Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pairs Slacking Revived?

I've posted previously about the competitive cat sport called Pairs Slacking, which was most likely the inspiration for Pairs Figure Skating for humans. In 2011, Wendy and Possum began training together in hopes of making the Cat Olympics someday. It takes discipline and thousands of hours of effort beyond using one's natural slacking ability:
The judging criteria include flopping down in unison, equal mastery of slacking technique, lack of energy, lack of choreography, lack of interpretation, sloppiness of pose, sleepiness of eyes, and graceful foot and tail positions. They get points for achieving all of that.
Points are deducted for seeming too alert or creative, excessive tail energy or ear movement, twitching, being startled by noise (a big challenge for Wendy), and falling or slipping off the slacking surface. Teams lose major points if there is more than one element in their program, i.e., they change position, or if they appear to have practiced too hard. It's a really tricky sport, I'm telling you.
When I last posted about this in April, they were feeling frustrated and decided to take a break It seemed unlikely they'd be able to compete in 2012, even at the pre-Junior Level. Then our Snictoria died, and Snalbert became ill, the rest of us were busier, and training lost its appeal.

Snalbert had a Dick Button–like instinct for coaching our pair, and one of his last gestures in early July, before he died, was to give Wendy and Possum some individual, parting wisdom about several Required Elements of the sport. Here he keeps an eye on Wendy's technique as she practices looking deeply relaxed in one of the Nap Positions.


As you can see, her sleepy head and closed eyes are convincingly stuporous. She also looks glued to the table — heavy and lethargic is an ideal Cat Slacking attitude. But, to the end, Bertie was sharp enough to detect (and attempt to correct) that latent tension in the tip of her magnificent tail — an automatic points deduction in competition. And her left ear has always been rather wayward; any sign of ear alertness is another significant deduction.

After we lost Bertie, the four of us were desolate and abandoned hope for the cats ever succeeding in Pairs Slacking. It seemed they'd never have the discipline and knowledge to train without a coach. But I found them training just the other day. I believe they've recovered their focus and their enthusiasm for working together. It's a testament to Bertie's own dedication to the sport and belief in their ability. And they didn't look half bad. Here they are, practicing the Symmetrical Curl position, another one of the Required Nap Positions:


Now, it's obvious that they are still at the pre-Junior level — Possum looks convincingly comatose, but his tail should be much closer to his nose (it's tough for him to position it correctly with that well-upholstered belly in the way). His right ear is also too alert, and his head is overhanging his right paw, a big points deduction. But he's clearly remembering some of Snalbert's instructions, at least. And Wendy is looking really good: unselfconscious, completely relaxed, like she's made of lead, with a strong, graceful curve to her back that appears effortless. (Compare her to Possum's more amateur form.) Wendy is presenting a terrific nose-to-tail relationship, too. She still needs to work on her ears, but her left ear is actually looking better than her right one this time around. And, best of all, look at the dramatic distance between the two. That demonstrates true aptitude and successful risk-taking in Pairs Slacking. 

We are very excited about their prospects once again.

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