Inflection

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Recently subjected to the drone of a public speaker’s voice, I had the opportunity to make this observation: a monotone delivery is connected to limited vitality, reduced movement, and restricted awareness. Fluctuations in pitch, vocal resonance, variations of emphasis—all are directly tied to body use.

Which comes first? Monotone voice or constricted body? Giving our attention to ‘which one first’ takes us away from a happy remedy. We can respond to either limitation, in voice or in body, by addressing overall use with some Alexander Technique thinking.

Head leads, body follows.’ Expressiveness invariably increases when the speaker, dancer, actor, or musician tends to this basic AT tenet.  And one marker of improved use is a change in the voice. Eyes sparkle, too! See last week’s post….

Here’s to modulation and movement—-

 

 

Once More

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I have missed writing for Poise and Presence! And so….here’s a post written on returning from a recent workshop.

It was a winter Saturday afternoon at Ohio University’s Alexander Technique Audition Workshop. Singers were delighted with the resonant, full, and free sounds emerging from their mouths. The primary question was, ‘How do I keep this?’

The answer? ‘You don’t.’ Attempts to keep,  codify, cement, solidify; all fail. Why? Because they require stasis, and fine singing with good use requires movement and change.

Then. If it isn’t possible to keep a glorious sound forever, what are the options? For starters, come back to the present moment in which you find yourself. The magnificent singing is over, but this moment is yours. Claim it. Get out of your head, out of the loop which is replaying the past, that past when you sang your best ever. It’s gone. The sound waves have moved on.

Utilize the magnificent power of your cognition to think well in present time. Alright. Back here. Back to now. Returning to feet in my pink velvet heels. (Yes, a student was wearing a pair. Loved them!) Inviting length and width, merely by thinking of them.

And about those habits of use: right arm pulling in toward ribs, torso torquing to the left, thorax over-arched and off-balance with the pelvis. Note them, and be inquisitive. What might happen if you simply stop with the arm pull, the torquing torso, the over-arching spine?  What if there is no attempt to fix, but rather a decision to ‘NOT DO’?

Then sing. Watch. Observe. Feel. Fully engage yourself in the experimentation that is required to hone your singing craft. You’ll produce yet another glorious sound, particular to this moment.

Thank you, Ohio University vocalists. It was a lovely afternoon. Always give yourself one more chance. Once more, with feeling! Once more with presence, and yes, poise.

Monkey

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1960’s pop-band, The Monkees

The very day I sat myself down to write to you about Monkey, I came across a news story of a former Pennsylvania church burning to the ground.  This building was intended to become a ‘museum’ of all things Davey Jones and The Monkees.  Well.  Can’t pass up that serendipity, so here they are! Adorable.  Love the turtlenecks.  This news story took me back to my teeny-bopper days, when Jones had me and many other pre-adolescent girls swooning.  (He’s the one bottom left.)

The Monkey  found in Alexander- Technique-Land is ‘a position of mechanical advantage.’  Beware of the word ‘position,’ as it does not refer to fixity, but rather to a human movement pattern.

Ohio University singers have taken  ‘Monkey’ and run with it this fall, or rather, sung with it.  And to great good effect.  What is it and why does its use result in ease and freedom?

Monkey consists of allowing the hips to move back in space, torso (with head leading) is ever-so-slightly forward of the hip joints, which brings the arms forward of the legs and torso, able to swing freely in jungle-monkey-fashion.  A picture (or two, or three) is worth a thousand words:

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Optimal use of structure, allowing just the amount of exertion needed to move the cog.
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Head/torso forward of hips/legs provides balance. 
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a deeper Monkey, propelling the bowling ball to the pins

Play with Monkey the next time you find yourself standing at the kitchen sink.  (Thanks, Alex!)  Observe what this ‘position of mechanical advantage’ gives your back, arms, and neck.  Work with your structure and hopefully find yourself a little bit of ease——

Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose

Here’s that book review promised in my first post!WP_20160331_15_31_18_Pro

 

Cuddy splashed onto the popular culture scene in 2012, when she was featured as a TEDTalk lecturer.  A Harvard Business School professor and psychologist, Cuddy advocates changing the way we use our bodies, which in turn changes the way we are thinking and feeling.  With Harvard colleagues, Cuddy designed a series of experiments to answer this question:  If our emotions are as much a result as they are a cause of our physical expressions, then what would happen if we adopt expansive postures even when we are feeling powerless?

Results from their first experiment suggested that, indeed the body shapes the mind.  A subsequent experiment measured hormonal changes.  Use of Cuddy’s POWER POSE increased testosterone (the assertiveness hormone), and decreased cortisol (the stress hormone).  If you would like to try the Power Pose, do the following:  

feet apart, hands on hips (or up and out!), head balanced on spine, eye gaze out.  dancing-309044_640Cuddy claims that just 2 minutes in this pose can effect change in the body/mind.  What a great idea for a vocalist who is standing in a hallway waiting to sing an audition!

Frederick Matthias Alexander pre-figured Cuddy’s research in his 1941 book, The Universal Constant of Living:  ‘not many…..are aware how intimately the individual’s use of self modifies the functioning and reaction of his whole being.’  And this is the meeting ground for the Alexander Technique and Cuddy’s work; the mind-body connection.  Cuddy calls it ‘the synergy of body with mind,’ and Alexander, ‘optimal use of the Self.’

Colleague Imogen Ragone has created a two-minute audio combining Alexander Technique Directions and Cuddy’s Power Pose instructions.  This audio recording is available free of charge by subscribing to Imogen’s newsletter, BodyIntelligence News.

Cuddy, Amy.  Presence:   Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.  New York, NY:  Little, Brown, and Co., 2015.  Hardback, 344 pp., $28.00  ISBN 978-0-316-25657-5.  Littlebrown.com

 

 

Welcome!

 

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Welcome.  It’s the first word spoken at the studio door.  And I can’t think of a better way to greet you in this virtual studio.  You have found a place to be curious and questioning as you explore the Alexander Technique.

To launch our on-line conversation, a review of Amy Cuddy’s new book follows.  Presence:  Bringing Yourself to Your Biggest Challenges has informed my teaching recently, and her Power Pose was integrated into  Alexander Technique workshops at Capital Conservatory and Ohio University.   I look forward to your response—–