Rachel Bernsen

Rachel BernsenRachel is a nationally certified teacher, M.AmSAT. She received her certification from the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT) in New York City, the oldest and most established training program in the US. She has a private practice in New Haven, CT. Rachel is a visiting assistant professor at Trinity College, Department of Theater and Dance and a faculty member of Movement Research in NYC. She has also taught at Yale University, Miami Dade College, Wesleyan University, Texas Woman’s University, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Connecticut College, and at Tsekh Summer dance program, in Moscow, Russia. She has led workshops in the Technique for singers, dancers, musicians, Naturopathy students, yoga practitioners, and for the general public. From 2009-11 she served on the board of the American Society for the Alexander Technique (AmSAT). Rachel is an active dancer and choreographer. Her work has been presented throughout NYC, nationally, and internationally. She has received fellowships and residencies for her work. She holds an MFA in Dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a BA in English Literature from Macalester College.

A bit about me and why I became a teacher of the Alexander Technique:
I first encountered Alexander Technique in 2002 as a dancer dealing with a lot of excess tension. I had no chronic injuries but suffered from acute low back and hip pain on multiple occasions. At this point in my dancing I was performing a lot, severely over-training and dealing with a multitude of low level strains. I also began struggling with muscle memory, i.e. having trouble remembering choreography. I was experiencing increased performance anxiety and as a result was losing a sense of ease, of pleasure in dancing. Knowing I needed change but without really knowing a remedy for these issues I began a journey toward a different approach to movement. I began taking dance classes with teachers who were heavily influenced by the Alexander Technique-which at the time I didn’t know anything about. These dance artist/educators were integrating the principles of AT into their teaching and practice. Through this exposure I soon began taking workshops in Alexander Technique, then began private lessons. Over time, this shift in my training had a profoundly positive effect on my approach to movement, my dynamic alignment, my technical ability and my over-all health. My low back no longer went out on me, my right hip stopped aching, my range of motion increased and I was much more present and available to the challenges and pleasures inherent in moving. I was embodying technique instead of being ruled by it. I could move again. This has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on my career as a performer, teacher and choreographer.

Unforeseen benefits of learning Alexander to improve my dance technique:
Prior to discovering this work walking and sitting were often very uncomfortable for me. During undergrad, though I actively danced and performed, I was also an English Lit major and was wrought with discomfort from hours of sitting. What was unforeseen at the time I began studying Alexander, but is now so clear, is that it has brought very positive change in all aspects of my life. In shifting my approach to dance through the application of Alexander, my everyday non-dancing self has been positively effected: I am much more at ease in all that I do. It informs the way I move in all the activities of my daily life.

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Where I am today:
Now, as an Alexander Teacher for over eight years, my journey with the Technique continues. I take great pleasure in teaching, and through my students I continue to broaden my understanding of this work. I have an active private practice working with students one-on-one where I teach a broad range of people including working professionals dealing with neck strain or lower back pain from hours of sitting and computer work, retirees rehabilitating from hip or knee replacements and dealing with loss of mobility, teens dealing with chronic recurring injuries, musicians dealing with repetitive strain injuries, nurse practitioners suffering from sciatica and voice teachers and singers working to free their voice. In my practice I address a wide variety of mobility and quality of life issues, guiding my students toward improving both.

I also teach group classes and workshops to specialized groups including dancers, actors, medical students, musicians, yoga practitioners and I offer workshops and classes for the general public.

As a dance educator I teach at the college and high school level and integrate the principles of Alexander into my class curricula. It continues to inform and enhance my pedagogical practices in the field of dance education.