Alexander Technique principles have a wide range of applications and benefits which can translate into improvements in all area of life, from managing existing pain to preventing tension which can cause longer term problems in future. One of the key groups of people who can benefit from actively learning the principles are actors.
This is unsurprising, since FM Alexander himself, the man who first developed the technique, did so as a young actor in order to improve his own performance. But how can the Alexander Technique help and in what respects? Living in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1890s, Alexander took part in many amateur dramatics societies’ performances, receiving positive reviews from the media. But, often plagued by ill health, his voice began to suffer. He found himself hoarse from time to time and on occasions, could barely speak, only breathing in gasps. In an attempt to work out why this was happening to him, he studied his actions in mirrors, watching how his body reacted when he spoke. Over a period of time, he found that by using ‘conscious control’, he could adjust the way he held himself when reciting aloud, inhibiting movements that seemed to him to be inhibiting his voice. Gradually, his voice improved and by 1894, he was able to give up his day job to concentrate on a new career in speaking professionally and teaching others The Alexander Technique to do the same. So what was it about what Alexander had discovered that is now taught to huge numbers of new actors?
Well, by increasing awareness of the self and identifying and changing bad habits, many find that their performances as actors improve exponentially. The technique also helps improve an individual’s stamina and clarity of perception. It assists greatly in finding a more natural posture and allows actors to be more spontaneous and natural in the way they move, on-stage and off. It even assists with managing stage fright and pre-performance nerves, in part by controlling the breathing to a better and more purposeful extent. The aim is for actors to learn now to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’, to focus and engage on their performance while feeling and acting relaxed. It can help them become the characters they are playing and eliminate their own natural, learned bad habits that would otherwise inhibit their performance. There is a long list of very famous actors and actresses who have learned the technique and used it in great success in their careers, from Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench to Julie Andrews and Jesse Eisenberg. It is no great surprise that the principles are now taught in drama schools across the world, including the UK’s most noted training ground for actors, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
If you are interested in pursuing a career in acting, are just starting out or have experience in performing on stage, the Alexander Principle could be just what you are looking for. Over the last 100 years, many actors around the world have found that it has helped them achieve better performances. You too could benefit from just a few simple Alexander Technique lessons to gain greater control over your body.