A Study in Speed

Often, we discern speed as a manifestation of duality. An association of action.  Slow pervades a perception of reduced intensity.  A less active approach to work, slow seems easily observed as synonymous with the uneventful, perhaps dull. Fast, an execution in energetic engagement. Fast is physical.  Slow is sluggish.

Today, in introduction to our first repertory piece, “O Mortal,” the instructor and choreographer skewed this familiar perception.  A solo comprised of a mere minute of choreography stretched intentionally into nearly 7 minutes, she asked that in the slowness, we discover the dimension of speed.

The solo itself spawned from a study in the utilization of time.  As an admittedly indulgent and luxurious mover, the choreographer explained that “O Mortal” was primarily a study in exploration of the realm of quickness. In a desire to challenge the stable comfort of habit, the choreographer shared her deliberateness for this piece to betray the confines of her personal convention in attempt to research a new dynamic.  However, through specific research and careful inquiry, in aspiration to embody “fast,” she created a solo of slowness.

A meditative solo, seemingly influenced largely by the dance forms Yoga and Butoh, the choreography itself insists on hyper-controlled, slow motion.  The dancer stands before the audience in anatomical position, shoulders aligning over the hips, weight evenly distributed between two parallel first feet. The right scapula initiates motion, lifting the right arm slowly from its contentment at the body’s side, rearranging the encircling air particles as it invades the uninhabited space that surrounds. Maintaining a slight bend at the elbow with palms facing forward, the arm gradually rises.  Meticulously, the shoulder begins rotation, which trickles steadily down the pivotal joints of the extending arm, reorienting the arm above the head.  All the while, the left arm trails behind in calculated design.  Paving a mirrored pathway, it accomplishes the exact maneuver of the right arm, only seconds behind.

The ease with which the body moves seems an almost subconscious efficacy. Daily, my body grants my various wishes to move and be moved, without the exertion of great physical or mental vigor. And hence, I’ve forgotten, regrettably, the intricacy of acton.

Superficially, lifting an arm from one’s side to above one’s head, appears an effortless, dauntless task.  Yet, in its simplicity lies an innate complexity.

Beyond the engagement of flesh, muscles contract efficiently, bones combat the authority of gravity, blood flows incessantly, and cells motor freely.  All of these elements and still, because the eye is intrinsically blind to the fundamental mechanics, the action owns a facade of ease.

In this respect, even by lifting my arm as slowly as possible, there is activity.  There is speed. Speed in synapses, impetus, and mechanism.

Maybe speed is less a manifestation of the definite and rather a collaboration of opposition.  A relativity prescribed by the limitation of the eye.  Maybe quickness is less distinguishable from slow than we might at first perceive.

In slowness, fastness submissively exists. Maybe it is less a manifestation of duality and more vividly, an implementation of inseparability.

I hope this discovery fuels a new sensitivity to the execution of the choreography, an attention to all that occurs beneath the surface to perform motion.