…gives you an idea of who I am. Reading this with my professional bio (at the end) you’ll understand why I’ve created
I began dancing as a child – my mom was my first dance teacher. I also loved horses and had a great pony named Shebang when I was a kid. (I have one photo of me and Shebang – this was before the days of cell phones when film was expensive – as soon as I find it in my journals I’ll add it here) As I got older it became evident that I needed to get a larger horse. I wasn’t able to deal with selling my “friend” in order to have money to buy a bigger non-friend horse. I had no idea what to do.
About this same time I attended a touring performance of Revelations by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In the middle of that show, I knew I wanted to dance like that – I still have the program from that performance in my journals. Twenty years later, I knew, in the same total-body-knowing way, that I would join a women’s creative study group and travel to Egypt when I saw a flyer announcing the program. By this time, Shebang had gotten old and died, I’d become a professional dancer and lived in NYC for seven years, performed nationally, and achieved one of my major life goals – touring in Europe as a dancer. I have journals from all these adventures, also.
I was choreographing and collaborating with composers, and had started a small alternative performance venue in a gallery called Among Friends, bought and flipped several houses on Staten Island and a three-unit apartment building with a carriage house on Canal Street with my husband and brother, began teaching journal writing workshops for homeless women, and was generally pretty frustrated with life as a dancer. After a certain age when someone says, “jump – because I said so,” you just say, “no.”
A dancer friend began taking Alexander Technique lessons and had such a powerful experience that she insisted I attend a workshop with her. I was amazed at how wonderfully light my body felt and how easily I was moving (I felt like I was 10 years younger!). I decided to begin studying the Technique. Someone at the workshop recommended that I work with Mio Morales – this changed my life (along with the trip to Egypt!)!
It’s been a long and winding journey, out of dance, back into dance, to Europe performing with composer Philip Corner, back to KS teaching with my mom in her studio, off to grad school for an MFA in dance, grant writing and arts admin, admin in academia, writing, and public art projects. Along the way I’ve taught dance in almost every venue imaginable: in private studios, large and small university programs, as a guest artist in the public schools, as part of after-school programs, and for professional dance companies. Constants in my life have been Dance, the Alexander Technique and Mio’s mentorship and training as I became an Alexander Technique teacher.
Mio, a student of Frank Pierce Jones (who studied with F.M. Alexander and his brother A.R. Alexander) and Marjorie Barstow (one of the first teachers trained by F.M. Alexander) is a percussionist and a composer. Mio is also a gifted Alexander Technique teacher and founder of a process called Primal Alexander. I chose to work with Mio because I knew if he could learn to play percussion and drums easily, he could teach me to dance easily. And, Mio was one of the few Alexander Technique teachers I met at that time who didn’t say to me, “Why do you want to do that!?” when I brought ballet steps to work on in class.
The next 30 years or so have been a journey of studying, exploring, and applying the Alexander Technique to all areas of my life – relationships, work, writing, and to the study, performance, and teaching of dance-specifically classical ballet. This has been a wonderful learning adventure of discovery. I’m excited to share the transformative experience that comes from allowing Easiness to guide your life.
I’ll stop here with two quotes by H. Havelock Ellis that describe the intersection of dance, life, and the Alexander Technique. These ideas are why I have developed the Body-Brain Balance Method for learning to Dance with Ease throughout life!
“Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself.”
“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”
Laura Donnelly has been teaching the Alexander Technique privately, in community classes, and at the university level since 1992. In addition to workshop intensives with Marjorie Barstow, Donnelly trained extensively with Mio Morales.
Donnelly, MFA Theatre Arts/Dance – University of Arizona, is a choreographer, teacher, writer, and self-employed business consultant. She has taught dance in universities, public schools, and private studios. Donnelly has incorporated the Alexander Technique into her life since 1987.
Director of Dancing with Ease – Body-Brain Balance, Donnelly presents online and in-person workshops for teachers and students incorporating the Alexander Technique into all aspects of daily living, teaching, studying and performing in dance, music, and theatre.
Donnelly toured nationally with the Court Dance Company of New York and presented her choreography internationally with composer Philip Corner. Her performance experience encompasses Contemporary, Improvisation, Modern, Ballet, Renaissance, and Baroque Dance.
Academic Publications: Forthcoming from Cambridge Scholars Publishing The Sustainability of Dance as an Art Form: Economics, Politics and the Philosophy of Resistance, A Non-Violent Approach to Resistance Using the Alexander Technique published in Rituals of Modern Society: Perspectives on Caribbean Dance Fusion and Dance Sustainability
Meditation in the Dance Studio is published in Teaching with Joy: Educational Practices for the Twenty-First Century, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Long-Distance Choreography, Learning, and Student Engagement A Model for Connecting Students and Faculty Despite Geographic Location – with Heather Trommer-Beardslee, in Dance Education in Practice, Taylor & Francis Group; Dance Technique – a Basis for Lifelong Learning in All in One, Chinese/English magazine.
Laura is a different kind of teacher. Over the last 50 years, I’ve had Alexander lessons with six teachers beginning with Joan Murray at Michigan State in the late 60’s, to whom I am especially grateful. When I retired and moved to Kansas last year, I hadn’t had a lesson in 15 years, had had several falls and persistent sciatic pain. The sciatic pain was initially helped by chiropractic care, but seemed to be getting worse. I contacted Laura for an Alexander “refresher.”
I was surprised that my four lessons with her involved no chair work, no table work, no “hands on.” I was also surprised at how effective the lessons were: my balance and walking improved immediately; my sciatic pain is now virtually gone. I was even more surprised by experiences of calm, connectedness and emotional openness – all from verbal suggestion alone.
At my first lesson, Laura said to me, “It’s all still in there.” Perhaps that’s why her verbal suggestions led to almost immediate results; I suspect that similar results may take longer for someone with no previous Alexander training. But Laura’s powers of observation and analysis are keen; her “verbal suggestions” are spot-on. She is also an intuitive and gifted teacher.