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The Congress Papers: 125 Years On: Review by Malcolm Williamson.

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Article, essay
Article, citation and copright
Article Text: 
With The Congress Papers for the 2nd (Brighton) Congress and 3rd (Engelberg) Congress already available, Direction publishing has again done the Alexander world a valuable service by compiling the talks and summaries of work presentations given at the 4th Congress in Sydney. As the editor says in the Preface, “The Alexander Technique is essentially practical, the transmission from one person to another of sensorimotor mechanisms contributing to an improved psycho-physical integration of an individual” (ix) but for anyone, such as myself who was unable to attend, this collection of articles provides important information that will enrich our own understanding of the work. The sub-title of the Congress, “Meaning of Change” was introduced by Doris Dietchy as an invitation to leave our own “positional box” from which we tend to judge other ways of teaching and training and to “explore how the Technique looks from other ‘comers’.” From comments following the Congress, I doubt whether we are any nearer to bridging the divide between “traditional” teaching methods and, what is now commonly referred to as the “hands-off” approach.

The contributions fall into identifiable categories. The history of the Technique is covered by an overview by Rosslyn McLeod and, on a personal level, Marjory Barlow recalled memories of her uncle, F. M. Alexander. There are specific sections on the Alexander Technique applied to music-making, dance and movement. Aspects of speech and the voice are included (Dale, Heirich, Davis et al), also vision and eyesight (Grunwald). There is a section on concepts around body and mind interactions and scientific presentations by the lecturers in anatomy (“The Human Embryo’s Use of Its Self”, Dr Brian Freeman) and physiology (“Recent Physiological Research into the Alexander Technique”, Dr David Garlick) at the University of New South Wales that, incidentally, hosted to the Congress. Professionalism and the future were considered (Kettrick, Raff) raising issues of standards and evaluation as we move inevitably “further and further away from the original source of the Technique” (Kettrick, 98).

© Malcolm Williamson ( Reproduced with permission.

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