Do you have a teacher or mentor you work with currently?

KC: I have a friend, colleague and mentor named Cathy Madden. She’s up in Seattle and she teaches all over the world. She is very much on the cutting edge of this work and its application to performance. She’s one of those horizon-tilters. And also very validating in terms of getting away from the prescriptive use of the technique and going, “No, this is really just about getting what you want. That’s really what it’s about. And there’s no reason to tie yourself to things that limit you.” So she’s hugely influential for me.

Are there simple ways for people to incorporate Alexander into their lives?

KC: Absolutely. It’s a simple process and simple technique. We, as humans, are complex. That’s what can be confusing. If you want to use it on your own, the main thing to remember is: You are dynamic and you are moving all the time. When you notice that you’re giving yourself signals (or getting signals from somebody else) that has to do with a fixing or a rigidity (things that tend to be nouns), just turn it into a verb: “I am sitting” – that’s a verb, that’s a movement. So if you can remember that this is a movement, then it’s not going to be just one thing, it’s going to be dynamic and changing. It’s much easier to redirect energy that’s already moving, than to go from rigidity into cooperating with movement. Things will adjust, if you just remember that you’re alive and you can move.

If you don’t like where you are you, just move, just change it. That’s what I do when I get onstage and think “Why did I put my foot there?” – just move it! That’s how we’re designed. That’s saying “yes” to existence. When you decide that a fixed position is what it’s about, you’re pitting yourself against nature, and good luck. This was Alexander’s discovery: “Wow, my head is moving constantly on my spine, all my joints are moving all the time.” This was verified very shortly after. In science now, this is a big “no duh.”

And the fact that the head-spine relationship is the organizer of all mammalian and human movement, that’s also a  “no duh” in the sciences. But what we get in culture is ‘shoulders-back.’ In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talk about “cognitive ease,” which he describes as the “more familiar something is, it starts to get put in the category of ‘true.’” If you’ve heard “shoulders-back” your whole life, or “open your chest” – you don’t literally want to do that! – because my brain has an idea of what “open” means, so if you want to say “stretch,” then ok, fine. But you don’t need to lift anything – we are upright by design. This is something we don’t necessarily know. We have an idea that it’s something we have to do by using huge gross musculature that is totally inappropriate for the job. Gross musculature is for pushing furniture around or running around; it’s not for just being upright. That’s what you have your postural muscles for – those deep muscles close to the spine. So with a little bit of information, you can innovate on that for the rest of your life.

When did you begin your Alexander study to teach?

KC: The moment you’re using the technique for yourself that’s the first step. Having the desire to work with other people in this, to me, is about collaboration. For me, it’s such a profound collaboration with other artists. So I started to read a lot, about a lot. I started reading Alexander’s writings, but I also started reading a lot of vocal pedagogy, and seeing the common ground. There was a lot actually. So a lot of things that seem contradictory, they’re not at their core, but the way that they’re presented can make them seem so. So when I was in the circus, for two years, I had time between shows, time after soundcheck, and I used that time to study. And I watched. I was watching people on stage get injured, recover, get better, get worse – and going, “Ok, what’s natural ability? What’s just the biology that you’re dealt? What’s technique? How are they doing what they’re doing?”

Is there an Alexander certification?

KC:  There is! Just like with my undergrad and graduate work, I did an incredible supplementation process with my training and certification. For me, any program is just a tool. It’s not a track you get on and then that’s-it-you’re-done. It’s a way that you get what you want.

“The idea is not to get lost in method- the idea is to use the method to get free to do what you want.”

I would do my training differently now if I had known about the alternative kinds of training. There’s an organization called Alexander Technique International and they have the “wild” premise that Alexander himself should be eligible to be a certified Alexander teacher. And if you look at some of the programs the way they’re designed now, he would not qualify (laughs).

So my study really started in the circus: I wanted to help the people who don’t have anyone to help them because they’re as good as you can get. Who helps them? That was really fascinating to me. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I was willing to find out.

Then I decided I was going to come back to LA to be certified as a teacher, but what I discovered was that not everyone was interested in seeing the quality of coordination. Sometimes you get people who think there is a “righter” way to move, and I disagree with that. I think there is “appropriate” for what you want. There is no moral imperative here. It’s just: what do you want to do, how do you want to do it?

You can go to an institution and do it that way. You can also do an apprenticeship, and that’s the kind of training I provide. If someone is interested in getting to the point where they feel confident to teach, they can qualify by doing a combination of your own study and working with other teachers.Through Alexander Technique International, you can qualify to be a certified teacher. For me, it’s all about quality – understanding the underlying structure – to me, that’s what’s satisfying. I don’t want to do an approximation or an elaboration on top of something that I don’t really understand. Part of the reason is, it’s not as much fun. Part of the reason is, I got some of that in my vocal training and you sniff it out immediately. And you get a lot of, “No no no, THIS is the way it works,” and it’s just rickety-  it’s not nourishing, it’s not flexible.

A lot of the students I work with are voice teachers. I teach a lot of teachers and a lot of professionals. They use the Alexander Technique in their teaching. They wouldn’t say, “I’m an Alexander Technique teacher,” but they would say, “This is where I’m getting these ideas” and applying them to the activities – I think that’s great. I think that’s really important because if I’m using something I learned from an acrobat or hand-balancer in a vocal lesson, I’ll say that. If I’m riffing on something, I will tell you what I’m riffing on. And if other teachers are riffing on the Alexander Technique, and say, “this is where I’m pulling from,” then great – more people know about the technique.