F. M. Alexander was born in Tasmania in 1869. He started to evolve his now world-famous technique in the early 1890s. The Technique was initially developed to solve the frequent loss of voice he suffered while working as a reciter. A successful reciter and teacher of elocution, he toured Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. He first taught the Technique as applied to elocution, but he gradually discovered how applicable it is to all activities of living, and that it makes a fundamental a contribution to health and well-being. He settled first in Melbourne, and in 1902 relocated to Sydney, where he ran his Operatic and Dramatic Conservatory.
Encouraged by doctors to spread the awareness of his work, Alexander moved to London in 1904. He had great success in introducing his Technique to the acting community and to certain medical circles, and he wrote several pamphlets on the health benefits of the Technique as well as its application to breathing and voice production (reproduced in his Articles and Lectures). However, it was with the publication of his first book, Man’s Supreme Inheritance (1910), that he first presented his evolutionary hypothesis developed from his practical experience: that we are evolving from the instinctive to the conscious in the use of ourselves. Our innate ability to consciously adapt by means of the primary control (relationship of the head, neck, and back) is our “supreme inheritance.”
During the period from 1914–24 he also taught regularly in New York and Boston, where John Dewey became his pupil and advocate. Dewey wrote forewords not only to the next edition of Man’s Supreme Inheritance (1918), but also to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923) and The Use of the Self (1932). In these books he developed and expanded his thesis, and included examples and case stories as illustrations of the Technique’s effectiveness.
During the 1920s and 1930s Alexander’s pupils included Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley, Leonard Wolf, Sir Stafford Cripps, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Earl of Lytton, and many more doctors, scientists and performers.
In 1931 Alexander started a 3-year course to train teachers in his Technique, ensuring its survival and continued expansion. He also encouraged and oversaw the establishment of a small school where children were taught with attention to the “means-whereby” as opposed to the “end-gaining” mentality, which often neglects how we are performing in every activity.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, Alexander moved the school to the US. Here he finished his last book, The Universal Constant in Living (1942), reminding us all that we are constantly using ourselves, that our use continuously affects our functioning, and that we can co-ordinate and control that use to great advantage. After the war, back in London, in 1947, Alexander suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his left side. He used his technique to fully recover from his stroke and continued to teach up until within a few days of his death.
The Alexander Technique is now taught world-wide. It is particularly well-established in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Israel. It is an integral part of the curriculum in music, theater, and dance conservatories and universities in England. Many articles and books have been published on the Technique.
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