Posture. Poise and Pause. They’re a dancer’s vitals.
My posture was a pig. Too loathsome to even recall.
My poise, a tortoise, developing slowly but surely.
And Pauses, a unicorn, therefore, non-existent.
Amma’s temper often flared like a forest fire at my misfortunes. (More like hers, actually. I never had to watch myself dance.) When I was fairly certain that one more lousy movement and she’d cut me up into atoms, I decided to quite literally, ‘straighten up’. After all, Art is where you fight your demons.
For weeks, I walked around dance school like a scarecrow, with a rod on my back, across the length of my arms held out to either side. The shoulders drew back, wrenching the chest forward. Imagining Amma pulling me upwards with a rope tied to the top of my head, I felt my spine elongate. Taller now, sort of stretched, it was easier to balance through every peculiar step. And every movement was fuller; a knockout, in fact.
I related abstract choreography to my environment, realizing that dance, like any other Art form, is a reflection of life and everyday events. The curl of an arm – ripples on an ocean; the downward twitch of your palm – droplets of rain; broad, sweeping actions – a rainbow, perhaps. And when you see the imagery, while you dance the movement, that’s when it’s been polished.
Amma taught me stillness, “It is the pauses that enhance the movement, making it more pronounced. The audience breathes too, when a dancer does.” Caesuras reflect transition. The emotional quality and thoughts behind a comma, the excitement of an exclamation mark, the finality of a period. Again, a metaphor for life. Dance pieces are made up of peaks and troughs, of the vicissitudes that make a portrayal relatable. They aren’t run on sentences, devoid of shifts and deliberation and inventiveness.
Pauses provide space. For dancer and audience. Expression evolves, we inhale and exhale in unison and there’s a reaction to the energy dynamic of a stop and a go! Amma asserts, “To hold space on stage with stillness; when you pause, requires vulnerability. Ironically though, it will empower you. Because you will create anticipation. Your audience will want more. Thus, the risk of a pause is the price you pay for that power over your audience. Feed them gradually, when they’re eager enough.”
You’re not born with the three ‘P’s. You earn them. And sometimes, pigs will indeed, fly.