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Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)
For an actor to act, and to do so with a sense of physical power and not sacrifice his or her body, he or she needs to be able to communicate with the other actors or the audience in opposition. Opposition is the Alexandrian concept applied to posture, that means you connect to others with your body on balance, rather than collapsing forward off balance. Opposition allows the actor to be fully and completely physically centered and upright and be connected to the other actors and the audience.
How do most of us usually embody communication with each other? When two people are talking, they almost always physically lean toward each other to connect to get their respective points across to each other. When a psychotherapist is working with a client, he almost always leans forward to connect and help the client. (Think about what this does to the therapist’s posture, when his torso is slumped forward, with his head collapsed toward clients all day.)
When a person giving a lecture standing is imparting her knowledge to the listeners, she almost always leans forward to have the audience get what she has to offer. When a singer is performing, he almost always is leaning forward to send his voice to the audience. In fact I have never seen a singer who wasn’t leaning forward off balance singing for the audience, unless he had done work with an Alexander Technique teacher.
To look at what psychologically creates a specific posture is not something core to the Alexander Technique. Alexander Technique in its purist sense only looks at what you are doing in an activity, and lovingly assists you in adopting the most physically effortless way to do what you’re doing. But I feel it is critical for the actor to know where his habits are coming from. This is why. It gives the actor the unlimited ability to choose posturally and emotionally how he wants to communicate with the performers and the audience, by releasing the limitations on his emotional palate. When I was in the Alexander Technique training, many of the trainees were in therapy.
I’d like to describe what is happening physically when the actor is in opposition to the performers and the audience and is not sacrificing his body to get the desired results. You let your words and your gestures go to the other actors, as you stay back and up. Back and up means you are fully upright sending your words and acting gestures to the performers, and you don’t follow them to the performers by leaning forward (unless you CHOOSE to, and you can lean forward consciously without hurting). When you lean forward, even the slightest leaning for extended periods of time unconsciously, then you are off balance, and all of the musculature of the body has to work hard to keep you from falling over.
What I just described sounds extreme, and since you may have been acting this way for a long time, you may not be aware of how much you’re hurting. When you do something for a long time with poor posture that is physically demanding, there is a gradual building up of greater and greater tension and discomfort. This habitual excessive physical tension and work can be so uncomfortable, that you push the pain that has been building in your body out of your consciousness. Eventually it becomes too painful to suppress, and you become aware you’re constantly hurting. If I were to ask twenty actors if they had some constant ache or pain, I’m willing to bet all of them would say yes.