Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link

Dance and the Alexander Technique: Exploring the Missing Link

by Rebecca Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier

University of Illinois Press, 2011

179 pages


In a Nutshell: A comprehensive guide to the Alexander Technique, with movement explorations and an accompanying DVD.


Not just for modern dancers, Alexander Technique promotes an easy mobility in the joints and creates more holistic dancing, so it can greatly enhance your students' ballet, jazz and hip-hop training, as well. Written by two Alexander instructors and dance professors with very different backgrounds (Nettl-Fiol focuses on modern at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Vanier focuses on ballet at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Dance and the Alexander Technique bridges the gap between Alexander's theory and practice. It allows students to understand why practicing the technique is practical and valuable.


The text first lays a thorough foundation for the practice, introducing founder F. M. Alexander and defining the theories behind the technique and philosophies of leading practitioners. In the next 10 chapters, movement studies are laid out in lesson plan form (approximately six to 10 per chapter), citing the Alexander Technique concept the study explores, as well as how it correlates to common dance steps. An accompanying DVD shows dancers putting these studies into practice.


This book would best be used in class with an experienced Alexander instructor leading the way; however, it is also a great jumping-off point for new practitioners interested in boosting their coordination, mind-body awareness, joint mobility and flexibility in a healthy and holistic approach.

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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