Performance as Meditation

The difference between “regular” stripping and burlesque is that in the former, you’re showing the audience what they want to see, whereas in the latter you’re showing them what you want them to see.

Or at least that’s the way I see it.

But deciding what you want an audience to see, and how they’re going to see it takes quite a bit of effort. It’s not just your body you’re revealing, it’s your talent and personality, and this involves careful planning. You pick a theme, you pick a song, you pick an outfit, you plan your choreography, and you might also have some humor or other tricks up your sleeve. Quite frankly it’s exhausting.

But what this means is that when the moment comes to show your stuff, you’re actually working quite mentally hard. You’re thinking about not messing up your choreography, not having a wardrobe malfunction, and with all that concentration you still have to remember to look relaxed and smile at the audience. What I’ve found in the incredibly short time I’ve been doing this, is that this really locks me inside my head. I have ADD, but when you have absolutely no choice but to focus, focus is what you shall do. I can look right at someone and my brain just doesn’t register their face because I have too many other things on my mind.

This is weird, at least for someone like me, but come to think of it, it really feels like a form of meditation. During those 4 minutes or so, nothing exists outside of your performance. Not your day job, not your money or family concerns, and certainly nothing from the world outside the stage you’re performing on. It’s really kind of amazing. I once saw a performance in which the performer tripped and broke her foot, but her focus on the routine was so intense that she not only didn’t show any sign of pain, but she didn’t even realize that her foot was broken until after. I can’t think of any other situation when this would be the case, maybe with the exception of feeling extreme fear, which is really not so great.

As my nerves build up the closer I get to my first official performance, I’m reminded of that old tip to picture the audience in their underwear. I wonder if that still matters when you’re actually going to be in yours. But it really might not, because honestly I don’t think I’ll be capable of picturing them at all or imagining much of anything. I’ll have to look engaged, and yet the reality is that for these few minutes these people probably won’t even exist to me.

Sometimes we need this, to take a break from the world and just slow down. Meditation is recommended for a reason. When you have a hard time focusing, sometimes you need to improvise as far as just how you’re going to accomplish that. I was surprised when I first found that this is what performing feels like, and pretty intrigued. This means I’m benefiting from burlesque in more ways than are usually cited, building your confidence and expressing yourself. It means my mental health is benefiting to, and who couldn’t use the little boost? I wonder if this will remain the case or if as I get more comfortable my mind will become more able to wander. I wonder if that would be a good or a bad thing.

I wonder if any of you out there, who perform in any capacity, have felt the same way. Have you felt any benefits from performing that are usually associated with more typical kinds of meditation?

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One comment on “Performance as Meditation

  1. Nicholas says:

    I think a lot (perhaps all) of ‘the arts’ have a meditative component. IIRC, scientists have done brain scans of artists that demonstrate how they literally think differently than non-artist, while creating. The fantastic rush felt while performing suggests something is going on, neurologically, and is a great way to naturally alter consciousness!

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