html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Fall in! NOW!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fall in! NOW!

I was reading this article on a mass photo shoot of 20,000 naked people in Mexico City. In keeping with my hippie roots, it all strikes me as sweet and natural and a powerful experience for the participants. But what really struck me as I looked at this picture is how incredibly hard it is to get people to line up straight.

Seriously. When I taught tkd, it was all pseudo-military, and I probably spent two hours over the course of the semester teaching people how to stand in straight lines. Teaching people how to move in unison was harder; there is technique for it, which took people about a couple months to learn. That picture is particularly frustrating to me because they are in a tiled square! There were lines on the ground! Visible guidelines! I bet the photographer told people about them and they still didn't follow instructions. It was easier for me, because there were only eighty people in class. I would tell them to look left and right and put their toes on the same hardwood plank as the person next to them. Then I could walk the lines and move the people who couldn't manage that; a few classes later and most people could put their toes on the same line as their neighbor. Berkeley college students, y'all. The harder lesson was to make people understand that if they are standing in a straight line, they will only see the back of the person in front of them. That's right. If you step a few inches to the side to see the front, you are no longer in line. I swear it took weeks to teach people to get in formation quickly.

Teaching them to move in unison was the next step. Always move at the pace of the highest ranked person in the room, who'll be in the front right corner. Use your breath as an audible guide. When you get good, your uniform will pop, so you can tell if you're in sync with your classmates. I drilled this and drilled this, and eventually they could do it with their eyes closed. But I am always blown away by those martial arts movies where they have hundreds of blackbelts arrayed in straight lines and doing Long Fist in unison. Straight lines. Unison. Long Fist is the easy part.


Anonymous Peter said...

I've always found something vaguely disturbing about those Spencer Tunick mass-nudity pictures but couldn't quite say why. Today, for some reason, it suddenly dawned on me. Back in my college days, during a European History class, I saw a film taken at Auschwitz or one of the other big concentration camps just after its liberation by Allied troops. One of the more unsettling images was a huge pile of naked corpses being prepared for mass burial.
Whenever I see one of Tunick's pictures, that film somehow comes back to mind.

10:39 AM  

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