Slow: Work in Progress

When you look up the definition of “slow”, you come up with a number of synonyms: unhurried, leisurely, measured, moderate, deliberate, steady, easy, relaxed; but also sluggish, time-consuming, procrastinating, obtuse, dull, slow-moving, quiet. Reflect on that last one: quiet. Breathe it in like a fine wine or a morning-awakening coffee: quiet. How difficult it is to embrace quiet – measured, or even dull – in our bustling times. How we banish slow from our pursuits of high-adrenaline activities and don’t see the benefits of unhurriedly moments.

As tango dancers, we are taught to acknowledge the stillness, appreciate the pause in a song. This suspension of movement is just an illusion as bodies are constantly dynamic – you are still breathing, you are still full of life. Your muscles elongate and project, creating a bridge between two different lands: time and motion. This bridge deepens the connection between partners as their bodies are so quiet, they listen to any subtlety, any ripple of emotion brewing underneath. As a dancer you acknowledge that pause and honour the change of rhythm. After all, you are an instrument just like the piano, the strings, the bandoneon, the voice…Your interpretation, your musicality adds yet another layer to the complexity of tango music.

Take for instance this breathtaking interpretation of “Este es El Rey”, a song with an array of speed bumps not dissimilar to our lives: hurrying to our daily commute; slowing down to have lunch at your desk or enjoying a hot drink between meetings; pausing to queue up for shopping, banking, medical appointments, post office, waiting for the lift, waiting for a friend who is late, waiting for a late train…the pauses are few far between but when they happen, they are noticeable. This song, for me, is how I’d imagine being inside a racing car, with growing anticipation as it starts to accelerate and relaxing as it slows down at the bends – only when it needs to slow down. The performance gives me those same goosebumps and it’s such a joy to watch this couple’s musicality!

In life, just like in tango, sometimes we need to slow down. Now is one of those times. These are out-of-balance times, where most of us must quieten while others must go full speed; the scales are not only tipped over, the plates have completely fallen off. Then we have the inbetweeners (no, not the TV show), the volunteers who are bridging this void: they are providing assistance to ease the health service, support local community; they are minding the gap in this bumpy ride and help move the country when we are asked to slow down. The full-speeders and the inbetweeners are heroes of these times, to whom I will honour in a follow-up blog post – they deservedly merit a whole piece just for them.

To the other heroes of this story, the decelerators, the message is: “Stay home. Don’t travel. Save lives”. We are being told that by slowing down, by minimising our engagement with the physical world, we are helping wider society: helping those at risk, helping those saving lives, helping those feeding the nation. When you look deeply into it, we are being asked to move to Nature’s rhythm. We have been conditioned to live under the Age of the Machine, and as a collective, we are now out of step with our natural surroundings. Perhaps it’s time to relearn slow while we’re feeling displaced, and enjoy being suspended in the moment. Ready? Lesson number one: watch the video below.

This performance is so deliciously silky, looks effortless, and feels calm. While watching the video above, feel your heart rate easing and a sense of serenity settling in. Embrace it. Let it come in. Just like the seasons you are now starting to observe more closely, let Spring nest inside for a bit and feel the slow and quiet bring in tranquility…That back step from Stephanie initiated at 2’09” that grows in suspension as her body slowly shifts backwards with Fausto’s lead. She brings her left foot closer to the ground by fully transferring its weight from toe to heel at 2’12”, her right leg brushes by and the move is followed by a beautiful cross and then a sandwich at 2’16”. Those magical first three seconds, a moment of suspension so rich in dynamics! It reinforces the idea that if you show control, technique and balance in slow motion, you have it all in the most testing of times.

If you know me well, you will know I usually don’t do slow. I am always in a hurry, always running, always in a permanent state of alertness. At first, this lockdown felt unnerving but I have grown to enjoy slowing down, observing Nature as I used to as a child. I don’t necessarily have more free time to do things but now I have time to do what is important to me: heal. In an attempt to find a routine while I process what’s happening, I joined a writing group and now spend an hour every weekday morning just writing (in fact, this blog post is the result of this blissful experiment). So thank you to London Writers’ Salon for your Writers’ Hour (8-9am BST), opening up a space for writers like me to be part of a community while the world has sat on the remote control, pressing multiple buttons at once!

What better way to finish this blog post about going slow other than with the very wise words from a 1980s cult film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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