– So even among the Alexander teachers, there seem to be different entrances for each style of teaching. In case of you, what in your style of teaching is the entrance? What style of teaching do you like or prefer?
Well, I don’t know. I know different occasions when I really admire certain teachers and certain ways of teaching. And when I admire (or envy even) different people’s teaching, I like to look at what’s going on then and whether that’s something I aspire to (so I want to learn and take for myself) or whether it’s just enjoyment of seeing someone doing something really well their way. And it varies. I do often take on and learn from other people different ways.
But then I am noticing I have a way of my own, which is what I do, so I must like that or find it works for what I think I’m doing. But I certainly don’t think it’s the only way to teach, or even the best way of teaching. It seems to be the one I do.
– So what is it that you find yourself doing
It depends on the situations obviously. But a sort of mixture of things. Maybe that’s quite important, the mixture. Whether it’s groups or individuals — trying to make opportunities that we can become more conscious of our reactions. And those opportunities vary. For me, I value varying them, so it’s not always everyday activity or performance activity. Sometimes it’s a totally new activity that I suggested, or something useless, you know, different things. Or just what’s happening now, the improvisational thing.
Then in relation to the touch and the hands-on, I’m in constant research about exactly what’s going on with that (laugh). Even that varies from time to time with different people. And I don’t quite know, but something seems to provide an opportunity for people to know something differently and even DO something differently, so that, that possibility becomes open. Something about that, I think.
And often people talk in lessons about feeling more ‘peaceful’ or more ‘calm’. For me that’s interesting because a while ago I used to think, “Oh, but that’s a bit boring to be peaceful or calm”(laugh). Mostly people like it, but I wasn’t sure that I did. But Alexander liked that thing — he talked about this thing, that you can’t really learn anything, and you can’t really experience. I think he says something like “unless you have that calm and collected condition where someone’s reasoning processes are operating”. And I think that’s true, actually. If everything is overexcited, it’s very hard for even ideas coming in. There seems to be something about touch that very naturally helps have that effect. Also something I think about is whatever the teacher is maintaining or modeling has that effect — people begin to resonate to that. So if you’re in that whatever is called more calm or more balanced state, then people begin to get it. And they like it – it’s more comfortable. It does seem that for me it’s easier to find that through touch than any other way.
– Has the way you teach been somewhat stayed the same since you started teaching, or has it gone through changes?
It’s gone through changes…as I’ve leaned. Some of the things I talked about — but also that funny balance of where confidence comes from.
– (everyone) Where does confidence come from?
Where does confidence come from? I don’t know. But in a certain way, the freer or more present you get, the more confident you get. But it’s quite hard to do that.
So I think at the beginning of teaching, I more worked within the form that I had learned – certainly in private lessons which was mostly chair-work and lying down and very simple movement activities, and sort of following that form, putting a few things in. In a way maybe it’s not that different now, but I notice I’m much more likely to start from what someone asks or says to me, than from my idea before about what maybe we should learn or do today. So I won’t always know. That’s in private lessons.
Then quite early on after I trained, I did start doing group things. That has changed a bit for me. At the beginning we were kind of told, “You must always say it’s just an introduction” -even if it’s ten lessons in a big group or whatever, “This is just an introduction”. Then I thought about the principles, and sharing what they were ,and that kind of thing. When I look back actually at my notes, from the first class I did like that. It’s very similar to what I do now, incredibly similar. But the difference is that I don’t think that’s good enough to say, “It’s just an introduction”. Even if you have one class and that’s all someone’s gonna go to, maybe they get interested and they want to learn more, but somehow the lesson must be right there. I’m not gonna tell people what they could learn if they studied this, which is sort of what we were told to do. It’s more like, “This is what you’re learning”. But actually, again, the form is very similar. The form in the group for me is to explain a little – explore a little usually with games, explore a little in practical activities. Certainly early on I didn’t do much hands-on in groups. And then I saw how powerful that was, so I would include that now.
– Some Alexander teachers seem to think that it’s impossible to learn anything in just one lesson, or having so many students in a group. But does that mean you don’t think that way?
In a way not. I was talking to another teacher who said that when people start she says they must come for two lessons a week (or is it three…two or three), and if they can’t afford that or can’t make the time, then they wait till they can. And they must do that for quite a few weeks. I was a bit shocked. I thought if somebody says to me, “Can I come for two lessons to try?”, I go “Yes.” and I expect them to learn something in two lessons.
So I feel a bit between-the-two. I do understand that other one. Because I think in a way that’s what is a bit different about AT. It is an ongoing work, it’s not something where you go, “Ok, now I understand it” — it’s like forever to make those changes and bring things. So a bit of both, really. I still think it’s worth it. It’s worth opening that possibility. But that just seems to be what I do. I don’t know what’s better.
Sometimes I do feel concerned when I think of how much I feel I have to learn about myself. I’ve studied this in teacher-training for three years and taught it for sixteen or whatever. I think, “Well, if I can’t learn it by now, how’s somebody who comes four times got any hope of learning anything…?” But I see people able to. Maybe they’re quicker, or it’s a different thing they want, or something. People do learn things.
There’s one summer course I work on, which is hard for me because I see 28 singers in a day in groups of seven, 10 minutes each. They’re watching each other in the groups of seven, I think, “This is useless” I get no realization. But a couple of people came back a year later, and they said, “Oh, what we did really helped me”. Or somebody gets inspired to look for more teaching.
– Have you ever thought of quitting teaching AT?
– Yes … like, “This is it, I’m gonna quit”.
Not quite “This is it, I’m gonna quit”, because I would still use it. It seems to be such a great place for learning that I can’t really imagine that. But there certainly have been times when I thought, “No, this is not how I’m going to study and teach it within the form of AT – as I said, with thinking about learning those other things or when I see people doing things that I admire. But funnily enough, what I would miss would be the touch again — information that’s shared. Because I think some of the other things, you do get in other disciplines. But even other touch-disciplines – which are very interesting. I know some Alexander teachers go towards Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Cranial Osteopathy and different kinds of things – none of them have the same quality.