With so many aspects of our lives increasingly taking place online these days, it is no wonder that people are turning more and more to virtual exercise programs to combat the physical tension of clicking or scrolling away the hours while staring at a screen. Recently, renowned vocal coach and faculty member of Purchase College’s Voice and Opera Studies Program, Hugh Murphy, reminded me of the Alexander Technique, an effective method to find relief from bodily pain and strain. For all of us, whether we are performing artists or not, our bodies are instruments of moving through the world and expressing ourselves.
In discussing the Alexander Technique, Hugh brought The Balance Arts Center in New York City to my attention. A Women Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) of New York State, the Center offers online group and private sessions. No previous experience is required to take a class. Its director, celebrated Alexander Technique teacher Ann Rodiger has been teaching online since the beginning of the pandemic. While in-person sessions have the added benefit of a teacher’s gentle touch of posture adjustment, Ann finds certain advantages in virtual teaching. It requires students to be more proactive: “to come forward with their awareness and take more ownership with their learning.” She is surprised to be able to observe more on Zoom than she thought she could, and can thus assist students with learning to practice more by themselves and “dive deeper into their own areas of concern.” It is Ann’s goal that those who embark on studying the Alexander Technique will develop a better sense and understanding of the body as well as an increased awareness of bad habits and the ability to improve presence and movement through their lives.
This year the Balance Arts Center also offers a six-week Online Summer Intensives program for singers, actors, dancers, and instrumentalists, that has just started on June 1st. For Hugh this program is a pioneer of these times in helping performing artists continue to improve and enhance their crafts over the summer. If you are a singer, actor, dancer or instrumentalist, take a look at the class offerings and the participating international faculty. Hugh believes that The Balance Arts Center provides a great opportunity to integrate Alexander Technique principles into what artists are already doing. “This work can help them to be more aware of the principles’ physical use, and to become more efficient with them. After all, an audience wants to see a performer dig deeply into their art, not struggle with their technique!”
In the summers, Hugh usually teaches singers from all over the world in Italy in Benton Hess’ “Si parla, si canta!” program. He is enthusiastic about the Balance Arts Center’s Online Summer Intensives because he believes in Ann’s vision of breaking down walls to “create a learning center that is literally without borders or boundaries.” Hugh finds that teaching online opens up different dimensions in the teacher-student interaction which “can become more of an intellectual experience that actually empowers performing artists in a different way, and requires them to take more control of their learning.”
This applies to those who are not performers as well. Online participation in any physical exercise class demands increased focus on teachers’ instructions. It encourages the mind to translate language into physicality in ways that are perhaps more nuanced than in the actual physical presence of the instructor. That is in itself a deeper mind-body training experience. Add to it the gentle, subtle adjustments of the Alexander Technique, and awareness becomes more refined and surprising than ever. And so does the overall state of physical and mental well-being.
Photos courtesy of the Balance Arts Center
Top photo: Balance Arts Center group class with Ann Rodiger