“Take a gambling chance”
That’s a phrase the late Marjorie Barstow used a lot. When she was 90 years old, someone she had never met called and asked if she’d fly – by herself – across the country, to a city where she’d never been, to teach an Alexander Technique workshop. She agreed and when we talked about it later she told me “Well, I thought I’d just take a gambling chance and go.”
Her inclination was always to say “yes” to anything new. When she was only in her 70s, she was asked to spend two months in Texas teaching the Alexander Technique to groups. As she writes in her preface to the Centerline edition of Use of the Self, “This (invitation) delighted me as I had wondered for some time if the Technique could be taught successfully to groups of students. This gave me the chance to explore this idea and I started off alone driving to Texas, eager to be in a new situation (italics mine). My first class in Texas and my subsequent teaching have proven that the Technique can be taught successfully to groups of students and I have found my students excited and happy with their experiences with Alexander’s discovery.”
Actually F. Matthias Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique, had had a similar experience nearly eighty years earlier. As he recounts in his Autobiographical Sketch (Published in Articles and Letters), while in Melbourne, he was approached by the secretary of a theological college asking if he would take a number of his students in class. He told the secretary that he had “…never attempted to teach a number of pupils together” and that he doubted in would prove successful. “Nonetheless”, he wrote, “if he and the students were prepared to take a risk on this (italics mine) I was quite prepared to undertake the experiment.”
Reflecting back on the experience he said, “At the end of a couple of months I had reason to be thankful that I had consented to take the students in class…”
Of course, it might be said that Alexander’s biggest gamble was leaving Australia. In 1904 he boarded an ocean liner bound for England to seek fame and glory in London. Quite a leap of faith on his part and, fittingly, the trip was financed by a long-shot bet on a racehorse!
Clearly this willingness to “take a gambling chance” seems to be a feature of the Alexander Technique community.
I would even say that it’s an integral part of the Alexander Technique teaching and learning process. Whenever students experiment with an Alexander direction, or teachers with a new way to convey Alexander’s discoveries to their students, they are “taking a gambling chance”.
It might work. It might not. Either way, something useful can be learned.
I’d love to hear about some “gambling chances” you’ve taken in your Alexander Technique journey.