How Jeremy Irons used Alexander Technique to portray twins

A recent listicle at MoviePilot titled "Double Trouble: Here's What Happens When Our Favorite Actors Come Face To Face With Themselves" states:

Initially, Irons had two separate dressing rooms for each character, both with their own wardrobe, but he soon realized that “the whole point of the story is you should sometimes be confused as to which is which.” From that point onwards, he used a single dressing room and mixed the wardrobes together, finding an “internal way” to play each character differently. Irons cites the Alexander technique as the reason he was able to give the characters “different energy points”, weighting one brother on the balls of his feet and the other on his heels. He developed different postures and voice modulations for each as well.

Jeremy Irons as twins in Dead Ringers (1988)

Last week to apply for OBOC 2016

Friday 11 March is the deadline for applying for One Body One Career 2016 in Melbourne.

Due to the limited number of places, candidates are asked to submit a personal motivation statement and CV for consideration in PDF format and not exceeding 3 pages. An additional online show reel is recommended. Returning participants do not need to submit a motivation statement.

For full details and a downloadable application form, check out the Chunky Move website. This program is very popular and space is limited, so don’t wait till the last minute!

The perfect voice of Alan Rickman

The “perfect voice” of Alan Rickman was immediately recognizable but will not be heard live again. Rickman died yesterday from cancer at the age of 69.

Alan Rickman Embodied an Imperfect Character with a “Perfect Voice”

Rickman has spoken of how he used the Alexander Technique — pioneered by Shakespearean orator Frederick Matthias Alexander in the late 1800s — to create a “balanced sense of tension rather than relying on creating tension to do something in order to produce a sound or an act that is preconceived.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Rickman. At least we can still hear you in film.

How does John Cleese prepare? with Alexander Technique of course!

In a recent interview for the Daily Telegraph, John Cleese reveals his "secret ritual" for preparing to perform: the same "constructive rest" Alexander Technique procedure I teach all my students.

John Cleese (right) and Eric Idle performing their show in Florida. Picture: Rod Millington

“I lie on the floor with a book under my head, my knees up and my feet flat on the floor, very, very quiet for about half an hour.” ... “If I do that then I always go on stage feeling good. It is one of the reasons I am not terribly keen on having people visiting me before the show, I like that period of absolute quiet to get completely relaxed. Then when I go on stage I am going to be much funnier if I’m relaxed than if I’m still a bit wound up.”

 

Jonathan Tucker uses Alexander Technique to prepare for his roles

Another fine actor uses the Alexander Technique to discover how his character should move.

Jonathan Tucker

Jonathan Tucker, on preparing for his role of Boon in the final season of Justified:

To take on the role of Boon, Tucker used the Alexander Technique, which puts a premium on the physical aspects of a character. “It puts you into a physical place from which the rest of your choices are informed,” he says. “Everybody walks differently and talks differently. It’s important to incorporate that. Teaching actors how to find their neutral spine allows them to make choices from there.”
http://www.ew.com/article/2015/12/10/jonathan-tucker-kingdom-hannibal-roles

 

Special offer for students and young professionals in performing arts

My recent trip to the reunion of the Frankfurt Ballet reminded me just how much I love working with dancers, musicians and other performing artists. I have therefore decided to offer students and young professionals a chance to study with me at a very low price of just €25 for a full, 30 minute lesson.

Ready to book a Student/Artist Special appointment? Do it online right now!

Want to book regular lessons instead? You can do that online also.

Questions about dancers and low back problems


Back pain can affect anyone of any age, even young dancers!

A young dancer who attended an introductory workshop of mine is writing his thesis on the subject of low back problems amongst dancers. As part of his research he sent me the following 5 questions:

  1. Can you describe what the Alexander technique is in approximately 100 words?

    The Alexander Technique is a systematic approach to organizing and improving one’s proprioception in order to gain more conscious control of habitual thoughts and behaviors that interfere with health, balance, well-being and performance. It is based on the discoveries of F.M. Alexander (1869-1955) regarding the use of the head and neck in relation to the trunk and its effect on overall coordination and functioning. It is usually learned with the hands-on guidance of a teacher, although its basic principles can be effectively communicated in a group setting.

  2. What is your opinion, thinking from the Alexander Technique, on the cause of low back problems with dancers?

    I would say that almost all low back problems are the result of faulty habits in one’s postural behavior, and that there is no fundamental difference between dancers and non-dancers in that regard. Common to most low back pain sufferers is the habit of habitually hyper extending the knees, thus causing more strain on the low back. If a dancer uses too much effort to obtain “stretched knees”, combined with too much effort to “pull up”, then the result will be a shortened, narrowed back with increased pressure on the lumbar spine, a hollow back and ribs that are pushed forward. The dancer then tries to correct all this by increasing tension throughout the abdominals and intercostals, thus adding yet more pressure and stiffness to the trunk. This tendency to do more (tighten this, hold that, strengthen this) rather than do less (stop distorting yourself) is a very strong contributing factor to low back problems.

    Another common source of low back pain is using the lumbar spine as a bending joint rather than using the hip joints, which are considerably lower. This habit results in the feeling that the legs begin at the top of the pelvis, rather than below the pelvis, and so causes excess strain on the low back in all movements involving the legs. Many dancers first get this mistaken idea from a dance teacher who tells them to “feel as if your legs begin in the middle of your back”, or similar. These types of instructions in which the teacher asks the student to “try to feel something like” are almost always anatomically incorrect and can therefore lead to rather severe distortions of healthy coordination.

  3. What can the Alexander technique generally do for dancers with low back problems?

    The Alexander Technique works first to release unnecessary tension in order to free the postural reflexes to a more neutral state. From this neutral state the student then learns a new and easier way to initiate movement using conscious direction rather than habit or imitation. It is in the initial undoing process that most people stop experiencing pain.

  4. How would you treat a dancer that has low back problems?

    I don’t treat dancers differently just because they are dancers. Nor do I treat those with back problems very differently from someone with, say, neck pain or RSI. I first work with a student to notice how they tense the neck unconsciously when initiating movement, even though that tension is not necessary and often hinders the desired movement. Changing this use of the neck in relation to the head and back is recognized in the Alexander Technique as a fundamental misuse. As the head-neck-back relationship improves, all types of problems are resolved automatically, including low back problems in most cases. If a student is in severe pain, I will focus lessons more on how to perform daily movements in an easier way.

  5. What advice would you give a dancer to prevent low back problems?

    Learn to stop tensing your neck so that you can stop shortening and narrowing your back so that you can stop hyper extending your knees so that you can stop pressing down. That is easier said than done, but it really is that simple.

The importance of appearance in musical performance

To all musicians, take heed: if you look more involved and passionate while playing, you will be judged to sound better also!

Classical music competitions pit performers against each other. Obviously, the most important criterion for judges is sound. But that assumption needs a new…hearing. Because a player’s passion may be the best predictor of victory.

In a new study, nearly 200 novices had to choose the winners of 10 classical music competitions. Some heard a music clip of the top three performances. Others saw a video with sound. Still others watched a silent video. And the participants were more likely to choose the winner if they watched the silent video, in all 10 of the competitions.

Then professional musicians gave it a try. These judges also only reliably selected the winners from the silent video. Musicians selected the winner more frequently even when all they saw was an outline of the motion of the performers.

The researchers say the findings show that novices and experts make quick judgments about musical performances based on visual cues conveying involvement and passion. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Chia-Jung Tsay, Sight over sound in the judgment of music]

So what does this have to do with the Alexander Technique? If you are tensed and pulled down while playing an instrument, you look tensed and pulled down, which is a far cry from looking involved and passionate. As anyone who has attended a group class in Alexander Technique will have noticed, people look better and more expressive, more involved and more passionate, when they free their necks and lengthen upwards.

Movement re-education helps drama students improve performance


Elizabeth Huebner teaches the Alexander Technique to Luke Daniels, a drama student in the master of fine arts program.
Photo by Peter Morenus

The University of Connecticut’s Advance web site has a full-page article about Elizabeth Huebner’s work in the master of fine arts program teaching Alexander Technique to actors. It quotes one of her students regarding the effect of the Technique on emotional expression, an effect that we teachers perhaps don’t talk about very much.

An actor wants to be able to play the body of any character, says acting student Chris Hirsh.

“To do that,” he says, “you have to get rid of your habits. If you habitually bend forward at the top of your shoulders and protrude your head and neck forward, you have to understand how to correct that. The Alexander Technique helps accomplish that.”

Hirsh says the technique also “opens you emotionally.

When your body is aligned properly, you become a more open channel to the emotions that may or may not flow out of you. You have fuller freedom of emotional expression.”