Help! I’m surrounded by adults who can’t sit still. They bounce, twitch, cross and uncross their legs at the knee, fuss with hair, fuss with music, and at every break in filming check to see how long until they can get back to their smartphones and FitBits. And it’s not just the college students, but folks in their 40s-50s who ought to know better. I know there are two super-high-energy folks in the group for whom sitting perfectly still is a near physical impossibility, but just how hard is it to sit, relax your muscles, and not move? Very, apparently.
I know because I trained myself to sit still. It comes from being on camera, or in public view, on a regular basis. Also, as a page turner, if you are fidgeting and twitching, it irks the musician and distracts that audience (and vice versa). So I started consciously making myself relax, hands folded in lap, back straight, and eyes forward. I can stand that way too, sort of a version of “parade rest for the professional musician” for quite a while. Apparently this bugs some people, because once or twice I’ve been asked why I do it, and if I’m playing freeze-tag or something. Which makes me wonder about who plays freeze-tag at an international meeting, and how one gets invited to present at or attend that sort of gathering, because it sounds a lot more fun than my current professional associations.
I’m trying not to attract attention. In a twitching world of constant texting and surfing (or screen reading), sitting still stands out. Calm, focused attention looks out-of-place when everyone else must move, must have their hands and eyes occupied with Candycrush, or answering texts, tweeting, checking Facebook (TM) and watching videos of relatives (or swimming cats), or sending pictures of the snowstorm in progress outside.
I’m trying to decide if I’m Odd for being able to sit still, mildly obsessive about good behavior, scared of the conductor (yes, yes I am), or if my acting like a 19th century grown-up or contemplative Sister is my way of sticking my tongue out at current cultural norms. I read at some point that according to Blaise Pascal, a large number of the world’s problems stemmed from the inability of men to sit quietly in solitude. If updated, he could add “worship services, during concerts, during rehearsals, in classrooms and lecture halls, on aircraft, and in waiting rooms.”
As I said above, there is a bit of an art to not twitching. You have to be relaxed and have good to decent posture. I tend to cross my legs at the ankles (proper ladies do not cross their legs at the knee especially when on camera, not even if your skirts are long and full enough to prevent accidental flashing), hands in lap right over left, head up and looking straight ahead or at the speaker/conductor. I do not “freeze,” trying to be perfectly motionless. That leads to twitching and muscle cramps. Just relax, and don’t fall asleep. That’s all there is to it.
Likewise standing still: feet shoulder width apart if possible, shoulders back, knees slightly bent, head up, hands at the side. Pay attention to what is going on and occasionally wiggle your toes.
It is possible to sit and stand without having something to distract you from goings on. It is possible to live for more than half an hour without checking your smart phone or playing a quick round of a game.
Or so I want to tell the people rustling around me. I’m not moving. I know what the conductor sees when he looks past the woodwinds, and I’m a wee bit to distinctive-looking to risk attracting his ire by fidgeting.