Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cat Pairs Slacking Update

Recently, Wendy and Possum introduced Toffee to the feline sport of Pairs Slacking. I've written about slacking before, and I'll quote my own explanation of the sport from a post in 2011, when Possum and Wendy began training at the Pre-Junior (or Beginner) level:
This sport's competitions are high-pressure, breathtaking and emotional — similar to those in [human] figure skating. But here, the nitpicking international judges are looking for unison in lazy posing and an exquisitely lethargic attitude in each lounging couple 
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....

Wendy and Possum tell Toffee about the sparkly costumes worn in competition.

Possum and Harris had tried a bit of pairs slacking practice together in the weeks before Toffee arrived. But the debate about opening the sport to same-sex couples is ongoing, and somehow no one got around to explaining things to Toffee. Wendy and Possum are a well-matched team and have two years of (admittedly on-again, off-again) training together so, if Harris and Toffee can't compete together, what would be the point? 

For the record, we all believe that there's absolutely no reason why same-sex couples should be barred from competition. It's not a bit like figure skating, for example: one cat doesn't have to pick up the other cat, spin it around overhead and throw it into a clean landing. All cats need to do is look similarly exhausted.

As everyone waits for that official decision, valuable training time is being lost. So, with the hope that the Feline International Pairs Slacking Commission will get around to doing the right thing, Possum and Wendy encouraged Toffee to consider a future as a slacker. Possum gave him a quick introductory coaching session with Wendy. Here they are in a beginner-level "school position," the Classic Curl.

As you can see Toffee's maiden effort is far from ideal — to be expected, since most cats need years of practice to attain a professional skill level. His pose mirrors Wendy's to some degree but they are too close. His tail didn't stay curled on his leg with correct lassitude; instead it twitched and fluttered because he was excited about his first lesson. And his head, eyes, and ears are all wrong. He appears wide-eyed and alert instead of lethargic. Instead of attending to his coach, he's staring out the window, looking about as peppy as a curled-up cat can be. 

In my photo, Wendy has broken her position and is expressing some philosophical differences pertaining to Possum's coaching technique. She loved being coached by Snalbert; she and Possum work by themselves now and miss that grumpy, demanding, peachy-colored Persian, as we all do. (You have to trust me on this, but Wendy has come a long way since her early slacking days. She has both ears under control most of the time nowadays, although she still needs to work on bolting.)

But everyone has a lot of work ahead of them. Today, Harris and Toffee were practicing some poses that they may later attempt to polish and perform in unison. As you can see, Harris seems to have even more of a natural gift for slacking poses than Possum has.  He looks as limp and content as a ragdoll — but note his gracefully crossed legs. He makes slacking look effortless.

Toffee, on the other hand..... Slacking is not coming easily to this kitten. No matter how hard he tries to seem sleepy and nonchalant, he can't help looking like he's plotting a feline felony. Of course, he's trying out the Super-Cat pose here, which is much too advanced for him. He is committing the classic novice error of looking like he's flying instead being in a semicomatose state. But he's young; he may learn, and the next Pre-Junior competition isn't even on the calendar yet.

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