How To Slap Someone (In Duo)

One of the most famous moves in Duo is the often-attempted (and unfortunately, sometimes fumbled) slap. In Duo, two competitors stand next to each other, face the audience, and perform a 10-minute piece without touching each other or looking at each other. Which, as you might imagine, makes slapping each other very difficult. Instead of physically making contact, competitors have to pretend they are interacting with each other face-to-face.

This means that to shake hands, both competitors would need to extend their right hands in front of them and act as though they're shaking hands with someone. Likewise, for a slap, one competitor must extend his or her hand and swipe it swiftly across the space in front of him or her, while the other competitor must jerk his or her head to the side suddenly, as if receiving a blow to the face.

This can be an extremely difficult thing to accomplish because the timing has to be exactly right. And this is not something that is part of every piece (and should therefore not be incorporated into every performance just for the sake of being able to do some cool blocking) but it can be a powerful and simple blocking technique. When it's done correctly, it grabs the audience's attention and pulls them into the piece in a way that few other movements can. Here are a few basics to consider when attempting a slap in Duo:

1) Make sure your hand remains stiff when you slap. A lot of people allow their hands to relax in the air after they pantomime the slap, but it looks feeble to the audience. Keep your hand stiff throughout the motion.

2) Consider the height of the opposing character's head -- practice the slap standing across from each other (you shouldn't actually hit your partner, of course! Just mime the slap in slow motion until you are used to the height).

3) If you are on the receiving end of the slap, don't forget which direction to turn your head. You'll both look like you haven't practiced if you turn it the wrong way. Again, practice standing across from each other, and you should get it right.

4) Time your response right. If you're a second late turning your head after your partner slaps, it's game over. Practice in front of a mirror over and over until you both know the cue. The best way to do this is to match it up with one word in one of your lines; that way you both know to wait for a particular word before moving.

5) The person slapping should raise his or her hand before actually giving the slap; the other competitor will be able to watch this out of the corner of his or her eye to know when to be ready.

6) Do NOT have one competitor make a slapping noise by clapping unless the piece is supposed to be funny. It's unrealistic and you'll likely screw up the timing.

7) If you've been slapped, you need to react as though you have actually been slapped. You should appear shocked, and you should leave your head facing the direction it was forced in for a moment before reaching one hand up to your face and moving your jaw around slowly, like it stings. The most important element of the slap is the timing. If you're even a quarter of a second late, everyone in the room (including you) will cringe, and that's never good. Don't make the decision to adopt this move 15 minutes before a round! Instead, work at it with your partner and make sure it fits in with the rest of your blocking and the structure and themes of your piece.