Extended biography Paul
Born in Amsterdam in 1947. During my teenage years and after college, I became part of the Dutch Hippie movement exploring new ways of living and relationships, hitchhiking through Europe while searching for what I wanted to do in life.
One day after seeing the Russian Ballet perform with their extraordinary dancers full of passion, grace and poetic power, I knew I wanted to follow a direction in the performing arts.
Having been admitted to the Theatre School in Amsterdam, I was able to explore dance, acting, mime and music for four years - an experience that transformed my life.
In the last stages of my studies in 1968, our theatre school was affected by the volatile student revolution in Paris, which caused a parallel uproar in Amsterdam. We students demanded a new outlook on education and how we wanted to learn our craft.
An inspirational time – internationally new theatre and dance companies sprung up, experimenting with innovative concepts and ideas, working towards a more total, integrated performance art. The Living Theatre, Grotowski, Peter Brook, Robert Wilson, Maurice Bejart, Peter Schat, Koert Stuyff, Andriessen etc.
During this changeable time in 1969 Maurice Bejart created a unique center for training in dance and drama - the ‘Mudra’ School. It was a rigorous all-round education for its dancers, actors, singers and musicians. He then blended these diversities of artistic form and cultures into a total theatre and integrated them into his large scale crafted Ballet/Theatre productions ... such as such as Nijinsky,Clown of God, Orphee, L’histoire du soldat, Our Faust, Bolero, Sacre du Printemps in Theatre de la Monnaie , Circle Royal, Open air festivals etc.
I was lucky to be accepted to become part of this extraordinary Mudra school and later was able to watch and participate in some of these large-scale productions with such great artists as Jorge Donn, Susan Farrell, Paolo Bortuluzzi, Nureyev, Jean Marais, Pierre Boulez, Stockhausen etc.
In 1975, I moved to Paris and studied on a daily basis for two years with the great Japanese Zen master, Taisen Deshimaru, learning the discipline and rituals of Zazen.
In spite of this quiet and reflective inner work I was also performing with various theatre dance companies like Michel Caserta, Michel Renault and producing my own work for the Festival of Bagnolet etc.
Two years after my stay in Paris I was awarded a Dutch grant to study in New York with Merce Cunningham – an exciting time – I explored the newly developing performance art scene in ‘lofts’ of down town New York watching the work of artists such as Robert Wilson, Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, the Judson church and the many Off Broadway theatre productions. In comparison to the European art scene these unusually gifted and daring artists broke with traditions and taboos and went beyond borders. It was refreshing and inspiring.
Meeting up with several old Mudra members and the French dancer, Agnes Denis, we devised productions of ‘total theater’ performing in lofts, churches and universities of Manhattan.
It was a time of great renewal for me but after two full and hectic years I needed a good rest and change of scene.
I returned to Europe in 1997, visiting London and decided to stay giving myself the time and space to deepen my research into the so called practical and ‘spiritual’ philosophies of that time in particular Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti and Rudolf Steiner.
To earn my living I taught ‘movement’ classes in art centers where I met Tessa Marwick with whom I later formed a duo, Baraka.
Tessa, a well-respected director and movement teacher at the Royal Academy of Dramatic of Art (RADA) and East 15 Acting School introduced me to her work. We then together began developing a specialized ‘movement work’ for educating actors and dancers while we expanded our teaching at these and other colleges e.g. Drama Studio and A.L.R.A.
During these years we also intensively studied Tai Chi, Eurythmy, Bothmer movement as well as having Alexander Technique lessons, which I had already experience in Philadelphia on a training course run by Kitty Wielopolska who was personally trained by FM Alexander.
Soon after Tessa started to train as an Alexander Teacher on the Carrington training course in 1980, I had an extraordinary transforming private lesson with Walter Carrington and it became clear that I also wanted and needed for our personal and future development to train as an AT teacher.
After 4 years and both having qualified, our whole outlook on education and the arts had changed dramatically as to how best to apply the Alexander Technique in our teaching and performance work.
From then on we gave performances, workshops and projects throughout Europe often incorporating workshop participants in these performances.
In 1986, one of these workshops later developed into a residential 4-month project in Kaiserstuhl, Switzerland with 12 previous workshop participants from all over Europe, culminating in a self-devised performance Orpheus and Eurydice with which we toured Switzerland.
While studying Werbeck singing, eurythmy and Bothmer gymnastics at Emerson College in Sussex, I met Per Ahlbom a Swedish musician, singer, painter and outstanding pedagogue.
Tessa and I, deeply impressed by his work, left our established careers teaching at RADA, Drama Centre, East 15 and ALRA in London to work and study with Par Ahlbom in Járna, Sweden. It became a fruitful time of learning, including working with children, eurhythmy, architecture, gardening, singing etc.
It was a search for simplicity, wholeness and presence.
During this 2-year period we also started theatre investigations from out of the Alexander Technique daily directing a small group of Swedish actors and later devised a new production of Orpheus.
On invitation from Williams College, Massachusetts USA in 1989 for a year and a half we together taught the Alexander Technique, Theatre 101, movement and improvisation. While there we directed Quad by Samuel Beckett and Conference of the Birds by Peter Brook.
The Netherlands, Amsterdam
At the end of our Williams College period in Massachusetts we travelled for two months in our camper throughout the North of America from the east to the west coast, south of New Mexico and back to Boston. It was an extraordinary journey through American culture and history. We returned to Europe in 1991 and decided to settle in the Netherlands with the intention to start a new training center for the Alexander Technique and the arts in Amsterdam, which we opened in 1994.
At present our teacher training course and private practice have been running for more than 20 years and we have trained over 80 AT teachers from all walks of life, cultures and nationalities.
We have given workshops and performances as featured teacher presenters at AGM’s and AT Congresses throughout the years.
In 2015 at the AT Congress in Ireland we will again be presenters on the Continuous Learning faculty.
The Road not Taken: A theatre piece composed and performed by Paul and Tessa for the 8th International Congress of Alexander Teachers in 2008, demonstrating how movement, acting and poetry from out of the principles of the Alexander Technique can create an ‘artistic whole’ from out of their combined personal and past experiences.