Dance is one of the most demanding performing arts and dancers, unfortunately, are prone to overuse injuries and injuries from forcing technique. In Dance Magazine, Robert Britton, an Alexander teacher who works with dancers, said, “Our bodies have histories. Past injuries and the places we hold tension affect our ways of moving. Dancers bring these habits of use to class and dance instruction gets layered on top.” Sessions of Alexander technique makes a student aware of the specific habits that restrict their movements and helps change those tendencies.
Alexander Technique sessions involve gentle hands-on work and simple movements like standing, walking, and sitting. The teacher encourages students to lengthen their spines, balance their beads, and widen their backs in a way that creates the ease of movement that Alexander discovered.
Alexander work requires dancers to release tensions that they've used as crutches - perhaps since they began training. For example, a ballet dancer may tighten her glutes to tuck her sacrum under and turn her legs out. Alexander work would teach her to release that held position and replace it with a lengthened spine and more inner muscular strength. The result is a body that moves with greater ease and shifts styles with less effort and danger of injury
Many artists - actors, musicians, as well as dancers - have found the Alexander Technique to be a powerful way to enhance performance. And some goes as far to say that the Alexander Technique is “the technique under all techniques,” because it is a process of embodied thinking, sensing, and acting. Through studying the Alexander Technique, dancers can move with greater ease, poise, and accomplishment, regardless of the movement style.
The Technique involves three parts of training: the “Means-Whereby,” “Inhibition,” and “Direction.” The Means-Whereby helps dancers pay attention to their whole Self as they are moving. By paying attention to how you are moving - as you move - process takes precedence over product. Inhibition is a process that facilitates effortless, natural movement. By using inhibition, dancers learn to recognize habitual, unembodied movements and to choose not to do them. And Direction is the final phase of Alexander Technique training that enables the dancer to be fully, outwardly expressive.
Alexandertech.org is the official site of the American Society for Alexander Technique and by clicking “Find a Teacher” or “Classes and Events” you can find local Alexander teachers or classes in your area!
Thanks for this post. I myself am not a dancer, but I recently started taking private Alexander Technique lessons. As a writer and a generally very cerebral person, I have discovered that I tend to be in my thoughts more than in my body--and Alexander Technique has helped me to identify some of the "ideas" I have in actions as simple as sitting or standing. The concept of embodying your very being, I think, is so relevant to other practices I'm involved in, like meditation and yoga. Famous writers like Aldous Huxley also swore by the Alexander Technique--overall, I think it could do a world of good to not just dancers but those of us who tend to be stuck in our heads.