Originally taken from Baldassare Castiglione’s ‘The Book of the Courtier’, Sprezzatura is an Italian word defined as studied carelessness. It is something we have all been witness to in our lives, a performer creating a spectacle with what looks like little effort, masking the hours, months and years spent tirelessly and frantically preparing. It is the accomplished pianist soloing with abandon, the footballer pulling off a trick and passing a defender with ease, the public speaker holding the attention of the room and staying cool and charismatic. All look effortless in the moment, at least to the spectator.
The reality of course, in all three examples, is the performer has spent many years working on their craft to reach such a level and the particular moment you are witnessing has received countless hours of practice. The pianist knows their scales, their timing and dexterity are finely tuned, they have learned the theory and rules behind their art and have mastered them. Sprezzatura in itself is an artform. Making the difficult and dutifully practiced look effortless and spontaneous. It is the mark every performer aspires to. Performing a feat with such grace on the stage that it is attributed to genius, an innate gift or a divine inspiration. The sheer magnitude of the moment on stage masks the effort going on behind the curtain.
Sprezzatura is rooted in the performer’s unshaken belief, not in their ability, but in the practice they have put into their craft. Nervousness still exists, but the performer places trust in their past actions. The individual has to surrender themselves to the moment and take each second as it comes and nothing more.
In sports, the arts, business, politics and life, sprezzatura is a magnificent act that we can see in play every single day.