The direction ‘knees forward and away’ do not occur in F. M. Alexander’s writings, but he used the directions in his teaching according to both Marjory Barlow and Walter Carrington, and used it in two of his lectures. In his Child Study Society lecture (1925) he talked of the pupil to ‘allow his knees to go forward’. In his Bedford lecture (1934) he talked of ‘allow your knees to go forward’ (several times) and ‘the knees forward and the hips back’.
Margaret Goldie, writing a piece for the children’s magazine of the Little School, is providing the longest set of directions we know of from the early days (1929) of the Technique. It includes some detail to the ‘knees forward and away’:
I order my neck to relax. I direct my head forward and upward, my shoulders back and down, my back back, to lengthen and widen my back; I direct the hips back, the knees forward and away from one another, the ankles to relax, and the feet to rest firmly on the floor.
It has sometimes been discussed whether the ‘away’ refers to the knees going ‘away’ from the hips or ‘away’ from each other. The quote above by Margaret Goldie should clarify this, but of course it may also mean both – both away from the hips and from each other.
Walter Carrington writes in his 1946 diary that Alexander varied the phrasing depending on the pupil:
In answer to an enquiry of Alma’s he [Alexander] said that he varied the form of the instruction ‘to put the knees away’ or ‘to let the knees fall apart’ and so on, just as he could get the pupil the respond.
Walter Carrington also reports that knees forward and away is a general direction, also in standing:
FM pointed out that we should always work on a pupil with the knees going forward and away, and never with straight legs. In order to achieve this position care must be taken to keep length and allow the head to go forward and up as a primary, and not to throw the hips forward as a primary.
To the hands of another person placed on the hips or back there should be no change in weight, whether the teacher is in erect posture or allowing the knees to go forward and away.
Walter Carrington’s 1935 diary of his lessons with F. M. Alexander refer to the ‘knees allowed to go forward and out’:
November 26, Tuesday
. . . In sitting down or standing up, for instance, the direction must be given and the knees allowed to go forward and out.
Walter Carrington and Seán Carey discuss the direction ‘knees forward and away’ in Explaining the Alexander Technique.
David Gorman speculates that the ‘and away’ in ‘knees forward and away’ was a later development, and thus not developed by Alexander, in his article ‘In our own image – Eight in a series on human design and function. Walter Carrington disagrees, saying that Alexander taught it.
F. M. Alexander is seen squatting, with knees forward and away, in the video F. M. Alexander 1949-50.
See also Directing, Direction.