Do you have a story about Aileen Crow? First two from Joan Webb and Germaine Fraser

Aileen Crow has been an Alexander teacher since 1969. She taught at American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York City until she formed her own AT training program in 1978. She is a Creativity Counselor in private practice in NYC and in New City, NY, is a Laban Movement Analyst (since 1969) and a Dreambody Process-Oriented therapist. Her most recent interests are calligraphy, Solo Focusing and transforming trauma.

Aileen will turn 88 years old this May.  She is a major contributor and advisor to the Authentic Movement Community Web Site and Blog. She has been a founding member of the original group of volunteers who started the AMC Web Site. 

We plan to celebrate her birth and birthday this year by collecting stories and writings about her.  Please write in any story or reflection you would like to share, any way she might have touched your life.   Send them by email to

Here is our first contribution from Joan Webb and a re post from Germaine Fraser's Blog IntegratedMedPhiladelphia which shares some of Aileen's  thinking from 1992 and 1996: 

Thanks to Aileen Crow, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. This is how it happened: I took part in Aileen’s workshop, called Obsession, on July 17, 2004. My obsession was with the Yankees and Red Sox. I grew up in Chicago resenting the Yankees, who were always in first place with the White Sox in second, and then moved to Providence, where the Yankees were always in first place with the Red Sox in second. The Yankees had all the money and bought-up stars; they swaggered and got all the media attention. I hated them and felt like a perpetual victim.

In the workshop, Aileen encouraged us to embrace all our emotions including what might seem to be the opposite of the presenting one. So I entered my victim-hood, but also got acquainted with the dominating part of myself. I was able to embody the Yankee’s swagger and smug superiority. That day, I could feel something loosening within me, and I knew without a doubt that something transformative had happened, not just within me but beyond myself as well.

So it’s not really surprising that after that work, the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in an upset for the ages, and went on to win the World Series. What most sports fans don’t realize is that Aileen Crow made that possible.

Thank you, Aileen!
--Joan Webb
Seekonk, MA
February 25, 2013


MAKING WAVES: Alexander Technique and the undulating self

Aileen Crow, is a woman whom I consider one of my "mothers", and whom has been an invaluable mentor (and friend/"playmate") to me for over twenty years. In my mind she is the quintessential "maverick", who has modeled and taught credibility through self-ownership; that is, when one is true to oneself, there can be only rightness (in relation to bodywork and everything else). Aileen is someone I have worked and played with with the greatest of intensity. She meets you. She matches you. Brilliantly. Even when the vibration is extremely (unbearably?) deep or profound. Aileen is a Master. For me, she is a model of love, gratitude, appreciation and most of all Joy. She walks her own truth and is absolute in her permissiveness that you walk your own. It is my great pleasure to print here, respective writings she produced in 1992 (Inner Flow and the Spiraling Spinal Wave) and for the Alexander Technique International Conference on Consensus, (Making Waves), 1996.

"We all know that the Alexander Technique [AT] leads to expansiveness and lightness. Once we attain that, what do we do with it? If we just maintain an expanded shape or a state of expansion and lightness, it is static. Oscillation and inner movement define control of movement impulses and its torso held in one piece sometimes looks like an elegant empty suit. In our desire for "good use," we must be careful not to eliminate the fluidity of movement that allows torso rotation and undulatory, spiraling movements of the spine.

To make contact with the flow of inner movement impulses is essential for actors, dancers and singers--- for anyone who wants to make emotional contact with others. The inner movement impulses communicate emotions. Often involuntary and spontaneous, they may not suit our self-images, but they have their own reason for being and if they are ignored they will reappear in symptoms or in dreams until their wisdom is received and integrated into our lives.In a cross-cultural study of movement styles, the Choreometrics Project (1) demonstrated that the world can be mapped into areas defined by two different body attitudes. One is a one-unit torso, associated with patrilineal control of sexuality. The other is a two-unit torso, with twisting and undulating, from matrilineal cultures in which sexuality and fertility are valued. FM Alexander lived and taught within a Northern European one-unit torso culture; the limited range of movements used in his teaching and in most Alexander teaching today reflects the attitude toward sexuality inherent in that culture.

If Alexander's principles are cross-culturally valid, Alexander lessons should include movements that use three dimensional torso twists, spirals, and spinal waves; and not be limited to those that maintain a straight spined, one-unit, flat torso that only folds and unfolds at the hip joints (as in 'monkey'). Unfortunately, many people see that carefully maintained (if high class) limitation as a cliched 'Alexandraoid' look.

Every bone, muscle and organ in our bodies have a three dimensional spiral to it; there are no straight lines. Even our DNA spirals. From conception, living tissue is formed from spiraling, flowing plasma. Anything that flows, spirals. (2)

The design of the human body is that of muscles in a double spiral pattern - left and right twin spirals - around the bony structure (3,4) with its wave-like spine. And or bodies move in complex spirals and waves, if they are not culturally conditioned otherwise.
Any such influence that restricts the natural fluidity of the body also tends to isolate the individual and distort emotional communication within their human relationships. We naturally move in synchrony with each other on a micro-movement level (5). People with communication disorders are out of movement synchrony with themselves and with others.

In parts of the world characterized by a two-unit torso (such as parts of the Middle East, Africa and India), undulating movement promotes communal harmony. In the Middle East, it is a way of passing on the skills that inform sexual communication; women wave/dance together in unison, forming harmonious support groups for themselves; and women wave/dance around a woman as she gives birth, to encourage her.

I personally feel that the relationship problems within the Alexander community are related to a mistaken idea of what 'good use' is. Carefully maintaining an ideal body state or shape restricts fluidity and sets up a hierarchical mind-over-body relationship within the individual because of the constant need to control inferior, non-ideal body impulses. Maintaining the Alexander ideal of good use necessitates inhibiting any movement impulses incongruent to that ideal. Those incongruities may very well be the body wanting to speak its mind, perhaps expressing dissatisfaction at having 'one right way imposed on it by even a benevolent director. The unwanted bodily impulses may be offering another point of view, or counter examples to the ideal, or even new discoveries and new connections that could benefit the total person.

That's analogous to the political situation in the Alexander community, with its problematic concerns about who's in and who's out, and who gets to approve of and controls whom, etc.

It is also interesting to me that so many Alexander teachers are doing Authentic Movement in which spontaneous 'incongruent' movement impulses are followed and expressed until they yield their indispensable meaning. I hope this ATI conference work on Consensus will help lead the Alexander community to this kind of complementary [alignment] and to a broader cross-cultural identity."

(1) The Choreometrics Project, Forestine Paulay and Irmgard Bartenieff in Folk Song Style and Culture, Alan Lomax, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1968
(2) Sensitive Chaos, Theodor Schwenk, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965.
(3) The Double Spiral Arrangement of Voluntary Musculature, Raymond A.Dart, Human Potential, Vol. 1, No.2, 1968
(4) Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, M. Knott and D. Voss Harper & Row, 1968.
(5) Cultural Microrhythms, William S.Condon, Interaction Rhythms, edited by Martha Davis, Human Sciences Press, NY 1982.

Aileen's more recent writings have been in A Moving Journal (1993-2006 ), Authentic Movement Community Blog, and the Journal of Authentic Movement and Somatic Inquiry (JAMSI)

Note from the AMC web site blog:  You can put Aileen's name in the search box at the top of this page and see five pages of Aileen's articles archived here since 2006.

Unimitable Aileen at Play
2012 photo by Lucy Mahler

1985 drawing Aileen made of one of her own Parts Party processes.

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