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Alexander Technique Workshop

With Rivka Cohen

Two-DVD boxed set: each DVD c. 82 mins. NTSC format. $35.00 + $3.00 S&H. Available from http://www.rivkacohen.com.

Review by Jean Clark (first published in StatNews, May 2009)


Presented here are 2 hours 44 minutes of Rivka Cohen demonstrating, in her own individual way, her understanding of the Technique from her many years of experience. It is a tour de force: her energy, dynamism, assurance, enthusiasm and her eagerness to get her point across, are quite remarkable.

Her group of a dozen Alexander teachers in New York in 2004 seem focussed and appreciative, as she praises or points out inadequacies in their endeavours, swept along by Rivka’s enjoyment of the task. One has been working with her for 18 years. She pays tribute to her master teacher, Patrick Macdonald, who is "still a guiding force in my life and teaching." Included are a couple of short sequences from her own home movies, showing him working on her in the chair and up on toes. They are silent and of poor quality, but still interesting. Both DVDs take place in a large, bright, empty room with a wooden floor, and one wall almost entirely mirrored, plus an additional mirror placed strategically. The cameraman makes full use of these, thus giving additional views of all the proceedings. Unfortunately, perhaps because of this large empty space, the sound seems to echo, and what Rivka and the participants say is rather difficult to follow.

DVD 1: Chapter 1: A Workshop with Rivka (46 mins)
Rivka explores the journey in and out of the chair, each individual both being taken many times through the movement, and also, with Rivka’s reminding hands on theirs, being shown how to take someone else through the journey. Giving an experience of up is Rivka’s main concern, encompassing also ‘spiralic’ movement, moving side to side when sitting, and leaning far back. Eight separate short sequences follow:

Walking: archive footage of Macdonald, then present participants moving in a circle. Squatting: with feet far apart; one participant jumping in squat, also shown in slow motion. Direction-action: in and out of chair and on to toes, including slow motion. Hands on the chair from sitting: Rivka showing in herself the freedom to move her arms in any direction. Warm-up: participants sit in a circle, while Rivka takes each vigorously through the sit to stand movement. The skeleton: Rivka pointing out features and opening its jaw. Sadly, Rivka does not work on voice, whispered "Ah"s or breathing, although her voice is strong and in these DVDs rings out with reminders of "Forward and up, up, up!" Chair work. Kangaroo: a movement while sitting, where one alternately sits further back and further forward on a chair, lifting oneself up with one’s arms.

Chapter 2: Table Work (19 mins)
Rivka points out that on first lying, the direction needs to be back in space, not down. She works quickly and vigorously, and when taking a leg, returns the foot to the table with quite an impact. Prior to taking the person up from the table, Rivka first moves their pelvis to one side, swiftly bringing the legs over to the same side.

Chapter 3: First lesson (16 mins) with Maya Magen
Rivka points out that Maya seems to be "searching for the chair" when sitting, rather than "searching for organisation". She also helps Maya to use the mirror and recognise the force of her habits.

DVD 2: Chapter 1: Excerpts from a Workshop (17 mins)
More chair work with many of the same teachers and some repeat sequences from the workshop on DVD 1, finishing with Rivka in a voice-over, where the sound is at its clearest.

Chapter 2: Work in Pairs (1 hr 2 mins)
Rivka works with each couple on chair work, highlighting the spiralic component and the multi-dimensionality of the movements, often performed fast and I believe called ‘yo‑yo’. Some of Rivka’s reminders: "do less, intend more"; "arms are channels for your message"; "mobilise your inner curve"; "trust your back"; "release to connect"; "drop shoulders, lift arms". All of which Rivka embodies in herself throughout.

Chapter 3: The Participants (2 mins)
Each briefly presents themselves.

For anyone unfamiliar with Rivka’s work, these DVDs give a good introduction, and will send you up just watching her at work, but the sound quality is disappointing.

© Jean Clark 2009



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