So last week I introduced the fact that I was going to use a few weeks’ worth of columns to put the art of applause under the microscope. Last week was more about how I thought the introduction of applause began, and this week I wanted to focus on the legendary concept of the “slow clap”.
I’m pretty sure by now we’re all familiar with the slow clap, and that it is most often used at a dramatic or powerful moment in a movie. The scene usually involves a crowd of people witnessing something heroic, the underdog getting their moment to shine, or that long-awaited kiss between two people that we’ve been rooting for over the past hour and a half of movie. Despite the size of the crowd, it’s usually completely silent, and the only thing that breaks the silence is the beginning of the slow clap.
The slow clap is just that…you hear one person slap their hands together, followed by a delayed second slapping of the hands, followed by a third delayed hand slap. It’s usually around this third delayed slapping of hands, that someone else takes the cue and begins their slow clapping, which prompts a third person, followed by a fourth and so on. The clapping starts slow, and the more people that join in, the faster it starts to become. As the entire crowd is now clapping, cheering begins and it simply becomes a magical moment.
As much as I love the slow clap in movies, I have yet to witness it in person at any point in my life. I think the way the slow clap is done in movies is another one of those “movie moments”, just like when a song starts playing at a dance or social function, and all of a sudden everyone in the building knows all the moves to the dance routine. Yet another magical moment…made for movies.
A few years ago I had written a column about going to a wedding reception and requesting “Thriller”. The “Thriller” dance is by far one of the greatest choreographed dances, and is a marvel to watch performed. But as the “Thriller” music was playing, I was disappointed to see that none of us knew how to do the Thriller dance. Sure, some of us could do a couple of the basic moves well enough to recognize that it was from Thriller, but there was no movie magic where everyone on the dance floor suddenly knew how to do the entire dance routine.
I believe the slow clap is almost impossible to pull off in the real world, because as humans we are reactive to someone else who starts to clap their hands. Even if someone were to try and start the slow clap to create that dramatic effect, I think by the second clap you would have the rest of the crowd clapping full speed, never giving the slow clap a chance to have its moment. Applause has to start with one person, but it’s like a gunshot to signal the start of a race. Once the sound of the first clap fires, everyone else is going to jump in.
The slow clap has become a symbol in our movies as that special moment of accomplishment, inspiration, or pride for overcoming the odds. When researching “applause” online, I learned that the “slow clap” is used in some cultures as an insult. The slow clap is demonstrated to show how unimpressed you are with a performance. I suppose it’s similar to leaving a waiter or a waitress a penny for a tip to make sure you get your point across that you weren’t pleased with the service. While I would think that leaving no tip at all would send the message, intentionally leaving a penny leaves no doubt about what’s on you mind. Same concept for other cultures where not clapping for a performance would seem appropriate when not impressed with the show, but a slow clap leaves no doubt since you can’t ignore the sound of the slow clap.
But since we don’t live in a culture that view the slow clap as degrading, I think there should be more occasions where we try to use the slow clap. In fact, if you have encountered a true slow clap experience, I’d love to hear about it, and I’ll gladly publish the stories in an upcoming issue of The Mena Star.
Clap……………clap…………clap……..clap…..clap….clap…clap..clap..clap,clap, clap, clap, clapclapclapclapclapclapclapclap. Enjoy your week.