August 17

Book Review : “Back to the Body”


Book Review of “Back to the Body: Infusing Physical Life into Characters in Theatre and Film”
by Jean-Louis Rodrigue and Scott Weintraub.

Review by Penny MacDonald

“I have no doubt that this book will prove to be an indispensable resource for all readers” Margot Robbie.

I agree with Margot, this book is a must have.

I first met Jean-Louis Rodrigue 11 years ago when he visited Australia running workshops in applying Alexander Technqiue to acting. He came every year for 4 years and I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend and eventually assist in all his workshops. On his first visit he mentioned he was working on a book. Eleven years later it has just been published and I love it.

Jean-Louis is the Alexander Teacher of Hollywood and this book is filled with stories and testimonials of his work from Margot Robbie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Binoche, Matt Bomer, Zoey Deutch. The list goes on. The forward is by Larry Moss. The book also suggests films to watch where the actor is truly emobodied. So you read about the actual explorations and exercises Jean-Louis and Scott have used with actors in different roles and then you can watch the film.

Every story is told primarily through the use and expression of the actor’s body. Close attention to physicality is essential to extraordinary performance, telling the story, and dealing with a character’s conflicts in the most human way. The more the actor’s body relates to the story, the more the audience is able to connect to the play or the film, because overcoming conflicts is a universal and inevitable human necessity.

If you are an Alexander Teacher specialising in the performing arts then you will love this book. If you occasionally work with actors, dancers, singers or musicians then I thoroughly recommend this book as it will give you simple practical ideas and exercises to explore.

I believe most of the people seeking Alexander lessons are actors. Before leaving Melbourne, I was working in 6 different acting schools, so over 100 acting students a week. That is a lot of people who have had experience of the Alexander Technique who may at some point in the future seek an Alexander teacher to help them with a role or an audition. Reading this book will help you trust that you can work with actors, if something doesn’t seem authentic, they are often not fully present in the environment they are meant to be in. This book is gold mine of explorations and stories.

But this book is also more than just how to work with actors, we need to be able to apply our entire self – voice, body, mind and emotions – in relationship to our environment. The principals of the technique that Jean-Louis embraces and writes about are a skill for life.

Jean-Louis taught me so much and I am forever grateful to his wisdom and generosity. His work with actors was a true joy to witness and this book covers all his exercises and techniques. Many Alexander teachers in Australia thank me for the words “I Have Time”. This was from Jean-Louis. He also taught me the animal work which continues to inform how I live my life and work with others.

Working with Jean-Louis gave me the confidence to work in many acting schools, run workshops with actors and last year to direct a play. This book will be our bible for the 2023 production. I thoroughly recommend it to you, it is joyous to read.

You can order the book from Amazon.

Film Courage – Jean-Louis on Alexander Technique

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