GERDA ALEXANDER (1908 – 1994) was a musician, dancer and mime involved in the theatre scene of Berlin before moving to Copenhagen in 1929. Her great sensitivity and body awareness served her well when she contracted rheumatic fever aged 18, a disease which affects the heart, and needed to find ways to save her energy to continue leading her professional life. This need for “economy”, combined with her artistic and philosophical interest in avoiding all standardised and mechanical forms of movements led her to explore how being more attentive to her senses would help her to develop ways of moving and being in her body which were attuned to her physiology and structure, and felt easy and natural.
Working both on herself and with her many students from all walks of life, she developed her personal approach for teaching those who came to her classes to explore their own individual way to move and be in their body, at one with their own sense of self.
In time, the therapeutic aspect of her work became more apparent, without ever loosing its pedagogical and artistic sides.
She founded the first Eutony training school in Copenhagen in 1940.
Inspiration and influences
Gerda Alexander was a pioneer. She was both inspired by, and worked with many other innovators in the field of natural movement and the wisdom of the sensing body of the early 30s, such as Elsa Gindler, Clara Schlaffhorst, Hedwig Andersen, Jacques-Dalcroze, Mary Wigman … She progressively developed her own specific and unique approach, calling it ‘eutony’ in 1953. In turn, her influence can be found in many of today’s practices in ’embodiment’, ‘mindfulness’ and other practices and therapies based on body awareness, and the acknowledgement of the unity of body and mind.
Based in Copenhagen, where she founded the first professional training school, Gerda Alexander travelled the world, from European countries to Israel, from North to South America, often returning year after year to give seminars and lectures to an increasingly interested body of dancers, movement therapists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, and to the general public.
(During her four month visit to the USA in 1954, she took part in the yearly congress both of the Freudian and of the Psychosomatic societies. Several long conversations with Gerda Alexander inspired Alexander Lowen, then on training with Wilhelm Reich, to integrate the Eutony principle of “contact”, in the shape of “grounding” in his work).
Eutony is now well known in Europe and the Americas, where teachers practice privately and in schools, universities and hospitals. The modalities of the professional training schools vary from country to country.