Alba Emoting Interview

Alba Emoting is a scientifically devised system for generating emotional states through precise
physical patterning, without the use of memories or images. Since she began studying it in 2012,
Louise Siversen has become a certified teacher and passionate advocate. Here, she talks with her
good friend Tina Bursill about the technique and what it means to her.

Tina Bursill: How was Alba Emoting developed?

Louise Siversen: It was developed through research conducted by neuroscientist and artist Dr
Susana Bloch, in conjunction with neurophysiologist Professor Guy Santibanez and theatre
director Pedro Orthous, in Santiago, Chile, in 1970. Although originally developed for actors, the
work has been taken up by psychologists and others who have found it to be extremely useful.
Dr. Bloch wanted to create a technique for accessing specific and repeatable organic emotions
without bringing harm to the performer. A technique that was within the performer’s conscious
control via these respiratory-postural-facial combinations.

TB: What are the patterns and how are they used in creating emotional responses while acting?

LS: There are six primary effector patterns plus the neutral pattern, making seven in total: 1a.
tenderness 1b.anger, 2a. sensuality 2b.fear, 3a. happiness 3b. sadness; the seventh pattern, used
before, after and in transition between patterns, is neutral. You assume a pattern by adopting
specific breath cycles, eye positions, facial-muscle positions and body postures. The body
receives those patterns as cues to produce the associated emotional state which, through practice,
can be increased or decreased in intensity to suit the needs of the actor/performer.
Within these seven states, there are three variations on breath: 1a /1b are nasal; 2a / 2b are
mouth; and 3a/ 3b are nasal/ mouth breathing. We begin by learning to ‘purify’ these seven
states, so they become what are termed ‘resource states’ for us. From that purification, we
experience, for instance, tenderness, unencumbered by any other emotional state (often, we are
experiencing a mixed emotional state and calling it, in this case, tenderness). This sounds very
complex but in reality the process is easy and at the same time profound.

To begin, you decide the pattern you want to work with and assume the pathway to that via the
respiratory, facial, postural combinations, beginning usually with the breath. You then simply
allow your body to bring forth whatever eventuates and feed the text in while the body is
responding to the physical signals. This excites a whole range of emotional responses, memories
and other images may occur. Again, it is much easier when you see it done or when doing it
yourself. Over time, you can mix the patterns up and create states outside the six primary
patterns.

TB: I understand you began your Alba training via Skype, with your teacher in Asheville, North Carolina. How did that work?

LS: I trawled the internet looking for more information. My investigations led me to Laura Bond
in Asheville and a nine-month period of working via Skype to learn the Alba patterns. To gain
certification to share the work, I travelled to Asheville and New York to attend workshops in
2013 and again in 2014 and am now certified CL2.

TB: Can you discuss the other methods you have studied and implemented into your practice prior to Alba Emoting?

LS: I am particularly inspired at present by the combination of the Alba work with Michael
Chekhov’s technique. I have been attending the MICHA International Workshops in the US and
finding the work combines particularly well with Alba, as they both attend to sensations on the
body and are both physical practices.

I began, as most of us do, with Stanislavski’s work via my reading and classes in Melbourne. In
1997, I spent a year studying in New York, attending HB Studio for six months, and again in
2003 for an extended period. Also in 2003, I spent three months studying Practical Aesthetics,
David Mamet’s work, in New York. I have incorporated Lindy Davies’s processes for more than
25 years, along with numerous other techniques and ideas which are changing all the time for
me: Philip Gaulier’s work, Fitzmaurice Voice, Feldenkrais, Alexander, Movement Continuum
… the list goes on.

I continue to discover techniques and use what is exciting and productive for a specific role and
situation. The important thing for me is to keep experimenting, to keep unlocking my psyche, to
keep challenging myself to go deeper, so I can bring that to the work in hand and offer it up for
others to use.

TB: You have mentioned to me in the past how your lack of inspiration and anxiety early in 2010
prompted the pursuit of these new methods.
Have these qualities been eased through your implementation of all this new work?

LS: In 2010, I began the practice of Vipassana Meditation, a technique that observes sensations
on the body, which is in line with a lot of somatic techniques. Many things have fallen in step
with this, Alba Emoting and Michael Chekhov’s work are two such practices. As a result of
taking this very somatic or body-based road, my experience of work has taken on a new and
unexpected joy, but more profoundly perhaps, an ease ‒ which, interestingly, is the first of the
four pillars of Chekhov’s work. Of course, my life generally has also benefited.

TB: How do you use Alba in your practice and how does it differ from, for example, the work of Stanislavski?

LS: All techniques are primarily used in the preparation of the work as you know, you apply a
technique to open the work up to better understand the situation, the individual and this is
recorded in the muscles and cells through repetition. The difference with using the Alba work is
that it is ‘of the body’ ‒ the body is guiding you through the experience, the investigation, the
body’s intelligence is leading. It is like being a passenger in a car ‒ you get to travel but you
don’t have to do the driving. You can also apply the work directly in a scene. If, say, you need to
cry at a certain point, you just assume the patterning for sadness and the rest will take care of
itself. It’s brilliant.

TB: What are the advantages of this work?

LS: It heightens awareness, the ability to pay attention , enabling the actor to engage more
viscerally because they are not trying to achieve a ‘state’ through a mental process. It works in
order with the way the body receives and processes information.

We engage with a stimulus ‒ for example, there is a threat of some description, we experience
trembling and then we know we are afraid, not the other way around. The tremble is
instantaneous, coming from the amygdala, which controls the fear response. Alba work responds
in correct order to the physiological effects of fear, tenderness, sensuality etc through the actor
supplying the associated patterning. As a consequence, the actor drops directly into the
experience of fear, tenderness, sensuality etc as a resource state, opening to a realm of
information on an unconscious level. Miraculous.

TB: Is it easy to learn? How long do you have to practise before incorporating it into your process?

LS: It is easy and fun to learn because you get immediate feedback in your body. And you realise
the wealth of possibilities being made available to you very quickly. It is exciting. You do,
however, have to practise, as we aren’t educated to experience ‘pure patterns’. In the beginning,
you may be operating under entanglements or mixes ‒ that is to say, you have overlaid one
pattern with an aspect of another, which need to be purified. But that can happen quite quickly
with enough application.

TB: How do you feel it has changed your work and how have you seen it change other people’s work?

LS: As I mentioned, it has allowed me more ease and joy in my work and I have seen this made
possible for others over and over again. It’s so wonderful to offer a process that supports actors/
performers, that protects their wellbeing at the same time as enhancing their performance skills.

TB: Do you practise the work on a regular basis?

LS: I do a short practice each day but several hours a week I go with a friend and practise all of
the work I am learning in a studio. We decide what we will work on and then just play. I love it.

TB: You have spoken of ‘purifying’ the effector patterns, did that take long to achieve?

LS: I worked that first year to clarify the patterns and understand better how to implement them
whilst working on Skype. But it was really when I did the workshops that I understood how I
could best use the work. Then it really came alive with possibilities and it continues to develop,
which is exciting.

TB: Many actors approach their work with a superstition in terms of how they prepare.
How would they incorporate this work into their current practice without it creating panic?

LS: You can continue to do your process however it pleases you and simply incorporate the
Alba, but you may find it leads you to a broader, more engaging way of working. It is very
personal.

TB: What can be gained in this work that you feel is missing in more analytical approaches?

LS: I don’t know that it is a question of ‘missing’. We are all different and process can be quite a
private, and as you say superstitious, experience. I am not suggesting that the techniques I am
using are ‘better’ ‒ that is provocative to those who have their own way of working that brings
them joy. What I want to share is what has been for me, a revelation and a help. We are changing
all the time through our experience of living and I like to keep pace with that, so I can
incorporate those changes. These physical approaches offer me the chance to extend into the
universal consciousness of the human condition and make contact with larger, more enriching
imaginative possibilities because it is my body leading me. It is a leap of faith.

TB: Is Alba studied by others outside the arts?

LS: The work can be utilised by anyone. It is a way to deepen your ability to communicate your
experience of living. Anyone in any profession is going to benefit from the enrichment of Alba.

TB: Do you use the method in your daily life and, if so, how has it benefited you?

LS: I use it all the time. Neutral breath is my constant companion, it rescues me from being
overwhelmed and frustrated quite often. The purification of the patterns can have profound
effects on one’s mental state. I have seen it with others, benefits that I could never have
imagined; it’s so moving. I am beyond grateful to have found it, given how much it has enriched
my life and the lives of others, the potential of this work is limitless, so exciting.

Biogs t/c