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The F. Matthias Alexander Story – It Ain’t Necessarily So — 14 Comments

  1. This is the most important and honest writing about F. M. and the Alexander Technique in a long time! Many teachers today complain that the AT isn’t given sufficient credit and recognition. Well, the AT was not a singularly engenious phenomenon, it was part of a worldwide body/mind evolution and tied into other fields and similar contemporarydiscoveries. F.M. never seemed to give much credit or be honest about his influences, so what can we expect today? Let’s make it communicable, let’s make it honest, let’s say what we know, and what we don’t know, to whom we owe and from whom we want to learn.

  2. My father, Peter Scott, who was a teacher trained by F.M., always said that Alexander was part genius, part showman. But the best way to determine the value of the technique itself is to experience it directly, don’t you think?

      • Quite right. He moved his practice to Ealing — 25 Corfton Road, where we lived — when Ashley Place was demolished to make room for the new plaza around Westminster Cathedral. I’m so glad to hear you met him!

  3. While Delsarte did not publish there were available books by American ‘descendants’ the most famous of which was the Delsarte System of Expression by Genevieve Stebbins. Her book built on what little was known about Delsartes theories and minimal lessons- none of which were originally designed as a complete curriculum and could barely be called a method. what she did was create a system out of bits and peices of Delsarte and his only American student Steele Mackeye. The only contemporary study related to Delsarte worth reading is The Cultivation of Mind and Body in 19th Century American Delsartism by Nancy Ruyter. Alexander teachers interested in learning more about what Delsarte did or did not innovate should start there

    • My understanding from Jeando (and you should contact him about this because he’s the expert) was that the only material Delsarte wrote was not published until very recently and that he stopped teaching his original method well before the later material was published – that Mackeye’s material, for example – has nothing to do with what Delsarte was teaching earlier.

    • I was the first person to mention that Delsarte’s brother went to Tasmania in relation to psychophysical studies.

      As well as the possibility of transmission from Camille Delsarte Alexander could have taken up Francois Delsarte’s ideas from several other sources. Alexander did have other teachers, who would have had their own take on the elocution trends of the time, which often had an American Delsartean emphasis. Alexander’s Sydney business partner, Gustav Slapoffski, from the time Alexander had “Delsarte” on his letterhead, had previously organised Delsarte lessons for musicians in London from Henrietta Hovey.

  4. So interesting! Especially as I was drawn to the Alexander Technique to undo the damage I’d done to myself through following Delsarte! An actor, I’d read “Every Little Movement”, Ted Shawn’s book about Delsarte, in which was shown Delsarte’s system of rotating and inclining the head towards or away from a subject to express emotions relating to that subject — so, rotating and inclining the head towards a subject might incicate affection, rotating and inclining the head away from the subject could indicate a contrary emotional response. Etienne Decroux, the French mime “master” expanded on this to including inclinations of segments of the body, all of which required much stabilization and isolation of body parts, leading to very, very bad use. I was quite injured by years of performing with these faulty notions. The A.T. saved my life!!
    The whole story is here, with a wrapping of my running history:
    http://www.alexandertechnique-running.com/my-running-history/

      • Nice find, very interesting. Though not a resounding stamp of approval for Delsarte can we say? So Delsarte started out well, where, to borrow a software term, FM forked his system and improved it, took the good and discarded the bad, whereas Delsartes did not it seems. The value of a good editor cannot be underestimated, a Steve Jobs, or Charles Darwin (Wallace) or perhaps the greatest example, Da Vinci who sold himself as a military engineer after reading Valturio’s book. It’s easy to judge from our comfortable positions, but I admire FM – necessity surely pushed him to achieve. Sure these ideas (importance of breath) are nothing new, on one only needs to look at the ancient Chinese or Indian practices , Tai Chi and the like – with names like crouching crow or the crane, dancing tiger. Of course, he wasn’t perfect, not a Greek god, but part showman part genius, Vitruvian man (based on the work of Vitruvius!) I suppose this is one of the flaws, as FPJ mentions, of FM, a need to have the spotlight, not share it, a flaw that limited the Alexander Technik certainly We all stand on the shoulders of Giants HC SVNT DRACONES

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