A Small Piece of Oral History

Pages: 40
Year: 1999
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Rolf Lines – FALL 1999 – Vol 27 – Nº 04

Volume: 27
Jeanne Bowden is English and now lives in Perth, after migrating to Australia in 1965. For many years she sang at Covent Garden as well as with their touring company that traveled throughout Europe, and /ater with the Australian Opera, including the opening performance for the now world famous Sydney Opera House. ln 1964 she was a model in a class that Dr. Rolf taught for osteopaths in London. During a recent visit to Perth, I had a chance to ask her some questions about that experience. - Michael Stanborough, Certified Advanced Rolfer

MS: You were in a Rolfing® class as model for an osteopath?

JB: Yes, I was under the care of an osteopath, Betty Herbert, who asked me if I’d like to be her model in a class she was participating in.

MS: What led you to see an osteopath in the first place?

JB: I’d fallen on a rockery (rockgarden) while cleaning windows, of all things. My back was bad and no one seemed to be able to do much. There were some chiropractors around who were pretty good but the osteopath was the most helpful. The physiotherapists didn’t do much. They couldn’t seem to get into the problem at all. Betty Herbert was quite enthusiastic about the class she was going to take. For me, it was free, which was important. Being in the chorus at Covent Garden didn’t pay z lot. I saw a chance to try something new for my back.

MS: You went through a series of treatment?

JB: There were about six of us and we received ten treatments in about a month. It was very intense. Each mattress had a box of tissues by it and we all used them a good deal.

MS: It was painful?

JB: Extremely. That is one of my strongest memories of it really …that it was very intense. Some days were especially grim. A friend once came to pick me up after a sessions and I told him how intense it was. He asked why I kept going. I remember saying that I had made a commitmen and would see it through. It seemed like the only way to really give it a chance.

MS: Do you have memories of Dr. Rolf?

JB: Yes. I remember her as a large person. Tall. Imposing. She would come around and talk to us while we were being worked on. She was encouraging and very positive in her outlook. I felt that I trusted her. That’: why I kept at it even when it was painful. I trusted my osteopath as well. She was wonderful.

MS: Did Dr. Rolf ever work on you directly?

JB: No. She would direct Betty to do certain things.

MS: Now we call this work “Rolfing®.” What did Dr. Rolf call the work you received?

JB: She said we were being “stacked.” I remember that she said that the muscles had to be pulled off the bones to make “stacking” possible and this is why it was so painful. But she promised that I’d thank her for it when I was in my eighties. Well, I’m in my eighties and do thank her! I’ve had year after year of no problems with my back since that time in the class.

MS: I see you’ve still got your before and after photos. That’s amazing after thirty-five years. Was it a major experience in your life?

JB: It was. As I mentioned, the pain was very intense. And being free from my back problems afterwards made it stay in my mind. (Looking at the photos) I don’t see a lot of difference in the photos, except here in my neck, which is obviously better.

MS: Did you notice a difference in your singing?

JB: Not really. I wasn’t looking for that though. I was looking for a solution to my back pain.

MS: Rolfing has been closely associated over the years with the release of stored and repressed emotions. Did you find it that way? Was that part of the reason for the tissues by the treatment beds?

JB: The tissues were there because the work hurt a lot and at times it was pretty overwhelming. As for the emotions, I think all the singing has helped me to not get bound up inside. I’ve always thought of myself as a person who expresses things as they come along. Not much repression.

MS: On a different tack, what is your favorite opera?

JB: Carmen, I guess. I was Carmen in the Covent Garden touring show. It was good to be the lead. We went all over Europe an Ireland with that opera. It was great fun, you know. We had the most fantastic parties. I loved that life.

MS: Any other highlights from the opera days?

JB: Being in the chorus when Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas sang together. It was absolutely exhilarating to be on the stage with those two. I think it was Bellini’s “Norma,” although I’m not sure.

MS: Is there anything else that you can think of that might be of interest?

JB: It’s been good to think back on those times. At this point I think you know more about my life than my family! Thank you for your interest.

MS: Thank you for taking the time to share the memories of your experience with Rolfing.

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