Extended biography Tessa
Born in Swaziland in Southern Africa in 1943. Looking back: circumstances gave me open skies, a joyous sense of community, a carefree childhood of riding, dressing-up and creating ‘plays’.
With adolescence an understanding of contradictions of racial inequality in Southern Africa gradually grew. These resulted in a restless search for my own identity from which a budding interest in theatre evolved.
Gained a BA in English and Diploma in Speech and Drama at University of Cape Town whilst most time and energy was devoted to movement/dance and making theatre in UCT Drama Department.
Experienced political situation in SA as too volatile and art scene in Cape Town too limited so travelled to Europe to meet new experiences. Ended up studying modern dance for 3 years with Sigurd Leeder in London and Switzerland and teaching movement and improvisation at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.
My relationship with Africa remained unresolved and returned to Cape Town, teaching at University Of Cape Town in Drama Department, directing classical plays and devising many experimental theatre productions.
Ran a theatre group in Guguletu, (black township just outside city) until my entry pass to township was denied. Angered and trapped, my wings clipped by regime.
On the birth of my daughter, her father and I decided apartheid South Africa was not conducive to a free, unprejudiced upbringing of a child so returned to Europe in 1972.
Immediately I returned to RADA, teaching and directing both within and without of the Academy e.g. Vanbrugh, Almost Free and Royal Court theatres
Formed and toured Europe with own group, Methylated Spirits.
Still finding a deadlock in my personal development I decided to search further afield. I studied Tai Chi with Master Chu for 3 years but eventually it was the Alexander Technique that opened a new prospective to untangling and deepening insights into habitual thought and feeling. This led to the wish to train as an Alexander teacher. I was fortunate to be admitted to Constructive Teaching Centre and train with Walter and Dilys Carrington.
At the same time I met and worked, taught and performed with Paul Versteeg, a dancer, choreographer, who also trained as an AT teacher with the Carringtons.
We both qualified in 1983 & 1984 respectively.
Together: A new beginning.
Together we studied various movement forms such as Bothmer Gymnastics, Eurythmy and Tai Chi.
We taught workshops and performed throughout Europe, searching to integrate AT with theatre and movement, experimenting with new initiatives in quest for simplicity. Performing as duo Baraka, we often incorporated workshop participants using ideas developed in workshop.
This later became a residential 3 month project in Kaiserstuhl, Switzerland with 12 previous workshop participants from all over Europe, culminating in a self-devised performance, Orpheus and Eurydice touring Switzerland.
Need for change
Met Per Ahlbom, Swedish musician, singer, painter and outstanding pedagogue, and we left our established careers teaching at RADA, Drama Centre, East 15 and ALRA in London and went to work and study with him in Járna, Sweden. A fruitful time of learning, including working with children, eurhythmy, architecture, gardening, singing etc.
It was a search for simplicity and presence.
During this period we started theatre investigations and Alexander Technique with a small
group on a daily basis and performed a self-devised production in Sweden, Orpheus
On invitation from Williams College, Massachusetts USA, for a year and a half we together taught the Alexander Technique, Theatre 101, movement and improvisation. While there we directed
Quad, Samuel Becket Conference of the Birds, Peter Brook after Farid al Din Attar
Grappling with a decision both geographical and inward, a solution arose from the question ́What do we not want . . . ?
The Alexander Technique remained the constant, the linking thread. No longer the quest to apply the Alexander to theatre-making but living theatre within the Alexander Technique.
Amsterdam. Small beginnings.
Started a training course for AT teachers in 1994.
Quietly continuing for 20 years we have now trained over 80 teachers from all walks of life and nationalities.
Continued theatre activities
After Life, an opera by Michel van der Aa: A chance in a video interview for the opera to reconcile my personal and professional struggles, coming to terms with the dilemmas of human behaviour with its inequalities and discriminations. I was able to bring full circle my relationship to Africa and the Alexander Technique.
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 can create an artistic whole.