Can You Pivot?
Anytime you are in front of people sharing from your heart, this is a performance. It as a gift you are giving to your audience.
So why not use the important skills performers cultivate for a ready, present, engaged, and dynamic body and voice as a means of supporting your message?
Before I go on stage, I have rituals I use to engage my body, mind, voice and spirit into a readiness, and a sense of preparedness, for the present moment. I do this every time because, like life, no show, performance, presentation, or class is ever identical; no moment is ever the same, and therefore as a performer I know I must have an ability to improvise, even when I have already memorized a script, act, or dance. I call this a “pivot.”
You know this from your everyday experience.
Day to day our bodies, mindsets, and moods are never the same. For women maybe it depends on where we are in our cycle; for all of us it depends on what life is showing up with -- how much rest, stress, relaxation, self-care, connection to others, alone time, conversations/arguments with our lover, and the list goes on.
We can count on this: things are never the same in any given moment. Therefore when performing, we can expect that the night, the show, the relationships with the other performers, the audience, and who’s in the audience is never going to be the same. I want to be ready for this.
Honing the ability to act on our feet, trust our intuition, be alive to every moment, and respond instead of react, are all crucial skills for a successful performance...
Hmmm, and not just for performance! But in our every day too!
When something feels like it’s going “wrong” in your life, what if you could pivot in any moment, have the freedom to make a different choice, and respond skillfully, like a performer?
What if you didn’t get frozen in your head, struggling to come up with something to say, but instead your body and mind remained relaxed, and you were able to stay present to yourself and simply trust in something to come through without judging or censoring it? This might mean allowing for a pause, or a moment to reconnect to yourself or re-align with a larger field of presence and support. The point is that it is possible to feel a freedom of spontaneity in any given moment, when your body -- and your mind -- are relaxed and trusting into the space.
In this freedom to choose what wants to happen next, you open yourself up to infinite possibilities, rather than a fear response or shutting down where you feel unable to say anything.
The way that I do this, as an improviser, is that I create “pillars” within my performance. Places I know, and that I’ve rehearsed, that I can come back to and that can help move my story along. Think of them as bullet-points within a non-linear storyline. These are landmarks within the unknown, to carry my story along. They are components of my piece, my story, that I want to share. And they also serve as guideposts while I’m improvising.
For example, I recently created a piece about memories,the non-sequitur, and the sensorial process of recalling them. My story was improvised, but I had created “pillars” in my creative process. What I mean is I had created a map, with landmarks, even though I did not know how it would unfold within the terrain of the live performance. I used a memory about my Grandma Connie in Pittsburgh, summers in Cape Cod, the birth of my brother, and a bunch more. What I found was that rehearsing these points of the story, so that they were available to me as guideposts during the show, continued to move the story along. However, I knew that the order in which I would share these memories -- or if I even would -- would all come out of what unfolded that evening on stage, and I had to relax and trust that whatever came through me in the presence of my audience would work. Using “pillars” is one way I find I can trust that what is coming through me in the performance is what this particular audience needs to hear. I rely on this even more than making sure all my “pillars” are shared.
Riding the present moment, allows me to trust what is arising within me and coming through me.
I am alive with the moment and with who’s in my audience, and these two aspects are my compass.
In my experience, this ability to stay present and pivot creates a dynamic presentation, such that an audience can feel and ride the energy of the present moment with me.
We’re connected and we’re using each others’ life force to create something.
They can trust me, BECAUSE I am trusting in the present moment and I am remaining open to them. (In subsequent articles I will share more about ways to stay open when sharing in front of a group.)
So next time you’re preparing for that big talk, and you’ve written out your bullet-points (you’ve got your pillars) and rehearsed your words, then, when you’re on stage see if you can let yourself feel the people in the room, and if you notice an idea, story, or unscripted moment arising in you, try letting yourself take that ride, staying hooked into the present moment and trusting the wisdom streaming through you.
You have a plan, you’ve practiced your speech, you know it inside and out. So when you actually share it, let yourself be alive to the present moment, drop deeper into your voice and body and trust your ability to pivot freely.