When I first saw her I did not know who she was. She was on stage, alone, dancing. Her movements were unusually clear, articulate, intelligent, lucid. Her phrasing and timing, unpredictable. “Who is that!”, I asked my new friend sitting next to me. “Do you know her name?” “Oh, that’s my daughter, Lucia, Lucia Walker.”
The year was 1994, the place Sydney, Australia, the event, the 4th Annual Congress in the Alexander Technique. Basically, I fell in love with both of the Walkers right then and there. For many years thereafter, Elisabeth and Lucia Walker taught for us once or twice a year at the Alexander Alliance in America.
Lucia Walker. Latin lucidus (perhaps via French lucide or Italian lucido ) from lucere ‘shine’, from lux, luc- ‘light’. She who walks lightly in the world. Lucid; to express clearly, easy to understand, cogent, bright.
That’s Lucia. She is her name. These are the qualities Lucia embodies as she walks in the world, and this is why I am very happy to announce that Lucia Walker will be our guest teacher in Kalamata, Greece this October 10-18, 2020.
To show you what I mean about Lucia living up to her name, here are a few of my favorite photos of Lucia, some taken almost 30 years ago, some taken quite recently. Then, I will tell you much of what she has done in her life as the international Alexander teacher that she is.
Movement is Lucia’s medium. Yet, she is more than a movement teacher. She is a life teacher. Long ago Lucia gave me a book to read entitled, A Life of One’s Own, by Marion Milner. It was one woman’s exploration as to how to live a satisfying life. Marion turns toward her everyday life for answers, discerning ways of being, ways of seeing, and ways of moving that bring joy into life. This is Lucia’s larger vision of the work, which Alexander begun.
Some details: Lucia qualified as an Alexander teacher in 1987, after 3 years of training with her parents, Dick and Elisabeth Walker, in Oxford, England, and spent many years assisting in her parent’s training program. Currently, Lucia teaches in South Africa, England, France, Germany, the USA, Argentina, and Japan.
A fascination in the relationship between vision and movement led to Lucia becoming part of ALTEVI, (ALexander TEchnique and VIsion.) Communication being essential to good teaching, Lucia has trained in Non-Violent Communication. She has been part of the Contact Improvisation community for 28 years. Since 2015, Lucia and Sharyn West have been co-directing Alexander Learning and Teaching Programs in Durban and Johannesburg.
It’s an honor and a pleasure for us to have Lucia join our faculty for our international gathering in Greece., October 10-18, 2020. If you have never studied with Lucia, here is a great opportunity to do so, along with all the directors of training at the Alexander Alliance International.
Very Early Bird Discount available until January 25, 2020.
Loving the Work, Living the Work, Teaching the Work
October 10-18, 2020
Join us, the Alexander Alliance International, in celebrating our 40th birthday in Kalamata, Greece!
If you have ever been, currently are being, or would like to be deeply touched by the work we do within our international community/school, we invite you to join us for this extraordinary event.
Anyone who studies, or has studied the Alexander Technique, is welcome to attend: all Alexander teachers and trainees worldwide, all Alexander Alliance trainees and alumni, including alumni from our early incarnations; the Alexander School and the Alexander Foundation. Also, all teachers from our post graduate programs and from our professional development programs. Finally, all people who love and study the Alexander Technique.
Senior teachers from the Alexander Alliance International, Robyn Avalon, Midori Shinkai, Margarete Tueshaus, and Bruce Fertman will be teaching. Learn more about our senior teachers. We are planning to invite other renowned Alexander teachers and will keep you informed of our progress.
We will be on Mediterranean time. Though our teaching schedule will be quite full, we will make sure to have time each afternoon for walks inside the town, or for swimming in the sea.
A native Alexander teacher writes:
“Kalamata, as I’m sure you already know, is well known for its olive trees and the unique olive oil it produces. The local food is to die for. The hotel is a 10min drive from the main town. The sea in Kalamata boasts of some of the clearest waters in the country – you will see for yourself once you swim well away from the beach at approximately 1 mile inside where one can experience the awe of being in the middle of nowhere. It’s magical. A great advantage is that Kalamata is not your average touristy location – more of a preferred site for locals. It is likely to be exactly what you need for a peaceful retreat. I would highly recommend experiencing local olive oil poured on to freshly baked local bread … the purest form of the local natural flavours. Meat and fish for non-vegeterians will be an experience they will never forget. Likewise, the tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and green peppers will also be a flavour that vegans and vegeterians will cherish for the rest of their lives. The local deserts are very dense jams of local fruits and vegetables (there’s the famous aubergine jam!). Herbal teas are unique in Kalamata, with some protagonists being marjoram, sage, camomile and sideritis (known as mountain tea). For coffee lovers, Greece is a paradise.”
Not only will we be in Kalamata, we will be living and dining by the sea at a four-star hotel: The Filoxenia Kalamata. We are providing a PDF (click here) so that you can hold on to all the details about where we will be. Being a family friendly school, students do on occasion bring along family members. If you should decide to do this, let us know and we will help you work out your accommodations.
Now, to return to the content of our Alexander Retreat!
As we will be a gathering of people with different levels of experience, there will be separate classes for students, trainees, and teachers, so that everyone can work and progress at their own level. At chosen times, we will all convene and work together.
Here’s the schedule.
Saturday / October 10th
Travel and Arrival Day
Our first short gathering will begin at 21:00.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday / October 11th, 12th, 13th
Optional Morning Classes: To Be Announced
Morning Classes: 9:30-13:30
Afternoon Break 13:30 – 17:00
Late Afternoon Classes 17:00-20:00
Evening Events: To Be Announced
Wednesday / October 14th
On Wednesday, we will only have morning classes so that those who wish can take off the entire afternoon and evening to further explore the outskirts of Kalamata. Space will be provided for those who wish to stay at the retreat center and study together informally.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday / October 15th, 16th, 17th
Back to work.
Optional Morning Classes: To Be Announced
Morning Classes: 9:30-13:30
Afternoon Break 13:30 – 17:00
Late Afternoon Classes 17:00-20:00
Evening Events: To Be Announced
Sunday / October 18th
Travel and Departure Day
How much will it cost?
We have done our best to keep our pricing reasonable. We got a remarkable group deal with the hotel, which is why we could hold this retreat in such a luxurious place. Here are the prices, which includes three meals per day.
Triple room: EUR 53,33 per person per night (limited number)
Double room: EUR 67,50 per person per night
Single room: EUR 110,00 per person per night
Additionally, there is a room tax of EUR 3,00 per room per night, which is payable directly upon checkout.
The entire booking will be made by the Alexander Alliance Germany. We had to commit to paying the room and board for everyone, and therefore our cancellation policy is stricter than if everyone were responsible for paying for their own room and board.
Here is how it works: When you register for the retreat, your room and board must be paid in advance to the Alexander Alliance Germany. If you should have to cancel, we can refund your tuition, but we cannot refund your room and board. If you find a person to fill your place in the retreat, then we can totally refund your cost for room and board.
As for tuition.
Alexander Alliance International Trainees:
Very Early Bird: EUR 450 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 500 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 550 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
Alexander Alliance Alumni, Post Graduate Graduates, and High Touch Graduates:
Very Early Bird: EUR 600 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 650 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 700 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
Alexander Alliance Self Development Programs and Guests (Alexander Trainees, Alexander Teachers, Alexander Students):
Very Early Bird: EUR 700 (until 15th January 2020)
Early Bird: EUR 750 (until 31st May 2020)
Late Bird: EUR 800 (registration deadline is 15th September 2020)
What are our options for getting to Kalamata and our hotel?
Click on this link for starters, but we are going to make it even easier.
It’s low season, so there are not many direct flights to Kalamata, and they may be a bit more expensive, but it is possible. Flying into Athens, may be the more affordable way to go. We will organize a bus transfer from Athens airport (ATH) to the hotel on Saturday afternoon, October 10th, and also one from the hotel to Athens airport (ATH) on Sunday morning, Oct 18th. Thanks to our 4-star hotel, the price will be quite affordable, depending upon how many of us, ranging from EUR 40 to EUR 15 per way.
We will arrange for the bus to leave on October 10th from Athens airport (ATH) to our hotel in Kalamata around 16:30, and from our hotel in Kalamata to Athens airport (ATH) on October 18th, around 8:00. The drive will take between 3 and 3,5 hours. Another option would be to individually rent a car at Athens airport and give it back in Kalamata.
Since 1986 I have given at least one graduation talk almost every year. Where they come from, I do not really know. An organized person, I am not. I tend not to save things. I just move on from where I am now. But this graduation speech I don’t have to save because, long ago, Emerson saved it for me.
For what I wanted to speak about, self-reliance, I turned to Emersons’ essay on the subject, an essay that inspired me when I was young, and no doubt inspired John Dewey and F.M. Alexander as well.
Here is what I read. I felt these ideas would help accompany my students as they cross over the bridge between being a good student of Alexanders’ work to becoming a good teacher of Alexanders’ work.
Excerpts from On Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Trust thyself. Every heart vibrates to that iron string.
There is a time in our education when we must arrive at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide. We must take ourselves for better, for worse, as is our portion. Even though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to us but through our toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to us to till. The power which resides in us is new in nature, and we alone know what we can do, though not until we have tried.
We should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across our mind from within. Yet, we dismiss without notice our thoughts, because they are ours. We but half express ourselves and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.
I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual effects and sways me more than what is right. I ought to go upright and vital and speak my truth in all ways. Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, or else it is none.
My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, but that it be genuine and balanced, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think.
You will always find those who think they know what is your duty, better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the worlds’ opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great person is who in the midst of the crowd keeps, with perfect sweetness, the independence of solitude. The objection to conforming to rules and conventions that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force. Force is withdrawn from your proper life.
So instead, do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. With the exercise of self-trust new powers shall appear.
Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self on which a universal reliance may be grounded? The sense of being, which in calm hours arises in the soul, we know not how, is not separate from things, from space, from light, from time, or from others, but is one with them. Here is the fountain of action and thought. Here are the lungs of inspiration. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which make us receivers of its truth, and organs of its activities.
However, we must go alone. I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, it must elevate. Friend, client, child; sickness, fear, want, all knock at once at thy door and say, “Come out unto us.” But keep thy state; come not into their confusion.
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standards. But I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It demands something god-like to trust oneself as one’s taskmaster. High be your heart, faithful your will, clear your sight.
Discontent is the want of self-reliance. It is an infirmity of will. Therefore, let us attend to our work. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands.
Insist on being yourself; never imitate. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much, or dare too much. Know that power is inborn, that we become weak the moment we look outward and elsewhere. Abide in the simple and noble regions of your life.
We teach what we most need to learn. At least that is how it is with me.
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? LifeWork is a procedure I developed, slowly, over the past 40 years. That is to say LifeWork is a “way of proceeding,” to teach people how to employ Alexander’s teachings when under trying conditions and when faced with harsh realities.
This Post Graduate Alexander Workshop offers tools for teaching Alexander’s Principles inside the reality of people’s everyday lives. It is open to Teacher’s from all styles.
Make the Work more accessible and valuable in people’s lives. Students come with real life, complicated situations – deadlines to meet, non-optimal work or home environments, physical and emotional challenges, and more. You come with the ‘means whereby’ through which they can make a change in their use, their thinking, their lives.
Meet your students halfway. Help your students transition from ‘chair work’ to a pressing situation, like working on a deadline with an overbearing boss. Help them access their ease and artistry, not only within an Alexandrian procedure, but also while playing their instrument in an audition.
Take the Principles beyond the Procedures.
This is its own sophisticated and unique study. It requires new and different skills, in addition to drawing upon your deep understanding, clear observations and skillful hands.
In this workshop we will:
Learn skills for re-creating their actual environment and teaching within that structure.
Learn how to use your hands through all areas of the body to access their fundamental ease and coordination.
Learn varied styles of teaching in activities.
Learn how to realize the ‘critical moment’ where they know they can access a new choice.
Being able to offer a student the tools to make a conscious new choice inside of their personal and professional life situations literally and figuratively brings the Work to life! Students experience the Work as timely and important. It energizes them and fills them with a desire to study.
We know what we have is priceless, and life-altering. Learn how to let them experience this directly.
Robyn has been a student of FM Alexander’s Work for over 40 years. She is the Founding Director of the Contemporary Alexander School, the USA branch of Alexander Alliance International (AAI), offering Alexander Technique Teacher Training in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon, as well as being on the Core Faculty of the AAI German and Japan schools since their inception.
In addition to training teachers, Robyn travels the world offering beginner through post-graduate workshops in a contemporary presentation of Alexander’s Principles. Robyn enjoys the direct application of the Principles of the Work into people’s real lives, working with people while they do whatever they do. Whenever possible, she likes to travel to where people work and play, which has provided decades of rich and colorful teaching experiences: on a snowy mountain top with skiers, at a symphony rehearsal, at a dentist’s side, in a potter’s studio, on a football field, in a professional kitchen, at a horse arena, in a meditation retreat, on the Pilates Reformer, in a training for cardiac surgeons, rock climbing in the NM mountains, at the circus, and more.
Robyn is the creator of Living in a Body™: The Quintessential Owner’s Guide to Natural Movement, a body mapping professional certification course offered worldwide as well as a series of post-graduate workshops called Ways of Knowing, which provide tools for accessing and incorporating intuition and imagination in the educational process.
Robyn has an extensive background in professional theater and dance, which she brings to her teaching. Her private practice incorporates a unique blend of Contemporary Alexander, Cranial Sacral, Visceral Unwinding, Deep Imagery, Matrix Energetics®, and a life-long study of varied intuitive skills, to create a unique somatic experience. She enjoys teaching the very young and the very old, the absolute beginners and the masters, and everyone in between.
Open to Alexander Teachers from all styles. Limited number of participants.
Date: 14.10.2018, 10am – 6pm
Location: Zurich (close to stop «Zürich,Kalkbreite/Bhf.Wiedikon»)
Course fee: CHF 160.- (Students CHF 125.-)
Workshop language: English (translation to German possible)
Individual lessons (CHF 110,-/45ˈ) can be arranged on Thursday, 27.09., Friday 28.09. and Monday 15.10.
Organizer and assistant teacher: Magdalena Gassner
Aszure Barton and Mikhail Baryshnikov – The Contemporary meets the Classical
Diversity Within Unity
“…The orthodox presume to know, whereas the marginal person is trying to find out.
…To accommodate the margin within the form, to allow the wilderness to thrive in domesticity, to accommodate diversity within unity – this graceful, practical generosity toward the possible and the unexpected… offers reconciliation by which we might escape the endless swinging between rigidity and revolt.”
Wendell Berry from The Unsettling of America
The last paragraph is so beautiful and, I sense, so relevant to our Alexander community at large if we are ever to survive and thrive in society. I have to quote it again.
“…To accommodate the margin within the form, to allow the wilderness to thrive in domesticity, to accommodate diversity within unity – this graceful, practical generosity toward the possible and the unexpected… offers reconciliation by which we might escape the endless swinging between… rigidity and revolt.”
Our Moment of Opportunity
This may be our “critical moment”. That term sometimes makes my students nervous. I choose more often to use the term, which I learned from Meade Andrews, “the moment of opportunity”.
There is no reason to be nervous. There is every reason to be positive and excited about this moment of opportunity now offered to us. Do we have the courage to embrace change, to let go into the unfamiliar, to open up and welcome the unknown, to try something new?
If we are to survive and thrive into the future I believe we need four radically different training structures. Right now we have one training structure that began in 1932 in England. It is still a good and worthy training structure for some trainers, in some countries. For people who wish to become Alexander teachers, this training structure is, for some, possible and wonderful. For others it is simply impossible. What happens to these people who want to become Alexander teachers but can’t due to the limited number of training structures that we as a community offer? Chances are they give up their dream and pursue another one, or perhaps they find a related discipline, like the Feldenkrais Method, which has flexible training models, and more likely one they can do. We then, as a community, lose a person who might have become a great Alexander teacher. I don’t want to even imagine how many great Alexander teachers we have lost over the last 50 years.
Another Time Tested Training Structure
There is another time tested structure of training that also has withstood the test of time, 36 years, that some people know of, but few know in detail, some not at all, and sadly some who harbor untrue ideas about this training structure that has, for a long time, been bringing about many accomplished Alexander teachers. Martha Hansen Fertman and I began experimenting with this model in 1982 in Philadelphia. At the same time, for some 13 years, we ran a parallel weekday structured program and so were able to conduct a longitudinal study, (the only one I know of), as to the pros and cons of these two training structures.
This model, which I refer to as a Retreat model of training, has evolved over the years. It’s gotten better. Here is its current form and the one we use to train teachers at the Alexander Alliance Germany.
In October, March, and July we conduct 9-day retreats.
(165 hours per year).
In between we conduct 3-day weekend retreats.
(90 hours per year).
In April we conduct a 4-day retreat.
(28 hours per year).
Twice a month there is a study group where trainees meet and work with graduates.This right now is a pilot study and so is optional, but most are participating, and so may soon be required. Those not near a group have formed a Skype group. This is important work, not only for the trainees but for our graduates as well because for our graduates it is post graduate training.
(40 hours per year).
Every trainee has a Personal Project that must be presented prior to graduation. (To be honest, I am not sure how much time trainees put into their projects. It varies. This is my guess as to the average number of hours.)
(20 hours per year).
Trainees are required to attend at least one intro workshop a year, and when ready to assist at one workshop a year. For us we consider being able to give an introductory workshop an Alexandrian Procedure!
(12 hours per year.)
Trainees attend a 5th year intern retreat. Here graduates assist a training retreat as supporting teachers.
(55 hours in the 5th year.)
Trainees attend at least one Alexander Alliance International Retreat in another country other than their own. This is optional but almost everyone does this at least once, and some do this every year. We are an intergeneration, multi-cultural, international community/school, so visiting other Alliance schools is part of who we are.
Of course, everyday trainees are expected to work on their own self-study etudes, given to them by the faculty to explore. We find that trainees have to learn how to study on their own, and so we help them learn how to do this.
This comes to 355 hours of training per year. Adding the 55 hour intern retreat in the 5th year of their training, plus one 55 hour Alexander Alliance International Retreat outside their home country brings the total number of training hours to 1530 hours over a 4+ year period of training.
The Retreat model of training is a great model of training for numerous reasons.
*It gives people for whom a Weekday training model is simply impossible, people who very much love the work and wish to become teachers, a way to become an Alexander teacher.
But there is much, much more as to why people love this model of training.
*We rent a gorgeous retreat center with great food and accommodations and beautiful teaching spaces.
*Everyone gets to leave home and stop working and enter a, I dare say, sacred time when, morning till night their mind, heart, body and soul are devoted to studying Alexander’s work among friends in a nurturing environment.
*A climate of festivity and contemplation fills the air. There is time to be together in fellowship and time for solitude as well, which is so essential for internalizing the work.
*Graduates are welcome to join us free of charge. They become, essentially, lifetime members of our community/school. Some graduates have been returning to the school for over 20 years. This builds community, helps the trainees tremendously, and of course helps our graduates to become the best teachers they can be.
When Martha and I began this training structure we had no idea if it would work. But our intuition told us it would, and we were right. Because we were long-term apprentices of Marjorie Barstow we did not feel obliged to adhere to any particular model of training and felt free, as the educators we were, and are, to experiment. Martha had her Doctorate of Education and I had my Masters of Education and both of us had begun teaching movement when we were eleven years old.
Society has deemed this model worthy and effective and has endorsed it by keeping it alive and healthy for 36 years. We were able to train numerous music, theatre, and dance professors who, without our Retreat training model, would never have become Alexander teachers. Many of them have gone on to be of service to the Alexander community at large, both as members of STAT, ATI, and as organizers of and teachers for our international congresses.
My experience tells me it is possible to design and implement a Retreat model training program that is extensive, intensive, joyful, and effective. This model may be better for certain training directors and/or may work better in certain countries, under certain conditions. It works perfectly in Germany because of Germany’s enlightened extensive paid vacation program.
A Flexible Formula
There is a third model of training that, as yet, has not been tried, and I sense must be if we are to allow more people to become Alexander teachers. (It is one option for Robyn Avalon’s trainees). I call it the Immersion model. The Feldenkrais community has been very successful in finding flexible yet substantial training structures that allow people with varying life/work styles to train. Their flexible training structure also can adapt to different countries, to different social, cultural and economic conditions. They are far, far more successful than we have been in sharing their work with society. Here is their flexible formula:
“All training programs must have a minimum of 800 hours/40 days per year, 160 days over at least 36 months. Programs follow different formats ranging from weekend formats; to 4 two week segments a year; to 2 one month segments a year; to 40 days in a row. These are just some examples of formats.”
Here you can see they have both a Retreat model and an Immersion model. Of course our training is essentially twice as long. Still, we would do well to experiment with models such as these and see if they can work for us.
How will we ever know if we don’t try? What is the worst that can happen? We fail and learn? Is that so terrible? And what happens if it works?
“You can’t do something you don’t know, if you keep on doing what you do know.”
Who said that? Einstein? Oh yes, I remember now, it was a guy by the name of F.M. Alexander! This was Einstein:
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Let’s take Alexander’s and Einstein’s advice. Let’s begin thinking differently and do something we’ve never done before.
My training with Marjorie Barstow was an amalgamation of all of these models of training, plus one more, and for me, the most important one of all.
Marj’s month long summer events was an Immersion event. Four weeks, 6 days a week, 6 hours a day. For me it was 5 weeks because for many years I directed Marj’s summer events and had to arrive early to open up, and stay on to close up. This before and after time was an essential part of my training and I will say more about this soon. Marj’s winter events in Lincoln were 14 days long and would be what I would call a Retreat event.
When Marjorie came East for two weeks every Fall and Spring I would study with her and assist her up and down the east coast. Something almost magical happened in this time. I was not only studying, not only practicing, not only training. It was more than this. It was a living of the work through being with, through modeling, through absorption. It was what the Buddhists refer to as transmission.
This transmission happened during the times when Marj and I traveled together, in cars, in trains, in planes, when we took walks in Penns Woods in Philadelphia, or played horseshoes on her ranch, or when we went out for ice cream after a long weekend of teaching in Boston. So many meals together, so many discussions and lots of time just spent sitting quietly together. The best discussions took place after a workshop where I’d be there assisting her, after working in Washington D.C. with the National Symphony, with a junior high school choir, with a track team or sculling team, with theatre majors. Without notice individual lessons spontaneously arose when Marj was having trouble explaining something to me and felt the need to use her hands so that I could experience what she meant.
This is what I call the Apprenticeship model. Because of times like these, over many years, I simply internalized Marj. She lived within me, and she still does.
These are hours that cannot be counted. They are uncountable. Not all hours are equal. There is objective time and subjective time. Each hour of our lives has not the same duration. Some hours fly by unnoticed and unlived. Some hours last forever, and change our lives forever. Some hours are brief eternities. They cannot be measured or calculated, but they can be cherished.
Not Marjorie Barstow, but Marjory Barlow in An Examined Life writes, “… I do think the apprenticeship method of training has a lot going for it. After all, some of the greatest teachers learned that way …I have a preference for apprenticeship, and I would love to see it supported wherever possible…the problem isn’t the exact number of years and hours. It’s the quality of the trainers’ experience and devotion to the Technique, and the selection of trainees…”
I am not sure but I suspect that those of us who teach through classical procedures may find that our weekday model of training works best, and maybe not. We will never know unless we experiment.
And perhaps those of us who train through contemporary procedures may find that Retreat, Immersion and Apprenticeship models work better, and maybe not. We will never know unless we experiment.
More and more of our teacher training programs are combining and integrating classical and contemporary procedures. It’s a bit like dance. There are classical ballet dancers who dance beautifully within their chosen style. And then there are contemporary dancers who dance beautifully through their chosen forms. Different forms appeal to different people, and people of different ages, and people from different cultures. And then there are many dancers who are trained in numerous styles and who integrate them beautifully. Think of Mikhail Baryshnikov who danced with American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, but also with Twyla Tharp, Aszure Barton, and Gregory Hines.
Mikhail Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp – The Classical meets the Contemporary
The truth we need to embrace, as a community, is that a great dancer is a great dancer no matter their form, and a great Alexander teacher is a great Alexander teacher, no matter their form. Being an Alexander teacher is an art, and art changes and expresses itself differently over time and across cultures.
And so should we.
“… this graceful, practical generosity toward the possible and the unexpected… offers reconciliation by which we might escape the endless swinging between… rigidity and revolt.”
This could be our moment of opportunity as a community at large, when the classical meets the contemporary. Do we have the courage to seize the moment, to embrace change, to let go into the unfamiliar, to open up and welcome the unknown, to try something new?
Watch Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in White Nights. If they can do it, maybe we can too.
Maybe I will figure this one out before I die. I hope so. I may be getting close. In fact, by writing this very essay I may find my way through to the answer.
Here’s the problem.
People want to join the Alexander Alliance Europe, our community/school, which promotes itself, though not exclusively, as a teacher training program in the Alexander Technique, which means we are responsible for training people who enter the school to become Alexander Technique teachers.
In our website we write:
Who We Are – We are an intergenerational, multi-cultural community / school dedicated to creating a safe and loving environment where, through Alexander’s work, people can learn how to become at once, relaxed and ready, soft and strong, light and substantial, stable and flexible, peaceful and lively, receptive and generous, awake to themselves, to others and to the world around them.
Our Mission – Our mission is to train skillful and compassionate Alexander teachers, which we have been doing ceaselessly and enjoyably for 35 years. Together we learn to free ourselves and our students from stasis, restriction, and fixation. We accompany our students into their fluidity, spaciousness and poise, while ensuring their feet rest comfortably upon common and solid ground. We awaken ourselves and our students to a sensory world full of simple pleasures. Our art is human touch, an inexhaustible resource for education, nurturance, and growth. Our job is to gently un-harness deep, naturally organized patterns of vitality within ourselves and our students. This groundswell of energy strengthens our will to live, love, learn, and work generously and freely.
But here is the rub. How can we know if someone has the ability to become an Alexander teacher? The answer to that question is easy. We can’t. At least I can’t. Do we just accept anyone? Yes, almost. I have seen people walk through our doors who I am quite sure will grow into good teachers, and for one reason or another, don’t. And I have seen people who I predict simply do not have the capacity to become Alexander teachers who become very good teachers. And so I accept anyone into our school who is socially mature, self-motivated, and who loves the Work.
So what happens when four years have flown by and it is time for a person to graduate and I feel, for one reason or another, that they do not have the skill to teach the Alexander Technique? And even more perplexing, what criteria do I establish for determining if someone is now ready and qualified to teach others about Alexander’s work? After all, I am the guy who signs their certificates, which read:
For 35 years I have been pondering these questions. And now I am close, very close to the answer, not for the entire Alexander community, but for me and for our community/school. The answer is to be found in the word “impart”. Impart means to make known, to communicate, to pass on, to convey, transmit, spread, disclose, to reveal. It doesn’t say to teach. Hmm…
Okay, what are we responsible for imparting? What are the concepts my trainees must understand and which principles need they be able to impart, in some way, to others to merit graduating from the Alexander Alliance Europe?
Here are the basic concepts, which must be understood, and the basic principles, which, to a significant degree, must be embodied to graduate from the Alexander Alliance Europe:
One. Working with a person in their entirety, with body and being, with movement and meaning.
Two. Sensory Consciousness/Appreciation
Three. Use, Functioning, Structure, and Integration
Four. Alexandrian Inhibition, Directionality, and Primary Movement/Organization/Control.
Five. The Means Whereby/ Ends and Means.
Now, through what means do we as Alexander teachers impart these concepts and principles? We impart them through:
Being – how we are being within ourselves and with our students, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. “The only thing you have to offer another being, ever, is your own state of being.” — Ram Dass
Observation – how we are perceiving ourselves and our students.
Language – how we listen and speak to our students.
Movement – how we move, act, and interact with our students.
Touch – how we physically touch our students.
Let’s put this together now, and in doing so we may just answer our original questions; What happens when four years have flown by and it is time for a person to graduate and I feel for one reason or another that they do not have the skill to teach the Alexander Technique? And even more perplexing, what criteria do I establish for determining if someone is now ready and qualified to teach others about Alexander’s work?
First, I realize that being able to teach the work to someone is one way of imparting the work, but that teaching is not the only way of imparting the work.
If teachers are to be able to impart the work to others via being, observation, language, movement, and touch, do they have to be accomplished at all of these means to be able to impart the work? Based upon my 35 years of training people the answer is, no.
Let me explain why. People enter our community/school with different inherent talents, with different acquired skills, at different ages, and with different life experience. Some are artists, some movers, some healers, and some seekers, or some combination thereof. To use Howard Gardener’s categories, some possess Linguistic Intelligence and are able to find the right words to express what they mean, some possess Logical-mathematical intelligence and are able to quantify things, make hypotheses and prove them, some possess Musical Intelligence and are able to discern sounds, pitch, tone, rhythm, and timbre, some possess Spatial Intelligence and have the ability to visualize the world in 3D, some possess Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence and are able to coordinate their mind and heart with their body, some possess Interpersonal Intelligence and are able to sense people’s feelings and motives, some possess Intrapersonal Intelligence and have deep understanding of themselves in touch with what they feel and what they want, some possess Naturalist Intelligence and are able to understand living things and can “read” nature, and some possess Existential Intelligence and are able to contemplate questions like who we are, why we live, and why we die. I would add a category, Sensory Intelligence and include Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence within this larger category, thus allowing also for Tactual, Visual, Auditory, Olfactory and Gastronomical Intelligence.
So a student may enter the Alexander Alliance Europe with high bodily-kinesthetic, tactual, interpersonal and existential intelligence and pretty much sail through their training. They find themselves having to work hard to acquire the linguistic intelligence they need, but have enough going for them that makes them able to impart the work to others.
You may have another student who enters our community/school with very low bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, low tactual intelligence, but very high intrapersonal, linguistic and visual intelligence, and so if they become able to impart the work to others they will end up finding a very different way of doing so. They do their best to learn how to move well and develop good tactual skills and they make some progress, which proves very important for them personally, but they still fall well short of becoming a person with high kinesthetic and tactual skills.
So the question becomes, “Does this person have the capacity, in some way, to impart the work to others?”
If a man who graduates our school who takes care of his five grandchildren, and who possesses deep inhibitory power while with his grandchildren, and who is by his very being able to calm them down, and is able to create harmony among them, and if he developed these capacities through the course of his training, is he imparting the work to his grandchildren? I would say yes. I would say that counts. Big time. Is he teaching them? No. Is he modeling the work, embodying the work, passing on the work? I would say yes. Should this man who doesn’t move well, whose posture is not great, who hands are not great graduate? I would say yes.
New questions arise. Should we limit our work to that of a profession? Should we have vocational schools, teacher training programs, and/or should we have Life Schools and think of our work not only as a profession but as ‘a Way’, as Aikido is a Way? Aikido literally means, the Way of Harmonizing Energy. Sounds familiar.
For me this is the difference between a Teacher Training Program and a Community/School. It comes down to how we define the word ‘vocation’. In the narrow definition of the word, it means an occupation, a trade, a profession, but in the broader sense of the word it means a calling, a mission, a path. A Way. A Way of Living.
I have chosen to create a Life School, a community/school. Perhaps I am not training teachers, but “imparters”. Maybe there is a difference. And maybe that difference makes all the difference. And maybe it is the answer to my question: What criteria do I establish for determining if someone is now ready and qualified to teach others about Alexander’s work? When I change the word teach to impart I believe I have criteria, valid criteria. Can that criteria be measured? Is there a test?
No, I don’t think so. But to witness over four years a students deepening, this maturing into the principles underlying Alexander’s work can be observed and felt by teachers who spend time with their students. A teacher ‘knows’ when their student is now living the work, the teacher knows when their student can impart the work through who they are, through how they are; they know it viscerally; they can feel it in their bones. It is not something that can be measured objectively, only subjectively. Some graduates will be able to impart the work through teaching and through who they are. Others perhaps only through who they are. The world needs both.
I am well aware this is not a popular point of view within our Alexander Community. For those who are fighting so admirably and intelligently to establish our work as a profession; I offer my apologies. I don’t mean to hamper your work.
What I do mean to do is to open a conversation amongst teacher trainers as to what we are really doing, how we want to do it, how we want to frame what we are doing, and on how we want to evaluate what we are doing. I don’t want to see Alexander schools closing. I want to see them full of students eager to learn, as my community/school has been for 35 years. I don’t want to see schools closing. I want to see them opening, and healthy. Opening up this conversation may help.
In Honor of All Those Doing Their Best to Train Future Generations of Alexander Teachers
It is no secret that many teacher training programs in the Alexander Technique have closed their doors or are struggling mightily to keep them open. It seems that only a few programs are actually thriving. Why is this and what can we do about it? Having just returned from the Congress in Chicago, having had such a wonderful time, having been inspired by so many, I wish more than ever to help Alexander teacher training programs survive and thrive. But where to begin?
Perhaps we teacher trainers can learn something from Abraham Maslow, the famous humanistic psychologist and author of Toward a Psychology of Being and Motivation and Personality.
Maslow decided to study mentally healthy people instead of people suffering from serious psychological issues. He studied what he called, ‘self actualizing people.’ Basically, this is what he found.
Self actualizing people exhibit certain traits. What if our directors of training exhibited these same traits? Might we too begin to actualize ourselves and our training programs?
Here is a list of nine traits found in self-actualizing people.
One.Self actualizing people know how to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. They are flexible, they can change; they adapt. Self actualizing people embrace uncertainty and ambiguity. They do not cling to the familiar.
Questions arise. Are we teacher trainers enjoying the journey? Are we flexible, able to change and adapt? Or are we clinging to what is familiar to us?
In MSI Alexander writes:
“…That rigid routine we refer to as habit, this rigid routine being the stumbling-block to rapid adaptability, to the assimilation of new ideas, to originality.”
And in CCC,
“…Boldly to make the necessary change, should he ﬁnd that the fundamental principles concerned are defective; and to make the necessary adjustments which are essential to the acceptance and assimilation of new and approved knowledge whilst going on with his job.”
Two. Self actualizing people accept themselves with all of their flaws, and others with all of theirs. They know they are not perfect. They accept imperfection in themselves and in others.
Questions abound. Are we teacher trainers willing to admit that our teacher training structures may not be perfect, that we may not be working inside the one and only absolutely ideal model? Are we willing to admit that our teacher training structures could be improved upon? While we are at it, are we willing to admit that the Alexander Technique is not perfect, that the procedures through which we teach the principles are not perfect, nor the teachers with whom we trained perfect?
Three. While inherently unconventional, self actualizing people do not seek to shock or disturb. They are neither conformers nor rebels. They resist enculturation. They are free thinkers, able to think outside the box, self-starters. They take responsibility for their own destinies.
Are we teacher trainers taking responsibility for the success or failure of our teacher training programs, or are we coming up with excuses as to why our schools, if they are not thriving, are not thriving? Are we blaming our failure on society? If our schools are not thriving are we afraid to think outside of the box, to trust our own instincts?
Four. Self actualizing people have an endless desire for personal growth.
Are we teacher trainers still growing, or are we just doing the same old thing year after year? Have we long ago decided on the best way to train teachers? Are we still studying, still learning from others? Are we improving?
Five. Self actualizing people are passionate; they have a mission in life, a calling that, in some way, serves others.
Are we teacher trainers still truly passionate about the work? Is the work still new, still fresh? Are we still in love with the work? Is our love for the work still contagious? Is it overflowing into the world?
Six. Self actualizing people can see the forest through the trees. They don’t get hung up on petty details. They impart a sense of serenity.
Do we teacher trainers have a vision for our schools, our own vision, a unique vision that expresses who we are and what we care about? Can we give voice to this vision? Are we thinking in years, or are we thinking across generations? If the work is working in us then we will not be overcome by fear or worry, but will walk into class modeling that which we wish to impart.
Seven. Self actualizing people are full of gratitude, full of wonder. They are at once realists and optimists.
Are we teacher trainers being realistic? That is, are we meeting reality as it is now? Are we attuned to how life is for people now, within the countries, cultures and economies in which we live? Are we being realistic about what is possible for people as far as training is concerned? Are there people out there who would love to train with us but cannot because of the realities of their lives? Are we feeling hopeless about our teacher training programs, pessimistic, bitter, or are we taking the challenge and meeting it with courage and conviction, with passion and energy? Are we full of gratitude for the work and for the task of passing the work on to others?
Eight. Self actualizing people nurture deep relationships with a few people, but at the same time they feel affection toward all people.
Do we teacher trainers love the people with whom we work, our co-directors, our co-teachers? Do we nurture these relationships? Do we feel real affection for our trainees? Do we like people? Do we truly wish to serve?
Nine. Self actualizing people are humble, with no sense of entitlement. They exude quiet confidence.
Are we teacher trainers humble? Do we harbor the need to feel that we are better than our colleagues, that our way of working is right, is best and everyone else’s way is inferior or wrong? Do we speak ill of people within our profession, do we gossip, do we hold unfounded prejudices? Or do we see ourselves as one piece in a beautiful puzzle, no more, no less? Can we get to that place within ourselves where we no longer have to defend our work, to that place where we have no enemies because we wish everyone well, want everyone to succeed, to that place where there is no side to take, but only one loving sphere in which we all live and work? Can we open ourselves to receiving help from others?
If we wish to be a healthy, vibrant, self-actualizing community, a community full of healthy trainees and teachers, a community full of healthy, vibrant and successful teacher training programs, perhaps Maslow is offering us the map.
Ultimately, the success or failure of a teacher training program rests squarely upon the shoulders of its director/directors. If our teacher training program is failing it serves no one to blame society, the economy, our trainees, our faculty, or our professional society, if we should belong to one. We must begin with ourselves.
To summarize, according to Maslow our directors of training and our training programs need to be flexible, that is, ready, able and willing to change as opportunities arise. If our training structure is not working are we willing to experiment and do what is necessary to make it work? Are we willing to accept the fact that our training structure could be improved upon? Are we taking full responsibility for how our training program is doing? Are we afraid to think outside the box if it isn’t doing well? Are we still growing personally? Are we modeling what it means to be a good student, a good teacher, a good person? Is the work still new, still fresh for us, and if not what can we do about it? Do we have a personal vision of the work? Can we give voice to that vision; get our vision out into the world in a way that is powerful and beautiful? Are we being realistic, or are we living in the past? Are we able to, as Alexander says, free ourselves from our rigid routine, the stumbling block that prevents us from adapting rapidly, assimilating new ideas, and being original? Is there enough love in our hearts for the work, for the people with whom we work, and for the people for whom we work, perhaps the most important question of all? And finally, if we are on our high horse can we get off it and stand on common ground along with all our fellow teacher trainers, no matter the lineage, no matter the political affiliation, and help one another?
Lots of questions; no, lots of problems.
Abraham Heschel, a famous rabbi, once said that questions have answers, but problems have solutions. He believed that man was a problem, a problem to be solved. It is we who are the problem.
And, it is we who are the solution.
Let’s commit to solving our problems, alone, deep within ourselves, and together, through generous acts of kindness and goodwill toward one another.
Once upon a time a rabbi told me that once upon a time, being a rabbi was not a profession. That a rabbi, technically, was not a teacher but rather a student. People in a community would select a person they felt possessed a deep understanding of the torah and the talmud to help them learn how to be good Jews. They supported this rabbi and his family so that this rabbi had time to study on his own, and also to study together with them. Judaism is basically a book club. Jews read this one book, every year, year after year, (and a few others), and delve into its ideas as deeply as possible.
When my trainees graduate from the Alexander Alliance I tell them there is no need to be nervous about being an Alexander teacher. If nervous, I suggest they continue thinking of themselves simply as Alexander students, students who happen to have completed a training program, therefore possessing a deeper understanding of Alexander’s work than most people.
When people pay you, I tell them, they are not paying you to teach them, they are paying you so that you can study Alexander’s work on your own, and with them. Your students pay you to study along with you, to join you in study.
It is not your job to teach them. It is your job to create conducive conditions in which they can study and learn. It is their job to learn. It is your job to learn along with them. It is not your job to entertain them. It is your job to entertain yourself, and their job to entertain themselves. It is everyone’s job to be kind, respectful, and to do one’s best.
My grandfather, Isaac, on my father’s side, told me now long ago, when I was a little boy, that I should be proud of being a Kohen, a member of the priesthood, a far distant descendent of Aaron, brother to Moses. I had no idea what he was talking about but it sounded cool. I also had no idea why, when I looked into his beautiful eyes, I could see him holding back tears. He told me how, because he was a Kohen, his shtetl saved money and paid for him to go to school in a nearby town where he learned Hebrew. At sixteen, alone, he got on a ship and made his way to America.
Now I am the age of my grandfather when he told me I was a Kohen. Here I am, supported by others to study on my own, everyday, to write, to think out loud, to create opportunities where others can study along with me. I don’t think of myself as a professional, as having a career. I just have a life. I am paid to live my life as a student, to do research and to share my findings. Baruch Hashem.
It is one thing to notice yourself and the quality of your ease when you are meditating, having an Alexander lesson, enjoying a sunset, or when taking ‘time out’ to slow down and pay attention to your patterns and choices. But life rarely moves that slowly.
Life happens in real time and in real situations. Every interaction and activity happens in it’s own context, containing the full range of personal history and emotional complexity. There are deadlines and expectations, challenging negotiations and logistical elements beyond your control. Wouldn’t it be useful to have the tools to come back to your center when right in the midst of the storm?
In this experiential workshop you will learn how to use the seeming chaos of the moment to bring yourself back to a state of ease and alertness, ultimately allowing yourself to make clear and conscious choices in any situation. Please think of life situations which you find challenging before attending this workshop and we will work with your material directly during class time.
Who Is This Workshop For?
This class is open to everyone.
If you are new to Alexander Work, this workshop will offer you tools for finding support, both physical and emotional, in trigger situations in your life.
If you are an Alexander Teacher, Trainee, or Student, you will learn how to apply the Work beyond the conscious biomechanics of activities into the complexities of real life.
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
Robyn has been a student of FM Alexander’s Work for over 40 years. She is the Founding Director of the Contemporary Alexander School, the USA branch of Alexander Alliance International, offering Alexander Technique Teacher Training in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon, as well as being on the Core Faculty of the AAI German and Japan schools since their inception. In the summers she is on the faculty of the renowned Meadowmount School of Music. In addition to training teachers, Robyn travels the world offering beginner through post-graduate workshops in a contemporary presentation of Alexander’s Principles.
In addition to Alexander Workshops, Robyn offers workshops and trainings that support educators in all fields. She is the creator of Living in a Body™: The Quintessential Owner’s Guide to Natural Movement. This body mapping professional certification course is offered worldwide, with translations available in English, Japanese, German and French. She also offers an ongoing series of post-graduate workshops, Ways of Knowing, which provide tools for accessing and incorporating intuition and imagination in the educational process.
Robyn especially enjoys bringing Alexander’s Work to a wide range of people. With her own extensive background in professional theater and dance, Robyn is most at home when offering the Work to many of the world’s leading orchestras, chamber ensembles, dance, theater, and opera companies, and circuses. But she is equally comfortable teaching in an Olympic equestrian arena, for the Ladies PGA, or at a meeting of the world’s top cardiac surgeons. Her private practice incorporates a unique blend of Contemporary Alexander, Cranial Sacral, Visceral Unwinding, Deep Imagery, Matrix Energetics®, and a life-long study of varied intuitive skills, to create a unique somatic experience. She enjoys teaching the very young and the very old, the absolute beginners and the masters, and everyone in between.
No prior experience necessary.
People of all ages welcome.
Limited number of participants.
Date: 23.09.2017, 10am – 6pm
Location: Technopark Zurich (close to train stop Hardbrücke)
Course fee: CHF 160.- (Students CHF 125.-)
Workshop language: English (translation to German)
Individual lessons (CHF 110.-/45ˈ) can be arranged on Thursday 21.09., Friday 22.09. and Monday 25.09.2017.
Additionally, Robyn will give a workshop entitled „Alexander Games“ on Sunday, 24.09.2017. If you are curious, ask for more information!
Organizers and assistant teachers: Magdalena and Johannes Gassner
For more information and to register call +41 (0)77 475 50 27 or write to email@example.com.
To learn more about Robyn and the Alexander Alliance: