Four years ago, as part of International Feldenkrais® Week, I started the Feldenkrais Festivals with the belief that we need to present the Feldenkrais Method® in a way that will excite the public.
I already had experience hosting some of the major presenters in our field to sold out and enthusiastic audiences, but I decided that the focus of this event would be different. I’d present teachers who were not part of the Trainer/ Educational Director hierarchy. Instead, I would give less well-known, yet no less excellent, teachers a chance to be featured in a premier event. I assembled the team of teachers and found an upscale venue to host at no charge. I figured: we have a fabulous Method! Why not present it in a fabulous place? I partnered with national brands such as Jazz At Lincoln Center, Sirius XM, and celebrated restauranteurs to donate food or complimentary dinners in exchange for the association with the event.
It worked. We've now had up to 150 people at some of the Festivals. Equinox Fitness clubs, the hosting venue, described the Feldenkrais Festivals as the most successful special events in their history!
Since then, something unexpected and wonderful has happened. Seth Dellinger, a fourth year student, has presented several Feldenkrais Festivals in Washington DC. I attended the most recent Washington DC Festival and was thrilled to see dozens of people taking classes over the course of the day. There was a variety of class formats for different fitness levels and experience. Now, other practitioners are contemplating doing the same in their home regions.
By creating opportunities for newly minted practitioners to teach the public, the Feldenkrais Festivals provide opportunities not available in training programs. Recent graduates and trainees gain invaluable experience in front of a room of students who are not their colleagues and are therefore coming to the ATM® lessons the same way members of the public will. They also get the opportunity to watch how experienced practitioners teach people who are new to the work by witnessing:
The way we instill curiosity in new students.
The way we create a sense of a storyline in our lessons.
The way those of us who have attained success in this work create an event that's engaging enough to get students to keep coming back.
If you’re interested in hosting special events- both in the Feldenkrais Festival format and others- there are many things to consider. Here a few of the many lessons I’ve learned through trial and error:
Teachers and their lesson choices must be vetted. There are certain lessons that are “Greatest Hits"- the ones that Moshe taught to the public and Gaby and Mia's early lessons come to mind. When teaching these lessons, the brilliance of the work becomes clear to both the student and the teacher.
Create an environment where participants can spend time discussing their experiences. People love to eat and drink. Providing a venue where they can socialize over food and drink enables attendees to make friends. Inspire people to make ATM “dates” with their “Feldenkrais friends” and learn in class together.
Co-sponsor with local businesses who want to connect with local consumers. Since our practices often involve local outreach, many neighborhood restaurants and businesses are thrilled to have a chance to connect with our students.
I think that Regions should financially support adventurous young practitioners to follow the Feldenkrais Festival model. It is a great way to generate interest in our work and help newly minted teachers get experience teaching the public. I’m happy to offer my expertise in helping to create events of this sort. I've created about a dozen up to this point and I can certainly help to make events more successful and point out potential pitfalls to help organizers avoid repeating my mistakes.
Frederick Schjang, GCFP, is one of the Founding Faculty members of New York University Doctorate Program in Physical Therapy, and is a 35 year veteran of the fitness industry. His Awareness Through Movement® class was chosen in the "Best Fitness Class" category by TimeOut NY.
He co-produced the DVD "What is the Feldenkrais Method®?", which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube. His annual Feldenkrais® Festivals draw up to 150 people and have drawn national attention to the Feldenkrais Method.
Frederick maintains a private practice and mentors other practitioners in the field. Frederick is currently the Regional Representative for the New York Region of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America.
8/29/2015 5:13:32 PM
Outstanding! I came to NYC to learn from Frederick back in 2008. His skill, his generosity in sharing to enable others to succeed is noteworthy and I am a grateful that the Guild has a spokesperson in Frederick to help educate young practitioners on their road to success!