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Friends of the Alexander Technique, Denmark

by Pia Sørensen (first published in Statnews, January 2008).

 

(Readers are advised that whilst Friends of the Alexander Technique (FAT), Denmark and Friends of the Alexander Technique (AT Friends) the UK Charity share the same name, they are organisations which are quite independent of each other. Ed. )

 

Friends of the Alexander Technique, Denmark (FAT) represents an alternative way of organising Alexander teaching and learning. Instead of a teaching practice run by a teacher, FAT is run as a network of learners, who in their enthusiasm for the Alexander Technique have set up a 'learning practice' through which they can organise their study of the Technique proactively by inviting teachers of their choice to work with them.

 

Centred in North Jutland, in the towns of Aalborg and Viborg, the 'gang' includes musicians, teachers, university and music college students, medical doctors, actors, therapists and Alexander teachers from a wide area of Denmark. All of them bring valuable experience of various kinds of 'body learning' to the group, but all are equally keen that the Alexander work that they do should be kept separate and not 'mixed up' with other disciplines.

 

The group's activities to date have involved either inviting a non-local teacher to teach a series of individual lessons, usually over a long weekend, or inviting two teachers together to present intensive three-day or four-day workshops. Our first workshop was held over four days in Viborg in July 2004, with two teachers and eight students and we have run one or two per year since. Based on a student:teacher ratio of not more than 5:1, and organised to facilitate the maximum amount of individual attention, the workshops are modelled consciously on the environment of a teacher training course. It has become our normal practice during the workshops for each student to have a half-hour private lesson every day. The group sessions have also been structured so that the teachers can give turns and work hands-on almost continuously, with carefully planned 'directed activities' and 'games' which are developed so that they place a gradually increasing demand on the students as the days progress. The workshops also provide an opportunity to work with hands-on from two teachers at the same time: a way of working that FM frequently liked to use, but is of course usually difficult to organise.

 

 Most teachers recall the deep tiredness experienced at the start of their training and it has been instructive for us to experience an intensity of work that seems to use all our energy. Of course, in any group there is always one annoying individual who just gets more bright eyed and lively, the more work she gets!

 

The two teachers who have so far worked regularly with the group are Ulla Pedersen who lives in Viborg and Tim Soar who visits Aalborg from the UK to teach one to one lessons every couple of months. FAT was conceived, and is organised by Pia Sørensen and her partner Anders Johansen, and all the Aalborg workshops and lessons have been hosted by them in their house. Despite not being Alexander teachers, they have a permanently set up teaching room and Pia organises the timetable when individual lessons are scheduled in Aalborg.

 

The organisation of FAT as a 'learning practice' has precluded any overly didactic style of teaching, and we are pleased that we seem to have created a supportive, enquiring and safe environment to nurture our growing understanding of the 'Work'.  Tim and Ulla are able to be very clear and imaginative in communicating the principles of the Alexander Technique, and of course we love their great hands on work. Despite the linguistic differences which have to be overcome when working with teachers from other countries we have discovered a mutually surreal sense of humour (which has led to the skull and cross bones having been adopted as FAT's unofficial emblem!).

 

Two members of the group have spent time on training courses in the UK and Italy, and perhaps not surprisingly, for a group so dedicated to the Alexander Technique, there is a growing interest in teacher training.

 

Currently there are two DFLAT training courses, both in Copenhagen, but Aalborg has had a training course in the past. The International School for the FM Alexander Technique -ISAT -was established in Aalborg in 1984 with Chris Stevens as Head of Training and the training course continued until he moved to Germany in the early 90s. Chris' co-directors through the years included Karen Wentworth and Glynn MacDonald. There were guest teachers from Britain including Don Burton, and from other parts of the world. ISAT's graduates include well known names such as Nadia Kevan (now Head of Training in Cologne), John Brown, and Jean Fischer.

 

One enthusiastic member of the current FAT group is Hanne Tietze, who lives by the sea a little outside Aalborg. Hanne trained partly with the Carringtons, partly in Aalborg. She was the secretary for ISAT from the beginning, and from 1987, after her graduation, she became a regular teacher on the training course.

 

We now propose to run a one-off three-year teacher training in Aalborg. In addition to a number of present FAT members, we are confident that the course will be attractive to trainees from the rest of Denmark and Scandinavia and possibly from other countries too. Tim plans to be in Denmark for about half the course timetable, and has strong ideas about teaching hands-on skills. Ulla and other assistant teachers, and even a possible venue, are lined up, but before anything else can happen we need to find a very special teacher with the suitable experience to be the Head of Training. We feel sure that the right teacher exists, perhaps currently teaching on one of the German, Dutch, UK or Scandinavian training courses, or maybe further afield, or a teacher who has directed a training course in the past and would like to do so again.

 

We are looking forward to developing FAT Denmark over the next few years and would welcome new members to the network (it's free to join!), visitors to Denmark, and enquiries from teachers, trainees and members of the public who might be interested in any aspect of our work. We have a small website at www.findfat.com and Pia can be contacted at info@findfat.com.

 

© Pia Sørensen 2008

 

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