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Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link

by Ellen on July 28th, 2011

Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link, by Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier, explores the connection between the Alexander Technique and dance technique through the lens of the developmental movement procedures devised by Raymond Dart. It came about as a result of Nettl-Fiol and Vanier’s desire to find more intuitive ways to teach dancers the principles of the Alexander Technique. The Technique is subtle and quiet; dance is big and energetic, and the connection between the two is not always apparent. The authors’ explorations led them to realize that the Dart Procedures are the missing link between the subtleties of the Alexander Technique and the full-blown energetic movement of dance.

Missing Link uses the Dart Procedures and the Alexander Technique as lenses through which one can discover a holistic view of what the authors call “dynamic alignment,” and provides a practical exploration guide to help both students and teachers apply this concept to various types of dance vocabulary. After a brief introduction to both the Alexander Technique and the Dart Procedures, the book begins its explorations in earnest. Part Two contains applications of the Dart Procedures to dance; Part Three applies the Alexander Technique. Part Four contains detailed practical illustrations of how these concepts can be applied during regular dance classes (as well as sample combinations and themes to explore), and some tips for teachers on teaching dance with the Alexander principles in mind. Targeted illustrations throughout the book further explain the subtle concepts, while the included DVD adds extra insight and provides visual instruction for nearly every exploration. Read this book with the DVD menu open; you will be visiting it frequently.

I found this book to be a truly unique reading experience. The language is simple enough to understand, even when delving into the more complex topics. Clear explanations with good dance analogies abound, and frequent quotes from students give alternate perspectives on the matter. The average dancer will understand this material easily, and if a topic ever threatens to jump over their head you can bet there’ll be an illustration nearby for further clarification. The DVD provides even more varied explanations of the material; reading and watching simultaneously creates a well-rounded learning experience with something for visual, auditory and read-write learners. As for kinesthetic learners, nearly the whole book is composed of movement explorations for the reader to get up and try out, each with its own compliment of photos and most with an accompanying video segment. The illustrations contain an impressive array of demo students sporting a wide range of body types, backgrounds and understanding levels, which highlights the physical variation that exists and the authors’ emphasis on intent rather than form. The movement vocabulary is equally split between ballet and modern dance, further illustrating the universality of the principles discussed.

Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link is something every dancer should own. Nettl-Fiol and Vanier make their thesis concise and easy to understand, an important quality when writing about a subject that is difficult to explain in words. The structure of the book is organic and easily followed, and the tone is supportive and non-judgmental. Its multi-media nature makes it useful in a practical sense, and equally so whether you are a teacher planning classes or a student interested in a new outlook on your own performance. Incidentally, many of these explorations involve two people, so the authors suggest trying them with a partner. I could not agree more. Bring a friend and read the explorations to each other, or put on the DVD and have Nettl-Fiol and Vanier explain their work to you themselves. This is a book to be experienced, not just read, and it’s about the closest you can come to taking Nettl-Fiol’s Alexander Technique for Dancers class without signing up.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Title: Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link
Authors: Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier
Copyright 2011 by University of Illinois Press
Accompanying DVD
Full Illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-252-07793-7 (paperback), 978-0-252-03601-9 (hardcover)

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