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From Russia with love
Yaroslavi, Russia
August 2012
by Lisa First
(First published in STATNews, January 2013) 
In August 2012 four international Alexander Technique teachers participated in the Tenth International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Va in Yaroslavl, Russia. Lisa First organized the Alexander Technique component of the biennial festival with the help of her longtime Russian counterparts through Link Vostok, an East/West international arts exchange, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1993 .

These four instructors marked a total of 16 Alexander Technique instructors that Lisa has helped bringto Yaroslavl and Kostroma, Russia. 2012 was the last year that international artists and instructors would be supported by the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland. Plans are underway for our 11th festival to take place in 2014 and we sincerely hope to locate new sources of support for our European Alexander Technique instructors.

The four Alexander Technique Instructors were Francien Schoonens, the Netherlands (NEVSTAT);Veronique Marco, Paris, France (APTA); Anne Bluethenthal, San Francisco, California (AmSAT) and Lisa First Minneapolis, Minnesota (AmSAT).

Dancers, teachers and performing artists from Austria, France, Italy, Holland, Hungary, the United States and Russia participated in the festival. Link Vostok was responsible for raising support for European and U.S. artists and professional instructors and assisting artists in their attempts to locate additional resources. Lisa has been to Russia twenty-eight times since 1989. Russia is a large country with little exposure to the Alexander Technique.

She first began to introduce the work in Russia in 1991. In 1993, through Link Vostok, she began offering the Alexander Technique at the contemporary dance festival she co-founded in Yaroslavl with professional counterparts.

In the early years Link Vostok was able to sponsor only one additional Alexander Technique teacher to attend the festival.

By 2012, after having brought sixteen certified Alexander Technique instructors, many of whom were dancers, greatly increased awareness of our important work. For the first time, Link Vostok received queries about European and Australian training courses for potential Russian trainees after the event.

The collegiality at the festival was a brilliant example of the ability of teachers to understand, adjust, and communicate in a new environment. We taught in hallways, classrooms and office spaces in the theater building. Everyone solved the difficult problems of introducing the Technique, especially in a foreign language.

Bringing four Alexander instructors made a difference in presenting a resonant experience of the work. Our teachers were from different cultures and were of diverse ages, backgrounds and professional experience. They formed a rich and unified group at the festival and greatly expanded the work begun in previous years. We are grateful to the pioneering festival teachers from Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Spain and the U.S. who set the stage for the tremendous success that we experienced in 2012.

The Alexander instructors share their impressions and experiences:
Veronique Marco writes:

"In the month of August 2012 I had the privilege to participate in the Link Vostok Festival... The dancers reception of Alexander Technique lessons was impressive. I met many people open to the work and asking for new ways to learn. This experience was very enriching..."

Francien Schoonen writes:

"I was very excited to be invited to Russia, [ and ] nervous. Russia seemed a dangerous country and I did not know if I was prepared. In the end it was no problem at all. It was nice to have translators. It took time to get used to the waiting while not knowing what had just been translated.
Yaroslavl (founded in 1010) was a very pleasing town with a good hotel. Taking the bus from the hotel to the theatre I felt I was part of Russian life, not just a tourist.

We gave group Alexander Technique sessions and many private lessons to dancers, but also to the Russian public and to the translators. In the end I still felt I did not have enough time to give everybody lessons.

I saw beautiful performances, incredible dancers. I have never seen so many different types of dance at one festival. I worked a lot and it gave me an enormous boost, an "up" and a taste for more of Russia."

Anne Bluethenthal (San Francisco) led invigorating classes on Alexander Technique-based Modern Dance in which she plumbed basic approaches to the western dance canon.
Anne Bluethenthal writes:

"I loved being in Yaroslavl, Russia. Loved the people -participants, artists, leaders, interpreters. Loved the opportunity to create across culture and to teach and perform across culture. I had a fantastic time, worked very hard every day, had fabulous time with the Russian dancers/ students/ choreographers, and very much enjoyed getting to know the international artists."

We are deeply grateful to the foundations that supported the artists and participating Alexander Technique teachers, such as the Trust for Mutual Understanding (New York, New York) and the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation (Zurich, Switzerland) and the Robert and Katherine Goodale Family Fund.

Fundraising is increasingly difficult and we are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that believe in and continue to support our projects, as well as the creativity of artists and instructors who worked with Link Vostok and independently to locate additional resources.
Lisa First, an AmSAT certified instructor of the Alexander Technique, is a graduate of The Alexander Institute of Boston (TAIB). She has been teaching the Technique since 1992, currently in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is the Executive Director of Link Vostok, East/West International Arts Exchange.

2012 Lisa First. All rights reserved.
Photographs by Vladimir Lupovsky.


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