The Performing Arts And The Alexander Technique
When it comes to play acting the Alexander technique is an invaluable tool for performing artists.
First and foremost F.M Alexander was a performer and what is known today as the Alexander technique (AT) grew out of his need to overcome his own personal habits which hindered him from performing and realising his own potential as an actor. After experiencing such improvements in his own life F.M soon found himself being called upon to help other people overcome
their own physical habits which caused them coordination and breathing problems among other things.
To date, acting faculties of numerous universities teach the Alexander Technique. The Actors Studio in New York, University of California, Los Angeles, Juilliard, American Conservatory Theater, Yale, George Washington University, Brandeis, New York University - Tisch School of the University of North Carolina, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and University of Washington.
Additional acting schools also offer Alexander Technique lessons, especially in the United States.
Many famous actors have also learned and benefited from the Alexander Technique, these include:
Robin Williams, Paul Newman, William Hurt, Jeremy Irons, Joel Gray, Mary Steenbergen, John Cleese, Patrick Stewart, Kevin Kline, Joanne Woodward, John Houseman, James Earl Jones, Julie Andrews, Christopher Reeve, Ben Kingsley, Keanu Reeves, Juliette Binoche, Anthony Perkins, Hilary
The stage actor must respond to all types of stimuli around him - to the sound and movement of other performers as well as to the reaction of the audience. Therefore, it is extremely important for the actor to be able to consciously influence his external environment by knowing how best to perform.
The Alexander Technique brings the actor to the discovery and a deeper awareness of his primary tools, his voice and body. This new awareness typically leads to the development of their use. AT students learn to identify and change those habits, which hinder physical lightness, freedom and control which are essential for effective acting.
Alexander Technique is about thoughts and actions, and how the way of thinking affects what we do. This is a potential key to acting which opens the door, when our attention switches from “what to do” to “how to do it”.
Through Alexander Technique one also comes to the realization that a habitual movement which was always done in the same way, can be done in many ways and that there are other choices available.
The Alexander Technique is all about change for one must be willing to change his or her deeply entrenched habits in order to benefit from AT. It is important to remember that Alexander Technique is more of a mental endeavour than a physical task and is founded on the understanding that our habits and way of thinking are intimately connected to how we conduct our self in speech and movement.
As one is made aware of movement and no longer takes it for granted,
through the relinquishing of the old habits only then can the new and healthy habits begin to develop in all activities. For every aspect of performance depends on the actors mindset which dictates the way the performer appears, responds, sings and speaks, for overall performance depends on what happens in the mind of the actor which in turn manifests itself in correct posture and action.
The performing artist can easily fall into the trap of doing what has worked once while rehearsing or just coping with everyday life, instead of releasing the habitual movements and discovering that many movements could be even more suitable for development. This approach presents the performer with two problems. One is that, after the first sense of achievement, you keep trying the same move while another bad habit develops out of it. The other problem is to achieve the goal of the movement, instead of letting that happen.
Wanting the goal of movement too much will over work our muscles, which restricts the freedom of movement and complete breathing, thus the circle starts all over again.
Actors ought to communicate with their whole body whilst play-acting. Thus, the development and improvement of self is essential in order to achieve physical freedom. When it comes to the concept of good posture many people are misinformed, for we must understand that what we consider as correct posture does not neccessarily equate to true freedom. Our emotions, health, outlook on life, and mental status are all important and play a more than significant part in all our lives.
What can the actors benefit from the Alexander Technique?
- Development of self-confidence
- Development of self-expression
- Possibility of choices
- Injury prevention
- A new approach, which is due to break free of the imagination and develop creativity
- To dispense with ordinary movements, which are hampering the coordination and breathing, and what does not belong to the character
- Improves the spatial perception
- A greater degree of opennes
- Overcoming stage fright
- Release energy
- Improves posture
Performers shown on this page had learned the Alexander Technique.