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Tim Soar’s Review of Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart for STAT News

It has been over 40 years since I first began studying with Marjorie Barstow, and this fact reminds me of a teaching story.

Within the tradition of Chanoyu, Japanese tea ceremony, it is said that for the first 10 years a student should learn to do everything exactly the way his teacher does. In the second 10 years the student should continue to do everything exactly the way his teacher does, but should begin to wonder why his teacher does what he does the way he does it. In the third decade, the student should begin to change ever so slightly how he does what he does to suit who he is as a person.  And in the fourth decade, his way should be a different from his teachers as night is from day.

And so it was and is for me now. I am as different from Marj as night is from day. My vocabulary is not the same. I use my hands very differently. My way of relating to people is as warm as Marj’s way was cool. My pedagogy as a teacher trainer is as formal as Marj’s was informal. And yet, at the same time, there remains something quintessentially Marj inside of me. I pass on her sayings, her spirit, her understanding of Alexander’s work. I do my best to inspire others the way Marj inspired me.

Tim Soar begins his review referencing Michael Frederick’s description of me as “one of the foremost representatives of Marjorie Barstow’s lineage.” He goes on to note that his experience of now-senior teachers who apprenticed with Marjorie Barstow is that they are as diverse in their approaches to the Work as were the first generation teachers who trained with F.M.

marj-bruce-sword

With all do respect and love for Marj, my work is now, for better and worse, only my work. No one else’s. Yes, I am part of the Alexander/Barstow lineage, but I cannot claim to represent Marj’s way of working. How Alexander taught is gone forever, and how Marj taught is gone forever. That is the way of it, and the way it should be.

The work continues.

Here’s Tim’s review. Enjoy.

Review of Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart

Tim Soar

Pubished in STAT News, May 2018

Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart offers the reader a “fly on the wall” view of Bruce Fertman’s very particular way of teaching the Alexander Technique. Michael Frederick’s comment on the back cover describes Bruce as “one of the foremost representatives of Marjorie Barstow’s lineage”, but in my experience the now-senior teachers who trained with Marjorie Barstow are at least as diverse in their approaches to the Work as were the first generation teachers who trained with FM. In any case, although Bruce acknowledges “Marj” as his principal mentor, he points out that he also learned from four other first generation teachers, whose differences he clearly values. Whatever the reader’s previous experience, there is much of value to be found in this book, perhaps particularly for teachers who would like to develop their work with groups beyond the introductory level, towards mixed ability, more advanced, or specialised audiences. Bruce makes the most convincing case that I have come across for the positive advantages of learning the Alexander Technique in a group setting.

Part One: The Work at Hand, sets out the field of enquiry – the subject matter of the Alexander Technique: Choice, Primary Control, Sensory Appreciation, Use, Non-Interference … all presented in Bruce’s own vocabulary. One particularly telling example of which is the idea not of “misusing” oneself, but of “mistreating” oneself, with all the ethical impact of that word fully intended.

Part Two: Student Centred Teaching, leads the reader anecdotally through a large number of individual lessons, either one-to-one or in group settings. Some of these lessons last a whole chapter, others just a few sentences. This format gives a lively “person-centred” way of presenting the almost endless scope of our Work, in a way that hardly ever finds its way into print.

The illustrations are unusual – avoiding the conventional “head back and down”, “head forward and up” illustrations. The nearest thing to that is a photo of a cowboy wrestling a steer (you have to read it …). The other illustrations are split mostly three ways: firstly, very characteristic photos of Bruce working with students in workshop settings; secondly, half a dozen illustrations from Albinus on Anatomy, the series of beautiful, accurate, lively, whimsical-but-layered-with-meaning anatomical engravings published in 1747, which Bruce uses as a primary source for his anatomical and body mapping work, and thirdly, and perhaps most compellingly (the handful of colour-printed pages of the book are reserved for this third category), art illustrations: paintings, sculpture, a thrown pot, landscapes … One of the main ideas here is that we do not tend look at a Renaissance painting, or a sculpture of a human figure in a way that emphasises postural criticism. On the subject of criticism, Bruce quotes Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field; I’ll meet you there”. Instead we see what the figure, through its implied movements and reactions, expresses. Bruce suggests – and this seems to me to be the absolute epicentre of his teaching – that we would do well to learn to look at people as we look at works of art: to see the beauty before the body-mechanics, and to empathise with (and thereby become able to help) a person’s Use by seeing how they express themselves.

Because of the structure of the book as a series of vignettes, a lot of ground is covered quickly, and it is not possible for me to list them all. However, I shall choose three particular themes that seem to me to be characterise Bruce’s understanding of the Work, and which I personally found to be good. Firstly, he does not try to make it easy. He says (in understatement) that the Alexander Technique needs “practice”, that a good teacher has, necessarily, to be “living the work every day”, and that “This road is longer than any one person’s life”. Secondly, he is a dyed-in-the-wool non-dualist. He does not talk about “how we use our bodies”, neither (more subtly) does he talk about the “mind body connection” (which always seems to me like approaching psychophysical unity from an essentially dualist perspective, unnecessarily making a simple thing complicated). Instead he simply and straightforwardly treats each person as a whole. This gives his work access – when appropriate – to a student’s emotional life in a straightforward and unforced way, as a natural aspect of their Use, and very much part of what we, as teachers, are there for. For example, he is likely to ask a student who says that he wants to relax, “How do you know you are not relaxed?” to which the student replies “I feel nervous.” This then opens the way to the psychophysical subject matter of the lesson. It’s as simple (and profound) as that. Thirdly, he places great emphasis on learning to use one’s senses in a skilled and healthy way, asking “What would happen if we were able to go from having adequate tactile, kinaesthetic and proprioceptive senses, to having extraordinary tactile, kinaesthetic and proprioceptive senses?”. “Feeling” is not, for him, a word to be avoided, or the exclusive polar opposite of “thinking”. Right at the beginning of the book he tells us of a conversation with an anaesthetist: “You say to people, you’re not going to feel a thing, and I say to people, you are about to feel everything.” In one chapter Bruce suggests a series of sensory investigations, meditations, Directions – I don’t know what to call them – leading the experimenter towards more subtle and more colourful sensory experiences. An important extension of this thinking is that humans-sensing-other-humans is a vital part of life – “To be means to be with other people.” – and an essential part of the Alexander Technique. Interestingly, for a teacher who does so much of his work in groups, individual hands on work is very central to his teaching. He clearly thinks of Alexander work essentially as partner-work, with all the subtle and paradoxical give and take of leading-in-order-to-follow, and following-in-order-to-lead that subtle partner work always embodies (one chapter tells the story of a lesson with an accomplished Tango couple), and he understands what he sometimes calls “high touch” (exemplified by the best Alexander hands on work) as one of the highest expressions of our shared humanity: “Touch … is our sense of togetherness, of closeness, of intimacy, of union and communion.”

Bruce freely uses stories, autobiography, quoted aphorisms, illustrations, poetic language and a wide range of metaphors to set the scene and to make his points, and this is surely the only Alexander book with a Japanese glossary! In writing such a book, the author is necessarily just guessing at a reader’s connection with a particular image – unlike presenting ideas in a workshop situation where communication is two-way. I imagine that each reader will have their own spectrum of recognition: some points seeming no more than common sense, others interesting and informative, some concepts may be outside their experience, and others still, less attractive – metaphors that simply don’t work for them. That is the risk, consciously taken, in writing a book that seeks to convey the flavour of a very personal experience. For me, it is interesting to think that each reader’s spectrum will, most likely, align itself with quite different themes and images in the book.

The greatest strength perhaps of this new addition to our bibliography is that it clearly and repeatedly shows us (as we as teachers and committed trainees naturally already know) that “Alexander’s work, when it works, can work miracles; quiet, little miracles that can change a person’s life forever.”

 

Available Now. Bruce’s Book!

What People Are Saying About Bruce’s Book

This is a book that we have needed for a long time — the only AT book I’ve come across that fully expresses the potential for human richness, depth, and contact that can be found in what we do.

Marcus Sly – Alexander Teacher – West Sussex, UK

“Masterful. This brilliantly insightful collection of essays is a graceful and generous narration of Fertman’s own experience in learning and teaching the Alexander Technique. Fertman has a real gift for highlighting the delicate nuances and uplifting depths within the practice of Alexander’s work. The volume is eminently engaging and the author’s quite remarkable perspicuity and empathy with his students shine throughout. Very highly recommended – it’s a true treasure trove.”

Amazon Customer Review

Bruce’s writing is full of emotion – love, peace, joy, sadness, curiosity, but quite remarkably, he manages to express this emotion deeply, beautifully and without sentimentality. He sees past the mundane collection of heads, necks and bodies that the technique starts with; past the next layer of how the student makes life choices; and right into the intrinsic emotional core of who the student is. His stories and images draw us into his classes, and then almost without realizing it, we are learning alongside his students. A book to savour and delight in.

Karen Evans – Alexander Teacher – Ashby-de-la-Zouch, UK

This book is full of people, full of life. Bruce’s teaching has become an expression of who he is.

Jacek Kaleta – Alexander Teacher – Tychy, Poland

I love Bruce’s book – every page is a lesson. I love how it’s a conversation, making it so alive and personal to each reader. It’s the first book I’ve ever wanted not only to suggest to, but even work through with a student.

Annie Davenport Turner – Alexander Teacher – Mere, Wiltshire, UK

—————————————–

Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart is a book about people, about liking people, listening to people, seeing people, nurturing people, talking to people and touching people. It’s about teaching without teaching. It’s about how create conducive conditions for learning from the inside out.

Elie Wiesel writes, ‘We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.’

Here I share with you universes and within them secrets, treasures, anguish, and triumphs.

In this book you will find a few of the most popular posts on this blog which, due to publishing rights and regulations, are no longer available on this blog.

For some of you this book will serve as an introduction to Alexander’s work. May it lead you to teachers who will accompany you along your way.

For those of you who have found your teachers, this book may motivate you to take the work ever more to heart, to delve into the depth and breadth of the work.

And for those of you who are Alexander trainees and fellow teachers, may this book embolden you to take the work beyond the body into the realm of being, and beyond movement into the world of meaning.

May this book remind you of all that is worth loving inside the work of F. M. Alexander.

I hope you will read this book and then, please, write to me and tell me what it was like to read it, what if anything you learned or understood, how in any way, if in any way it shed light on your understanding of Alexander’s work, on being an Alexander teacher, or most importantly on what it means to be a human being living a life.

A very limited number of hardback editions are available.

FER018PE7.1000px

 

www.mouritz.co.uk

or you can get it from

amazon.co.uk

Thanks,

Bruce Fertman

USA – ANNUAL ALEXANDER ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL SUMMER RETREAT

Robyn Avalon is, no doubt, one of the most remarkable teachers I’ve had the pleasure to know and learn from. Though once a student of mine, some 30 years ago, Robyn now serves as the co-director of the Alexander Alliance International as well as being the director of her own training program, based in Portland, Oregon. Her school is an Alexander Alliance affiliated school and is called the  Contemporary Alexander School, CAS.

Here in this beautiful documentary, (now about 10 years old), you get a glimpse of Robyn’s indelible spirit, of her joy and exuberance for Alexander’s work. She is unabashedly unconventional while at the same time committed to imparting the essence of Alexander’s work to her students. She is at once lighthearted and serious, spontaneous and disciplined, expansive and grounded.

You also get to feel how Robyn, Sakiko, Midori and I work in concert, all of us directors of Alexander Alliance affiliated schools.

This year, because of the Alexander Congress taking place in Chicago, we will not be hosting our Annual Alexander Alliance Summer Retreat, but will again in 2019. If you would like to know more write to Robyn at robyn@contemporaryalexander.com

Enjoy this video. It’s wonderful. Don’t be fooled by the cover photo. Must see if I can figure out how to change that!

Available Now – Bruce’s Book!

Another book on the Alexander Technique? Not really. Yes, secondarily it is a book about Alexander’s work as interpreted and expressed through me. In Part One I do lead people into Alexander’s work via different doors. We enter Alexander’s world through sport, ecology, anatomy, sensory life, social biology, theology, psychology, metaphysics, mysticism, and art.

But primarily Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart is a book about people, about liking people, listening to people, seeing people, nurturing people, talking to people and touching people. It’s about teaching without teaching. It’s about how create conducive conditions for learning from the inside out.

Elie Wiesel writes, ‘We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.’

Here I share with you universes and within them secrets, treasures, anguish, and triumphs.

In this book you will find a few of the most popular posts on this blog which, due to publishing rights and regulations, are no longer available on this blog.

For some of you this book will serve as an introduction to Alexander’s work. May it lead you to teachers who will accompany you along your way.

For those of you who have found your teachers, this book may motivate you to take the work ever more to heart, to delve into the depth and breadth of the work.

And for those of you who are Alexander trainees and fellow teachers, may this book embolden you to take the work beyond the body into the realm of being, and beyond movement into the world of meaning.

 

May this book remind you of all that is worth loving inside the work of F. M. Alexander.

I hope you will read this book and then, please, write to me and tell me what it was like to read it, what if anything you learned or understood, how in any way, if in any way it shed light on your understanding of Alexander’s work, on being an Alexander teacher, or most importantly on what it means to be a human being living a life.

A very limited number of hardback editions are available.

For the next two weeks you can buy Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart at a discounted price at:

www.mouritz.co.uk

or you can get it from

amazon.co.uk

Thanks,

Bruce Fertman

 

 

Hot Off The Press – Available Now!

Oh no, another book on the Alexander Technique!

No, not really. Yes, secondarily it is a book about Alexander’s work as interpreted and expressed through me. In Part One I do lead people into Alexander’s work via different doors. We enter Alexander’s world through sport, ecology, anatomy, sensory life, social biology, theology, psychology, metaphysics, mysticism, and art.

But primarily Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart is a book about people, about liking people, listening to people, seeing people, nurturing people, talking to people and touching people. It’s about teaching without teaching. It’s about how to create the conducive conditions in which learning can happen, from the inside out.

Elie Wiesel writes, ‘We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.’

Here I share with you universes and within them secrets, treasures, anguish, and triumphs.

In this book you will find a few of the most popular posts on this blog which, due to publishing rights and regulations, are no longer available on this blog.

For some of you this book will serve as an introduction to Alexander’s work. May it lead you to teachers who will accompany you along your way.

For those of you who have found your teachers, this book may motivate you to take the work ever more to heart, to delve into the depth and breadth of the work.

And for those of you who are Alexander trainees and fellow teachers, may this book embolden you to take the work beyond the body into the realm of being, and beyond movement into the world of meaning.

May this book remind you of all that is worth loving inside the work of F. M. Alexander.

I hope you will read this book and then, please, write to me and tell me what it was like to read it, what if anything you learned or understood, how in any way, if in any way it shed light on your understanding of Alexander’s work, on being an Alexander teacher, or most importantly on what it means to be a human being living a life.

A very limited number of hardback editions are available.

Book goes on sale on February 25, 2018 and can be purchased by going to:

www.mouritz.co.uk

Bruce Fertman

 

 

Redirecting Unnecessary Tension Into Useful Energy – An Introduction to the Alexander Technique with Robyn Avalon and Bruce Fertman – July 28th, 2018 – Iowa City, Iowa.

archer close up

Photo: B. Fertman

What is the Alexander Technique?

Whether we are dancing, hammering a nail, working at a computer, singing an aria, or walking to the store we possess an inherent capacity to move naturally. Moving naturally promotes ease, flexibility, power and expressiveness.

Unwittingly, we often interfere with our anatomical design. Energy, poise, and ease give way to effort, tension and fatigue.

The Alexander Technique gives us a working knowledge of the principles governing human coordination. The Alexander Technique teaches us how to be, at once, relaxed and ready, soft and strong, light and substantial, firm and flexible. Through study, we become capable of redirecting excessive effort into useful energy.  Becoming more effortlessly upright, we also find ourselves coming down to the ground, to a place where we can function simply, comfortably and appreciatively.

For Whom is this Workshop?

This workshop is for two groups of people. One, for people wanting to be introduced to the Alexander Technique, and two, for people who directly use their hands in their work to help people: physical and occupational therapists, bodyworkers, movement teachers, nurses and hospice workers. F.M. Alexander evolved a way of using his hands that effortlessly and powerfully brought people into contact with their innate coordination and support. Upon first experiencing such a touch it seems magical but in fact, it is not. It is technical and learnable.

It is not everyday that two internationally renowned Alexander teachers give a workshop in Iowa City. Please consider joining us and taking advantage of this opportunity.

Anita Mischuk – Alexander Technique Teacher, Iowa City.

About Bruce Fertman

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

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, Austria, and America.

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

About Robyn Avalon

Lyra Butler-Denman and 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.

Workshop Details:

When: July 28th, 2018 from 10am until 6pm.

Where: East-Westschool of Integrative Healing Arts, 2711 Muscatine Ave., Iowa City, IA

Cost: $150, early registration by June 1st. After June 1st, $200. Full-time students – $150.

How to Register: People can register with me, Anita Mischuk: anita@atmw.us, phone: 319-535-0510.

 

 

 

Not Yours. Not Mine.

Not in a place, not in a space,
Not a person, not a thing,
Not a ping or a pong,
Not the soundless sounding of a gong.
Not a word, surely not absurd.

Don’t look.
You’ll not come across it in a book.

Don’t seek,
And you will find,
It is not yours, not mine.

It has no foes, woes, or toes.
There – off it goes!

It hates to sit.
Does not come in a kit.
Some think it illegit.
About to quit?

It’s a zone…where you are not alone.
It’s a ball…floating through us all.
It’s a climate…of refinement.
It’s a breeze…full of ease.

It’s changeable as the weather.
Totally untethered, soft as a feather,
Like a field of heather.

Nowhere does it dwell.
It’s like a well, but without the well.
Well, well, well…impossible to tell.

It is…it is…it is.