The Vault

The Alexander Technique and the TV/Video Media

Eugene Schlusser

 

The sessions took the form of an exchange of experiences using the video medium; a brief demonstration of the advantages and disadvantages of the medium and the state of the technology; information about the Technique in the broadcast media and on tape.

Using Video in the Teaching of the Alexander Technique

Participants reported good experiences. Mostly, tapes were shown to the subject only. If shown to a wider audience, it can become problematical. Pupils can become self-conscious and concentrate on the wrong elements revealed in the picture. Besides, the changes have to be 'experienced' and are not often, or perhaps easily, visible.

Nevertheless, if the teacher has confidence in using equipment, positive experiences can be created.

Equipment

Use the best equipment available. Choose SVHS over VHS, Hi-8 over Video 8. The technology is advancing rapidly. Cameras can get better results in lower light conditions. Some recent cameras have a lens which 'floats', so to speak, allowing for steady shots even when the camera is hand-held—a device not yet available in professional cameras. A camera-person can more easily follow the action and get the best view, rather than be fixed to a tripod, which tends to be unsatisfactory. Look for the feature if you are buying or borrowing a camera.

The viewer is used to seeing the best quality. Screen on a large screen, the closer to 'life-size' the better.

Experiment and practise to learn simple filming techniques. Video is good for simple, clear images, i.e. close-ups and mid-shots. It is less good for busy scenes or wide shots.

1) Framing: Preferably—see the subject's eyes—frame not to coincide with the body-part joins viz not at the knee but below or above it; not at the waist but below or above it, etc.

2) Exposure: Video with the main source of light behind you. On adjustable cameras fix exposure at the best level and stay with it. Avoid mixing daylight with artificial light, use either-or. In either case, have plenty of light.

3) Presentation: If budget allows edit your material. Not even a professional camera person is so good that everything they shoot is viewable.

Before and After

Some session participants had had experience in videoing pupils before and after they have had lessons. In some cases it appears to have been useful to be able to talk about actual or potential changes when describing an objective image rather than the person direct. In other cases, the question of self-consciousness did not arise. Experiences differ. Experiment and experience will assist.

On the whole, those present spoke positively of the use of video in supporting their teaching.

Alexander Technique and Television

The focus of broadcast television on instant and visible fixes makes the Technique less than attractive for broadcasters. However, it does gain media attention regularly—sometimes in connection with back problems or other specific health issues.

A contradiction exists if one focuses on Alexander the man, as he wished to focus on the work and we wish to also. Where to find the visuals for stories? People are, of course, interested in people, so success stories are always good. Anniversaries and other landmark dates or occasions are good hooks.

The Channel 4 documentary made in Britain some 12 or more years ago received numerous enquiries for further information, at the time. Critics have commented on its tendency to focus on the 'mystical'—or should that be 'mistical'—elements. Participants were inclined to seek more direct illustrations of the use of the Technique.

Animation should by rights be applicable here. It appears not to have been used to date.

Video as Examples of Good Use

This would appear to be a potentially good use of the medium. Judicially selected images of people—and animals?—in action can give 'images' of good use, proving' so to speak, that it can be done. This can give confidence to some. Many teachers already use stills for this purpose and a move to moving images would seem logical, especially if taking advantage of the freeze-frame and slow-motion capabilities of video players.

Video in Research

Dr David Garlick has used video to document research. Some basic principles become clearly visible, as they are in life, for those who can duplicate the conditions.

On the whole, since Alexander stressed the need to bring about conscious changes, video would appear to have use in providing objective images which can be analysed and from which conclusions can be drawn, and future change encouraged.

For those who feel easy about using the video medium, it appears to be a useful addition to their teaching arsenal.

Postscript

Having videoed a selection of large and smaller sessions during the Congress, it is clear the information gathered is an invaluable resource for teachers.

Historically, they are also a unique record of the range of teaching, and the understanding of the Technique at this stage. It is very instructive to see so many approaches, in close proximity to each other, and to ascertain in which details they agree and in which they differ.

I would be interested to have any feedback from purchasers of the tapes as a retrospective assessment of the documentation and as a guide for the future. Comments from teachers and participants in the videos are especially welcome.

BIOGRAPHY

Eugene Schlusser is a filmmaker with experience in drama and documentary work who has acquaintance of the Technique through his work in theatre. He is currently developing a documentary on FM Alexander.

 

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