AUSTAT Conference 2023 – Presenters

Keynote Speaker Saturday 

Dr Terry Fitzgerald
Topic: Celebrating Australian Research into the Alexander Technique

Initially a civil engineer, Terry began AT lessons in London with Patrick Macdonald in 1974. He trained with Mr Macdonald and Shoshana Kaminitz from 1976 to 1978, while also gaining ballroom dancing teacher qualifications. He returned to Sydney in 1980 and for a year was the only AT teacher in Sydney (Alan Murray had died by then and Graham Pearl was in Melbourne). In 1983, along with other returning and visiting teachers, he helped start SATTS, Australia’s first AT teacher training program. He was the foundation chair of AUSTAT for three years from 1985, and a couple of times later. More recently he was chair of the Training Course Standing Committee.

In 1994, Terry returned to London to gain more experience in teacher training. While there, he taught at Misha Magidov’s course, had a private AT practice, and taught dancing. He returned to Sydney in 1996 and commenced the Sydney Alexander School teacher training program, which ran for 11 years. During this time, he completed a masters degree in adult education and a doctorate in education (EdD). His 2007 thesis, titled The Future of Alexander Technique Teacher Education: Principles, Practices and Professionalism, was awarded one of the six places on the 2007 UTS Chancellor’s List. In parallel with his AT teaching, he now works at UTS as an academic editor in the fields of teacher and professional education.

Keynote Speaker Sunday

Dr Ann Shoebridge
Topic: Learning How to Teach

This keynote presentation will be in three sections, covering the transition from working in a therapeutic framework as a health care professional, to an educational framework as an Alexander Technique teacher for performing arts students at The University of Melbourne. There will be ten minutes for group discussion or questions at the end of each section.

The first section will be about moving from a recognised mainstream profession to what is often regarded as the “fringe” vocation of AT teaching, followed by a group SWOT analysis of AT as a vocation (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). The second section will cover how I went about pursuing the work I was interested in, and where that has taken me. Group discussion will identify areas that interest AT teachers that might offer teaching opportunities. In the third section, I will discuss the teaching work I am doing now, the offers and challenges I have faced, and how I am meeting them. The final ten minutes will be left for questions.

Conference workshop descriptions

Michael Stenning - Waking the Primary Control

The term ‘primary control’ is not very satisfying. Definitions can vary. I think of it as a set of dynamic, constantly changing relationships which include not just neck, head and back but also the limbs, ground contact and the breath. We will go through a sequence of activities which highlight that the primary control relationships go well beyond just the neck/head relationship and that looking at them as a broader, less limited sequence makes ‘primary control’ simpler, clearer and more useful. This has enlivening implications for every aspect of teaching.

Jane Shellshear - Making it Palpable: hands-on strategies for students between lessons!

Ever found that a student has left their AT session with your expert guidance and then “translated” it for themselves during the week? The resulting change is, alas, not always for the better and what you intended for them may have been lost in translation.

In this workshop, we’ll be pushing, prodding and poking to uncover the anatomical landmarks that remain constant within the process of change, to assist your students to stay on course between lessons and enhance their learning overall.

Julianne Eveleigh - Back to Back

Integrating the muscles of the back body through simple movement awareness activities that provide: stability and mobility; deeper connection to breath; lightness and ease; as well as becoming present to each moment. Drawing on the work of Cathy Madden, Penelope Easton and Caren Bayer plus 30 years of teaching experience in the performing arts I am interested in the dynamic relationship between physical and vocal expression and whole body organisation of the breath.

Dr Mick Gleeson - Balance Co-ordination and Falls

Inputs from the vestibular system of the inner ears, kinaesthetic information from muscles tendons and joints, graviceptors in the body cavity, tactile information from touch and visual information from the eyes feed into our balance and coordination systems. All of this information is utilised to maintain our dynamic alertness and is best conceived as a perceptuomotor skill. The AT helps us to integrate all these inputs as we learn to use ourselves well. As we age, nerve conduction speeds slow within the nervous system, making it all the more important that we maintain our awareness and fine tune our use. This presentation will look at balance and coordination from childhood to old age and highlight the age-related changes that increase the risk of falls in the general population. It will also provide an overview of a research project that looked at using the Alexander Technique for fall prevention in the population of people with Vision Impairments.

Around one-third of adults over 65 years of age fall at least once a year, and in Australia hospitalisation rates due to fall related injuries are rising. Falls are the most common cause of injury death among Australians over 75 years of age owing to the high susceptibility to trauma in this group. The prevalence of vision impairment and blindness increases significantly with age across all racial and ethnic groups and the risk of injury is higher for people with a vision impairment. About 12% of falls lead to serious injuries and about 40% of fractures are attributed to poor visual acuity or lack of depth perception. A study in the UK using national data from accident and emergency departments found that 21% of the cost of treating falls was spent on the vision impaired population. The high burden of falls in our community and the over-representation of older people with vision impairments make verifed strategies for prevention of falls for this group a pressing concern.

Michael Shellshear - Developing Foundational Skills and Knowledge in the Alexander Technique - First lessons

If you are having first lessons of Alexander Technique or giving first lessons in Alexander Technique, a clear understanding of some foundational outcomes can help the process along.

I will discuss how I developed my pedagogy for Alexander teaching and how it provides a useful map for both learner and teacher. In this session, I am available to demonstrate a first lesson or introduction experience and to answer questions that you may have about this.

My workshop is informed by many years teaching the Alexander Technique; experience of corporate training and adult education; experience training trainers in Certificate IV of Training and Assessment and experience developing the AUSTAT Alexander Technique Teacher Training Standard.

Leo Canales - Evolutionary Movement

Evolutionary Movement is an opportunity to study body coordination and motor skills through developmental stages observed in human evolution. This session will analyse the skills and knowledge required to cooperate with postural support, balance, movement and breathing in daily functioning. The session will focus on matching intention, body mapping and muscle tone to promote clarity of thought and ease of motion. The primary aim is to feel comfortable in your own skin to be ready for play and learning during the Conference.

Sarah Cathcart - Running Walking Standing Still: An Introduction to Beginner Actors

I will be taking participants through the first workshop that I teach beginner actors.

This will involve movement and games. The aim of the workshop is for young actors to experience a state of being alert, centred and available - connected to self, space and each other.

For the purposes of the conference, I will show how I embed the principles of the AT into the exercises that I teach.

Jenny Thirtle - The Voice as an Indicator of Use

Exploration in stimulus and response related to voice. A playful look at how tone of voice can indicate subtle patterns of tension or 'pre-set'.

Helene Goldberg - Hypermobility - the invisible condition

Since the AT Congress in Berlin last year, I’ve been delving deep into the wide world of hypermobility, Hypermobility Syndrome Disorders (HSD), and Hypermobility EDS (hEDS), as well as some of the comorbidities. What they are, and what the impact of these largely invisible condition are for people, some of whom walk through our doors for a lesson. In this session, I’ll share some of the what I’m learning, and what to look and listen for, and together we’ll explore how we as Alexander Teachers can help.

AUSTAT Marketing Committee - Workshopping a new strategy for promoting your practice 

All members are encouraged to attend this session where we discuss what your needs are to form the basis of a marketing plan.

Panel of teachers who have conducted research on Alexander Technique

Dr Terry Fitzgerald will lead a panel of teachers who have conducted research involving the Alexander Technique including Dr Ann Shoebridge and Dr Mick Gleeson.

May be subject to change