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the SLOW movement

September 1, 2009

Is it the new sustainable, savourable, sanity-saving black?

Turf that Multitasking for Dummies guide in the bin, baby. Not only is multitasking a myth, it’s way uncool.


Slow food. Slow cities. Slow design. Slow travel. Slow leadership. Slow thinking. Slow just-about-anything-you-like. Including actual slow movement: Tai Chi, some yoga forms, and of course, Feldenkrais.

But what does slow really mean?

Teaching group Feldenkrais classes (Awareness Through Movement) is a great opportunity to observe just how relative a phenomenon time is to each of us. After giving an instruction to do a movement slowly, I’ve observed some students flop about like goldfish on the living room floor, and others move so glacially I had to restrain the urge to go over and check their hearts were still beating. Is there an ideal speed for ‘slow’ in an ATM? I don’t know. The main point of moving slowly in a Feldenkrais lesson is to give yourself the necessary time to notice what you are actually doing (which may be quite different to what you think you are doing). The awareness that develops from this is an essential part of the learning process which allows you to take your newly-learned efficiency of movement into everyday life.

The practice of moving slowly has a profound effect on tango follow, too. In the early stages of learning follow, most tango students focus on correctly interpreting the lead. Eager to demonstrate this ‘correct interpretation’ to one’s dance partner, a follow will rush on the slightest suggestion into a step. Frustrated leads and tango teachers alike call this “anticipation” and in tango, it’s Not a Good Thing. Why? Two very important reasons. First, unless the lead is highly experienced, on a crowded dance floor it may be vital for a lead to make a split second change to avoid a collision. Anticipation completely removes that choice. Second, it kills the conversation of tango. It’s like talking with someone who constantly pre-empts the end of your sentences. Or worse, faulty interpretation can lead to no conversation at all (“Do you like Chekov?” “I’ll have the fish, thanks.”). Follows, if you want to really savour the tango, festina lente. Unless you’re dancing a milonga, there’s no sin in being slow. Moving slowly actually alters your perception of time: it feels like you have more time to become aware of the lead and choose your response.

Which leads (pun intended) me back to what does slow mean? Regardless of objective speed, I think it means creating the time for awareness, and choice.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Natalie Shaw permalink
    September 1, 2009 8:48 pm

    I may just be inspired to start tango lessons .. why haven’t I caught up with your blog before???

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