The Ballet Years
I had lessons in classical ballet from the age of 5 and serious training began from the age of 11 when I became a boarder at the Royal Ballet School. It was sometimes wildly exciting and it was great to visit the Royal Opera House, sitting in the Royal Box during rehearsals! But life was very pressurised and quite lonely and stressful. I was put on diets to slim down and I acquired strains to my Achilles tendon and lower back. I’d tried too hard to increase my flexibility. My body was always under examination and deemed to be ‘lacking’. Looking back, I can understand why it didn’t seem to belong to me.
In my late teens I was accepted into the Sadler’s Wells Opera Ballet (now ENO) where I happily performed for a number of years. I met my opera-singer husband and first heard about the Alexander Technique then – but sadly did not have AT lessons until some years later.
Hilary King performing with Sadlers Wells Opera, Welsh National Opera and BBC TV
Build-up of Stress Studying for a Degree
Later, I gave up dancing so that I could be where my husband worked (as women still tended to do back then). We had children, got divorced and then my ex moved abroad. I needed to re-train so I could earn some money. I studied for a degree majoring in Psychology and was in one of the last groups of people that were fortunate to have grants and were able to study for free.
Studying for a degree was hard as a mature student and single parent with 2 small children. Then my mother died suddenly of a heart attack. Life had become extremely stressful and I was concerned that if I went on my health would deteriorate and I would end up like my mother.
One of my Psychology lecturers, Peter Ribeaux, also taught the Alexander Technique at college, so I dived in and took AT lessons. I began to gain tools that I could use to calm myself down and clear my head. I studied better, my marks improved and was less cranky with my long-suffering children. Using the lying down procedure in particular helped transform me, as it gave me an immediate tool to help myself with. The AT also helped me with my old back injury. I learned to listen to my body and began discovering what it needed, rather than just making it perform for me, as I had done through the ballet years.
Semi-Supine Emergency Kit!
I gained my degree – just missing a first – which was sad but also wonderful. I’d not had any A levels, because ballet dancers were not deemed to need brains in those days (!) I then explored the idea of training in dance therapy and did some psychotherapy training but finally decided to train as an Alexander teacher. I was so impressed by the beneficial changes that had come about in me through having AT lessons.
Alexander Technique Teacher Training
I commenced my Alexander Technique teacher training at the Ribeaux school and completed it at the North London Teacher Training Course run by Misha Magidov, qualifying in 1987. I have had many happy years of teaching and am very grateful that I’ve been able to work in such a wonderful discipline that helps me look after myself in both my my mind and body, as I teach others how to do the same.