Evolving Excellence

Open to All

Session One : Evolving Excellence: The Alexander Technique’s Role in the Pursuit of Mastery

With the active ‘ask’ of the Alexander Technique (AT) we enrich our ability to fine-tune our skills, cooperating with our whole-self-coordination. What F.M. Alexander called the wish that we carry with us through the activity becomes a barometer to assess the effectiveness of our existing skill plans, enabling us to coach ourselves.

Studies on excellent performance extoll ‘deliberate practice’*, emphasizing the importance of how we train skills. As we learn how to do something new to us, or refine a skill we already know, AT makes detectives of us, helping us sort helpful ideas from flawed ideas. AT’s elegant design for incorporating new information by creating a constructive, ever-evolving means- whereby exponentially enhances deliberate practice.

I use the term studied rehearsed plans to describe the skills we deliberately learn and practice using the Alexander Technique as the primary (as in first) tool. Rather than a rote duplication of a pattern, the Alexander Technique guarantees freshness and development in every repetition. The sequence has been studied, analyzed, and selected; yet the expectation, as in any rehearsal, is that the quality continues to evolve and improve.

During Day One’s session, we will become AT detectives –exploring structured variations for learning new skills. Participants will have the opportunity to refine one of their own skills. And, in the spirit of deep play, everyone will also have the opportunity to learn a new skill. (Cathy will provide the props!)

*Referring to the work of K. Anders Ericsson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi among others.

Session 2 Evolving Communication: Withing

The studied rehearsed plan I offer for communication – using AT to invite people to be with you while you are with them -is the second day’s exploration, emphasizing AT’s role in everyday, professional, and artistic connections.

A short video from one of my recent collaborations – Hope Wechkin’s The Withing Project, a theatre and dance oratorio based on neuroscience and connection – will be the jumping off point for exploring how AT facilitates communication. Also called a theatre of entanglement, the production involving 32 performers, oratorio, drama, music, dance, medicine, and science.

The video includes a representation of the fMRI data from research being done by a University of Washington neuroscientist, Leanna Standish. During one of the talkbacks after a Withing Project performance, someone asked how you could teach someone to with. Standish’s first reaction was that she didn’t know. The actors in the project, who have all studied with me, nearly leaped out of their seats saying, We know. It is what Cathy teaches us all the time.

Hope Wechkin M.D. who wrote and performed in the piece and has also studied AT and communication with me, said the work celebrates our growing understanding of how we’re entangled with one another.

A series of exercises from my university classes exemplifying, and indeed, celebrating, how AT can be used to evolve communication skills will comprise of the rest of the workshop. Participants who wish to will also have the opportunity to experiment with an individual withing/communication endeavor.