Joan occasionally talks about the primary curve giving length and the secondary curve giving the width (will write soon explaining these curves for those that haven’t heard of them). Becky Nettl-Fiol and Luc Vanier also talk about it in their book, Dance and the Alexander Technique. It is one of those concepts/ideas that I have heard many times but never truly saw/experienced consciously until recently. That is the difficult part of learning any skill or working in the Alexander Technique: you can know things intellectually but it takes awhile to see and understand certain things. And most new understanding in the Alexander Technique comes through experience not traditional classroom learning.
Anyway, I can’t remember what got Joan talking about this recently, but in relation to the length of the back and width of the shoulders, she described the latissimus and a realization she had when seeing the muscle in an anatomy book put out by the British Air Force. I’ve posted it below. I think she saw the large muscle traverse the back – with its origin at the sacrum, lumbar spine, and maybe most importantly, at the lower ribs where the diaphragm originates, and then where it inserts at Alexander’s “upper part of the arm” with its spiral and antagonistic action with the pectoral muscles – and she could see how length and width work together. To me, it sometimes feels like there is direction to the upper part of my arm that is spiraling outward when I’m upright or on the table, and when I look up it widens the shoulders in this outward direction.
On the other hand, the Murrays are not very much body-mapping people, and I think it’s because we all know physiologists, gym teachers, dancers (or anyone who talks about the body for that matter) speak eloquently about anatomy but still have bad use. As someone who has been in the modern dance, somatic-influenced world since I was about 15 years old, I relate to this suspicion that intellectual anatomy knowledge won’t automatically lead to better coordination. It is helpful when seen in relation to direction, the whole self, and patterns – as in Dart’s spirals or nerve/reflex patterns – but knowledge of individual muscles probably won’t make someone a better mover or musician.