My Path to Feldenkrais
I discovered the transformative potential of Feldenkrais Method when seeking to address chronic pain, tension and stress. In part I attributed these difficulties to habits of movement developed during extensive dance training, something that gave me many skills and opportunities and also many problems.
I also had many experiences that showed me how my physical problems were connected to my emotional and psychological life. I felt subject to dysfunctional patterns of movement and behaviour, and increasingly trapped and frustrated.
I explored a range of methods to move my way out of these difficulties, many of which helped me, but none of which seemed to create long term change. From my first experience I knew Feldenkrais would help me in a way nothing else had to date: I began to learn, with surprising ease, new foundations for moving through life.
I was so inspired by my experiences that I quickly made the decision to train as a practitioner.
Dance and theatre around the world
Prior to my training and career as a Feldenkrais practitioner, I studied classical ballet at the New Zealand School of Dance (1995) and contemporary dance at UNITEC Performing Arts School (1996). I relocated to London (1999) for several years where I continued dance studies at Jerwood Space and Greenwich Dance Agency, trained in massage therapy, and travelled widely throughout Europe and around the world.
I returned to New Zealand in 2002 to attend university and gained a Master of Arts (First Class Honours) in Theatre Studies from the University of Auckland. My Master’s degree study coincided with the start of my Feldenkrais training and I wrote my academic dissertation on the correlations between the Feldenkrais Method and actor training and creative processes.
This gave me a context in which to study deeply the books that Dr Moshe Feldenkrais wrote on his method, and his understanding of human development, learning and behaviour. See a list of his books here.
My dance and theatre studies were driven by a passion for choreography and creating performances. This allowed me to learn, from a young age, to observe and study movement patterns: a skill I refine continuously to a high level as a Feldenkrais practitioner.
Studying Somatic Movement Practices
Through my dance training I also gained valuable experience in a range of somatic movement practices – designed to support and compliment my dance training and prevent and recover from injury. These practices included: Yoga, Pilates, Skinner Release Technique, Alexander Technique and Body-Mind-Centering. They gave me an introduction to the potential of complementary practices for anyone doing high performance activities, and a measure of the incredible efficiency of the Feldenkrais Method for facilitating transformational change.
These early experiences set me on a path toward a career which could combine dance and theatre making with teaching a somatic movement practice. When I finally discovered the Feldenkrais Method it hit like a lightning bolt: this was the method that would not only help me transform my own difficulties, but the method for me to train in and teach.
As I completed my Feldenkrais training I also came to realise a childhood dream: to tell on the stage the extraordinary story of my English great grandmother, Grace Oakeshott, a pioneer in education for women and girls.
In 1907 Grace faked her death by drowning, in the name of love, to create a new life and identity in New Zealand. My subsequent play Grace made its professional debuts in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand in 2008, for which I was nominated for Most Promising New Director and Outstanding New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards. You can read a review of the play here.
Subsequently a biography was published about Grace, by London based writer Jocelyn Robson, titled: Radical Reformers and Respectable Rebels: How the Two Lives of Grace Oakeshott Defined an Era. It is a fascinating account of a woman who lived an exceptional life.
Grace’s fight for education for women and girls is something I have been privileged to honour through my education and training, and the chance I have everyday to help people learn through the Feldenkrais Method.
How it all came together
When I began work as a Feldenkrais practitioner I felt as though all my previous study and experience converged to a logical, and quite beautiful conclusion.
Dr Moshe Feldenkrais famously described individual Feldenkrais Functional Integration sessions as a dance of two nervous systems. Each session is a creation in its own right, as the individual’s needs are met in the present moment. These processes are supported by a high degree of technical skill and sensitivity on the part of the practitioner, just as a skilled performer must be technically precise and ready to adapt at any moment. The future I imagined, of creating and teaching has, through Feldenkrais, become a rewarding reality.
Another long held dream, of a life and career in Europe, led me to return to Europe in 2011 where, after meeting many challenges, I have created the life and career I dreamed of.