Touch is one of the points of contact between teacher and pupil. The others form the rest of the interaction between them mediated by the remaining senses. Alexander chose to use touch it seems almost by accident as a result of his own failure to carry out his own instructions to his body. If he could not do what he was instructing himself to do, how could he expect others to. So he took to touch. At the same time he monitored his own touch to ensure that it was of the quality he desired to give the right stimulus to his pupils. He evolved a highly developed quality of use of his own body with the result that his ensuing touch gave the appropriate stimulus to his pupils. The touch was either accurate or suffered from varying degrees of inaccuracy. There is a margin of error here and what is satisfactory with one pupil will not be appropriate for another. Personal preference on the part of the pupil and teacher play a part her but that does not detract from the existence of some kind of absolute accuracy which needs to be aspired to.
The variations in touch, hard vs soft, invasive vs non-invasive, manipulative vs non-manipulative are not what is being talked about here. It is the underlying balance and coordination (the use in Alexander language) that is the crucial factor. This is difficult to convey verbally and even experientially, though the latter is infinitely easier. So if you are interested, come to the workshop on May 7th. See News & Dates.
More on the variations of touch later….
Ah yes, three themes……
Of course there’s only one really. The use of the self. Whatever that means. I’m not being silly, or at least trying not to be. There can be so many versions of what it is depending on which part of the psychophysical lens one looks through. “Use affects functioning”. The “universal constant in living”. However that doesn’t mean we can’t look at different aspects of the “use of the self”.
So why not these three themes? Varieties of touch, Alexander thinking and teaching musicians.
Let’s take touch first. To touch or not to touch? It is clearly possible to influence a person’s use for the better by verbal instruction even though words may be open to misinterpretation. Some of Glenna Batson’s work with old people shows this to good effect. So the question is not really to touch or not to touch but rather to touch as well as talk. That is obviously best unless one gets the words hopelessly wrong.
Touch can be classified in an infinite number of ways. In the Alexander world we are inclined to use dichotomies like hard vs soft, invasive vs non-invasive, manipulative vs non-manipulative, doing vs non-doing. The problem is that without the practical demonstration of what we mean by these terms we can immediately get into all sorts of misunderstandings. This blog stuff is harder than I thought. It would be nice to get together and really exchange. But let’s keep going for a bit longer. But the trouble is that it is possible to work quite invasively as a teacher without “doing” in the bad sense of distorting one’s own use. And then the question is do we mean physically invasive or psychologically?
As I’ve always thought this material is best dealt with experientially or it risks becoming a dreadful head trip. But how else can one communicate in writing except by means of words?
Well that’s enough for now. More soon……..
After many years regretting not writing down my daily musings about the Alexander Technique, I decided to see if I could jot them down, no matter how trivial. And here seemed a good place. I kind of hope no one replies as that would mean that I would have to reply in turn – or maybe not….
This year I’ve also decided to go to a few conferences and present workshops on topics which interest me and on which I’ve formulated a few ideas. I’ve decided to offer them up as follows:
1.“The Nature of the Alexander Thinking Process”, mischievously advertised as “Mindlessness” at HITE in Harley Street, London, 7th May at 1.30pm
2.“Varieties of Touch” at the AMMAS Conference in Spain, 23-30 July.
3. “What can a Non-musician Alexander Teacher offer Musicians ?” at the International Conference for Alexander Technique in Music Education, 30-31 July in London.
4.“Varieties of Touch” (again) at the ATI Conference in October. I doubt I will have sorted this one out after one airing!
So here we have it, three themes: Alexander thinking, varieties of touch and teaching musicians. Yes, they seem to be some of the most common things that preoccupy me as a teacher at the moment…….