- Learning Alba Emoting
The ALBA Emoting technique is now refined and ready for wider diffusion as an alternative technique for the work of actors.(Bloch 136)
The power of the feelings . . . evoked [by using] just part of the ALBA technique [was] impressive and suggested . . . strong potential as a tool for emotional work. [However] I retain my skepticism about the necessity of facial manipulation.(Rix 149)
The two articles cited above appeared side by side in Theatre Topics of September 1993. Susana Bloch, having conducted lectures and workshops at conferences of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education since 1991, was presenting her work to the larger community of American theatre artists; I wrote as a novice who had experimented with a portion of the technique, my familiarity with it limited to attendance at ATHE sessions and a review of articles written by Bloch and her colleagues. Its premise had appealed to me from the start: generating emotion through physical reproduction of scientifically measured patterns of breath, facial expression, and muscle tone seemed a logical extension of Stanislavsky’s Method of Physical Actions in proposing that “a movement of the right muscle will trigger the truthful emotion” (Moore 9). My limited experiment with the breath portion of the technique led me to conclude that I needed to learn a great deal more about Alba Emoting™ before continuing any such explorations. 1 I was particularly concerned about leading students into (and, more importantly, out of) intense emotional territory and wondered “how (or whether) to integrate the technique into existing approaches to emotion” (149). Hundreds of hours of training and application over the past four years have revealed the issue of guiding students safely through emotional states to be a matter of practice and constant awareness; integration with existing techniques will require continued exploration. I’ve been teaching Alba Emoting for two years and using components of it in acting classes and productions for much longer; the universal enthusiasm of my students, and the results they enjoy, still astound me. The sheer power of the technique convinces me that it will, sooner or later, have a pervasive influence on the craft of acting in this country. [End Page 55]
Despite Bloch’s 1993 statement, training in Alba Emoting has not been regularly available until very recently. Shortly after the appearance of the Theatre Topics article, Bloch offered a two-week course near her home in Cachagua, Chile, the first such training available to actors and teachers outside of the established groups that helped develop the technique in Europe and Chile. The following year, three of the four Americans who attended that session—Michael Johnson-Chase of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Nancy Loitz of Illinois Wesleyan University, and myself—arranged for Bloch and her assistant, Joan Povlsen to teach an “Alba in America” seminar in Chicago, in part so that we could continue our own training. 2 Bloch then became concerned that misuse and misunderstanding of the technique might arise from overly rapid growth. While those of us who had begun our training in Chile were given approval to train our own students in Alba Emoting, Bloch suspended beginning courses open to the general theatre community. At the time, her decision seemed overly cautious, but I have since come to appreciate its wisdom. Basic technical proficiency in Alba Emoting may be accomplished fairly readily, but profound understanding develops only gradually; in early phases of training, the work can easily be misunderstood. The slow but steady growth has allowed for careful exploration of pedagogy and application.
By 1995, Loitz and I began to integrate the method into acting curricula and productions, providing Bloch with her first experience instructing American-trained intermediate-level students. In 1996, Bloch set official standards for certification of skill levels to document proficiency and insure the quality of training. During this same year, trademark applications were completed, the world center for Alba Emoting was established in Chile, and “Alba In America” began the process of nonprofit incorporation as Alba Emoting North America (AENA). AENA plans to offer training at all levels through annual seminars guided by Bloch and Povlsen; as the number of certified teachers in the...