Life with a mobile ten month old and a freelance dance career rarely slows down, but the last few weeks have been exceptionally whirlwind-esque. Just about a month ago, I learned that my grandmother had experienced a sudden illness. Within a few days my son and I were on a plane back home to the Philadelphia area. We were able to say goodbye to my dear “Mam-Mam” and celebrate her life with family and friends. A week later (after spending the night in the Denver airport due to a delayed flight, and a 12 hour drive from Tucson back to the Rocky Mountain State), we were in Western Colorado to witness my brother’s wedding. My parents made the trip back to Tucson with us after the nuptials, and we spent the week following the wedding playing tourists in the 100 degree weather. I’m feel like I’m finally settling back in “real” life, whatever that is!
I love the little town my brother and sister-in-law have made their home, and had been eager to spend a week basking in simple mountain life in the lead up to their big day. After all of the unexpected and at times stressful travel, I was looking forward to the quiet, relaxation, and stillness that a mountain vacation can offer. Much to my chagrin, I found it nearly impossible to relax as much as I had hoped. I had planned to “unplug” completely, but found myself still logging into social media, checking email, and even completing work tasks. Maybe it was the residual emotional upset of losing my grandmother, or leftover anxiety from the chaotic travel, or the fact that a vacation with a baby is just about as crazy as regular life with a baby … I just couldn’t let myself be still. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed myself immensely and reveled in my time with my family, but it was almost like I was afraid to disengage from the outside world and enjoy the quiet and stillness I had so eagerly anticipated.
The same thing can happen in choreography. For whatever reason, we as choreographers can be seemingly afraid of stillness. Choreography today is often jam-packed with one high-impact technical element after another, whether it is because we are afraid that we will lose the attention of modern audiences, or to because we feel pressured to show off the athleticism and contortion skills that are now demanded of dancers. But sometimes, a moment of quiet and stillness can be the most powerful element in a choreographic work.
This month, I challenge us to embrace stillness, in our choreography and our lives. Thankfully, we don’t need to flee to the mountains to find stillness, it is available to us wherever and whenever we open ourselves up to it. But, just as a dancer needs to be fully engaged and present in a moment of choreographic stillness to make it resonant, we need to allow ourselves to fully open up to stillness when the opportunity for it arises. Let’s put down our phones, put up those out-of-office messages, and put away the to-do lists for a while. Don’t be afraid of stillness – savor it!