Stillness & waiting: a childhood of an impatient fidget and the irony
I began researching stillness a few years ago, as part of my MA in dance performance. This research included approaching stillness as an activity and redistributing the value that I as a performer, was placing on movement and stillness.
After embodying and defining different ways of performing stillness, one of the stillnesses I loved most was waiting – I categorised this as: a clear action with clear purpose, senses are open as triggers or cues are often external.
Maybe I would now define this differently, but an observation I continue to find accurate is that when waiting, the timing relies on external factors or elements beyond one’s control.
Emotions & waiting: wasting precious time
There seems to be an association between waiting and negativity. ‘I had to wait 20 minutes for the bus’, ‘I had to wait for the electrician to arrive’, ‘they were late so I waited for two hours’. It’s fairly obvious that this negativity sits with wasted time, unprepared to wait I could have been productive or enjoying myself (because sometimes productivity feels as positive as enjoyment).
‘I can’t wait for my lunch break’, ‘I can’t wait for my holiday’, ‘I just can’t wait for the weekend’ – these phrases about not being able to wait for something imply desperation to be doing something else. And that something else you have organised or chosen. The act of waiting and its relationship to control relates to my experiences of dancing and stillness, as well as the last few months.
Also related are the concepts of time, expectation and projecting yourself into the unknown future, caught between the optimism of trusting that it will get better than this and the less positive associations with wishing your life away.
2020 & waiting: acknowledging the context of now
Google’s definition of waiting is too, a neat definition of the year so far: ‘the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or event’.
There is this automatic eagerness to continue, to move forwards – after all, stillness is often inorganic; treading water is demanding, more so than a gentle swim.
During lockdown when friends asked how I was doing, for comedic effect I began replying with ‘I am trying to experience time differently’. In some ways, that was a highly accurate answer; waiting feels like a more passive way to experience time.
Again: a clear action with clear purpose, senses are open as triggers or cues are often external
In the studio, when compared to other types of stillnesses, waiting had a strong connection to the present moment because you were not responsible for the future, enabling openness and receptivity. Waiting became an activity in itself, an activity with one aim and reduced responsibility; with less pressure to be productive or active it became something I enjoyed.
Like the The Queue at Wimbledon (a prime example of how to capitalise on waiting for the event), there is anticipation of something ‘better’ to come, whether that be moving after a period of stillness, watching tennis or the end of this global pandemic.