen Fertman, an intergenerational, multicultural community/school, the first Alexander teacher training program inspired primarily by the work of Marjorie Barstow. Currently, director of education and senior teacher for the Alexander Alliance Germany, Bruce also teaches annually for Alexander Alliance training programs in Japan, Korea, England, Switzerland, and America.

Bruce’s heart centered approach as a teacher rests upon extensive study in psychology and theology, specifically, the work of Eric Berne, (Transactional Analysis), Carl Rogers, (Person Centered Therapy), Frederick Perls, (Gestalt Therapy), Albert Ellis, (Rational-Emotive Therapy), Carl Jung, (Analytical Psychology), and Byron Katie  (Inquiry). Having also studied with Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist scholars, Bruce’s work centers around body and being, movement and meaning, and the relationship between physical and spiritual grace.

Bruce has been using his hands to help people for 55 years.

In Bruces class you feel as if you are sitting by a deep, soft lake. His pace and patience, his quiet confidence allows people to unfold and open layer by layer. The superfluous falls away leaving only lifes inner vitality effortlessly expressing itself through you.

He is the embodiment of his work. His touch is like a butterfly settling down on the very turning point of your soul. And then you know, Thats who I am, that is who I could be.

M. TueshausAlexander Teacher, ATVD/ Tango Teacher/ Equestrian

 

 

 

The Physiology Of The Human Spirit

Last week, in Seoul, Korea, my workshop theme was, The Physiology Of The Human Spirit.

Leonardo daVinci set out to discover the seat of the soul. No small task. He explored an area of the body known, in his time, as the sensus communis. Here, he plots the site of the sensus communis at the intersection of upright and diagonal lines seen within the tilted plane, at a point that marks the proportional centre of the skull.

DaVinci's Sensus Communis

DaVinci’s Sensus Communis

 

Leonardo saw the sensus communis as a point of convergence, a center from which all voluntary action was controlled – everything from running, to walking, to lifting an arm, to singing a song, to the smallest details of expression like smiling, or raising an eyebrow. For daVinci, the sensus communis was the locus of the human soul. Leonardo writes, “The soul seems to reside, to be seated in that part where all the senses meet, called the sensus communis, and is not all-pervading throughout the body, as many have thought. Rather it is entirely in one part.”

The work, developed by F.M. Alexander seems, almost mysteriously, connected to Leonardo’s insights. But Alexander went a step further. He evolved a way, through touch, of helping others to experience this center in themselves.

Here, in these images, you can see people coming into contact with their sensus communis, you can see them residing in a place where the soul sits, in peace.

 

Meditations On The Sensory World

DaVinci's Sensus Communis

DaVinci’s Sensus Communis

There are three senses most of us know little about.  They’re rarely acknowledged or consciously cultivated. They’re vital to us and we could not live without them. They’re senses that tell us more about ourselves than about the world. We learn hardly anything about them in school, not even their names. Perhaps we don’t know much about them because, long ago, many religions began to belittle the body, sometimes to the point of perceiving the body as vile, even demonic. The spirit and the body were divorced.  The spirit was higher and holy, the body lower and lowly. The spirit was etherial and eternal, the body material and transitory. That which was material was of less worth, soulless, and those who took care of and nurtured the material world also were of less worth, and therefore subject to exploitation.

Perhaps we don’t know much about these three senses because our modern world is greatly influenced by the scientific model, which often concerns itself, brilliantly so, with the observation, predictability, and control of external nature. As for arriving at objective knowledge of subjective experience, science finds itself on shakier ground.  To add to the confusion, secular society has virtually deified what I refer to as “the cosmetic body”, encouraging a preoccupation with how we look. This draws attention away from appreciating how our bodies work. The cosmetic body distracts us from noticing and feeling what our real bodies do for us, how devoted they are to us, how they continually serve us, how they do everything within their power to keep us alive.

Our institutions of learning lack the knowledge and the sophistication needed to educate our children about how their bodies work, how to take care of them, how to use them, how to respect them, and how to love them. Fortunately, as adults, we can choose to round out our education.

The three senses I have spent a lifetime studying, the intrapersonal senses, are the kinesthetic sense, proprioception, and the tactile sense. These senses tell us about where we are, and how it feels to us to be doing what we are doing, as we are doing it. Neurologists and physical, speech, and occupational therapists know a good bit about these senses, because when these senses are impaired, like when a person has a major stroke, or a severe spinal injury, everyone knows life is going to get seriously challenging. People get acutely disoriented, often depressed. They can’t do a lot of things they took for granted, like knowing where their limbs are, or being able to lift an arm, or hold a fork, or speak, or balance.  Neurologists and therapists will then work, as best they can, to restore these senses. God bless them for what they do, day in and day out.

We are taught that touch is one of the five senses that tell us about the world. This is true. But it has a dual function. Touch tells us both about the world and about ourselves, because all touch is mutual, 100% of the time. The fact that we perceive ourselves as touching things in the world, without sensing that whatever we are touching is touching us back, (giving us information about ourselves), is due to how we are educated, to the almost exclusive value we place on the external world to the neglect of  intrapersonal life. Touch is our unifying sense, the sense of togetherness, of closeness, of intimacy, of connection, of kinship with the world, of union and communion.

So, what would happen if we took people with adequate tactile, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive senses, and trained these senses to function at exceptionally high levels, at extraordinarily high levels? What if these senses became, accurate, reliable, open, refined, awakened? How would we experience the world? What would it feel like to be alive?

What if we then trained people to be able to simultaneously use those senses that tell them about themselves; kinesthesia, proprioception, and touch, with those senses that tell them about the world: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch? What if all the “inlets” were open?

…for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this Age.

William Blake

What if we could create sensory consonance within ourselves? What if we could become synesthetes? What if we did discover what DaVinci longed to discover, the Senses Communis, the union of the senses, the seat of the soul?

If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to us as it is… infinite.

William Blake

As Alexander teachers, let us not aim too low. As important as bodies are, as debilitating as bad backs can be, let us remember the breadth, the width of Alexander’s work. Let’s take this task upon ourselves, and educate ourselves accordingly.

 

 

Masters of Gravity – Kan Sensei and Michael Sensei

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Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “You cannot know one religion unless you know two.” I’d say the same when it comes to somatically-based practices as well. I forged a career as an Alexander Technique teacher, but I delved deeply into Tai Chi, Aikido, and Chanoyu. I became able to look at the Alexander Technique not only from the inside out, but from the outside in as well.

Two people I have learned a lot from were both trained in the Rolfing tradition. It so happens they also trained with me. But they went on to synthesize their knowledge in ways that have been illuminating and helpful to me, and to many others. I would like to introduce these two guys to you.

Kan-Sensei

Kan may be the only person in Japan who is a certified Rolfer, Alexander Technique teacher, and Feldenkrais Practitioner. He’s a hidden treasure that few people find. Twenty years ago, I trained Kan to be an Alexander teacher. Now I am happy to say that Kan is my sensei. Every week we exchange work. Every week I leave his studio feeling comfortable and free, full of fresh insights into how my body is designed to work.

Because Kan’s an Alexander teacher, his own coordination is excellent and he knows how to make deep contact without using excessive force. His hands are firm but at the same time very soft. Nonintrusive. Being a Rolfer, Kan gets in there and reorganizes my body into better balance. Then, through his Feldenkrais training, he knows what movement patterns I need to play with to re-enforce my new found integration.

If you live in Japan, and you want to get your body comfortable and back into better balance, and especially if you are an Alexander trainee or teacher, I strongly suggest working with Kan.

I love learning from my students. It’s kind of like a parent who raises a child, and then that child grows up and helps out his parents. That’s how it feels.

Kan is a real gift.

https://www.facebook.com/kan.nishioka?fref=ts

Michael- Sensei

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Michael-sensei took a workshop with me some 25 or 30 years ago and could not understand how I got the changes I did in people without using any force. Being trained in Structural Integration, he didn’t know that was possible. He made a commitment then and there to study with me. He would come to a 5-day event, stay for 3 days, come up to me looking overwhelmed, and then leave. For the next six months Michael would assimilate, on his own, what he had learned and then six months later return again for another 3 days.  He knew how he learned best. I respected that. He told everyone he wasn’t in a hurry. Said he was in the 20-year program. He was. Twenty years later he emerged as one of my most creative and talented students ever to graduate the Alexander Alliance.

Essentially Michael Mazur figured out how to give Rolfing sessions with people standing up rather than lying down. He learned how to harness gravity and get it dropping beautifully through people’s bones into the ground. And he could do this with hands that no longer needed to use force. He worked from the ground up and not from the top down, which was a revelation to us at the Alexander Alliance. Michael was tapping into ground support by working from the bottom up. When working from the top down, we were tapping into uprighting reflexes and mechanisms that created support through suspension. Both were invaluable.

Michael spends half the year teaching just outside of Amherst, Massachusetts, then in December he heads down to Palm Beach, Florida where he spends the other half of the year teaching, but mostly enjoying himself, which he is good at. Michael is fun. Oh yes, Michael makes his way to Germany once a year and teaches for Alexander Alliance Alumni and for others interested in his way of working.

So if you live in America or Europe I suggest making your way to Michael-sensei. And if you live in Japan, then I’d get on the Hankyu and get off at Nishinomiya Kitaguchi, and introduce yourself to Kan Nishioka.

http://www.alexandertechniquepalmbeach.com/about-us/
https://www.facebook.com/michael.b.mazur?fref=ts

The World In A Dewdrop

Photo: B. Fertman

Photo: B. Fertman

It’s uncanny. You start working with a person doing some simple activity, like eating an apple. You slow it all down. You give someone a chance to sense how they’re doing what they’re doing as they’re doing it. “Well, what do you notice,” you ask. They say, “I’m biting off more than I can chew.” The bell goes off. There’s nothing you have to say. There it is, his whole life in one action. He gets it.

A person walks to the door, opens it, and leaves the room. Simple enough. I invite her to return. “Well, what did you notice,” I say. She says, I don’t know. I saw the door handle, felt the door open, felt myself leaving. My eyes were cast down. Something sad about the whole thing.”

“Very good”, I say. “You’re waking up.” This time see the whole room you’re in before you leave, and everything and everyone in it. Say to yourself, thank you and mean it. Walk to the door, open it, and as you are crossing the threshold, linger there between two worlds. Sense how leaving is entering. Let your eyes take in the space you’re about to enter. Just this time, don’t look down and see what happens.”

As I make this suggestion to my student, the bell goes off, for me. Yes, every lesson is for me. Every life is my life. Everyone in everyone. The whole world in every dewdrop.

Sometimes movement is just movement, and sometimes movement is metaphor. Sometimes movement means something, something important. Something about our lives and how we live them.

This passage from Where This Path Begins is one example of how I have attempted to convey Lao Tzu’s insights through the workings of the body. The goal? Always, always to get to the heart, to the heart of the matter.

Twenty-Four

You’re Too Much

Arms are limbs for your hands.
Arms fold and unfold.  They raise and lower.
They don’t like to be stiffened or over-straightened.
If something is beyond your reach, get closer, or do without it.
Why strain?

Clutching, grabbing, gripping, grasping.
Why hold on to things so tightly?

Legs are limbs for your feet.
Over-stride and your heels will strike against the ground.
Your back will tire. Your feet will ache.
Why get ahead of yourself?

Puff up your chest, and your lower back will tighten.
Your shoulder blades will narrow.
Your nose will stick up in the air.
Look down on others, and they will not look up to you.

Talk too much and you will lose your voice.
Why over explain?

Too much is too much.

Where This Path Begins by Bruce Fertman

Just Between Us

Photo: B. Fertman

Photo: B. Fertman

It’s crowded. The waitress finds us a corner table. I watch Erika quickly size up the situation. She sees there’s not a lot of room around the table and proceeds straight away to slide through a rather small space into one of the chairs, no small feat given Erika is in her mid-eighties.  I squeeze, not quite as gracefully, into the chair next to Erika. Some pretty big, jovial people live in Australia, and a few of them happen to be sitting at the tables next to us. Still, we’re happy to have gotten what appears to be the last table.

Christine’s looking around too, but it seems she’s looking for where there is the most space. Sure enough she sits down in the one chair that is not butting up either against the wall nor next to a chair occupied by one of our large, husky fellows. Barbara takes the remaining chair.

Christine still feels as if she hasn’t enough space. She moves her chair back, further away from the table and proceeds to sit on the very edge of the chair, legs apart, perfectly upright, as if she’s about to begin meditating. Christine’s an Alexander Technique teacher, and a very skilled one at that. In fact, all of us teach Alexander’s work, Erika having begun studying with Alexander when she was eight years old.

In contrast to Christine, I notice that Erika’s chair is drawn up almost as close to the table as possible. She’s comfortably leaning back into the chair. Rather than taking the most space, Erika created the most space around her as possible.

Four tall glasses of water balance precariously upon a tray which a shy, young boy is carrying over  to our table. He’s not sure how to get around Christine’s chair. He decides to cut left around the table, doesn’t see the leg of Christine’s chair sticking out, trips, miraculously managing to prevent the shaky glasses full of water from toppling. He feels terrible about it. I get this feeling it’s his first day on the job. He apologizes profusely. Erika praises him on his stunning recovery, coaxing a slight smile from his sweet face.

Christine pauses for a split second, perturbed that this boy had interrupted her account of an Alexander lesson she had recently given.

My eye catches Erika’s eye. She smiles at me.  Silently, I thank Erika for her exemplary way of teaching without teaching.  She heard it, I’m sure.

Commentary.

In the Alexander Work we sometimes speak of the relationship between parts of the body, the relation of the head to the neck, or the relation between the ribs and the arm structure, or the relation between the hips joints and the sacrum.

As Alexander teachers we rarely ask a person to notice a part of their body in isolation. We teach our students how to perceive themselves “relationally.” We’re after a harmonious orchestration of parts into a symphonic whole. This “unified sound” is the product of a myriad of instruments all attuned one to the other.

What if our work extended beyond our “little body”, into the world, into our “big body.” What would happen if we perceived our body/self as just one little part of a larger body/self? What would the operational principles be for integrating into the larger body/self? How do we help make our big body/self comfortable, peaceful, and lively? How can we distribute support and freedom equally throughout the entire body/self, so that no one part is given less attention than any other?

It might be worthwhile to extend Alexander’s concept of “use” beyond our individual selves. What if we were attending to our collective use, our immediate social body, as was Erika during our dinner together? Isn’t the waiter as important as anyone else? Wasn’t he part of who we were that evening?

Our souls dwell where our inner world and the outer world meet.  Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.  The soul is found, not within, but between. 

Novalis