Financial Disclosure: Ms. Madden has no financial relationships to disclose. 

Non-Financial Disclosure: Ms. Madden has no non-financial relationships to disclose.

​​Practical Application: Desire-based Warm-ups (making "stage fright" extinct)

A singer told me she was terrified, confronting me anew with the insistent association of art and fear, equating what you love to do in the same category as being chased by wild animals. The necessary physiological excitation accompanying performance needs a new moniker! We need to stop teaching people to be afraid of the art they love! Following is an excerpt citing several studies that point to the efficacy of reconsidering the relationship between fear and performance: “Call performance anxiety "excitement" and psych yourself up • By Tori Rodriguez on January 1, 2015 • • • • • • Pounding heart, rapid breath, racing thoughts—is it anxiety or excitement? New studies at Harvard University found that by interpreting these sensations as excitement instead of anxiety, people performed better in three types of stressful situations: singing in front of strangers, speaking in public and solving difficult math problems. In the experiments, some participants were told to either try to calm down or try to get excited before the task; others were given no such instructions. People who viewed their anxious arousal as excitement not only reported feeling more excited, they also performed better on all tasks than the other participants: their singing was about 30 percent more accurate, their scores on several dimensions of public speaking were approximately 20 percent higher, and their performance on a timed math test was about 15 percent better, according to the paper, which ran in the Journal of Experimental Psychology last June. Another Harvard study, published in Emotion in August 2014, also found performance-boosting effects for people with social anxiety who thought of their stress as being helpful during a public performance.” This article was originally published with the title "Performance Anxiety" in SA Mind 26, 1, 9 (January 2015) doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0115-9c In my Integrative Alexander Technique Performance Practice, I have seen over and over again that the equation of excitation with fright is often the cause of mis-use, injury, as well as disappointing performance results. The repeated disappointing performance results tend to create more and more obstacles to success. The reframe of fear as excitation, however, seems to me to be a partial solution. The real distinction between fear-associated excitation and art/performance-associated excitation is desire. Fear is about what we don’t desire; art is about what we desire. Giving the state of being we need for performance constructively and uniquely is vital. My search for a welcoming name for this state of being led me to researching the derivation of the word “desire.” Desire is the keystone of chosen experiences, and its root is sidere meaning “from the stars.” The poetry of this derivation matches my belief that this artistic state of conscious engagement with the unknown for learning, creativity, exploration, and experimentation is magic, perhaps “from the stars.” Sidere – the desired arousal of self that fuels performance. In combination with identifying the performance state of being constructively, I create warm-ups/preps that consciously invite the excitation. When Sidere is consciously asked for, its arrival is welcome. 

Cathy Madden, MA

​​Cathy Madden is Principal Lecturer for the University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program, and Director of the Integrative Alexander Technique Studio of Seattle.

 As an author, she has published Teaching the Alexander Technique: Active Pathways to Integrative Practice with Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2018 and Integrative Alexander Technique Practices for Performing Artist : Onstage Synergy, published by Intellect Ltd. in 2014. She co-edited (with Kathleen Juhl) Galvanizing Performance: The Alexander Technique as a Catalyst for Excellence, also with Jessica Kingsley Publishers, in 2017.

Madden teaches for Alexander Technique training schools and Arts organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland, Japan and the United States and is an Associate Director of BodyChance in Japan. She is a founding member of Alexander Technique International, and is a former Chair, and currently serves as a Sponsoring Teacher, Formal Consensus Facilitator and as Chair of the Vision/Mission committee.

Madden studied the Alexander Technique with Marjorie Barstow for nearly 20 years and served as her assistant in workshops in the U.S.A. and Europe.  She has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Penn State, and M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in Drama and Literature and did additional graduate study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Her published articles on Alexander Technique pedagogy appear in Congress Papers, Direction Magazine, and Theatre Topics.

She has been a featured presenter/keynote speaker at International Congresses of the Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique International Annual General Meetings and for the Freedom to Act Conference.  In 2012, she was the Keynote Speaker for the Inaugural Alexander Technique and Performing Arts Conference in Melbourne.

Cathy’s well-known abilities to observe and analyze movement in relationship to communication and performance has made her a popular coach in Seattle and internationally for musicians and dancers, speakers and teachers as well as actors.

She remains active as a theater director.  While studying with Marjorie Barstow in Lincoln, Nebraska, she was Founder and Artistic Director of Washington Street Players Place, a theatre company that devised new work, and explored the application of the Alexander Technique to acting training and performance. In 2015, she directed The Withing Project, a theatre and dance oratorio about neuroscience and connection, written by Hope Wechkin.  She is a Creative Collaborator for Lucia Neare Theatrical Wonders ( She directed Seattle actor Jim Lapan’s one-person show, 25,000 Posts, and at the University her productions include Strawberries in January, At the Inland Sea, Lear’s Daughters, The Mill on the Floss, The Portrait The Wind The Chair, The Mischiefmakers, Mother Teresa is Dead, Far Away, Bold Girls, and Two Sisters and a Piano.