Why is the Feldenkrais Method® important to theatre and acting? The performing artist needs to develop a very high level of physical awareness in order to understand his capabilities as a performer. The finest performances are those where there appears to be no effort, where we do not ask questions, but believe in the world that is created for us.
When I came to prepare for a performance, I would work harder before the show than I did in the show itself. Now, I am able to lie on the floor and take myself through simple but crucial movements in order to organise myself so that when I come to the show I work with less effort and have more time to enjoy the work. Awareness of balance, your relationship with gravity, skeletal awareness and breathing, give you the space required to find economical movement and freedom in your thinking, which in turn allow you to come closer to direct experience of what it is to exist in a theatrical environment.
In 1992 I performed in Mime Theatre Project’s The Three Musketeers at the Purcell Rooms on London’s South Bank. This run coincided with the second year of my Feldenkrais training. The show is a marathon — three of us running around being Musketeers, horses, castles and the odd chicken. It was fascinating to me to put the Feldenkrais Method and performance so intensely together. I was lying on a floor in Lewes for four hours, then dashing to London and performing for a two hours. In a normal situation you would expect me to be totally exhausted. The reverse was true. The feeling of vitality was extraordinary: I flew through the show, my feet hardly touching the floor. My wife also remarked that I seemed taller, bigger, with greater stage presence than she had seen before. This experience confirmed to me the idea that Feldenkrais is a fantastic learning for performers. Not just to have greater awareness of yourself physically, but of the space around you.
Feldenkrais is about learning, or rather learning about learning. In Awareness through Movement group classes we facilitate the breakdown of unconscious muscle patterns. By making new and unusual movement in new and unfamiliar positions, the nervous system must generate alternative solutions, which combine familiar movements with unusual sensations. Awareness of what the body is doing is enhanced and the individual begins to choose how he or she moves.
Over the last ten years, as I have experienced more of the hundreds of lessons that Feldenkrais developed, I have been gradually tuning my understanding of not just what is happening in my own system, but seeing what is happening in others.
Andrew Dawson is the creator of the two West End hit shows ‘The Thunderbirds F. A. B.’ and ‘Wallace and Gromit, A Grand Night Out’. As a Feldenkrais Practitioner he has given workshops from Berlin to Brazil. He also works with Aardman Animations and teaches for the International Workshop Festival.