The Real Story Behind Duck Tut Awareness Month

Step aside Mothers and Veterans, May has a new made-up cause for celebration now. If you haven’t already heard, May has been decried “Duck Tut Awareness” month by Obama in one of his latest acts of presidency during his final few “I don’t give a fuck” months in the White House.

With memes a’plenty and arguments the rage, I’d like to take a moment, step back, and reflect on the real story behind the hype.

Duck Tuts are not the enemy here.

I know that might be confusing. Contrarian even. Walk with me for a moment as we travel back in time to the once crammed aisles of a local Missourian Hot Topic where we find an angsty, adolescent dancer by the name of Houdoken.

So, there I was, about 17 or 18 and shopping in Hot Topic (I’ve since forgiven myself, you should too) and I found myself, as I often do, dancing to whatever crap was pumping through their speaker system. Throwing some tuts and I hear the girl behind the counter start singing…
“I’ve got two ducks / And I turn them into a BOX!”, she improvs, while watching me tut.
Now, mind you, this was before “duck tuts” were a thing to be called out on and so I thought it was the best reaction I’d ever got from dancing in public (so far).
I told her so and answered a few questions about dance that she had, then left the store feeling like a boss. It’s still one of my most cherished reactions to my dance I’ve received.

The moral of the story isn’t that Ducks are bad. Hell, they inspired someone to make fanart. That’s actually kind of cool. The moral is that Houdoken’s attention was brought to the Ducks and because of that, he was given the choice to decide whether or not he wanted to continue doing them. He had become mindful of the Ducks. He could embrace them, drawing purposeful attention to the fact that they look like actual Ducks (to an onlooker) and use them as comic relief. He could recognize that they draw an obtuse angle and continue to build off of that as a visual motif. Or he could decide that he didn’t actually like them at all and their initial use was a mistake that he can now resolve. Fuck it…he could choose all 3 if he was a boss, and he is, so he has. I seenz it. Follow him on Facebook.

The point is: Duck Tuts are simply a metaphor for mindfulness. A metaphor for paying attention and deciding whether or not change is due. A metaphor for metaphors, metaphoring the meta’d phors.

More often than not, I find street dancers in the mindstate of “just doin’ me” without any reflective moments of who “me” is and even scarier, if “me” should change (god forbid). If your goal is to be the best dancer you can be, and you weren’t born the best dancer you can be…guess what? You have to change. Maybe even your fundamental beliefs about what it means to be “the best” or what “practice” means or taking a deeper look into your motivations as to why you even do this thing called dance.

Just know that slowing down, being mindful of your motions and actually making a conscious decision to do what you want to do is not changing who you are. I would argue that this deeper introspection would be more akin to being even more “you” than winging your dance on a day to day basis, hoping good things eventually come.

Of course, becoming mindful of every millimeter of your body, the lines it’s drawing, the space it’s inhabiting, the motivations behind doing all of these things — it’s not a complete change that happens overnight and it’s never something you’re finished with. It’s a process that can be taken step by step and that’s what Duck Tut Awareness calls attention to. Taking this journey one small detail at a time — starting with the posititioning of your hands inside of one very specific dance. Take this mindfulness, start small, make corrections and then branch out little by little. Soon your hands won’t be a problem anymore. They’ll be the “new baseline” and you’ll be able to position them in the way you actually want without conscious effort. If that’s already the case…move on to the next piece of your dance.

Here’s a few more starting points if you give 0 fucks about hand positioning or you already have that shit on lock:

  • Read up on Deliberate Practice. We’ve all heard of the “10,000 hour” rule, but the science shows that simply doing something over long periods of time doesn’t actually lead you towards mastery. It’s the deliberation involved in the practice that’s key. Consider your typing speed. You type literally every — single — day. Why aren’t you typing 1,000 words per minute by now? Physical limits? Maybe. But even 100wpm? Totally possible, but very few of us actually get there even though we “practice” typing every day. The key is — we don’t actually practice. We type without mindful analyses of our flaws and without taking the additional steps necessary to correct our technique. Keep this in mind as you “practice” your dance. Are you being deliberate? Or do you feel you’re good enough to not care anymore? If the latter is the case, you are no longer progressing. You are content. You have become a faux master.
  • Consider meditation. I know. I know. When people told me this years ago, I would write it off in one way or another. Those hippies don’t dance or whatever excuses you may have drummed up that are more clever than mine. Maybe some of you have even given it a shot but quit because it was difficult. Make no mistake about it, especially in our day in age where we have entertainment at our fingertips to distract us from even the slightest bit of boredom — it IS hard. But that’s okay. Dance is hard, too. Giving birth and raising your punk ass was hard, too. You have to practice to get better. What I most often hear when meditation is brought up is a downright lack of understanding of what meditation is, how to do it and/or why it’s important (especially in the context of dance). People get on their high spiritual horses and in their softest, most condescending voices tell you that meditation is great. I’m not trying to be that guy. For the sake of not going off track with this article, I thought about finding some other article about meditation to link you to. But then I realized that’s also fucking condescending. So I said fuck it and wrote one of my own. Check it after you’re done here.
  • Fall in love with the Plateau. We’ve all been there. We put the hours in, but god damnit…we’re just not getting better. New ideas are not flowing. We feel stale. We feel too …something. Or perhaps not enough? A great movement artist, Marvin Ong, once gave me the advice of “loving the plateau.” At first, I didn’t get it. But eventually I came across another piece of advice that made it click. Ze Frank said “Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else, and if it is, let me become fascinated by the shape of the stone.” Becoming fascinated by the shape of the stone is how I fell in love with the Plateau. And that all comes back to being mindful of the details.

That’s all I got. Seriously, that was a lot of text. As Pascal said, “I apologize for the length of this letter but I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

Got some Duck Tut Awareness memes? Some tips and tricks on staying mindful in practice? Just wanna call me a holier-than-thou hippie for recommendation meditation? Here’s your chance.

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