Whether acting, dancing, singing, or using a musical instrument, the artist’s own psycho-physical organism is in itself an instrument of their art. The quality of the use of oneself as an instrument, then, will lead to the difference between a poor or uplifting performance. It is a question of how the performer applies themself to the performance, which is of course dependent on the performer’s quality of using themselves in general. This is a question of attitude, stress, muscle tone, naturalness, etc.
All too often, tension manifests itself negatively, interfering with natural coordination, movement, breathing. A certain amount of nerves may be useful for bringing out the best in a performer, but entrenched patterns of stress and holding will get in the way of achieving optimal results.
The Alexander Technique has a special role in helping artists understand, reduce and, in time, eliminate their own patterns of interference. It is worth noting that FM Alexander was an actor and that the Alexander Technique arose from his personal struggles with, and ultimate victory over, habits of tension in performance. He became known as the ‘breathing man’ to whom actors, singers, and other performers turned in the early days after his discoveries. Later he applied his Technique to the general public.
The build-up and release of tension is at the heart of any artistic performance, so it is essential for the artist to appreciate this inherent ebb and flow, and to have the appropriate control over the increase or ease of tension in their being.
In Alexander Technique lessons, we learn to entrust ourselves to natural support, and to shed excessive holding and effort. We become free to engage in activity spontaneously. Breathing and voice quality benefits directly and a sense of lightness, confidence, and well-being ensues. Practice, too, becomes more meaningful, as the quality of thinking that is learned from the Alexander Technique enables smarter, rather than harder, rehearsal and practice.
The Alexander Technique, once understood and integrated, can be applied directly in performance – as awareness in activity – which is an invaluable asset for any artist.
“The Alexander Technique can be sustaining; it is something that if learned well, can be carried along with you for the rest of your life. It gives you confidence to be who you are when you are up in front of an audience.” – Patrick Maddams, Managing Director, Royal Academy of Music, London
“Alexander students rid themselves of bad postural habits and are helped to reach, with their bodies and minds, an enviable degree of freedom of expression.” – Michael Langham, Director, The Juilliard School, New York USA