COMPANION

Marjorie Barstow

Marjorie (‘Marj’) Barstow (1899–1995), US teacher of the Technique who pioneered a new way of teaching the Alexander Technique in a group setting.

Life

Barstow was born in 1899 in Ord, Nebraska, the youngest of four children. After graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1921 she taught ballet and ballroom dancing. She came across the article ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ in the Atlantic Monthly and decided to have lessons with Alexander. In 1927 she went to London and had a six-month course of lessons with F. M. and A. R. Alexander. After her training with Alexander 1931–34, she worked as A. R.’s assistant in Boston for six years. During this time she had to return to Nebraska to take care of the family business. Her father developed a grain and lumber business and a farm, which eventually Marjory took over and carried on. Marjory did not start teaching again until the 1950s. In the 1970s she developed an unconventional approach to the teaching of the Technique by giving brief, individual work in a group setting. This approach was adopted by many of her students which is still taught worldwide by her teachers and their students today.[1] [2]

Teaching

Barstow taught classical teaching in private lessons until around 1970. Her switch from private lessons to group work may have been accidental, and happened either 1970 or 71, when she was invited to teach at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas for a summer program called ‘International Stage Movement Institute’. Upon arrival she found that she was given four groups of 20 each, and the experience of teaching with large groups led to the discovery of the advantages of working with groups.[3] [4] Her approach can be viewed as a resurrection of Irene Tasker’s application approach but in a group setting. Barstow was clearly informed by Irene Tasker’s application teaching, as she wrote in a 1985 letter to Erika Whittaker:

I think Irene Tasker was of more value than we could realise at the time we were in training. Now I appreciate what she did for me more and more.[5]

She started a conventional teacher training course in the summer of 1972,[6] but discontinued it as she preferred her application work approach. She adopted a style of training which was informal, outside existing teacher societies, which she called ‘an extended apprenticeship training program’. She described her approach in a panel discusion at the 1988 Brighton Congress:

I am a ‘preservationist’ in the sense that I don’t think any sort of work or training is any good unless we stick to what F. M. did. In other words, unless we work as he worked before he had the benefit of ‘hands’.[7]

She did not issue certificates but in a letter to the American Center for the Alexander Technique (Western region) in 1986, listed the teachers she considered ‘very well qualified as teachers of the Alexander Technique’.[8] She also answered the question of whether she ever trained or certified teachers in a panel discusion at the 1988 Brighton Congress.[9] The issue of whether – and how – she trained teachers is also addressed by William Conable in the letter ‘Did Marjorie Barstow train teachers?’.[10]

Writings

  • Marjorie Barstow wrote a foreword to the 1984 Centerline Press edition of UoS.[11]
  • Barstow wrote a gushing foreword to Don Weeds’ What You Think is What You Get (1990).[12]
  • She wrote briefly on her own training and her own discoveries in a letter to the first issue of The Alexander Review.[13]
  • An interview with Barstow, ‘Practical Marj’, by William Brenner is published in Direction.[14] The same issue contains a collection of quotes and aphorisms from her workshops.[15]
  • An interview with Barstow by Marsha Paludan covers her own dancing experience (she had a dance studio) and her training with Alexander.[16]

Descriptions

In addition many teachers who trained with Barstow have written on her teaching.[17] The most substantial work is a collection of 39 articles in Marjorie Barstow – Her Teaching and Training.[18] A description of what is meant by ‘group teaching’ and how Barstow developed it is given in ‘Let’s get rid of “group teaching”!’ by Donald Weed.[19] A number of interviews of various teachers by Robert Rickover on Barstow’s teaching are available as podcasts.[20]

Video

  • There are several videos of Barstow giving workshops which have been published on DVD.[21]
  • Barstow filmed some 16mm footage of Alexander and of the first teacher training course in around 1931-32.[22]

Marjorie Barstow *25 August 1899 - †31st July 1995.

See also Application approach.

References

[1] Obituary by Jeremy Chance in STAT News vol. 4 no. 14, pp. 14-15.
[2] Obituary by Donald L. Weed in STAT News vol. 4 no. 14, pp. 14-15.
[3] Cathy Madden, personal communication 7th March 2015.
[4] ‘Preface to The Use of the Self’ by Marjorie Barstow in Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable, (Mouritz, 2016 [1988]), p. 222.
[5] Marjorie Barstow letter to Erika Whittaker, quoted in ‘F. M. Remembered, The Annual Memorial Lecture 1985’ by Erika Whittaker (STAT?, undated), p. 14.
[6] ‘Did Marjorie Barstow train teachers?’ by William Conable in AmSAT Journal issue no. 4, Fall 2013, p. 60.
[7] ‘Question and answer session with the guest senior teachers’, transcript of a tape recording from the 1988 Brighton Congress, with the panel: Marjory Barlow, Marj Bastow, Walter Carrington, Douglas Price-Williams, in The Alexander Review vol. 4, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1990), p. 74.
[8] Marjorie Barstow letter to Board of Directors, ACAT Western Region, 22 October 1986.
[9] ‘Question and answer session with the guest senior teachers’, transcript of a tape recording from the 1988 Brighton Congress, with the panel: Marjory Barlow, Marj Bastow, Walter Carrington, Douglas Price-Williams, in The Alexander Review vol. 4, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1990), pp. 75–76.
[10] ‘Did Marjorie Barstow train teachers?’ by William Conable in AmSAT Journal issue no. 4, Fall 2013, pp. 60-61.
[11] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Centerline Press, 1984). Also in Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable, (Mouritz, 2016 [1988]), pp. 220-22.
[12] What You Think is What You Get by Donald L. Weed (1445 Publications, 1990), pp. ix–x.
[13] ‘A letter from Marj Barstow’ by Marjorie L. Barstow in The Alexander Review vol. 1, no. 1 (Centerline Press, 1986), pp. 42–45.
[14] ‘Practical Marj’ by William Brenner in Direction vol. 1, no. 2 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1991), pp. 37-40.
[15] ‘Marjorie Barstow in Australia’ by Victoria Chance, Mark Llewyllen in Direction vol. 1, no. 2 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1991), pp. 41a-41e.
[16] ‘Dancing’ Marjorie Barstow interviewed by Marsha Paludan in Direction vol. 1, no. 10 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1993), pp. 382–83.
[17] ‘A teachers’s perspective of feelings’ by Jeremy Chance in Direction vol. 1, no. 2 edited by Jeremy Chance (Fyncot Pty Ltd., 1991), pp. 49-53.
[18] Marjorie Barstow: Her Teaching and Training edited by Barbara Conable, (Mouritz, 2016 [1988]).
[19] ‘Let’s get rid of “group teaching”!’ by Donald Weed in The Congress Papers 1991, A Spirit of Learning Together edited by Jeremy Chance (Direction, 1992), pp. 150–68.
[20] ‘Marjorie Barstow's Teaching’. Podcasts on https://bodylearningcast.com.
[21] These DVDs have no title and are undated. Published by Robert Rickover.
[22] F. M. Alexander 1949-50 DVD narrated by Walter Carrington (Mouritz, 2010).