Feldenkrais for Actors: How to Do Less and Discover More by Victoria Worsley
Nick Hern Books (NHB)
Review: Samuel James Crawford, 05/04/2017
A breath of fresh air
They say you can’t keep a good man down and that certainly appears to have been the case with Moshe Feldenkrais. A distinguished scientist and engineer who also found time to be a Judo instructor, and to be a founding member of the Ju Jitsu Club in Paris, Feldenkrais’s astounding productivity will put many of today’s student actors to shame. His CV does not immediately suggest a link with theatre, and he may never well have become such an influential movement practitioner had he not suffered a knee injury in his youth that doctors thought would end his chances of walking again.
Fortunately, Feldenkrais was brave enough to disagree and instead set about creating his own unique system as a means of exploring the relationship between how a person’s physical awareness could influence their frame of mind. Victoria Worsley’s book, Feldenkrais for Actors, outlines different components of the Feldenkrais Method in a clear, accessible way. Her role as a qualified Feldenkrais practitioner means that she can offer clarity and insight, and the exercises in the book also come with helpful commentaries that draw directly on her work with student actors.
The book’s greatest strength is that it contrasts with mustier, more academic tombs. As a writer, Worsley’s style is conversational and encouraging, without ever coming across as patronising, and her clear explanations of the science behind Feldenkrais’s ideas are particularly impressive. The book is split into six distinct parts, which makes it particularly useful for practitioners as it is easy to flick to the section that may be relevant to your own practice without feeling like you have missed something.
Throughout each chapter there are a range of practical exercises that inform Wolsey’s explanations of the importance of Feldenkrais’s work, although you do have to invest a considerable amount of time and energy into puzzling out what they entail, and to get the most out of them you will need to either record yourself reading each component aloud, or else get a supportive friend to go through each of the steps with you. However, this shouldn’t detract from the fact that this book will still be a valuable resource for students and actors who are interested in what the Feldenkrais Method involves, and for those who are considering whether it would be worth booking a session with a Feldenkrais practitioner. Worsley concludes by saying that ‘I hope the book offers some food for thought and a few ideas to build on.’ She has definitely achieved that aspiration with this accessible, friendly guide.