By Ben Fogler
If you’ve ever watched Dance Moms or RuPaul’s Drag Race, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a stunt known as the “death drop,” also called a “dip” or a “SHABLAM!” It’s quite an impressive move, as it gives the illusion that someone has suddenly dropped dead. Hence the name. The illusion is achieved by turning your knee inward, extending your leg, and throwing your torso backwards, slamming your body into the floor at high speeds. It both looks and sounds like it hurts, and surprise! It does. But the payoff is worth it -- jaws on the floor every time.
Now, you might be like, “Ben, why would you go to the trouble of learning to death drop? What was your motive here? What was your reasoning?” Good question. The answer is, of course, Speech & Debate. Duh! You should’ve guessed.
I wrote my first ever Milking Cat article about my experience in Speech. A lot has changed since then. I used to do only one event, Radio Broadcasting, which I no longer do because, as I found out this year, it really does not suit me. One fateful practice I was busily practicing Radio when I noticed two of my teammates struggling to find the right voice for one of their characters. You see, many events in Speech are not actually informative -- some of the most fun ones are performance-based. The character that they were struggling with only had a few lines, and she was described in the script as a sort of promiscuous woman. Curious about what was happening, I went over and asked if I could try.
“Can I try?” I asked.
“Sure,” my teammates said.
“Okay.” I took the script and read the line in my most seductive voice. My teammates were agape, my coach was agape, everybody clapped and cheered, and they threw a parade and gave me a key to the city. Needless to say, a star was born.
I have since switched to doing the events of Play Reading, Dramatic Performance, and Multiple. Play Reading is exactly what it sounds like -- you read a play. Dramatic Performance is essentially the same, except you have to memorize the play and you are allowed to move around a lot more. Multiple is like a combination of the two -- you don’t have to memorize, but you are allowed to move around, and also you do it with a team.
My high school’s speech & debate club Multiple team is the best. Us five are like family. We’re so tight knit, if we were linens our thread count would be, like, a billion. Ride or die, etc. etc. Multiple is great because it is incredibly difficult to put one together, so only a few schools will compete in the event throughout the year. This year, our team was up against three others, all with incredibly talented people from some very competitive schools.
We debuted our Multiple at The Hollyfest, which tends to be the biggest tournament of the year. And hol-ly hell, it was intimidating (pun!). It happened to be the first tournament I competed at this season, and we’d had about three weeks to put together our Multiple. Needless to say, we were fourth. A little disappointed but excited to compete again, we set about getting into the knitty-gritty, the real buzzard’s innards, of our performance. And when the next tournament rolled around, we came in second. Then, as luck would have it, the team that had consistently been getting first wouldn’t be competing at the next tournament, and we managed to snag a win.
So what was this article about again? Oh right, death drop. I’m getting to it, hold your horses! We had a little bit of time betwixt that tournament and the next one that would allow us to compete in Multiple, so we decided to take a little break from practicing. During this sabbatical, I became acquainted with a certain dance move. Can you guess what it was? If you guessed “Chassé,” you’re close. If you guessed the Ice Spice twerk, you’re even closer. The correct answer was, of course, “death drop.”
Watching people perform this stunt, I was shook. It looked so cool, and I noticed it didn’t seem to require a ton of flexibility, which meant I would be able to do it. I looked up a few YouTube tutorials and in just a few weeks I was death dropping like a pro. It is a deceptively easy (though rather painful) move to pull off. I will say, though, you really do have to warm up and stretch before you do it. Otherwise, you might actually drop dead.
Part of the reason I had decided to learn this move was for the aforementioned Multiple. You see, there was a part in our performance where I had to jump up and do a little dance around the stage. The thing is, I’m holding my binder, so my dance was sort of just me skipping around and thrusting it in the air a few times. And then I went back to my original place. It lacked that extra oomph at the end. I needed something to really give it that extra pizzazz, to jazz it up and make it memorable. That’s where the death drop came in.
It took some convincing, and several clean executions of the move in front of my coach to demonstrate that, although it looked like it, I wasn’t actually breaking every single bone in my body, but finally I was allowed to death drop in our Multiple. I was elated, and so were my teammates. The thing was, we had to maintain absolute secrecy. We’d become pretty good friends with our competitors from other schools, and we had to ensure that their reactions to witnessing the death drop would be total surprise. No one could know. And no one did.
When I debuted my death drop, it was at our school’s home tournament, and only one of the other school’s Multiples got to see it. Needless to say, they were utterly shook. The issue was, we were stuck performing in a classroom, so I don’t think the judges even saw what happened because I was right in front of a desk. To them, it probably looked like I fell. Luckily, our competitors were in the front row and had a perfect view. They also thought it was hilarious, which unfortunately made it a little bit difficult for us to proceed with the piece. Our script consisted of a few stories that have a deeper meaning about life. The first two were comedic, the last one was about Nazis, so…’twas quite the tonal shift. I death dropped at the very end of the second story, and then we immediately transitioned into the third story, which, again, definitely not the same vibes. Our competitors were stifling amazed laughter, and if you’ve ever been in a situation where you can’t laugh but someone else is, you know it’s the hardest thing to stay serious. It was quite the feat, but we somehow all managed to be totally deadpan. We all knew that if one of us crumbled the rest would, and when the stakes are that high no one is willing to be the person that started cackling.
After our home tournament was States, the last tournament of the year that we’d be able to compete in Multiple. I did, of course, death drop several more times, and we ended up getting second overall (we later learned we were tied for first up until the last round, which is a pretty major victory since the best team is a thousand times more experienced than us). The death drop was a huge hit, and let me tell you I have never seen so many jaws hit the floor simultaneously like that. It was so incredible, and I felt like such a superstar.
I was thinking about it the other day, and I realized that I’m probably the first person to execute a death drop in the entire Massachusetts (and maybe even the nation’s) Speech & Debate League. I don’t know how to fact check that, but it seems likely. And do you know what that makes me? A pioneer. A trailblazer. A man on the frontiers of history, forging a path so that others may one day follow in his footsteps. Golly, I’m an icon. Anyway, next year, I think I may learn to do the jump-splits. I’ll keep you posted!