by Brooke Lieb
ACAT was fortunate to host Drs. Tim Cacciatore (Ph.D. in NeuroScience, teaching via Skype) and Patrick Johnson (Ph.D. in Physics, presenting at ACAT) for their information packed workshop "Contemporary Science and Good Use” in May of 2017.
In their workshop description, they wrote: "Many of the scientific explanations we have used in the past to explain how the Alexander Technique works are problematic. For example, our use of reflex models as a means of explaining whole body coordination – a concept deeply rooted the AT culture – is no longer scientifically current. This leaves the AT community searching for up-to-date explanations for AT pedagogy and “good use” as we try to shake our old habits of thinking.
This workshop will introduce new concepts and explanations that are not only scientifically up-to-date but provide a more powerful explanatory framework for AT. Combining lectures, group activities, and discussion we will dive into current movement neuroscience and biomechanics as they relate to the Alexander Technique."
Their opening statement at our workshop was this: AT practice is just fine without science!
Their next statement was: AT is still not well established
And to frame their workshop:
● There is already science in AT . . . and it is not very good
● Science is catching up - we should be ready
● There may be opportunities to improve our practice with
This acknowledgement of the value of our work from two scientists who are also trained Alexander teachers and have gained personal benefit from the work, set the tone for a lively exploration of how different disciplines within the realm of Science are helping us understand and clarify how the Alexander Technique may work, and what types of research have been designed to study different aspects of the work.
I found the event full of useful and engaging information, and many erroneous ideas I had taken on board over my years in training, teaching and reading work by my colleagues, were corrected or adjusted.
Here are comments from other participants:
"There was a lot to process but here are 2 takeaways, at least as I understood them, that I thought were very clear and helpful:
• Our postural task is to match the forces of gravity without collapsing and without stiffening.
• The earth is like a taut trampoline.”
"I flew out to NYC from Minnesota just to attend the presentation and it was so worth it! Tim and Patrick did a great job presenting up to date research that explores our complex postural system, while at the same time clearly explaining why some of our older ideas we have been holding onto are no longer accepted in the scientific community.
The presentation was very informative and positive and fun! Thanks to ACAT for hosting this event.”
"I appreciated the clarification about startle response. People don't get "stuck" in a startle pattern...we act habitually in how we respond to stress."
"A very rewarding day that raised my awareness of the current state of neuroscience in relation to the AT. Several of my sacred cows were taken away, and I'm eager to hear more as the science advances.”
In a follow-up email, Patrick Johnson wrote:
"Tim and I were really thrilled with the workshop on Sunday. What a great group.
We found the NYC teachers workshop to be our most intense and complete workshop so far (and we've given quite a few now). On the one hand, you guys seemed to have unlimited energy and enthusiasm so we "went for it". On the other hand, we can imagine we might have also gone too far too fast for some people.
No matter. Our intention in large part was to get the dialogue going and that seemed to have really happened! In fact, NYC made clear to us just how much of a "dialogue" these workshops are. Your questions and comments inspire us to dig deeper.
We would like to keep the communication going and developing. There is much more to say on many topics. For example, one topic in particular that we want to look further into is "natural coordination". This came up throughout the workshop. Tim and I have decided that there is much more to say about this very important topic that was not said during the workshop.”
N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com