Strength, Flexibility, and Grace

So, I was Periscoping a quick hello from the studio before pole class (I know, there’s already so much HUH?!? in this sentence) and I mentioned that one of my first pole instructors, years ago, taught me that everyone has one element they’re best at, with the elements being strength, flexibility, and grace.

She taught me that the goal is to take the ONE element at which we’re best and *use that* to improve one of the other two areas (usually the one that’s second best, first) and then — eventually — get that third area improving through a conspiracy of having those first two elements so strong.

As I mentioned when asked in that first quick broadcast, my leading element is flexibility. I’m ridiculously bendy and always have been. I was taught to use that flexibility to improve my strength and my grace incrementally. And I have. It’s been awesome to behold as I’ve used my most flexible moves to increase my core strength while trying to add something more feminine or dainty here and there in an attempt to glide instead of plod through.

What the heck does this have to do with you? I know. Here it comes. And it’s pretty awesome. In my follow-up broadcast, in which I talked about how confidence is castable, I reflected upon the whole “strength, flexibility, and grace” combination.

Enter actor Sean Walton and his brilliant ability to pull together another parallel between fitness and the creative pursuit actors go through.

“Strength is what you uniquely bring to the role. Flexibility is your ability to collaborate in the storytelling process. Grace is how you make it all look easy.”

Yes. Oh man, yes!

Let’s break this down.

Your strength as an actor, that’s your YOUNESS. It’s your bullseye. It’s your inherent ability to be YOU and have that line up with exactly what the buyers need at any given time. If this is a weaker element for you, you focus on getting much clearer in your branding, surveying more people about your primary type in order to establish patterns, and communicating more effectively what it is that you nail take after take after take.

Your flexibility as an actor, that’s your DIRECTABILITY. It’s your willingness to listen, to adapt, to “yes, and…” what you’re given. It’s your ability to read a script and interpret something in a way that may be slightly “off” from what they may expect, but in a way that shows you’ve made a clear choice — but not one to which you’re so married that you cannot shift as directed. This is your muscle for collaboration. You strengthen it via improv classes, audition workshops, thinking outside the box without being gimmicky.

Your grace as an actor, that’s your EFFORTLESSNESS. It’s how you make everything seem like second nature. It’s how you float from scene to scene in a shoot or on a stage. It’s that three-point shot at the buzzer. It’s the “in the zone”-ness of everything you do. It’s a combination of confidence and those Gladwell 10,000 hours. It’s doing the Pressfield work. It’s being professional at any level. If your grace is weak, you strengthen it through practice, plain and simple.

Take a look at your acting work and put it in terms of pole fitness for a second. How is your strength? How is your flexibility? How is your grace? If you had to map out your best to your worst, where would each item rank? And then how could you begin to be more directable as you are fully your on-brand self? How could you use your unapologetic youness to add effortlessness to your practice? How can you take the way you make it all look easy to help you with your “yes, and…”?

Don’t let your weaknesses make you feel as though you can’t tackle the most extreme sport there is (a successful career in show business). Let your strengths help you build up complementary elements that will get you to the next tier faster.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/002002.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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