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Tai Chi originated in ancient China and has a long tradition both as a martial art and a system of training for vitality, energy and clarity of mind. It is a proven method of exercise for strengthening the muscles, improving flexibility and stamina, and enhancing a sense of well-being. Tai Chi is a multi-faceted method for developing physical power and creative expression through movement that is suitable for any age and physical ability.
As a cellist, I have been searching for physical and mental method that contains all these benefits without forceful combat required by some other forms of martial arts. My interest in the psychology of performance, expansion of technical possibilities in cello playing and integral physical training first led me to the study and practice of Alexander Technique and later the ancient system of Tai Chi Chuan that resonates with its principles.
In my workshop I will expand on the philosophy and practical aspects of Tai Chi and the importance of developing awareness of the body, and specifically, for string players, the fingers, arms and posture. I will demonstrate various patterns in hand and weapon forms – Wudang, Qi Gong and Zhan Zhuang. The principles of this sophisticated practice that integrates tension and relaxation, complexity and simplicity, spontaneity and discipline can be employed by performers and teachers as part of their personal development and as an explorative element in pedagogical practice.
Alfia began her Tai Chi studies in 2009 with the aim of researching the relationship between string playing and movement, searching for a physical fitness method that is beneficial for musicians. Since 2011 Alfia won gold, silver and bronze medals in a number of Tai Chi National and European Competitions and in the Fifth World Cup Tai Chi Chuan Championships (Taiwan) as a member of the British Team. Alfia has taught Qi Gong and Tai Chi at the Transcendental Meditation Centre, London, ELLSSO (UK) and Felcino Bianco Music Courses (Italy), and a Health and Wellbeing Programme at Leeds Conservatoire. She presented workshops at the conferences ‘RMA Music, Well-being and Mental Health’, UK and ‘Music, Sound and Well-being’, University of Eastern Finland, performing in the collaborative project Flux and Flow: The Sword, the Cello and Sound Art.
About the speaker
Alfia Nakipbekova, Cello
Professor Alfia Nakipbekova, PhD, MMus, MA, BMus, BA, is an internationally acclaimed soloist, chamber musician, and pedagogue. She studied under the tutelage of Mstislav Rostropovich and received master classes from renowned figures such as Daniil Shafran and Jacqueline du Pré. Alfia earned the award for Outstanding Mastery of the Cello at the Casals Competition in Budapest and has performed extensively across the UK, Russia, Europe, USA, Middle East, Canada, and Australia. She has also conducted solo and chamber music master classes both in the UK and internationally.
Alfia boasts an extensive discography covering major chamber music repertoire for piano trio, cello/piano sonatas, cello/violin duos, including critically acclaimed recordings of Brahms, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Martinù, Shostakovich, Granados, Ives, Cassadó, Turina, and Ravel (Chandos). Notable releases include Hans Gál Complete Works for Cello (Toccata Classics) and JS Bach Six Cello Suites (WCM). In celebration of JS Bach’s 250th anniversary, Alfia performed the ‘Bach Marathon,’ a series of recitals featuring all six Bach Suites in one evening at major venues and festivals worldwide.
Currently, Alfia is immersed in researching the development of the cello in the 20th century. She has presented papers on contemporary cello technique and given lecture-recitals at international conferences hosted by prestigious institutions such as the Universities of Hong Kong, Birmingham, Goldsmiths, Bangor, York, Leeds, Rome, Paris (Pau Casals Symposium, 2023), Royal Academy of Music, King’s College London, and Norwegian Music Academy, Oslo. Alfia holds the position of Professor in Classical Contemporary Performance at Leeds Conservatoire, teaching at the University of Leeds and The Guildhall School of Music, London. She earned her Doctorate at the University of Leeds for her practice-led research titled ‘Performing Contemporary Cello Music: Defining the Interpretative Space.’
Alfia’s interest in the psychology of performance, the expansion of technical possibilities of cello playing and integral physical training led her to the study and practice of Alexander Technique and Tai Chi Chuan. Alfia began her Tai Chi studies in 2008 with the aim of researching the relationship between string playing and movement and finding a physical fitness method that is beneficial for musicians. Since then, Alfia participated and won gold, silver and bronze medals in many Tai Chi National and European Competitions, and the World Cup Tai Chi Championships in Taiwan as a member of the British Team. Alfia has taught Qi Gong and Tai Chi at the Transcendental Meditation Centre, London, East London Late Starters String Orchestra Summer Courses, Felcino Bianco Chamber Music Courses and has given workshops for musicians at Leeds Conservatoire and the RMA Health and Wellbeing Conference, Hereford Arts College, 2019.