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The Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre has been offering Alexander lessons and workshops since 1994.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Singing and Dancing in High Heels

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When I started teaching twenty years ago, I think it fair to say that most Alexander teachers, or at least the ones I encountered, were prejudiced against high heels and would have recommended something more ‘sensible.’ I was happy to go with that and tended to recommend ‘sensible’ shoes, flat shoes. This suited me, shoes for me are for walking in, I have always hated buying them and once I get some that work for me, I will keep buying them, until the shoemaker changes them or stops making them. That though is me, and not everybody, thankfully, is like me, something that was vividly brought home to me when I attended a workshop, some years ago, run by Viv Burr who was at that time researching how people construed their footwear. Viv had us elaborating how we all construed our footwear in small groups and while my constructions were very limited, the two young Italian women I was working with had elaborate and detailed meaning worlds for the shoes that they and other women wore.

Since then heels have got taller, more commonplace, and I am beginning to see a lot of women out in town in the day with reasonably flat shoes on who are significantly distorting their frames from walking in high heels at night. It is a growing problem that is creating a series of functional problems that can only get worse with time. This is a pity, as it is easy to learn how to walk in high heels, providing you pick the right heels and keep them off during the day.

The right heels are heels that do not rock if you gently push them, if they do, you are much more like to fall over. (Chyna Whyne demonstrates the rocking test here.) Once you have got the right shoes on it is a matter of trusting the heel to support you as you lengthen up and then it is easy to walk and from walking you can easily get to how to dance in high heels. Or even dancing and singing as I was teaching a couple of professional singers to do at a workshop this weekend. They wanted to be able to dance and sing in high heels without pain, so we looked at application of the technique in relation to high heels, dancing and singing, so they can put it all together like Beyonce. It was a great workshop as their singing became much more emotionally connected and moving, while being able to stand and dance in their high heels.

If you want to see how it is done, it is worth checking out this video of Chyna Whyne, a former backing singer to, amongst others Eric Clapton, and Alexander Technique teacher, who now specialises in teaching women how to walk in stilettos. Chyna demonstrates how it all goes together. In doing so she makes the point that Alexander made about chairs when asked about what sort of chairs he would recommend. He answered that what really matters is your use and it is the same with heels, once they pass the rocking test it is up to you, and with a little bit of learning and application, you can save yourself a whole lot problems later on.

Richard Casebow

Back in the mid-1980s, I started to suffer from severe sciatica that often made walking and working difficult. At the time, I was training in London to become a Chartered Accountant and I left, as I was spending increasing amounts of time off waiting for the pain to subside. Around this time, I also became depressed, as my prospects seemed to darken with little hope of a normal life. In seeking help I found my way both to a psychotherapist and then to an Alexander Technique teacher, both of which helped enormously. The therapy with forming a life plan and understanding myself, encouraged me to dream of the life I have now. The Alexander Technique gave me the practical tool to help realise it and to allow me to rehabilitate myself to lead a full normal life.

The link between Alexander Technique, Psychotherapy and the art of living intelligently became something that has fascinated me ever since and is something I have continued to explore myself and with pupils and clients since. This blog is my attempt to elucidate the links, as well as to talk about Alexander Technique pure and simple and the benefits of therapy.

I founded the Edinburgh Alexander and Therapy Centre in 1994, Counselling Conversations came later after I became a practising therapist in 2003. Professionally I act as the Treasurer of the Personal Construct Psychology Association and sit on the board of the UKCP’s house magazine The Psychotherapist. When I am not to be found working, there is nothing better I like to be doing than spending time on a Scottish hillside, exploring the arts or just spending time with friends and family, including the family cat.