Think “dancer” and movement comes to mind: arms reaching through the air, muscles denying gravity’s pull. A dancer’s movement is elegant, swig, or quick and almost violent, but from hip-hop to ballet, a dancer is defined by the way sound waves through her tensile body and animates her limbs with motion that is part technique, part inspiration.
But Cheryl Bushey, owner and principal dancer at Artfit Dance Studios in Lubbock, Texas, also teaches her advanced belly dance students to consider the practice of stillness.
“There’s immense power in being still on stage,” Cheryl says. Within the choreographed symphony of leaps, chest undulations, hip bumps, slow him circles to the left and slow hip circles to the right, all layered with shimmies, being suddenly still is not only unexpected, it can be a moment of revelation and reverence.
Revelations, because in being still while a melody hums in the background and frames your body or the song stops in a brief, tonic silence which is echoed through your taught, unmoving limbs, and intimacy establishes itself between the song, the dancer, and the moment.
In essence, quieting your gesture and pausing mid-movement creates a luxurious moment which invites, if not seduces your audience to pay attention to you. Stillness also teaches you “to trust the fullness of who you are on stage,” says former theater director Roderick Vann. Being motionless intensifies your entire presence within the landscape of both the dance floor and the song.
Reverence, because stillness also enhances your musicality. By quieting your movement and holding a pose, you not only bring your particular spirit to the music, but you are also to highlight unique moments in, behind, and around the melody. You are able to teach your audience to hear and feel the music in new and exciting angles.
From a practical standpoint, Cheryl is also quick to remind students that stepping into your stillness offers you a chance to catch your breath, gather your thoughts, and make yourself anew; all the while, to your audience, you are still dancing.
“But it’s also awful scary,” one Artfit student shares. It is. But it is also invigorating. As dancers, we delight in motion, but whether choreographed or improvised, stillness in movement can animate the atmosphere with an irresistible authenticity.
So the next time you are bellydancing in your living room, on stage, or surrounded by a crowd, pause for a beat, or two, or three…