The Vault

The Kangaroo and The Alexander Technique

Yehuda Kuperman

 

From many people I am in contact with, I've heard the question, why did the Alexander Technique originate in Australia? What is special about the Australian people to bring the tidings of the Alexander Technique to the rest of the world? Usually my answer is that it was just by chance Alexander was Australian and that his voice problems happened to be there. Also, it is just as possible for Australians to be geniuses as it was with Einstein in Germany, Chopin in Poland, etc. Together with this, I'm not sure that if Beethoven had been born in Australia we would be privileged to hear his great symphonies, and from the other side had Alexander been born in Germany, as an obedient citizen, I believe he would have listened to his doctor's diagnosis/verdict.

So, what is the connection between the Kangaroo and the Alexander discovery? First (in parenthesis which gives a hint about it) I found that the word Kangaroo in the Hebrew language is built of two words; namely 1) kan—which is nest and 2)—car—a young offspring of an animal. The combination of these two words gives us the character of the 'kangaroo'. This is maybe the Israeli contribution to the Technique which describes the belief of Alexander in the meeting of the pair—teacher and student— through touch. Those are the strongest and the most honest means, and that is why it is the most influential means, it contains warmth, humankind, giving, and love. Then the touch transmits compliments, respect and togetherness, and also the touch transmits strange and unfamiliar orders, although at the unconscious level there is conveyed longing and understanding.

In the classes I gave at the Australian Congress, maybe I didn't mention the kangaroo but I was helped a lot with its character. The kangaroo has a pocket which is connected to her stomach. In this pocket which is safe and warm and loving, the baby 'joey' gets his basic education. From there the mother takes him in this world through journeys and adventures to deserts and mountains, to life. He senses the world with only his head sticking out and the rest of his body drawing its confidence from the pocket womb.

The end of the Congress was dedicated to the theme of the Congress which dealt with the meaning of change in the Alexander Technique.

Alexander uses in his books the concept of change, but books are not only letters, words, or lines. In a book the largest part is the white spaces on which the words are written. Those are the spaces that the reader fills up himself, and on them he writes in invisible letters the story of his understanding, the melody.

On this occasion in my words to the Congress, I tried, through a short poem to warn the pupil about the teacher who wants or tries to change them with the written frame of the principles.

Some of my listeners were confused, spurned my talk, or smiled with forgiveness at my naivete—which spoke in favour of the creative silence in the Alexander lesson. A silence which allows the knowledge to be expressed in the most characteristic means of the Alexander Technique which is the touch of hands representing the teacher in his truth, his honesty, and his wholeness. And from this appear the words which give definition to the happenings and development.

This is different from the way in which all Alexander books are quoted in the lesson, and the thunder of principles are shaking the pupil's brain. They only feed some temporary illusions of easier playing, better voice, and other improvements which are not more than superficial.

If there is an element of change in the Alexander Technique, it is in the new attitude that the Alexander Technique is not coming to change the pupil, but to stop the constant change!!

From the day the human creature is in contact with mind, he tries to change, tries to succeed, to look different, to win, to be what he is not. And here comes an Alexander teacher and he too tries to change the human creature.

It is known to all of us that, until a certain point at the beginning of our life when life was in a natural condition, there was no place for change. The character of growing was our development, which was not directed by an external power towards an aim planned in advance, but was identified at the end.

That is why stopping unnecessary change can take place only if the teacher can represent with hands those natural conditions which contain all the stimuli to a slow and gradual development. This is the creation of the teacher as an external factor to the process.

The principles of Alexander are a light to our path in the order that they are presented and when they are all together. What is necessary before the pupil understands these principles is true inhibition, which expresses responsibility to the teacher him or herself. This is the way to a quality which makes a teacher able to find a way to the readiness of the pupil to stop changing and to start to develop towards his past and future.

The basic principle on the way to what teachers call changing requires stopping the immediate reaction. In my twenty-eight years of being an Alexander teacher, it has become clear to me that in the process of stopping, in relation to inhibition, we produce tension which is stronger than what we had before.

There is no greater danger than to stop with brakes that are already defective. Based on such stops, we are leading our pupils towards the rest of the principles and when they reach the summit of the primary control, it's so cold up there, and freezing .. .even when they try to use on the motor of their mind the oil of non-doing.

That's why there is no other way than to understand that a lesson in Alexander Technique is not to create something out of nothing, this is not "open sesame". This is a slow and basic development and like every gestation, there is also the pregnant moment, the nursing, the warmth, and the kangaroo togetherness. These should all be expressed through the hands of the teacher who has the patience and wisdom to understand that the advantage of the mind of man is also its limits. There is no other way than to return to the beginning, to the womb of the teacher, to the pocket of the kangaroo. From there real growing can be commenced which leads with time to the unity of the mind.

In such pregnancy the teacher is free of looking for results, all that is left for him or her is the joy of observing the process, the development, the releasing of tension, and growth. The teacher is free from the entanglement of preaching about directions, as directions you can teach only by bringing them to the pupil. The teacher points at their existence and colours them with visible colour. Then the pupil enjoys the touch of hands, realizes they are the gloves of direction, that allows the body to resign because of breaking free from its muscles, and to open. (Ohhh... anatomy and physiology, why can't you stay in the shadow of direction and be modest?)

When the flag of change is carried loudly by the teacher, the state of study is a state of a non-stop fight and everyone of us knows the suffering of this.

Such difficulties in the study put off many of the pupils after their first lessons. Every pupil who pushes in his legs, who counterfeits during the lesson, who stops his study, who is disappointed with the Technique, who complains that lessons are too expensive for him, blames the teacher.

The first rule is that if the teacher represents the principles in himself, the sensation of the pupil's is a special joy, almost a coming back home. This is the first meeting of the pupil with the whole, the happening, with the miracle. From this moment the pupil stays in a hothouse that will qualify him for meeting the principles; without such preparation it would not be the same.

In all that I have written up till now, I am not ignoring the place Alexander gave to the thinking mind in our being. And I agree with other teachers in acknowledging this factor, but we can also see and recognize the work it did in our lives. We can see the great tiredness of its material. And, as we appreciate it so much, we send for a sabbatical, for a complete rest in the pocket of the kangaroo, in the hands of the teacher. There will wait a teacher who will receive the people with blessings to a partnership of study, on the journey to the conscious primary control.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Yehuda, a Congress teacher, gave a special presentation at the Congress to honour Zeev Tadmore. In this article, Yehuda provides some of his thoughts arising from the Congress.

BIOGRAPHY

Yehuda Kuperman qualified in May 1967—he was trained by Patrick Macdonald. He went on to found the first teacher training course both in Germany (Freiburg) and in Switzerland (Basel) in August 1979.

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