Photo credit (Portrait, top): Jeongseon Han.
Nanette’s life has been defined by the seeking of innovative solutions to problems of individuals and communities. Her efforts as a youth to accept and cope with her own physical challenges began a life-long pursuit of finding ways to help others who struggled with challenging physical issues.
In college, Nanette combined studies in Special Education, Psychology and Fine Art to receive a BFA in Art Therapy (1979.) In the late 70’s she worked in the Handicapped Education and Aid Research Unit in London (H.E.A.R.U.) and upon her return to the U.S. collaborated with Upstate Medical Center’s Neurophysiology Research Department to produce an award-winning animated film on the neural pathways of pain.
Nanette’s work on the film led to graduate work in the Art Media Studies graduate program in the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She focused her Master’s research on the analysis of movement and its generative linguistic expressions in interactive digital media. While in Syracuse, she also worked with the Cerebral Palsy Center’s Schneier Communication Unit and helped create some of the first image-based computerized communication systems. Nanette completed her MFA in 1982; her thesis: “A Digital Approach to the Expressive Elements of Movement.” After completing her MFA she moved to New York City, worked as a computer programmer and taught at the School of Visual Arts (SVA).
1982 also marked the beginning of Nanette’s study of the Alexander Technique. She trained to be a teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT); in 1995 she became a certified teacher and a member of the American Society of the Alexander Technique (AmSAT). Following extensive post-graduate work in both NYC and London, Nanette served as Resident Associate Faculty member at ACAT until 2006.
Nanette’s post-graduate experience included her work in NYC with Pearl Ausbel. Her writing on Pearl was featured in the AmSAT News Winter edition, 2006, “Inspiring the Profession”. Nanette also did extensive post-graduate work in London with Walter Carrington and Peggy Williams. She apprenticed and exchanged with Peggy, and was subsequently entrusted to write the story of Peggy’s life and teaching; published in 2018, Unsmudged: An Encounter With Peggy Williams, A First Generation Teacher of the Alexander Technique.
In 2006 Nanette co-founded ATNYC’s teacher training program with John Nicholls; there she graduated dozens of AmSAT-certified teachers and served as Co-Director of the training program from 2009 until its closing in June 2014. In September 2014, Nanette founded The Riverside Initiative for the Alexander Technique (RIAT). She serves as Director of its 3-year teacher certification program.
Nanette maintains an active private practice on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where she has taught for nearly 20 years. She has taught at: ACAT, The Dimon Institute, Alexander Technique Workshops in Sweet Briar, Virginia; and ATNYC. She currently teaches full time at RIAT and offers workshops nationwide. Nanette has served in various governing, leadership, advisory and volunteer roles in AmSAT since 2008 and has established herself as an innovator and community-builder in the national society. She served an extended tenure as Chair of the Board from 2009-2011; one of her legacies was the establishment of AmSAT’s bi-weekly eUPdates, which continue to support and connect AmSAT’s leadership with its hundreds of members. (Click here to read what AmSAT had to say about her service.) In addition to serving as Chair, Nanette served on the Professional Conduct Committee, and most recently completed a two-year term on AmSAT’s Leadership Advisory Council. In 2012, Nanette was awarded AmSAT’s Certificate of Merit, and in 2013 and 2014 she was awarded its Certificate of Appreciation.
In 2012, Nanette led a group of Alexander teachers to join forces with other wellness practitioners in the NYC-based organization Community Relief and Recovery through Education and Wellness (CRREW). After Hurricane Sandy, their efforts brought relief to victims, as well as aid workers and volunteers.
Nanette has also maintained a long-time commitment to, and interest in, depth psychology, as well as a 20+ year practice of tai chi and contemplative study. For nearly a decade, Nanette studied Tibetan Buddhism before being drawn to Western Wisdom traditions; she is a Camaldolese oblate and is currently completing graduate work at Union Theological Seminary with a focus on Psychiatry, Religion and Ethics.
Nanette’s diverse interests, personal challenges, and professional accomplishments over a lifetime have synthetically come together to convey the Technique’s efficacy for greater well-being in the individual and the community. She has established the Riverside Initiative as a place where a holistic, integrated and innovative approach to the Alexander Technique can be shared and reciprocally enriched by those it touches.
Letter From the Director
Welcome to the Riverside Initiative!
One of the greatest gifts of the Alexander Technique is the opportunity for hope. I say this from the confidence of my own experiences.
When I was 17, a serious diving accident left me in a coma, with multiple traumatic injuries, including severe spinal and back injuries. Emergency medical interventions saved my life, but I was left with substantial pain and disability and no clear guidance as to how to address these issues.
Following the standard “more is better” tenet, I tried every physical rehabilitation and alternative healing modality possible. I pushed my way through college, working physically demanding jobs along the way. With some student aid and arts funding I backpacked through Europe and returned to the states a public art activist while finishing my degree.
Shortly thereafter, things started to break down. I was only 22 but exhausted beyond my abilities. I gave up plans to bicycle across the country, and instead began a Masters Degree. The day after defending my Master’s Thesis I could not walk.
My spine was not supporting me. I was 24.
Extended bed rest was prescribed; 8 weeks later I was admitted to the hospital where more testing and bed rest ensued; another 3 weeks later I consented to surgery. Medical intervention was again only partially successful. It was clear the rehabilitative therapies available to me were not addressing the whole of my condition or history; they seemed, in fact, to be reinforcing unhelpful habits I’d already developed in my desperate efforts recover functioning years before.
At this point, I happened upon the Alexander Technique.
Just out of the hospital, I saw a physical trainer, who knew something of the Technique; she laid me down on the floor and released my neck muscles in a manner that gave me unquestionable relief: it was deeply palpable, stirring, and pervasive.
For the first time since my accident, I glimpsed the possibility of regaining some sort of physical wholeness.
The Technique soon proved to be a reliable means to not only regain strength and flexibility but to embody the abstract concepts I’d been working with academically. I moved to NYC to start formal study of the Technique. Nine years into my study, I realized that the quality of support we give ourselves is directly related to the quality of support we give others. I decided to train as a teacher. Once I made the decision, I didn’t look back.
After my training, I began going to London regularly to study with Walter Carrington and Peggy Williams. I often spent whole months there and had the great good fortune to take daily lessons with Walter and to apprentice and exchange work with Peggy. In New York, I had the good fortune to apprentice, and exchange, work with Pearl Ausubel.
These experiences changed my life.
Studying, practicing and teaching the Alexander Technique has given me my life and the confidence to hope. Now it is my great joy to have founded the Riverside Initiative and be directing its Teacher Training Program. Bringing what I’ve learned through the diverse experiences of my life to the next generation of teachers is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding endeavors imaginable.
New York City
Contact Riverside Initiative for the Alexander Technique