"We act according to our self-image."
Feldenkrais wrote this line for everyone, but it's particularly profound for actors. The Feldenkrais Method allows us to have a greater, more expansive and flexible self-image, which allows us more choices in how we play a character or simply stand on a stage with presence. And it probably goes without saying that we can always use more physical awareness and flexibility.
On a personal level, the Feldenkrais Method has made me a better actor. I am more imaginative, less inhibited and can do many many things with my body than I ever could before.
"Tout Bouge." (Everything moves.) - Jacques Lecoq
You probably forgot you had a body, right? While directing a show, worrying about everyone else, directors often can lose sight of themselves.
I think I spent most of my student loan money on bodywork while I was getting that Directing MFA. Thai massage, acupuncture, massage massage, cupping, nothing took care of that shoulder problem I managed to give myself while directing. I thought I'd never be rid of it. A year later, after my very first experience with the FI (hands-on) part of the Method, I said goodbye to it and haven't seen it since.
And, as Sue Laurie says in her book, Touching Lives, "Actors respond to the state of the director and will quite unconsciously take their cue from him. If the director is stressed or sitting at the table in front of them slumped and not appearing to care about the actor, he will create the wrong atmosphere in the room."
The designers I've collaborated with are tough, hard-working, incredibly busy and they put their bodies through a lot. I know you probably don't have time to lie on the floor or on a table for an hour with me or any other Feldenkrais practitioner but if you could find one, it would probably help.
It's easy to forget about your own body while you're busy trying to operate someone else's. From horse legs, to Object theatre, everything you do is embodied and you do a lot of repetitive motion. Your puppets can be limited by your own physical limitations. It's hard to get that bird puppet to fly if your arm won't go over your head the way it used to!
"An awareness of the space in your own body will inevitably lead to an awareness in your puppet's body too." - Nicolas Hart, Warhorse puppeteer
You may not think of writing as a physical act, but the dents in the bone on my pen-holding fingers say otherwise. So did the pain in my hip from the hours of leaning I did as I wrote.
Writers often find themselves forgetting the body until they look up from the page or the screen.
Regaining an awareness of yourself, not only alleviates the aches and pains of repetitive movement and long stretches of sitting, but also can stimulate the imagination and bring the body into the work. It can also help you to do what you thought was impossible.
While I've written all my life, I thought I could never write a novel. About a year into the training program, I started one and finished it a few months beforethe training ended, thereby doing what I'd always believed impossible.
I just read this article about a screenwriter and the knot in his back. While it's about a different form of bodywork, the lessons he applies relate directly to the Feldenkrais Method.
From "Is Your Rewrite a Big Pain in the. . .Back?" by Jacob Krueger
Often as writers, we get obsessed with the spot in our screenplay. Beating on it, kneading it, stretching it, rewriting and rewriting again and again trying to relieve that nagging ache of a scene that just doesn’t work.
And often, just like that spot on my back, we find the more we work on it, the tighter the muscles seem to get, the less inspired the scene seems to be, the further away from our intentions we seem to be getting, and the more agony it all seems to be causing us.
Every element in your script is connected, through a complex structural musculature that is sometimes hard to see until you start moving things around and exploring the way they relate to each other.
While I'm not much of a visual artist myself, I have collaborated with quite a few over the years. One thing I've observed is that visual artists work hard and with tremendous amounts of patience and their bodies often suffer for it. The hours and hours of laying down papier mache for sculptures or masks, the time behind a table while sketching, the patience of layering brush stroke after brush stroke on a painting.
The Feldenkrais Method can assist in giving you more options and pathways for those repetitive movements and can also offer a more embodied way of approaching your materials. Do you paint with your whole self or just your arm?
"Processes go well if there are many ways to influence them. We need more ways to do what we want than the one we know— even if it is a good one in itself.”
- Moshe Feldenkrais
Music is an embodied process. It’s something we do. We have this constant influx of sensation on multiple channels and we respond to it by doing things, turning our heads in the direction of a sound or reaching for something. – Vijay Iyer on Studio 360
As we play an instrument, our bodies adapt to what and how we play. I've played guitar since I was 17 and my body is organized around that positioning. (My head turns more easily to the left, my right shoulder comes forward while my left goes back, etc.)
Some of the ways we've organized ourselves have helped us to play better and others are holding us back. The Feldenkrais Method can help, not only with the aches and pains of repetitive movement, but also with finding ease and new ways of playing.
One of the remarkable things in exploring the Feldenkrais Method is discovering how many ways there are to do something. Watch this playlist of a selection of pianists, all using their bodies wildly differently, and all accomplished at their instrument. (Thanks to composer & pianist, Scott Ethier, for gathering these examples for me.)
Here's a video (made by the Feldenkrais Guild of the UK) of a violinist talking about his experience with the Method.
Choreographers and Dancers
You folks are already sold on the value of working with the body, I know!
This interview points at how the Feldenkrais Method offers Dancers a little something different than what you're used to. So does this article.