At the session on Tuesday, we delved deeper into various modes of training.
We began with Margi and Erika providing a fresh perspective on our Alexander work, focusing on the concept of “direction.” How do we direct our bodies without actually engaging muscles or trying to “place” or “arrange” our bodies in to what we believe to be true alignment? The answer is deeper body awareness and more complete body mapping. So we turned to images of the human skeleton to try to understand how our bones fit together to carry weight. As an example, we also looked at the skeleton of an alligator.
The alligator: a creature that appears to be all spine. From the images Erika brought to class we noticed how the alligator’s arms and legs extend easily from the spine and that when they lie on their bellies, their limbs rest comfortably “at their sides.” Our arms and legs essentially fall to the sides of our bodies as well, but we want to keep looking for that energy that keeps them from pinching down of hanging as dead weight.
Using the print outs of human skeletons as a visual reference, we talked about how the red wave and blue wave can help us visualize “direction” in the body. The blue wave travels UP the spine, allowing the spine and neck and head to travel forward and up on an easy current of energy. The red wave pours down the body simultaneously. We can allow this energy to pour down through our arms and legs and ground us. This idea- that not all energy must travel up up up when working on Alexander Technique- was described with the image of a fountain. As the energy travels up from the ground into the pelvis, it spills over like water in a fountain and moves back down the legs in a circular flow of energy that deeply connects us to the earth. The same thing happens at the sternum. As the energy travels up through the torso, it shoots out from the sternum to the collar bone to the shoulders and then down the arms, allowing them to hang freely without unnecessary and tension-inducing lift.
Thus, the arms, we decided, begin at the sternum. And the legs begin at the meeting of the coccyx and ilium. Thinking of the limbs this way allows them to easily plug into the energy moving up the spine and carry that energy out and down. It also allows our limbs to connect more to the core of our physical and spiritual body, carrying that internal energy outward in movement and gesture.
We talked about re-connecting to our reptilian brains at the base of the skull. When this primal mechanism is triggered in a fight or flight response, we are granted full freedom of movement- tension free and without conscious thought.
After all this investigation, we tackled an exercise designed to coax out the sensation of having the arms traveling out and down from the sternum. We began standing behind a chair. We moved easily into a relaxed monkey pose and brought our hanging arms to rest on chair back. We then applied light pressure to the chair, attempting to pull it into two pieces, essentially moving our hands apart from each other while keeping them gripped on to the chair back. This light engagement helped us to open up the back body and feel the arms rooted deeply in the sternum.
After Alexander is was time for some extensive Viewpoints training with Erika. We dove right in as a full group, working on filling the space with our moving bodies while keying up our kinesthetic listening. We traveled through the windows created by two bodies passing, peeled off and changed directions when passing close to another ensemble member, and played with tempo and stillness. After a while, Erika exhorted us to “turn up your listening from a 7 to an 11.” For the last several minutes of the full group session, we were much more tuned in to the energy being passed around the room. I felt much more plugged in and it was a pleasure to turn my conscious, decision-making mind off entirely and let impulses arise from the group.
We then worked in groups of six- six ensemble members up on the grid and six sitting and acting as “audience.” Both groups created some very memorable pictures and moments.
Finally, it was time to work on “propositions” from LIFE IS A DREAM. The propositions were developed for 10 minutes and then shared with the group. We saw scenes from the opening of the play, the moment when Sigismund first sees Rosaura as a woman, the first meeting of Astolfo and Estrella, Basilio’s tortured decision over his cursed son, and the “locket moment.” Each proposition made strong use of special awareness and stage picture, obviously drawing on the Viewpoints work. Each proposition was expressive and readable. For myself, I am excited to work on going deeper into the psychology of a moment, possibly obscuring its meaning and readability, for the sake of a deeper connection to the material. That will be my goal in upcoming proposition work.
In all, an energetic and creative and enlightening session.