COMPANION

Knees forward and away

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’.[1] In his Bedford lecture (1934) he talked of ‘allow your knees to go forward’[2] (several times) and ‘the knees forward and the hips back’.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

Walter Carrington and Seán Carey discuss the direction ‘knees forward and away’ in Explaining the Alexander Technique.[7]

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.[8] Walter Carrington disagrees, saying that Alexander taught it.[9]

Video

F. M. Alexander is seen squatting, with knees forward and away, in the video F. M. Alexander 1949-50.[10]

See also Directing, Direction.

References

[1] ‘An Unrecognized Principle’ (1925) in Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), p. 149.
[2] ‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), p. 167.
[3] ‘Bedford Physical Training College Lecture’ (1934) in Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), p. 177.
[4] The Alexander Times Vol. 1: 1929-1932 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2017), p. 60.
[5] A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996), entry for 22nd March 1946, p. 12
[6] ‘Diary of first lessons with Alexander’ by Walter Carrington in Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001 [1986]), pp. 132.
[7] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 50–52.
[8] ‘In our own image – Eight in a series on human design and function’ by David Gorman in The Alexander Review vol. 4, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1990), pp. 126–27 fn.
[9] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004), pp. 50–51.
[10] F. M. Alexander 1949-50 DVD narrated by Walter Carrington (Mouritz, 2010).