No, that actor is not on drugs: they’ve just had a Feldenkrais lesson

The wonderful thing about doing an FI (Functional Integration session: hands-on one-to-one) for an actor is that they are usually already half way there. If they are a student they are hungry to learn so they come really ready to learn something. If they are a seasoned professional they probably only come when they are in pain unless they already know the value of this work – but if they are open they simply can’t help learning something more along the way. I defy any truly curious actor not to get interested when they start to feel in vivid detail more of what they are doing and get a sniff of what else they could do as well.

I had a student come for a first session the other day and we were wondering whether to do a floor lesson (ATM: Awareness Through Movement) or an FI and I mentioned that in an FI I could use my hands to really help him feel his patterns and habits. He started to say he thought he knew quite a lot about that and I found myself saying ‘No. No you don’t. Not like this. Not like a Feldenkrais session can show you. Believe me.’ Bless him he didn’t argue. In fact he jumped at it at that point and it was indeed quite a surprising and exciting journey of discovery and it just so happens I did two more sessions like that too the very next day.

Its such a great experience for me too. Its like taking them on a crazy ride or giving them class A drugs. Their eyes start to widen and their vocab goes all 1970s. I love it. But its because actors are already half way there – their job is to use themselves to tell their part of the story and they need to be able to connect inwardly in some way and feel (physically at least) what they are doing to select and make choices about what they use/don’t use and in what way so they can communicate whatever they want to the outside effectively. They are always on the search to use themselves more effectively and whether they know it or not that involves being able to feel what they do or they have no basis on which to make a choice. The keeness of that search is usually very clear in student actors once they realise that’s the job. And its often new territory and full of wonderful discovery. With more experienced actors you have to get a little past the issue that they think they know what they are doing and don’t need to look further and while that may well be very true in the sense that they might be very skilful and extremely experienced – maybe even highly acclaimed – its never totally true in terms of knowing themselves. On that front we can all be humble whoever we are because no one fully knows themselves and anyone, however successful, can always learn more. In fact just at the stage when we are so used to ourselves we think we know all our own corners it can be especially important to accept that sometimes we need to let someone else’s imagination help us re-imagine ourselves in ways we simply cannot yet contain on our own and someone else’s hands guide us in enabling us to find new possibilities that we might otherwise never conceive of.

The wonderful thing about an FI is the practitioner can take you right in there and be very specific about how a movement of this bone involves that one –and that one and that one  – and how this place moves in response to that place, so that the actor can start to feel what they are doing with a new – and often startling – clarity. They may know and have known for years that they tend to stand on their left leg more than their right or that one leg turns out more than the other or they walk with a certain lilt – but to feel what that actually means in how the top of the thigh bone meets and moves in the cup of the pelvis on one leg and the other and to really feel the difference between the two and then to feel how that moves the pelvis differently on the two sides and how that involves the spine and ribs and travels all the way up to how they hold their head can be mind-blowing. Honestly. It may not sound like it described in dry words. but the actual experience is something else. So next time you see someone standing with their eyes sunk back in their heads and a blissed out expression going ‘oh man. That’s crazy. That’s. oh man. That’s amaaaaazing. That’s. That’s just. Amaaaazing. Yes I can feel that. That’s just mad. oh, wow. I can’t believe it.’- or something like that – they may not have taken a load of drugs. They may be an actor who has just had a Feldenkrais lesson.

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