The Vault

Dance Injuries

And the Process of Learning in Dance and The Alexander Technique

Tony Geeves
Consultant/Teacher & Researcher

 

My name is Tony Geeves and, in common with F.M. Alexander, I was born in Tasmania. At present, I am teaching in the Dance Program at the Queensland University of Technology, in Brisbane. After twenty five years of dancing and teaching internationally, I changed my focus to body therapies. I am a recycled dancer, now registered as a Dance/Movement Psychotherapist and Bionergetics Analyst, who teaches dance and related subjects.

What a demonstration of the body/mind split it is, to be sitting here, behind a desk, with the other members of the panel. I wonder if that is why preachers and lecturers traditionally use this artifice, so that one does not really know what they are thinking? It is similar to the use of the "collar and tie" which can really separate the head from the body and make some people feel fragmented and others safe, depending on the individual and the circumstances.

The integration of the body mind split is why I am here.

I was invited home from the USA in 1989, as a consultant to Ausdance, to conduct research into the health of Australian professional dancers. That research revealed that a staggering sixty five percent of Australian professional dancers sustained a chronic injury and half of them, had suffered these injuries since the age of eighteen or before!

This is not just an Australian problem. The rate of injuries recorded by professional dancers is unacceptably high in places such China, Venezuela, Britain and the United States of America. Even in Sweden—where occupational health and safety is supported by acceptable salaries, secure working contracts, purpose-built floors, medical and paramedical back-up—their reported rate of injury to professional dancers is a squandering of human resources.

Australian dancers have been world standard for the last three generations, so it is clear the "product" is excellent. This is a positive reflection of dance training in this country, however, the "process" is clearly in need of revision when one considers the level of injury. In light of present day acceptance of a holistic approach to many things, dance should be no exception.

As keynote speaker at Dance UK'S 1993 conference: "Tomorrow's Dancers"—on the changing behaviour of professional dance teachers—I presented a paper addressing "The Difference Between Taming and Training the Dancer".

Some teachers tame their students so that their technique is a conditioned reflex and their responses are dependent upon a stimulus from the teacher. This type of teacher is often a particular personality type, dependent on this behavioural pattern, for their own security. However, there are others to whom the development of the person is an integral part of the training process and as a consequence the technique is an expression of the individual.

Research into the injuries sustained by people who dance professionally is moving towards the type of person injured rather then which type of injury the dancer gets.

I have also been attending and presenting a paper at the Dance and the Child International Conference: "Kindle the Fire"—here in Sydney, where there is also concentration on the process of teaching.

In my opinion, this attention to the process of learning is one of the great assets of the Alexander Technique which could be and often is used as an adjunct to the training of people who dance.

BIOGRAPHY

Tony Geeves, MA, DTR Dip Tch. B.A., trained in ballet with the Hallidays and trained in modern dance at Bodenweisser in Sydney. He gained national recognition for his Safe Dance Project publication which was jointly published by AADE (now AUSDANCE) in association with the National Arts Industry Training Council.

After a performance career spanning 25 years dancing leading roles—both classical and contemporary— in Canada, USA, Scandinavia, Eastern and Western Europe and the former USSR, Tony embarked on an extensive academic path. Upon completion of a Certificate in Anatomy, Neuroanatomy and Physiology in Oslo, Tony specialised in studies for Dance Psychology and Body Therapies in Stockholm, obtaining a Fil Kand (BA) and a Teaching Diploma. He then completed a Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy at New York University and underwent an internship in the Bronx State Psychiatric Institute to obtain his registration as a psychotherapist.

Tony has taught extensively from New York to Sydney, giving classes for students, teachers and professional dancers. He has lectured, given seminars and workshops at Universities in Scandinavia, USA, New Zealand and throughout Australia. During the last four years he has spoken at International Conferences in Hong Kong, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland. In 1993 he was invited to address the Dance UK Conference as Keynote Speaker on "The Changing Behaviour of the Professional Teacher".

Tony is currently completing a contract as a full-time lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology and is enrolled to take his PhD at the University of Queensland in the Department of Human Movements.

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