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Alexander Technique: the Ground Rules -Marjory Barlow in conversation with Sean Carey
152pp, ISBN 978-0-9568997-0-5. Published by HITE,
London (www.hiteltd.co.uk), 18.99.
Review by Diana Devitt-Dawson (HoT), Alexander Technique Institute & Teacher Training School, Sydney (www.alexandertechniqueinstitute.com.au)
(First published in STATNews, September 2011

This small paperback of 152 pages was published by HITE Limited, London, UK in 2011 and has only recently been distributed to Alexander teachers around the world. It is a beautifully presented book, the front cover displaying a dignified colour photograph of Marjory Barlow. Inside there are many black and white photographs of Alexander and also Marjory teaching.

To have an accurate record of how F.M. Alexander taught his pupils, presented here by his niece, is not only an invaluable resource for us now, but also a most enjoyable read. Marjory also speaks clearly and simply on how to deal with the range and types of challenges that Alexander teachers typically encounter in their own teaching practices.

Marjory Mechin (1915 -2006) began a course of lessons with her uncle in 1932, and then in 1933 was invited to join the first training course, which had opened in 1931. Marjory married Wilfred Barlow M.D. author of The Alexander Principle.

In 1950 they opened The Alexander Institute, an Alexander teacher training school in central London. The training school, with a maximum of seven trainees continued until 1979. In the following years Marjory continued to give private lessons, many with some well known people including the great classical guitarist, Julian Bream. She continued to teach until well into her old age and presented master classes at a number of Alexander Technique international conferences. Marjory was chair of STAT (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique) London from 1964 to 1966 and from 1996 to 1998.

Alexander Technique: the Ground Rules differs from the much larger book An Examined Life, a series of interviews with Marjory by Trevor Allan Davies in that Carey wanted this little book to be "tightly focused" on what Marjory considered were 'the ground rules' of the Alexander Technique -monkey, hands over the back of a chair, the whispered 'ah', lying down and so on and how these procedures were introduced to pupils and trainees in order to bridge theory with practice. Each procedure is gone into with great detail as Carey questions how inhibition and means whereby were taught. Marjory clarifies how beneficial and unique Alexander lessons are for the whole person when inhibition & direction are applied "in simple activities can then be extended to include your emotional reactions, which are the hardest of all." We also learn how F.M. taught the children on 'the Little School'.

Thanks to Sean Carey's insightful questions we learn much, questions include, What did lessons with Alexander consist of? Did Alexander explain what was going on in the lesson? And the words that Alexander used? And, These days a lot of people coming for an introductory course of lessons are only given one lesson a week. What's your view? How, then did he (Alexander) instruct the students on the training course about how to take people in and out of the chair? And, It raises the question of how Alexander taught the students to use their hands on the training course?

These questions are answered with clarity and deep insight from a great teacher, a Head of Training and one who clearly embodied the Alexander work.

The 'ground rules ' that bridge AT theory with practice, the insights into F.M. Alexander the man and about some of his most famous pupils, make this little book an invaluable addition to our library and to the curriculum and reading list on every Alexander Teacher Training School.

Marjory's wise words will help us as teachers, comprehend the importance of applying the work in one's daily life interactions which in turn, will help us understand how to teach and present Alexander's teaching principle, and in process we may find the real Alexander Technique.

© Diana Devitt-Dawson 2011



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