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F. Matthias Alexander and Mabel Elsworth Todd: Proximities, practices and the psycho-physical

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Proximities in the work of F. Matthias Alexander and Mabel Elsworth Todd are examined for the first time. There are close geographical proximities in their location and to those in their respective circles during the period 1914–1937. Both Alexander and Todd drew on ideas prevalent at the turn of the twentieth century. There are historical proximities based around the intellectual hub of New York City, notably to the philosopher John Dewey, the historian James Harvey Robinson and the pioneer dance educationalist Margaret H’Doubler. Alexander’s and Todd’s ideas and practices are considered in their time from a starting point of the idea of the ‘psycho-physical’, a term used by these practitioners in their writings. They both used it to try and speak about the self in a new way, and what they proposed had major ramifications. The article concludes by suggesting that we might reconsider how we think of dancers and dance students in the light of this historical reconsideration of Alexander’s and Todd’s ideas.

Keywords: dance; education; history; physical culture; psycho-physical; somatic

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: De Montfort University

Publication date: April 27, 2012

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  • This journal focuses on the relationship between dance and somatic practices, and the influence of this body of practice on the wider performing arts. The journal will be aimed at scholars and artists, providing a space for practitioners and theorists to debate the work, to consider the impact and influence of the work on performance, the interventions that somatic practices can have on other disciplines and the implications for research and teaching.
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