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A Place Where Any Alexander Teacher Can…


Photo: B. Fertman – Wheeler Peak, NM.

A place where any alexander teacher can post an announcement or flyer promoting themselves as an AT teacher, their work, their website, their blog, their studio, upcoming classes, workshops, retreats, or trainings.

That’s the first goal.

Here is why it’s important that we have a place for this.

Most of us want to succeed at what we want to do, which is teaching AT. The only way to get really good at something is to practice it a lot. So, if we want to become good at teaching AT, we have to have students with whom to practice. Without students we can’t practice, and without practice we can’t get good, and if we are not good…well, you see where I am going. Without students, becoming the AT teacher we always wanted to be never gets off the ground.

Okay. We need to get students with whom we can practice. How do we do that? How can this group be of help to us, that is, how can we be of help to one another? That is really the question at hand.

Here’s how.

One. A person places an announcement or flyer onto the site.

Two. We read it.

Three. We decide, for whatever reasons, that we would like to support this person in their effort, or not.

Four. If we want to help this person, we share her/his announcement on our timeline and write some words of support. Perhaps we send it directly to a few people whom we think may be especially interested in this person and what they have to offer.

By doing so we may have just helped a fellow Alexander teacher, whose work we value, get a student, which means getting a chance to practice, which means getting closer to becoming the AT teacher they always wanted to be.

Now For The Second Goal

If we would like to help this person further, we can decide to give this aspiring AT teacher some constructive feedback. Tell them what we liked about their presentation of themselves and their work. We can tell them what didn’t work for us and why. Perhaps we can offer one or two suggestions, keeping in our hearts that the goal is to foster growth and success in each and every AT teacher.

Goal Three

To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.  – Taisen Deshimaru

Why not collectively gather actual material that we are comfortable giving away, material any AT teacher could use to help them get students?

For example, someone’s written a definition of the technique they really like and think may be helpful to other teachers. Why not let others use it?  Or someone finds an incredible photo of a beautiful athlete or artist. Or an essay that someone’s just written that is geared toward musicians or psychologists or runners. Or a testimonial from some famous person. Or a quote from a poet, philosopher, or theologian that speaks to Alexander principles like inhibition, or end-gaining, or unlearning, or non-doing, or sensory appreciation. Or some new software or program that might help us reach more people.

Practical, usable material. Free for the taking, always with one eye on the prize, and that is….getting more students, so that we can practice, so that we can get good at what we want to get good at, so that we can become the AT teacher we always wanted to be.

My First Official Offering

Writing a sound definition of the Alexander Technique has been, for me, like Jacob wrestling with the Angel. A holy ordeal. Every year I would go back to the drawing board, some years tweaking this word or that word, other years throwing everything out and starting from scratch.

Here are two attempts I found dating back over 30 years. Yep, I’ve been at this for a while.

I offer these up to our Alexander Community At Large with a deep sense of fellowship. Use them. Don’t use them. Change them, improve on them. Share your definitions with us.

Attempt One


We are designed for movement. Whether we are dancing, hammering a nail, riding a horse, working at a computer, or singing an aria, we possess an inherent capacity to move naturally. Naturalness encourages ease, flexibility, power, and expressiveness. Unwittingly, we often interfere with our natural design. Energy, delight, and grace give way to effort, tension, and fatigue.

The Alexander Technique offers us a working knowledge of the underlying principles governing human coordination. Through study we learn how to redirect excessive tension into useful energy. We learn how to be at once relaxed and ready, soft and strong, light and substantial, firm and flexible, awake to ourselves and to the world around us.

Attempt Two




…to relieve, lighten, set free


…freedom from stiffness and rigidity

…pliancy of mind and disposition


…the degree of firmness proper to the tissues of the body

in a strong and healthy condition


…such relation between the parts of a thing

as renders the whole harmonious


…the opportunity for breathing again


…quickness and acuteness of apprehension and feeling


…the capacity for motion

…boldness and vigor of conception and execution




On A Good Day


Joanna Macy, a Buddhist scholar and deep ecologist, and I were teaching at Omega Institute on the same week. Unbeknownst to me she peeked into one of my classes.

Just before the end of our time there Joanna came up to me and told me she had watched one of my classes. She said, “I watched how, under your hands, one person after another stood up like a standing wave. If I were to give you your Native American name, I’d call you Standing Wave,” she said, her lucid, loving light blue eyes, shining like sunlight upon the ocean.

She went on her way. I never saw her again.

These images by Ray Collins are how people feel under my hands, that is, on a good day. On a good day there is nothing I have to do. The ocean within people does it for me, and for them.

What we speak of as ‘direction’ in the Alexander Technique, I now experience in myself and others, not as geometric in nature, but rather as hydrodynamic.

Feast on these moving images.

The Infinite Now – The Cinemagraphs of Ray Collins from Ray Collins on Vimeo.

A Birthday Present To Myself

36 color copy

Photo: B. Fertman

Though not completely finished, I decided to get my reconstructed blog back up and running. My apologies for anyone who tried to enter and couldn’t get in. I have yet to organize my videos within logical categories and to fill in my new Alexander Alliance calendar.

If you’d like to give me a birthday present, take a moment to look at my new structure for the Alexander Alliance International and tell me if you like it better. Does it allow you better to find what interests you. Let me know about the look of it. Which photos work for you? Which ones don’t. Weird captions sometimes appear, and I still have to change most of them. I think it is really cool how you can click on one photo in the mosaic of photos and enjoy each full size photo, one at a time. And there is an amazing random feature I am using. Every time you refresh the page the mosaic is on, the photos rearrange themselves, often much more artistically than I can do manually. And of course sometimes not. If you have any suggestions for how I might improve the blog, let me know that too. I am also wondering what would be best to post on my revolving images at the top of the blog. Suggestions welcomed.

Living our work is privilege and a delight. Documenting it and making it available has always also been enjoyable for me. Finding the words and metaphors that ring true and deep. Capturing the moments when both teacher and student are unveiled and their natural beauty visible for all to see.

Thank you for all the kind birthday wishes.





There’s a good bit of writing I’ve shared here with my readers over the last few years, some of it dating back 30 years, some of it written last week. The best way to read my writings is to look to the right of the page and click on Categories.

A long list will appear. Simply click on something that interests you: anatomy, beauty, touch, breathing, walking, teaching, aging, the alexander technique, etc.

Or type in a word like inhibition or direction, or a person like Marjorie Barstow or Erika Whittaker and see what comes up. If you’d like to stay abreast of my current writings, choose to follow my blog. That’s what 2400 people are doing, which never ceases to amaze me.

Just click on Sign Up. It’s really easy.




Dear Blog Followers,

Bear with me as I improve my blog for you.

If you’d like to contact me for any reason you can do so at or via facebook.

Should resurface soon,



Letter To The Editor


Teaching By Hand/Learning By Heart

Delving Into The Work Of F.M. Alexander


Bruce Fertman


Letter to the Editor:


This makes me nervous, but I now send you my finished manuscript.

It is complete. Nothing missing. Nothing extra.

This is what I think the book does.

Part One communicates to people, no matter their level, from beginners to teachers, what AT is about in ways contemporary, understandable, relevant, and meaningful. Broadly and specifically. In Part One a lot of time is spent on primary movement/pattern/control, on inhibition and direction, on freedom and choice, though often not in that language. Now, with the two pieces added this month to Part One, it also speaks at length about sensory appreciation, and it includes some thoughts on breathing that relay Alexander’s unique orientation toward the subject. Part One now makes sense to me. A person should finish reading Part One and should be clear as to what AT is about. If the reader is an AT teacher he or she should come away with a lot of new and useful language, metaphors, images, and ideas and perhaps with more courage and desire to teach the work in groups.

Part Two then gives the reader an animated, heartfelt idea of what it looks like and feels like when I work with people on all the material introduced in Part One. The reader gets to see, and almost experience, what happens when a person sticks to principle. “Stick to principle and it will all open up like a great cauliflower,” as A.R. so aptly put it. Part One is about the principles. Part Two is about the cauliflower! Yes, plain, healthy, natural beauty.

The book as a whole also introduces me to the readers, not just my ideas, but who I am as a person and as an Alexander teacher, the two inseparably intertwined. In this way it is very much autobiographical, spanning a 55 year career. It is my hope the book may be, in part, inspirational to some younger AT teachers.

It is satisfying to have completed it.  It’s a bit like finishing a long, good novel, having read the last page and closed the book. There’s a gentle sadness and a deep joy. Yes I did it. I finished it. I like it. Now it’s forward into a free future with open arms and an open heart.

Jean, thank you for your continual support. The ball is now in your court. Obviously, it takes a village to write a book, and you are the Mayor!





 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:


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

020 7727 7222

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.



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


£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:

To register for the workshop contact Ruth Davis at:


Phone: +44 (0) 7590 406267

To Make Payment: 


(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, or to Ruth Davis,

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

Bruce Fertman

Language And Movement by Keith Hjortshoj


Keith Hjortshoj

Keith Hjortshoj

“Writers may not be special, sensitive or talented in any usual sense. They are simply engaged in sustained use of a language skill we all have. Their ‘creations’ come about through confident reliance on stray impulses that will, with trust, find occasional patterns that are satisfying.”

William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl note1

For several years now, and in ways that continually change, I’ve been using the principles of the Alexander Technique to teach writing at Cornell University, in classes for students at all levels, and in a tutorial course I designed for writers who are contending with special difficulties, such as ‘writing blocks.’

These changes in my teaching began shortly after my wife, Marty Hjortshoj, began her training at the Alexander Foundation of Philadelphia, in 1987, and invited Bruce Fertman to give a weekend workshop in Ithaca, New York, where we live. I attended this workshop, and immediately noticed the powerful somatic changes that new students often experience. When I entered the classroom the following week, however, I felt that the principles of the Technique were still experimenting with me, and with my students as well. I was moving differently, of course, but I was also teaching differently in a deep sense that included uses of language: more slowly and calmly, with more clarity, less effort, and heightened awareness of myself and my students in that place. The students in this small, advanced writing seminar immediately responded to me and to one another in ways that were at once more lively and more relaxed.

Because I liked these changes, I tried to hold on to them, and found that the worst classes I taught often followed the best ones. The students immediately sensed some new, hidden expectation they didn’t understand, and waited for me to tell them what it was. Gradually realising that effective teaching is not a position one assumes, but a kind of movement, I continued to experiment that semester and in following years. Sometimes I noticed, for example, that all of us had become habitually frontal, as though the classroom began at the ends of our noses. Words then spilled out on to the empty expanse of the seminar table and lay there, like unclaimed property. If I got up and moved around, breaking the circle, a subtle tension would often break as well, and we could talk more easily with one another. When our presence in the classroom became more lively and open, student writing became more lively and open too: more directly and fully voiced. I still can’t explain how these connections between language and movement work, and I can’t really control them. I simply know that they are always working, for better or worse, with unfathomable complexity.

Awareness of these connections was a revelation to me, because an unwritten canon of the university suggests that we should attend to language and thought in our work and pay attention to the body elsewhere–at the health club, perhaps–or ignore it altogether until it cries out in pain. As a consequence, there are whole realms of information we routinely disregard–information not only about the use of our bodies, but also about the interactive qualities of our presence, our effects upon others, and their effects upon us. Through unconscious uses of voice and bearing, teachers can easily cause students to use language with caution and formality. Be careful! Don’t make a false move! Because we learn fear too well, these messages tend to undermine the flexibility and responsiveness that young writers retain from childhood. By the time they graduate from college, therefore, most students have learned to write in voices so habitually disguised and constrained that their own parents wouldn’t recognise them. Dissolving these layers of interference with the use of voice has become my primary goal as a teacher.

What I am rediscovering in my teaching is a kind of deep knowledge we have all possessed throughout our lives. All Alexander teachers know how freely small children use their bodies and acquire new movement skills, in response to kinaesthetic information they just absorb from their environment, like little sponges. All linguists know that small children absorb and use language like oxygen, as naturally and freely as they breathe. But we tend to forget that these extraordinary abilities develop simultaneously–in whole, integrated fields of perception and response.

When Hannah, the two-year-old who lives next door, entered our kitchen last summer on her daily visits to stalk our cat, she used to make two statements: “I want to find Babycakes. She’s my friend.” One day, then, I noticed that Hannah had begun to use subordinate clauses in complex sentences, to express causal relationships. “I want to find Babycakes,” Hannah announced, “because she’s my friend.” Knowing that Babycakes would be wasting the day in one of the second floor bedrooms, Hannah ran straight to the stairs, lengthened to grasp the railing above, and told me at each step , “I hold the rail, so I won’t fall.” Because Hannah told me what she was doing and why, I noticed that she no longer bent over and crawled onto each step with her hands on the next one.

“Oh, she’s been doing that for a month,” Marty observed, because she notices what people do with their bodies without having to be told. What Marty noticed and what I noticed, however, made little difference to Hannah, who was putting language and movement together in her own brilliantly co-ordinated fashion, in the whole of her experience, without needing any help from grammarians and Alexander teachers.

Language teachers typically believe they are working with language and thought. Alexander teachers typically believe they are working with movement and thought. But all of us are actually doing more, even if we remain oblivious to the full dimensions of our work. Like Hannah, we are using our voices and our bodies in whole fields of perception, in intricate ways that include, reach, and affect others.

When I pay attention, my students constantly teach me this lesson: that I am not just working with the written texts they produce, with the ‘skills’ they use to produce those texts, or with the structure of written English. Instead, I am always working with what Noam Chomsky called our “underlying competence”: an innately human ability to use the “hidden organising principles” of linguistic co-ordination to communicate with others. note2 If this ability represents a kind of ‘skill,’ the poet William Stafford observed, “…it is the skill we all have, something we must have learned before the age of three or four.” In writing, we can remind ourselves of our underlying competence by using the freewriting exercises that Peter Elbow–who studied the Alexander technique with Frank Pierce Jones–first described in his book Writing Without Teachers. note3

All of us can write freely, spontaneously, and continuously, if we simply stop ourselves from stopping. When we write without stopping ourselves, we are using what Elbow has called our ‘freewriting muscle’–an ability to co-ordinate language, thought, and physical movement without interference. Like the ‘primary control,’ this ‘muscle’ is what always allows writing to happen, if it happens at all, even if we habitually use this ability with self-consciousness, hesitation, confusion, or fear.

The students who have taught me the most about the connections between language and movement are the ones who experience the most interference with their ability, to the point that they feel incapable of doing what they are fully able to do. When these writers do not believe in their underlying competence, or do not trust it, the deliberate effort to orchestrate the structures of language interferes with the co-ordinated use of language, just as the deliberate, self- conscious effort to move correctly interferes with co-ordinated movement. In the embodied moment of its occurrence, writing, like walking, is a kind of falling into empty space, with faith that our ability to use language will be there to support us.

Movement into that void–across what William Stafford called “…that precious little area of confusion when I do not know what I am going to say and then I find out what I am going to say” note4–will occur only when we release ourselves into motion, not when we prepare to do so. When writers have lost faith in their own competence, therefore, they feel paralysed and disembodied in their efforts to write, and they often tell me that they have lost their ‘voices.’ If I pay attention, I can usually see the somatic effects of this effort and loss. And when these writers rediscover their voices, they find them not just on the page but also in their bodies, in the world.

With obvious discomfort, a student named Joanna was describing the agonising process of constructing academic essays for her classes when I asked her who was orchestrating this construction and when she felt that she was writing in a voice of her own. In response to this question about her voice, Joanna looked at me directly and began to cry, silently, with a sense of loss so deep and open that I was also overwhelmed. Then she said, very quietly, “I don’t think I have a voice of my own.”

After this first meeting, at the end of spring term, Joanna left my office with hope that she could resolve her difficulties with writing in the fall. But some kind of release had already occurred, and during the following summer Joanna began to solve the problem on her own–not through writing, but through dance. Joanna had been studying modern dance for several years, but she had always thought of dance movement as a set of ‘skills’ she had learned, and of dance performance as choreography: ‘written’ compositions that dancers execute with the skills they have been taught. These perceptions of dance corresponded with her ideas about writing ability: that we learn writing skills primarily in school, and then use these skills to produce compositions that conform to preconceived designs and expectations. Through the equivalent of ‘freewriting’ exercises in a dance workshop, Joanna realised that the acquisition of ‘skill’ depends upon the use of abilities we already possess. When she returned in the fall, she had already recovered her writing voice to the extent that she could describe what she had discovered:

Besides technique courses I enrolled in improvisation. The teacher led us through weeks of very specific exercises that worked with qualities, rhythms, interactions. Born out of the class was a new personal vocabulary of movement. But most remarkable was my ability to improvise to music with clarity of intent. Clarity of movement occurred when I ‘conversed’ with music not allowing time to choreograph. I achieved a continuity between my environment/audience (classmates sat and watched one another) and my self when I forgot effort and reflected the music. In light of this experience, of clearing a lot of inner space in order to dance better, I am very optimistic that having found my dancing voice I can go about exploring language as an unselfconscious way to express myself.

Joanna and I had both discovered that somatic changes can directly affect uses of language, but the opposite is also true. Linguistic co-ordination can release people into free movement. By the time Andrea, a PhD. student, came to see me about her difficulties with writing, her dissertation topic had become a conceptual labyrinth she inhabited alone and could not describe to anyone, even in a one-page statement she was supposed to submit to her thesis adviser weeks before. When she entered my office, Andrea was pale and tense, and when I asked her direct questions about her research she looked startled, cleared her throat repeatedly, and spoke in meandering, halting sentences she never completed. While she was struggling with these sentences she looked away from me and seemed to drift off into inaccessible corridors of thought.

When our second meeting continued in the same bewildering fashion, I asked Andrea just to tell me, in one complete sentence, what her dissertation was about. She froze for a moment, with a look of panic, and then slowly said, “Well. . .what I’m really trying to get across is that. . .well, I think…”

I interrupted her then and said, “No. Just finish the sentence. You said, ‘What I’m really trying to get across is that…’ Just start over, patiently, until you complete the statement.”

On the third or fourth try, Andrea did complete a statement I could understand–a powerful argument she had apparently known all along, but would not allow herself to state. More powerful, however, were the accompanying changes in Andrea. When she had completed this sentence, I noticed a great release through her whole body. She sighed, laughed, relaxed in the chair, and then became flushed and animated: full of moving blood and energy. She was also fully there with me in the room for the first time, looked at me directly, and was able to talk about her work without hesitation.

This was the beginning of an extraordinary process of recovery that continued over the following months, with effects in every aspect of Andrea’s life. I immediately asked her to write that sentence down, and over the next weekend she expanded it to a couple of pages. After her thesis adviser read her proposal, he began to give her the active support she needed from him. Because Andrea recognised that the release she had experienced was at once linguistic and somatic, she began to study the Alexander Technique with Marty while she was working with me.

Within a few weeks Andrea was writing her dissertation, two professional articles, and postdoctoral fellowship applications with a kind of ease and speed so unfamiliar that she found it almost alarming. One afternoon, when she tossed the latest chapter of her dissertation on my desk, with playful disregard, Andrea said, “I’ve decided that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” It was the kind of unpredictable statement that Alexander himself might have made to his students, to undermine the association of effort with value.

In speech, while he was teaching, Alexander freely used these interactive, intersubjective connections between language and movement. Alexander did not teach in silence, entirely with his hands. He talked constantly to his students, using the creative power of language to stimulate responses and reconstruct perceptions. Examples of Alexander’s instructions to his students demonstrate that he continually used language to dismantle misconceptions, alter perceptions, and direct movement. When the conventional meanings of words represented false categories and stimulated habitual responses, Alexander constructed un-conventional, often paradoxical statements that gave these words new meanings. Here are a few examples:

The things that don’t exist are the most difficult to get rid of.

The experience you want is in the process of getting it. If you have some thing, give it up. Getting it, not having it, is what you want.

The right thing to do would be the last thing we should do, left to ourselves, because it would be the last thing we should think it would be the right thing to do.

You all want to know if you’re right.

When you get farther on you will be right, but you won’t know it & won’t want to know if you are right. note5

Even in print these statements convey Alexander’s playful, thoughtful, unfettered use of his voice, embodied in the moment, in co-ordination with movement and in direct interaction with his students. These inventive uses of language are possible because the meanings of words are not intrinsically fixed; they become fixed, instead, within conventional patterns of usage, just as the functions of muscles become fixed in habitual patterns of movement. Language therefore moves in two senses of the term: it moves within and through syntactic structures, and it moves others to respond, within or beyond their habitual patterns of response. When Alexander’s use of language was freely co-ordinated with kinaesthetic perception and interaction, he also moved and moved his students beyond the confines of their time and culture. Because Alexander was using language to convey acute perceptions in the moment, his statements to his students do not seem dated or culture-bound. They sound as Eastern as Western, and more Post-Modern than Edwardian.

This lively quality of voice is easiest to maintain in conversation, when the language we use is fully embodied, and when it reaches the listener directly, even visibly. As Alexander realised, this sense of ease is harder to maintain in public speaking, when we feel we are performing for a potentially critical audience that does not immediately respond. In writing, a lively, embodied voice is still harder to maintain because written communication occurs across time and space, through the medium of a disembodied text. When we are writing, the reader is not there; when we read, the writer is not there. Unless we feel very close to the imaginary reader, therefore, it is extremely difficult to avoid ‘end-gaining’ in the act of writing: the effort to anticipate and control the outcome of this act.

Interference with writing ability results from that effort, which affects not only the writer, in the moment, but also the qualities of voice conveyed in the writing: the sounds and meanings of the language itself. Even across decades and continents we can hear those qualities, like the resonance of tones struck in one bell ringing in another, because we humans are linguistically tuned to similar frequencies. With linguistic information, as with kinaesthetic information, we can perceive effort, tension, and distortion as well as ease, strength, and grace. That is why so many of the words we use to describe qualities of language–fluent, poised, graceful, or awkward, stiff, ungainly–also describe qualities of movement.

When I read Alexander’s writing, I notice a lot of stiffness and posturing for the imagined audience–a kind of effort very similar, I suspect, to the posturing that once interfered with his speaking voice in performance . If I had learned of Alexander’s work only through his books, I wouldn’t have found much of relevance to my own work, because in his writing Alexander tended to ignore the roles of language, both in his teaching practice and in his conception of the self. When Alexander refers to the use of the self, he rarely includes the use of language as a medium of communication.

One reason, I suspect, is that Alexander distrusted language. In The Use of the Self, Alexander noted that “…knowledge concerned with sensory experience cannot be conveyed by the written or spoken word, so that it means to the recipient what it means to the person who is trying to convey it.” note6 In relation to sensory perception, he observed, language is often not only impoverished but misleading. The conventional, socially constructed meanings of words such as ‘head’ and ‘neck’ represented the misconception s Alexander had to overcome when he revised his map of the body. He was less inclined, however, to notice the positive ways in which he used language to bring this revision about.

In books such as Man’s Supreme Inheritance, Alexander was also trying to establish the validity of his ideas among prominent philosophers and scientists in his generation. In his effort to join the ranks of Tyler, Frazer, and Thomas Huxley, he clothed his discoveries in the ponderous formalities and sweeping generalisations of 19th century rationalists, evolutionists, and racists. In the language of positive science, Alexander describes the student as an individual “psycho-physical organism” or “human machine” that is not working properly, due to incorrect perceptions and habits. The Alexander teacher conveys correct information to this organism through “expert manipulation.” In Alexander’s literary imagination, these kinaesthetic transactions represent no less than an evolutionary force, through which enlightened Europeans might transcend both the mental deficiencies of the “savage races” and the physical afflictions created by industrial civilisation. As a writer, therefore, Alexander became a creature of his time.

Alexander no doubt believed that he was accurately describing the nature and significance of his work. But “All the damn fools in the world,” he once said to a student in a very different voice, “believe they are actually doing what they think they are doing.” I suspect that when Alexander was teaching, he was doing much more and much less than his writing tells us. In practice, language and movement were co-ordinated, interdependently, in the embodied self. This work was not only ‘psycho-physical,’ but also linguistic and intersubjective. Sensory perceptions were stimulating uses of language, which were stimulating somatic changes and new ranges of perception, not only in the individual ‘organism’ he happened to be teaching, but among all of the people present.

In relation to his practice, the weakness of Alexander’s writing does not result from the poverty of language or from the passage of time. The voices of writers can move people to awareness, action, or tears across centuries. Many passages from Alexander’s writing still ring true and illuminate his practice. Even in Alexander’s time, however, it was his teaching, not his books, that moved people in new directions. And it was Alexander’s teaching, more than his writing, that led John Dewey toward a progressive, fully integrated vision of individual development: in “…rich and manifold association with others,” Dewey wrote in The Public and Its Problems, through “…the means and ways of communication” in “…interdependent activities.” note7 This is how we still discover the richness and vitality of Alexander’s teaching afresh: through the hands, voices, perceptions, memories of his followers, resonating in the fullness of our own experience.


(1) Stafford, William, Writing the Australian Crawl, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor (1978) p.20 go back to text

(2) Chomsky, Noam, Language and Mind, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York (1968) p.14 go back to text

(3) Elbow, Peter, Writing Without Teachers, Oxford University Press, London (1973) go back to text

(4) Stafford, William, op. cit. go back to text

(5) Maisel, Edward, The Alexander Technique, The Essential Writings of F. Mattias Alexander, Carol Communications, New York (1989) pp.3-12 go back to text

(6) Alexander, F. Mattias, The Use of the Self Centerline Press (1988) p.viii go back to text

(7) Dewey, John, The Public and Its Problems, Swallow, Athens (1988) pp. 150, 155 go back to text

About The Writer
Keith Hjortshoj teaches writing and is the Director of Writing in the Majors, an interdisciplinary language and learning program at Cornell University. He is completing a book called Ease and Difficulty in Writing, based on his studies of language and movement.


Porto Workshop In The Alexander Technique For Performing Artists October 29th and 30th, 2016

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Durante mas de 100 años, la Técnica Alexander viene siendo estudiada por

los artistas con la finalidad de aprender a “utilizarse” a si propios correctamente

para alcanzar así los mejores resultados en sus actividades artísticas.

Miquel Bernat/Drumming-GP, profesor y solista de Percusión, me convidó

para impartir una introducción a la Técnica Alexander en la ciudad de Oporto

(Portugal), por tratarse de una herramienta muy útil para los bailarinos,

actores, cantores y músicos que pretendan participar en este “workshop”.

No podemos tocar cualquier instrumento, danzar, actuar, recitar o cantar

sin nuestro cuerpo. Este es también nuestro instrumento y los

instrumentos musicales son como una extensión de nuestro próprio cuerpo.

La forma como tocamos es un reflejo de quien somos y de como somos.

La diferencia entre un instrumento afinado y otro desafinado es enorme.

Lo mismo se aplica cuando nuestro “cuerpo” está afinado o cuando no

estamos afinados; la diferencia es también considerable.

El mismo princípio se aplica a los artistas en general, el uso de si propios

necesita de una afinación eficiente para poder llegar a un nivel de interpretación

y ejecución elevado.

Un cuerpo tenso normalmente produce un resultado poco positivo, ya sea en

una coreografía, en un concierto o en una pieza teatral,

igualmente observamos que un cuerpo flácido irá producir un resultado poco

energético en cualquier performance.

Para alcanzar nuestro mejor estado, nuestra puesta a punto, necesitamos de

estar totalmente en el momento presente, totalmente en “nosotros próprios”.

La música o la creación imaginada en nuestras mentes y sentida en nuestros

corazones debe fluir en nuestro cuerpo y en nuestras manos sin obstáculos.

Para mas informaciones, por favor contacten Miquel Bernat en

Venga a compartir conmigo esta técnica en un momento de introspección y gozo.

recuerden que los músicos pueden traer sus instrumentos.

Bruce Fertman

Workshop   Sábado 29/10/2016 y domingo 30/10/2016

horario: 10h-13h15  y  14h30-17h45

Bruce Fertman

La pasión y devoción de Bruce Fertman asi como su capacidad de ajudar a los

artistas debe ser experimentado por todos.

J. Maddux, Alexander Teacher / Voice Teacher, New York and California, USA

Con mas de 50 años de experiencia como artista del movimiento y educador,

Bruce Fertman tiene una vida de práctica intensiva como profesor da la técnica


Bruce enseñó a los miembros de la Filarmónica de Berlim, Radio France, Sinfonica

Nacional de Washington D.C, Sinfonica de Honolulu para la Jeong Ga Ak Hoe-música

tradicional em Seul – Corea, en el “Curtis.Institut of Music” así como en el Five College

Dance Program en Amherst, Massachusetts por 13 años y para la comunidade de

Tango en Buenos Aires. Durante 6 años, Bruce dedico parte de su tiempo en enseñar

el movimiento a los actores en la Universidad de Temple e Rutgers.

La experiencia profesional de Bruce abarca el estudio en Gimnasia, Danza Moderna,

Improvisación de contacto, técnica Alexander, Tai Chi Chu’an, Aikido, Chanoyu,

Tango Argentino y  Kyudo.

En 1982, Bruce fundó la Alexander Alliance International, una inter-generacional y

multicultural comunidad escolar devota a entrenar y enseñar la técnica Alexander.

Bruce Fertman es autor del libro “This Path Begins, Renderings of the Tao Te Ching”.

En la actualidad está en vias de lanzar su segundo libro titulado “Touching The Intangible”.

Miquel Bernat


Individual Lessons in London at Studio One – October 3rd and 4th, 2016

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Thanks to Selma Gokcen, I’ll be giving individual lessons on October 3rd and 4th.

Location: 1 Wolseley Road, Crouch End, London, N8 8RR

Fee: £50 for a 5o minute lesson.

To save yourself a space simply drop me an email at:

Perhaps you’d enjoy reading a few accounts of memorable individual lessons I’ve given over the years.

Hope to see you in London at Studio One!

Bruce Fertman