Some years ago, at drama school, I was taught by a fantastic and inspirational dance teacher, tasked with whipping into shape many a non-dancing actor like myself…
With many of his students, absolute beginners in any kind of movement discipline, a way of inspiring change for those set in their ways would be his mantra of the seven-year cell cycle. Essentially, all the body’s cells replace and renew themselves every seven years. For anyone slightly set in their ways, displaying any injuries or saying no to anything, they were told to train their mind, muscles and body and ignore the limits of now. By pushing through it, working hard and giving it time, they would succeed if they tried. Seven years of work on your physical and mental self and it would be a whole new you.
He was teaching us to be fearless no matter what obstacles we put in our way. We limit ourselves believing what others have told us, to play safe and conform.
In truth, physiologically speaking – there are some parts of your body that do not regenerate – you have what you are born with, but mostly our bodies do renew and seven years is given as the average lifespan of this renewal. Vanity wise, it won’t leave us looking like Benjamin Button but belief in the power of this cellular rebirth gives a sense of anything is possible.
Throughout time and space we’ve seen a love affair grow with the number seven through legend, magic, myth and religion. The beginning of time with creation on the seventh day, the seven wonders of the world, seven deadly sins, seven colours of the rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale, seven seas, seven continents – the list goes on and on. The mystical and lucky number seven has created a sense of power and fortune since ancient times, but surely rational thinking of a binary number is only as credible as superstitions?
Soul singer, Mica Paris, told me last year, that she felt her career had worked on an axis of seven year cycles, the up and down escalator of the entertainment industry often a yo-yo at best. She felt her career across the decades had been peaks and troughs with a seven-year cycle of career highs. Bringing that back to the idea of my dance teacher and the body renewing itself, seven years feels an awfully long time to wait if you’re having a pretty bad run of luck. I think the point is that change is possible within that seven-year axis and that period can be a focus for goals and change. You only have to look at the theory behind the seven-year itch in relationships to see when it’s time to move on to pastures new.
I’ve often thought of my life like the chapters of a book. I read so many autobiographies that I just automatically divide whole chunks of my life into chapters anyway. I tend to get itchy feet, keen to move on to the next experience, relationship, location, career and it’s easy to be pulled along. When you are young, it seems you have an endless life stretched out in front. But in a blink of an eye you could find yourself thinking your best years are behind you. I believe that living within a seven-year cycle helps focus on you want from life.
For me, I think it comes from being an endless list maker, living for crossing things off, getting stuff done, taking on too much. The pleasure comes from the satisfaction of completion, but also the juggling, which drives you to the next place. Making a dramatic change every seven years, in-keeping with the cell renewal of your physical and mental self, makes your life goal orientated.
I think creatives find this journey easy. The longevity of an artist, in whatever field, finds the idea of reinvention and rebirth exciting and needed. Similar to Doctor Who, the metamorphosis into something else is a necessary part of the creative process and for any career longevity, it’s essential. Madonna recently said that ‘the most controversial thing she’s done is stick around’ and that’s more true now than it’s ever been.
In a world where people are treated as disposable commodities it’s more important than ever to find a way of changing, shape-shifting for new experiences, adventures, challenges in your career and personal life. Win, succeed, learn from it and move onto the next adventure. IH
Iain Hoskins is playing Jack Stapleton in Hounds of the Baskervilles at the Stoke Rep Theatre 31st July – 4th August i: @united_theatre
Words by Iain Hoskins