Gesture and movement in theater has always fascinated me and driven my work. But the honesty and simplicity of the everyday gesture is on my mind as well. As I'm embarking on a three week exploration of impulse and gesture (see my Thursday group class for Actors), I thought I would offer up a self-study experiment in gesture and embodiment. Anyone can try this -- it's not just for actors!
The holidays are the perfect time to reconnect with your family—which, for many of us, brings up mixed emotions. We love our families and we want to see them and spend time with them. But for many of us, family members also have a unique ability to drive us crazy, causing us to fall back into old patterns and making us feel like we never left...
What is AT Motion? "At a certain point the boundaries between acting technique and Alexander technique began to fade...and a stronger sense of teaching a whole person in a dynamic, personal way became clearer to me"....
“The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”
I recently shared a quote from the Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön about a practice for developing compassion. She proposes building empathy by imagining ourselves in a distressed person’s shoes, feeling what it’s like to be in dire circumstances. “We can expect to experience our fear of pain,” she reminds us, “Compassion practice is daring.” She invites us to learn to “relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us.”
Sometimes I crave change. When it's my own choice to change my habits, I look for change. When feeling playful, I might switch things up by instigating a change. At other times I hate change and the feeling of vulnerability that comes with unexpected change. I might then react with resentment or resistance. Change is happening all the time, and these days I often feel at odds with the rapid changes happening from the White House. When change feels out of control, what can I count on? Is there something that I can do to find support through change? How can I re-establish my sense of wholeness and unity so that my vulnerability isn’t a liability, but an aspect of my resiliency?
Just had a FaceTime chat with my good friend and mentor, Bill (Dr. William Conable). He reminded me of the importance of finding a balance between giving and receiving. This may sound like I am referring to the holidays and gifts, but I’m thinking about energy and the balance we need in daily life. With all the running around we do in NYC, we can easily find ourselves overextended.
Sometimes, through generosity, we give out more than we take in. I’ve known many actors to give and give to their scene partner, but forget to make time to receive. This is almost always the case for parents; they love their children but they need some care for themselves, too.
With Alexander Technique, we can move and breathe with a greater sense of space. But we don’t want to get caught in a pattern of over-extending. When we think UP and OUT, we undo tension in order to expand into the 3-dimensional space; legs freeing to the ground, back freeing into the space behind us. Right now as you read this, you can experience your capacity for openness and expansion. The cue is “I have space”. But if you feel tired instead of energized, you may be in need of more receiving.
Remember our basic cue, “where’s the floor?” – notice the floor beneath your feet. As you cooperate with gravity to release or “land” on the ground, let that down elicit UP. Sense the upward flow of rebound or buoyancy throughout your whole body.
Now go further with receiving some grounding energy. Let yourself receive even more upward energy but of another kind. It can be sensed as the persistent “hum” or “stream of warmth” from the ground. Some people can visualize a warm red energy that flows up through our bones as deep as the marrow. Others can simply sense the support of the firm ground. The more we can trust that support, the more we can receive support. The cue is “I have support”. Take in, absorb, replenish your energy. Generosity and expansion can be joyful and freeing when we also accept support.
Let's practice sensing our strength; let's build our ability to be powerful and fierce in our understanding of what calm and ready for action entails. Ferocious equanimity!
Here are some simple grounding steps one can take to reconnect with self and to the present. You may already be using an effective means of coping – bravo – this is meant to encourage and support your personal process. Do as much as feels safe in the place you are in right now – you may be surprised by how much that is!
Cultivating a lively use of tension: the
synergy between acting and the
Teva Bjerken, Belinda Mello and Robin Mello
Belinda was interviewed twice by Robert Rickover of AlexanderAudio.com
Listen to Belinda discuss How Actors use the Alexander Technique and [Her] Experience with the Alexander Technique.