Reply to Ron Dennis


In responding to my comments on his ‘Conceptual Foundations , Ron Dennis (RD) has provided some useful points of amplification and clarification. Our respective positions might now seem to be clear enough for us simply to agree to disagree, but I think there is sufficient value in the discussion to warrant a few further comments and clarifications on my side too.

As regards the question of the meaning of the word ‘posture’ there is little that I would add to what I have already said, beyond the observation that – as RD notes – it is word that is becoming more acceptable in Alexander circles and is starting to appear in the titles of books e.g. Carolyn Nicholls’ The Posture Workbook, and Richard Brennan’s Change Your Posture, Change Your Life.  Carolyn Nicholls does not offer  a definition as such, using the term in ways that suggest it is self-explanatory. She focuses more on what is affected by it, and what in turn affects it (whatever ‘it’ is).  Richard Brennan seems to provide two definitions: his formal definition is that posture is ‘[t]he relationship of one or more parts of the body to the rest’; but only a few sentences earlier he  had stated that ‘…posture is not merely a position or shape: it is our response to gravity at any given moment’.[1]  That highlights for me the issue  about whether we want to use ‘posture’ to refer to configurations in space or to processes.  If we are going to incorporate the word into Alexander terminology then it would seem wise to arrive at some consensus as to its meaning.  To that end, a focused discussion on our use of the word ‘posture’ would be welcome. Appropriate usages of the word ‘posturality’ – and I am glad that RD has cited his definition of it – would then more naturally ensue. 

RD claims that I have badly mis-described his educational model.  In case anyone thought otherwise, I am happy to emphasise that it was not my intention to question the soundness of Ron’s teaching.  My comments were only ever intended to question the adequacy of the description of the educational model in the ‘Conceptual Foundations’.  RD’s further description of teacher-pupil interactions in his response tends if anything to reinforce my view.

On a similar theme, it was not the lack of the terms ‘inhibition’ and ‘direction’ that concerned me, but the absence of the corresponding concepts, which as RD says, might be expressed through words such as ‘pausing’ and ‘organising’.  In justifying his omissions, RD refers back to his 2009 AmSAT article, where he set out, he says, to sketch the content of the subject areas of posture and postural education without reference to the methods that might be used, which might include Feldenkrais, Rolfing, Ideokinesis and the like.  I am not clear if Ron is suggesting that the Conceptual Foundations are intended to be similarly circumscribed in scope: for my money, there is too much ‘method’ being described to allow such an interpretation.  But it would not require much revision, I think, to incorporate the missing elements.

I will leave aside RD’s unwillingness to accept my doubts about the term ‘unified process’ for the same reason that I questioned its use  in the first place: any attempt at further discussion is likely to suffer from the same abstractness that makes the term largely meaningless to begin with. But to at least make clearer my reservations, let me add the following.  Rather obviously, if we are for a short while focusing on the head and neck relationship in the teaching room it is unlikely that the pupil’s legs are waiting in the car outside while their immortal soul is hanging out in Starbucks:  metaphysically, they are going to be all there. So at this level, I doubt that we have any fundamental disagreement about what is going on.  In practice, though, the pupil’s mind may indeed be wandering around Starbucks, looking forward to a frappuccino – so it seems more useful to register the element of disharmony, as a springboard for teacherly intervention, rather than to point out a metaphysical unity which in my book is rather old news.

I appreciate the clarification of the RD’s usage of the word ‘lengthening’ and the significance of the quotation marks.  I think that reasonably answers my overly-literal criticism but I wonder, then, if a few words to expand on the nature of ‘lengthening’ (‘giving oneself more space’ is a phrase I like) might be introduced into the Foundations.

In conclusion, I can certainly endorse RD’s suggestion that there is further insight to be gained from his two books.  They belong on the shelf of every thinking teacher or student, elaborating as they do the rich matrix of ideas within which the ’Conceptual Foundations’ belong.


[1] Richard Brennan, Change Your Posture Change Your Life, (London, Watkins: 2012), p.58.