Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘midori shinkai’

EUROPE – The Alexander Alliance Europe Begins

Once, Paulus Berensohn, a famous American potter, former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and a student at the Alexander Alliance in the early ’80s, and I were driving into Center City Philadelphia to teach a Pottery and the Alexander Technique workshop together at Bread Street Studio. He had stopped teaching and dancing and was mostly caring for his mentor, M.C. Richards, author of Centering In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person, a bible at that time for many potters and dancers. To make a living he was painting houses.

“Paulus, but what about your career? I mean, you are an incredible potter and teacher. Why are you painting houses?” Paulus said, “I don’t have a career. I don’t work and I don’t take vacations. I am just a person living my life.”

Those few sentences, and the place from where Paulus said them, changed my life forever, which is to say Paulus changed my life forever. From that day forward I didn’t have a career, never worked, and never took a vacation. I became a person just living my life. I still am.

This new website, is thus not about my work or about my career. It’s about why and how I live my life. It’s a verbal and visual record reaching back into the 70’s when I first met Marjorie Barstow, first fell in love with Alexander’s work, first began making my way into the world as an Alexander teacher. This website that I love reaches forward into the future as well as I now set out to ensure the Alexander Alliance lives on beyond me, that it remains a place where other people who fall in love with Alexander’s work can go to immerse themselves in his work, a community where they can find others who feel as they do about Alexander’s work.

Hopefully, I will still be around for a while, but one never knows. It’s a bit like wanting to give your inheritance away to your family while you are still alive so you can watch them taking pleasure in it.

Our new website means a lot to me because:

One, it has photos of my mentors who I often miss and to whom I feel gratitude toward everyday. I can look at them whenever I need to.

Two, the website has photos of students I have worked with over the last 40 years, of teachers I’ve taught with side by side for 35 years. For me it’s a family album, and for current Alliance students it shows them their extended, worldwide family.

Three, the website takes a lifetime of attempts at explaining, in words, what Alexander’s work is and succeeds more than ever in conveying what Alexander’s work is about, without jargon, in clear and contemporary language. My hope is that my writing may be of some help to our Alexander community at large as it struggles to find words for something well beyond words.

Four, I believe, photographically, I have made some headway in creating a new and contemporary look for Alexander’s work, a look that is more natural, more dynamic, more beautiful, less mechanical, less postural, less stiff, less static, less artificial. More attractive.

Five, the website promotes and honors people I am immensely proud of; my faculty and my graduates.

Six, the website makes it really easy to find and watch videos and read essays that may help to generate interest in Alexander’s work.

And finally, seven, it is one big invitation to visit our community/school. We welcome everyone with open arms.

Years later, Paulus Berensohn and I found ourselves in Hawaii, on the big island, at midnight, under a full moon, walking in Volcano National Park upon swirling, silvery black cooled lava patterns toward a red river of fluid fire with our friends Eva Lee and Chiu Leong; Eva a beautiful, loving modern dancer and Chiu, an exquisite person and potter. We arrive at the molten river, sit down at the edge of a cliff where we witness a waterfall of fire pouring into the sea. White fiery clouds rise up like Chinese dragons.

Fire is how I remember Paulus. His fire within, his passion, his energy for life itself. It wasn’t about being successful or famous for Paulus. It was about turning life into art, one’s own life into something beautiful and useful, and loving.

That’s want I want for my students. Sure, I love when my students are able to make a living teaching Alexander’s work. But what is more important to me, much more important, is their making a life for themselves, a life in which they are awake to the world, to others, and to the fire within. That’s what this new website is all about.

EMS1

Paulus Berensohn

 

 

Recognition Of The Obvious

 

The Alexander Alliance Europe

 

David Mills, a fellow apprentice of Marjorie Barstow once said to me, “Humility is the recognition of the obvious.” I didn’t get it. And then later, I got it.

Learning languages does not come easily to me. Honestly, that is an understatement. I’m hopeless. When a person learns I live in Japan for five months a year he or she inevitably declares, “So you speak Japanese?”, to which I reply, “No, I don’t, not at all.” They find this hard to believe. But it is true. I humbly accept my profoundly limited linguistic capacities when it comes to learning foreign languages. Often I add, “However, I am still working on my English and am happy to report I am making progress.”

I can also humbly say, because it has become obvious to me and everyone else who knows me and knows what I do, that I have a knack for promoting Alexander’s work. As a little kid I was able to teach other kids, through words and touch, how to ride a bike, or hit a ball, or climb a tree, or do a back handspring. It just came naturally to me. So I can humbly say, I am good at talking and writing about Alexander’s work, and also at photographing it.

Of course not everyone likes my writing or what I have to say about Alexander’s work, and not everyone likes my photography, but a lot of people do, and for one reason or another it has worked. For over forty years I have drawn people to Alexander’s work, inspiring them to study.

And so, humbly and happily, I share with anyone who may be interested my new website for The Alexander Alliance Europe. I enjoyed working on the project. Countless times I heard myself say out loud, ‘thank you’ to whomever programmed Wix.

If you are an Alexander teacher, meandering through this website may help you better to verbalize what you do. It may give you ideas about how you want, imagistically, to portray Alexander’s work.

There are some beautiful photographs of my mentors. It saddens me sometimes that most Alexander teachers have only seen photos of Marjorie Barstow after her osteoporosis set in. I loved how Marj looked and moved when she was young, that is, in her seventies! Here are a few photos of Marj when she was spry and powerful.

I wish more Alexander teachers had had the privilege to learn from Buzz Gummere, but at least here you can see the sparkle in his eyes. I cherish the photos I have of my learning from Elisabeth Walker. All of these first generation teachers aged so beautifully, with such grace, and lived for so long! I hope you, like me, find these photos inspiring.

The video page on this website makes it easy to find and watch videos that I’ve made, or have been made about me or the Alexander Alliance. I invite you to take twenty minutes and watch Quintessence, a documentary on Alexander’s work and on the Alexander Alliance. This documentary was made by Renea Roberts, award winning videographer and director of the film Gifting It: A Burning Embrace of Gift Economy, and of Rooted Lands – Tierras Arraigadas.

And of course, there is a lot of information about our school in Germany, as well as information about what we do in and around Europe, Asia, and America.

Feel free to give me feedback, positive or negative; either way it is all positive for me. And if you like, visit us in Germany, or join me sometime, somewhere.

Humbly yours,

Bruce

The Alexander Alliance Europe

Out On A Limb

01elis copy 2

Photo by: Anchan of Elisabeth Walker

I’m going to go out on a limb here.

Because I love Alexander’s work so much, and because over and over again I have seen people’s inner beauty unveiled through this work of ours, it has saddened me for forty years now to see so few images of Alexander’s work that are strikingly beautiful. When the work is working within someone I see a person who is peaceful and powerful, still and moving, relaxed and ready, light and substantial. But click here at Google Alexander Technique Images and see what you see.

https://www.google.com/search?q=alexander+technique&es_sm=91&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAkQ_AUoA2oVChMIkIDS_5m7xwIVy3Q-Ch0Q-Qon&biw=1468&bih=956

I see that the Alexander Technique is something medical, like chiropractic treatments. Next I pick up something about posture and body mechanics and exercise. Then I see photos of some old, dressed up guy with a smirk on his face. And yes, something about getting up from a chair the right way. That’s about it.

It’s easy to be critical, and it’s another thing entirely to take on the problem and offer something better. That’s what I’ve done my best to do. Whether I have succeeded in the eyes of our profession at large, I don’t know. It’s hard to know how others see. When I look at the photos below I see a dynamic relationship between student and teacher. Everyone is awake and energized. They are not void of emotion. No one looks stiff or unnaturally symmetrical. I see beauty that is not cosmetic. I see beauty that lies within the person and emanates from the person. I see this both in the student and in the teacher. This as one of the hallmarks of our work.

“Moses laying his hands on Joshua may be compared to one candle lighting another, no light is lost to the former.” -Rabbinic Midrash on Numbers 27:18.

Can you see it? The teacher is lit, and the student is lit. They are at once one flame and two flames. This is partner work at its best, be it Alexander work, or Aikido, or Contact, or Tango.

What do you see in these photos? Do they strike you as photos that give you a glimpse into Alexander’s work? It’s pretty much impossible to get photos like these of yourself teaching unless you are skilled at teaching the work in groups and in teaching the work through myriad activities. All the teachers in these photographs either were or are capable of imparting the work in these ways. It’s important to note that Elisabeth Walker and Marjorie Barstow, both first generation teachers excelled in these ways of teaching – both great group teachers, both great at working in activities. Of course one of my obligations as the director of the Alexander Alliance International, and as a ‘young elder’ member of our Alexander community at large, is to insure that these skills are not lost. We all have our jobs to do. This happens to be one of mine.

Perhaps the images that appear when we Google Alexander Technique are exactly the ones the Alexander community at large wants, images that convey a technique that is medical, corrective oriented, definitely about the body, about posture and body mechanics, and apparently a form of exercise, in which case my photos are way off base.

What do you see? What do you want? Tell me. I’d like to know.

lucia-anne copy

Photo by: Anchan of Lucia Walker and Anne Johnson

1 ballet barre1 copy 4

Photo of Robyn Avalon

01 Hands - 13 copy

Photo by: Anchan of Midori Shinkai

Marjorie Barstow

Photo by: Fran EAengel of M. Barstow and B. Fertman

13 copy 2

Photo by: Anchan of Akemi Kinomura

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

Photo by: Anchan of B. Fertman

Photo by: Yoshiko Hayashi of Anchan

Photo by: Yoshiko Hayashi of Anchan

Every One

photo: B. Fertman

Alexander Alliance International – Japan Retreat

Youfukugi Buddhist Temple, Yase Hieizanguchi

 Autumn, November 23-25, 2012

Midori Shinkai, her graduates, and trainees are impressive. Well coordinated each and every one. Every one helps every one. Every one has a good time, learns seemingly without effort, though every one knows they work hard at what they love.

Every one is skillful with their hands. They’re fluid yet organized. They’re upright though not rigid. They’re light and substantial. They can sense with their hands, see with their eyes, feel with their hearts.

After a day of study every one  relaxes together enjoying one another’s company. Up until 3am laughing and telling stories, eating everything from chocolate covered almonds, to surumeika, (yes, dried squid), to Ritz crackers, to umeshu, (plums marinated in wine for three years), well you get the idea – an international school in Japan. Sure some wine, or beer, or sake too, but not too much because…

8:30am is breakfast and at 9 morning movements begin. And there every one is, ready to go as if they had slept for 8 hours.

Alexander Alliance International Japan, Midori Shinkai, director, her graduates and trainees…as impressive and colorful as autumn leaves.