Tonight I talk by phone with Constance — a former book buyer for Good Vibrations — about her career as an Alexander teacher:
With a first career in training dressage horses and riders and a second career in performing and teaching modern dance, she is well acquainted with the needs of athletes and performers. She recovered from chronic back pain and injuries with the help of the Alexander Technique. During her career in Dressage, she competed at FEI-levels, (Federation Equestrian International) in the United States and Europe. As a dancer, she performed professionally and taught with Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers and Purple Moon Dance Project.
Constance completed a three-year Alexander training program in San Francisco with Frank Ottiwell, (1800 hours of study) and has since helped hundreds of students bring less effort and more ease into their activities.
Constance has a private practice in Oakland and San Francisco, teaches classes for actors at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and gives specialized workshops for equestrians, actors, musicians and for employees in the workplace.
Clare-Newman took her first Alexander lesson around 1991.
Upon graduating in 2001 from her Alexander training and quitting her job with Good Vibrations, Constance studied and practiced the book Get Clients Now by CJ Hayden. Within three months, she had a thriving practice.
Luke: “Not many teachers talk publicly about [sex and Alexander Technique]?”
Constance: “I don’t know that they’ve been asked, but probably not. Alexander teachers traditionally have been conservative, but now we’re in a different generation. I’m able to speak about it because of my work in sex education.”
Luke: “Do you have any thoughts on the sociology of Alexander teachers?”
Constance: “It is probably pretty similar to many groups. I hear that in a martial art like akido there are similar issues of lineage and who does and who doesn’t do it right. The new generation of Alexander teachers is much more open. Once you get out of school, you’re no longer beholden to the school’s philosophy and you can really explore. I’ve done that. I’m a member of ATI as well as AMSAT.”
“AMSAT goes by the Roberts Rules of Order. Everything is orderly and specific in how motions get passed and things happen. In the past, it has taken a long time to get things done because of that structure.
“ATI is the opposite. They have big dialogues facilitated by a non-violent communication specialist. They’re interested in speaking to each other with regard and respect. They’re interested in consensus. They’re generally warmer and friendlier and fuzzier. They’re smaller, so they can try out those different principles. They are like the step-child of AMSAT.”
Luke: Do most of your peers have enough students?
Constance: “A lot of it depends on one’s personality and business savvy. Somebody like Amira Alvarez has business savvy from her past and a perky personality so you have a great combination of perky business going on. There’s a lot of energy, which comes across in her marketing. She’s very open to exploring different avenues. Even though she went to a school that was rigid about how [Alexander] should be taught, afterward she said, ‘Wait a second, I’m going to try this. And I’m going to try that.'”
“I don’t think of myself as a gregarious (or perky) person at all, so my website and style are going to be different than Amira’s. I find that it is important for me to not just sit in my studio and write things, which is easy and enjoyable for me. I do need to get out and meet people in the community, network, and inform them about the benefits of Alexander.”
“I hired a coach after three years. I found I was always feeling bad every time somebody said, what do you do? And I said I teach Alexander Technique. And they said, what’s that? And I said, well, it’s a body-awareness education system blah blah. And their eyes would glaze over.
“I was so done with that little introduction I gave and how it would never work. And how I never knew how to get to the next step. I always made their eyes glaze over.”
“My coach was great. I had phone conversations with her and she gave me practices geared to changing how I speak about what I do. I learned how to speak to people about the work, and to meet them where they are.”
“With experience, and when you’ve had a lot of success with students comes a comfort in talking about what you do. I see that over time with other teachers too.”
“In my first year of teaching, I found out it is not about me and how good I am as a teacher. It’s really about teaching the principles. If you just stick with the principles, it’s amazing how people change and grow. And they’re just thrilled.”
“It’s important to have a professional studio. The more the Alexander community becomes professional, the better. Some of the old guard teachers say it is OK to have students in your home. They will say that teaching is an art that you develop over years. And you shouldn’t market. Students should just come to you, because of who you are. So it is less of a business, and more of a calling.
“Then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum. You should have everything be very professional. You are supposed to market and should be able to make a living. You should be able to move in the world of the yoga teachers and the chiropractors and the doctors. I’m much more to that end. I wish we learned in our training how to converse with our colleagues [outside of Alexander Technique], who are working with our students in their own specialties. These are people who we are going to be teamed with, as far as helping our students achieve better health, get out of pain, or improve their sport or performance.”