On Being Wiggly
(Notes from teaching 12 – 14 year olds)
‘Is anything in you body straight?’
‘Er … No!?’
‘That’s right your body wiggles and spirals, curves and flows, it is living and isn’t straight.
Is anything in nature, the natural world, straight or is it wiggly?’
‘How about this school?’
‘This school is straight!’
‘Yes, people seem to enjoy constructing flat, straight buildings don’t they!’
‘How about music, is it straight or wiggly?’
‘So you are wiggly children in a flat school doing a wiggly thing, music.’
‘Let’s go for a wiggly walk around the room, let’s let go of your straight morning in a straight classroom on a hard chair and all the straight thinking you have been doing and enjoy a good wiggly walk.
They loosen up quickly and easily!
‘Now what happens if you think about walking straight?’
Everyone slows down and stiffens straight away!
‘Can you wiggle your walk even more? Can you keep the feel of the wiggly walk when you walk in an everyday, forward and up way?’
I wiggly walk with them, talking about the body as we go. One boy want to get on the floor and demonstrates The Worm! A brilliant wave like motion though the body.
I ask them to play the piano in a wiggly way, not to worry about getting it right or what it sounds like. To give themselves wiggle room to make mistakes and have fun. To wiggle and enjoy.
Result – instant amazing fluidity and ease of playing.
We talk about the flow of thought to piano and piano back to person as sound, as a figure of 8, a loop, waves travelling; not a one way thing, not a linear activity from brain to hands to piano in an upright ‘sit up straight’ posture!
I ask them to receive the flow of sound back, feel the actual reverberation of the piano through their hands, their spines to their ears. ‘Aha’ moments emerge.
They wiggly think as they play allowing movement and it sounds great. They can all hear and feel the difference. They experiment with changing their thinking to straight thinking and them back to wiggly.
Now it is really easy to see when unhelpful habits emerge – thinking habits.
They start to see in each other the instant connection between how they think and how the body responds and how that in turn effects the sound of their playing and can observe the changes in each other with no problem by noticing changes in sound and their level of interest in what the other is playing.
They give each other great feedback –
‘Your thinking has gone straight, stop trying so hard,’ one girl says to a boy, ‘be yourself, stop performing and showing off, just be in the music. That’s better, you look much more you now and it sounds much more dynamic!’
‘What happened there?
‘I was worrying about getting it right!’
‘Is that straight thinking or wiggly thinking?’
What would be a better thought?
‘I could think that I am exploring the music, I could just have fun experimenting. I could play with the music and just enjoy it.’
(We did a class last week all about the word play versus practise – they play instruments after all!)
Aha! He makes a connection between his creative mind that doesn’t worry about not getting things right and can explore and his school mind that thinks he HAS to get things right.
‘Great, that’s wiggly thinking. Can you feel and hear the difference?’
We listen and we notice how the sound of the piano reverberates long after the music has stopped. The children notice in each other how many of them slump the moment they stop playing, as though defeated and awaiting criticism, and realise that the music hasn’t stopped and stay with the travelling sound waves, their listening taking them into an easy poise as the sound becomes quieter and quieter finally fading to nothing. They let themselves receive the sound waves.
Now they are owning their playing and their habits!
It is so unbelievably simple to teach and so effective.
A bell goes for the next class, they all react!
‘Did you notice your reaction to the sound of the bell?’ I ask.
(It is a hideous jangly synthetic noise.)
‘Yes it was straight thinking wasn’t it miss! We all stiffened and panicked a bit.’
‘Yes the bell ringing is straight isn’t it, a line to tell you the class is ended. I think my job is to keep you wiggly as you travel through your years here at school so you can keep your music flowing, don’t you.’
‘Ha Ha! Yes! Bye Miss, Thank you! Have a good Easter.’
Do you give yourself wiggle room to play in your life? And if you did, what would change?
Quotes from 12 year olds on this class –
‘Alexander Technique helps me to see music in a different way, and find ways to make music really fun and not just see it as work. If you look at it as work you get really bored, but since last week I’ve really enjoyed playing music, because I saw it as play and not practise. I have really enjoyed sitting at the piano.’ Elian
‘Since Alexander Technique I’ve properly enjoyed work because I started to see it positively instead of in a bad way, by opening up and thinking forward and up. It is a lot more jolly to feel what you are playing, to be in the world of music, to feel the nice sound in your heart and in your surroundings’ Sid
‘If it is straight thinking then you just play and get the notes right, if it is wiggly you play it how you are feeling and get the dynamics better, you play it more emotionally.’ Scott
‘When I smile and think forward and up I felt happier and could put more emotion into the music.’ Amalie
(These classes are short, 25 minute, small group classes, the students have Alexander Technique every week as part of their ‘Curriculum of Excellence.’)
On Being Wiggly Part 2 here
Art work from The Daily Ease, Alexander Technique colouring story book
link here to The Daily Ease book
available at www.kirstenharrisart.co.uk
For media downloads on Alexander Technique www.kirstenharris.co.uk
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