Acting

With Alexander Technique Exercises 

FM Alexander had a successful acting career at a time when even the television and radio were unheard of, let alone the vast array of entertainment options available to us today - theatre really mattered!

 

However, he encountered personal problems: 'audible sucking in of the breath’ which marred his performance and occasional dysphonia. He was up against physical difficulties that quite literally meant ‘curtains’ as doctors could only suggest that he give up the stage.

 

Alexander wondered why his afflictions only occurred at work as opposed to in everyday life. He surmised that it must be something odd he was doing to himself. His dogged determination to find a solution lead to the development of his now-famous technique.

F.M. Alexander 

1869 - 1955

Alexander had developed a keen eye from a lifetime of working with horses. He embarked on a lengthy process of experimentation and self-discovery, minutely observing himself from all angles with mirrors while rehearsing his lines.   

 

He found that by using ‘conscious control’ of his actions, by inhibiting wrong movements rather than trying to ‘do’ correct ones, and by focusing on ‘the means whereby’ rather than ‘the end to be gained’, his vocal and respiratory problems disappeared.

 

He became relatively famous for his wonderful voice and powerful projection and other actors began to seek his advice. His special breathing technique gradually became well known within the acting community and today the Alexander Technique is taught in most of the main theatre schools in the world, including RADA, Juilliard School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 

 

The Alexander Technique is now world famous, used in all walks of life, but it's worth noting that it was primarily a system of exercises for actors

Just some of the actors who have studied the Alexander Technique

Alexander Technique exercises can help actors with... 

-   Stage fright

-   Acting too close to your own personality

-   Acting with the voice and not the body

-   Forgetting the audience

-   Neglecting diction, articulation and volume

-   Improving stamina

-   Breaking character when something goes wrong

-   Fear of embarrassment, being foolish

-   Increasing clarity of perception

-   Showing off – when you get to a part and think 'I’m good at this bit’

-   Remembering to breathe

-   Projecting

-   Creating fear

-   Consistency

-   Gait

-   Embodiment

-   Freeing up spontaneity

-   Neatness

And much, much more.

 

The technique can help you gain more control of your breathing, transform the quality of the ‘action’, and enhance your freedom of movement and stage presence. Improved self-awareness allows you to eliminate poor habits and develop a greater repertoire of skills to deliver your best performance possible.

 

Alexander technique exercises are recommended by leading actors as the foundation for good use and freedom of movement, both on and off stage.

For a 5% discount on your first lesson, contact me and I will aim respond within 2 days

Breathing

Alexander Technique exercises for actors 

Breath is at the centre of you; it bouys you up, lifts and sustains you. It is the flowing current that supports your character on stage. It is everything. But how can you attend to it when you are experiencing emotional or physiological challenges?

 

Your breathing needs to be integrated at all times, including when you feel challenged by stage fright or disruption, when you portray fear, flight or fancy, when you are suffering a head cold. You want to give your best performance at all times.

 

Alexander realised that tension held anywhere in the muscular system will affect the breathing and that by eliminating the muscular tension the breathing will improve. His breathing exercises are different from all others in that they require you to ‘do less’ with yourself rather than ‘do more’. 

 

You have approximately 750 postural muscles: muscles needed for balance and movement; muscles which you need control over for good acting. Hundreds of those muscles are likely to be over-contracted most of the time, and even with the deepest self-knowledge and self-control, you are unlikely to notice because the habits will have been there for so long that you have become used to them feeling quite normal.

 

Lessons in the Alexander technique teach you how to identify and correct these habits. The more you learn, the freer and lighter you become. Your back becomes an elastic, expansive support rather than a hard knot; your ribs and diaphragm are able to move instead of staying fixed, and your breath can come naturally, when you need it.

 

The process is revelational and truly uplifting.

Direction

Alexander Technique exercises for actors 

Skilled actors are used to using voice, body and facial expression to good effect. The effort and scrutiny required is quite intense and hence actors tend to really ‘know themselves’. Learning the Alexander technique provides an even deeper level of self-knowledge.

 

Lessons take you beyond the complex task of conveying an onstage character to the person beneath.

You are the instrument. Everything about you is focused on building make-believe and when you are successful, you play your part in transporting your audience into a memorable story. When you are able to simultaneously direct tension-free efficiency in your underlying use of yourself, this allows you to remain comfortable and separate from your character.

 

The exercise of direction unravels everything you have ever been, or have done, to leave you with a truly blank canvass on which to portray the part you are playing. An Alexander teacher can guide you in learning this powerful skill and you will never look back.

Some more of the many actors who have studied the Technique

 

Inhibition

Alexander Technique exercises for actors 

Inhibition is that difficult skill of being able to withhold consent to a given stimuli. It’s what gives you the ability to stay in character if something unexpected goes wrong on stage; the ability to overcome stage fright, to really embody your character and to create consistency.

 

Alexander realised that in order to prevent old habits of tension from automatically manifesting, and new habits to form, a level of conscious inhibition is required before your slightest physical movement.

 

The decision to move stimulates messages to leave the brain, travel along the nerve fibers and activate the muscle spindles incredibly fast. If you don’t pause to direct a different course, then you will always react in the same way.

 

Inhibition is one of the key exercises taught in Alexander lessons – as with ‘direction’ it is a skill which is best acquired with the helping hands of a good teacher. The benefits are easily noticeable on stage but they also spread into your everyday life and are quite liberating.

Yet more actors who have studied the Alexander Technique

Primary control

Alexander Technique exercises for actors 

Regardless of the role you are playing, the length of time on set or the physical challenges of the day, if you are able to attend to your ‘primary control’ then everything will work better.

 

People’s muscular habits will always have the overall effect of reducing them. Everyone has the same initial pattern of misuse, probably because we inadvertently copy one another and also because we have a lot of stress.

The problem begins with over-contraction in the neck, which in turn pulls the heavy head into the shoulders, which in turn compresses the spine and narrows the ribcage, which leads to numerous adjustments throughout the musculo-skeletal system. We end up scrunched like a ball of foil.

 

With Alexander lessons, this head-neck-back relationship, or ‘Primary Control’ can be studied and improved.

 

When the neck can be relatively free, the head relatively poised, the back lengthening and widening, then all other movement is more comfortable and better supported.

 

Greater efficiency can be attained with less wear and tear, and you can feel as though you are occupying the space you were designed to fill, even before you begin to act.

 

When your primary control is free and light, not only will your performance be better but you will emerge intact, rather than exhausted or even damaged!

Even MORE actors who have all studied the Alexander Technique

Lessons with Jennifer Davy

I have many years’ experience as an Alexander teacher and have taught many an actor, including the occasional famous one.

 

I have less experience of acting myself, the last time being aged four when I played the part (rather well I thought) of a shepherd in the school nativity.

 

My personal experience on stage has been in the form of singing and public speaking. Practising the Alexander technique gave me the confidence required for solo performance; it helped me to project my voice with ease and comfort and it helped me to feel comfortable in myself and thus be able to engage with my audience.

 

I find it thoroughly fascinating to help actors, and other performers, achieve their full potential; ridding them of the habits of a lifetime to make space for them to channel other characters, or music and dance; freeing them from themselves. It’s very satisfying to work with people to enhance their existing skills.

 

Whether you’ve already had some lessons and could do with a top-up, or are new to the technique, or even if your performing days are behind you, I would encourage you to book a taster lesson with me because it’s great fun and makes you feel marvellous!

 

For a 5% discount on your first lesson, contact me and I will aim respond within 2 days

 

Quotes from famous actors

Good acting is revealing yourself, not covering yourself up. If your body is free, your mind is free.  [The Alexander technique allows] you to feel what it's like to stay open physically, and also stay fully involved in whatever you're supposed to be doing.

Annette Bening, Actor

I find The Alexander technique very helpful in my work. Things happen without you trying. They get to be light and relaxed. You must get an Alexander teacher to show it to you.

John Cleese, Actor

 

 

With the best intentions, the job of acting can become a display of accumulated bad habits, trapped instincts and blocked energies. Working with the Alexander technique has given me sightings of another way... Mind and body, work and life together. Real imaginative freedom...

Alan Rickman, Actor

 

 

My voice was pretty good almost all through Othello. Alexander technique really helped my posture and focus.

Lenny Henry, Comedian and Actor

 

The Alexander technique helped a long standing back problem, and to get a good night's sleep after many years of tossing and turning.

Paul Newman, Actor

 

 

The Alexander Technique has helped me to undo knots, unblock energy and deal with almost paralysing stage fright.

William Hurt, Actor 

I love the Alexander technique. It has corrected my posture, improved my health and changed my life.

Alec McCowen CBE, Actor

 

 

The Alexander technique has played an important and beneficial part in my life.

John Houseman, Actor, Producer and Director

 

 

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

 

The Technique's many benefits for actors include minimized tension, centeredness, vocal relaxation, and responsiveness, mind/body connection and about an inch and a half of additional height.

Kevin Kline, Actor

 

Of all the disciplines that form the actor training program, none is more vital, enriching and transformative than the Alexander technique.

Harold Stone, Associate Director, Theatre Department, The Juilliard School, New York USA

 

 

Question: Which book changed your life?

Answer: The one the teacher put under my head during the Alexander technique sessions at RADA. I grew an inch and a half.

Q&A: Jonathan Pryce, Actor, The Guardian, May 7, 2015

 

Describing the Alexander technique in an interview: "Incredibly good posture, with incredible relaxation."

Hugh Jackman, Actor

 

 

[The Alexander technique] is a way to transform stress to joy.  It’s my way of keeping on track with work and truth and the world I’m in which is working with people and creating. It’s for anyone who wants to be in contact with their own body and the way we tense ourselves and relax ourselves. It’s another way of moving. 

Juliette Binoche, Actor

 

In the hands of a good teacher The Technique is invaluable to anyone who seeks to maintain health, physical posture and alignment.

Ralph Fiennes, Actor

Other famous actors who recommend the technique include:

Sir Ian McKellen

Jesse Eisenberg

Stephen Dillane

Julie Andrews

Kenneth Branagh

Dame Judi Dench

 

The list goes on and on…

 

For a 5% discount on your first lesson, contact me and I will aim respond within 2 days

BA (Hons) 
MSTAT 
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Where To Find Me:

The Practice Rooms

The Old bakehouse

2a South Parade

Oxford

OX2 7JL

Click here to view my profile on the TPR website

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GET IN TOUCH

Jennifer Davy

The Practice Rooms

The Old Bakehouse

2A South Parade

Oxford

OX2 7JL

jenidavy18@gmail.com

Tel: 07866 257033

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