F.M. Alexander was an actor. For over a century, performers have benefited from studying his method. I was introduced to the Alexander Technique as a young actor and singer, and have worked with hundreds of actors (stage & screen), singers (from opera to pop), musicians (concert violinists to studio musicians) and other performers of various stripes over the years. I have taught at numerous performing institutions and am currently a guest faculty member for the MFA actors at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I love providing performers a way to discover this profound tool for greater presence, ease and self-expression in their art.
Most performers experience a point in their development where they sense the biggest hindrance to their full expression is that they are somehow holding themselves back. Despite all their training, technique and “practice practice practice,” they long for greater freedom and trust. In lessons we address the habits that interfere with our authentic, spontaneous expression. These can include physical habits of tightening, repetitive strain, or lack of awareness; and psycho-physical blocks that keep us from getting out of our own way. We often will also interfere with our natural breathing coordination by holding our breath, gasping for air, or pushing unnecessarily. The question becomes, how can I stop?!
When our choices are no longer tied to habitual reaction, and instead we have great facility with our own responsiveness, the possibilities open up in front of us, and everything we love about our art flows out easily and naturally.
The Art of Breathing was developed by Alexander Technique teacher Jessica Wolf, who founded the Alexander Technique program at the Yale School of Drama and works with all the MFA students as an integral part of their training. Working with the Art of Breathing has immeasurably increased the ease and effectiveness of my work with performers.
If you are interested in undertaking a course of lesson in the Alexander Technique and Art of Breathing, please feel free to contact me to discuss what course of study best suits your unique needs. If you have other health-related concerns, I also welcome you to come for a Wellbeing Session.
Some renowned performers who have studied the Alexander Technique include: Julie Andrews, William Hurt, Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Paul McCartney, Michael Caine, John Cleese, Kelly McGillis, Hilary Swank, Taylor Schilling, Annette Bening, Patti Lupone, Paul Newman, Sting, Maggie Smith, Madonna, Mary Steenburgen, Robin Williams, Joanne Woodward, playwright George Bernard Shaw, author Aldous Huxley, and members of the New York Philharmonic. Below are some of their words:
“Using the Alexander Technique empowers me and gives me a balanced sense of tension rather than relying on creating tension to do something in order to produce a sound or an act that is preconceived. I realized that I cannot control a set of circumstances outside of myself so I can go on a journey relying on the state of mind and body that the Alexander Technique gives me.”- Alan Rickman
“[The Alexander Technique] is a way to transform stress to joy. It’s my way of keeping on track with work and truth and the world I’m in which is working with people and creating. It’s for anyone who wants to be in contact with their own body and the way we tense ourselves and relax ourselves. It’s another way of moving.” – Juliette Binoche
“The technique’s many benefits for actors include minimized tension, centeredness, vocal relaxation and responsiveness, mind/body connection, and about an inch and a half of additional height!” – Kevin Kline
“I was dubious about the effects of the Alexander Technique when I first went in to experience it, but I found out almost immediately that the benefits were total – both physically and mentally – and, happily, have also been long-lasting.” – Joanne Woodward
“Forty years ago, after one of my concerts, Adrian Boult told me that if I continued to conduct like that I’d become a cripple, and that I must take lessons in the Alexander Technique. Today I am still having lessons – as with music, there is no end to the learning process. It affects not only the use of the body, but also one’s views of oneself and one’s behavior. For the aches and ills that come with the years, the Technique can work miracles.” – Sir Colin Davis, Conductor
“Good acting is revealing yourself, not covering yourself up. If your body is free, your mind is free. [The Alexander Technique allows] you to feel what it’s like to stay open physically, and also stay fully involved in whatever you’re supposed to be doing.” – Annette Bening
“The Alexander Technique can be sustaining; it is something that if learned well, can be carried along with you for the rest of your life. It gives you confidence to be who you are when you are up in front of an audience.” – Patrick Maddams, Managaing Director, Royal Academy of Music
“I started in radio at age 23. When I get nervous my voice tends to get higher and faster and I sounded like Minnie Mouse. The thing that really helped me is that I took Alexander Technique lessons for many years.” – Terry Gross, Host of NPR’s “Fresh Air”
“I find the Alexander Technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get you to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you.” – John Cleese