Last group lesson of the year, and the journey so far

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Tonight was my final group tango lesson of the year: the Tuesday Tango Space lesson, also on the medio giro. (I have one more private lesson this year, with Maeve).

When I first decided to do two Tango Space lessons each week, I thought they were the exact same lesson, so I’d be doing each twice. For anything I found difficult, that would give me a second shot at it; for anything that worked the first time, it would be an opportunity to work on improving my technique.

In fact, the theme is the same for each class in any one week, but the exact lesson varies. So both yesterday and today were the medio giro, but the two classes taught two different versions of it – both of which were different to the one Mariano and Steph showed me. There are, I’m quickly learning, endless variations of everything tango …

Yesterday’s version, the leader had to do more of the work. A dissociated (angled) side-step, an outside forward step, a backward cross and a pivot. While the follower had an easier time of it, essentially walking around the leader.

In tonight’s version, it was reversed: the leader had the easier steps, the follower the harder ones. For the leader, a straightforward side-step (leading a slightly smaller step for the follower), an outside forward step and then stand still, lead a side step from a standing position and then a back step with the follower taking a forward one.

Dimitri and Natalia then upped the ante with a parada: the follower stepping over the leader’s leg. So: the leader steps immediately behind the follower’s foot as she steps forward, then leads a pivot (essentially a forward ocho). The follower pivots and then steps over that leg. Again, an easier task for the leader than the follower.

If it sounds like a complicated sequence for a beginner, it is. And yet the mechanics of it, at least, seemed manageable. It basically worked during the lesson, and also when practicing afterwards. I’m sure precisely none of my examples looked elegant, but that’s something I can work on. For me, it’s a triumph to get the logistics down without a million tries.

My potential regular practice partner wasn’t there tonight, but I practiced with a few different followers in the practica afterwards, and enjoyed working/dancing with each of them. I’m still hoping to find a regular practice partner to make the most of the practica sessions, but hey, I’m going with the flow.

I’m in any case going to miss two Tuesdays in January, both theatre evenings (Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York on the 15th and I’m Not Running at the National on the 22nd – each booked before I discovered the Tango Space classes). So the regular partner idea will have to wait a while anyway.

The journey so far

I’m on a tango high at present, so perhaps that will bias my assessment of where I’m at, but right now, I couldn’t be happier.

I mean, I could take a pessimistic view. I’ve been learning for three months, and what I can actually do in a milonga is (a) wait for a song that has a clear beat and phrasing and (b) walk, take side-steps and throw in a few ochos. Oh, and maybe a few rebounds when I remember, which isn’t often.

But, in truth, that’s enough to enjoy the dance. Especially now I’ve figured out how to walk in sufficiently tight circles when the dance floor is too crowded or the couple ahead are not moving into the available space. (When I’m world dictator, that will be a crime punishable by death; vote me, you know it makes sense.)

Also on a pessimistic note, I could observe that the quality of my walk varies tremendously. With Steph, or Bridgitta, or another very experienced follower, I can, in close embrace, and when I concentrate on it, do something which I think is respectable for my stage of learning. But in the practice embrace, or open embrace, it simply doesn’t have the same feel. Maybe that’s just the way it is, but given those are commonly used in lessons, I do need to find a way to make those work too.

But mostly I feel optimistic. Things feel like they are falling into place. I mean, take that medio giro. It’s not that long ago that the very description I gave of the steps above would have had me running for the hills. Feeling it was all too complicated. And different versions in different lessons? FFS, guys, make up your minds how this is done!

The fact that I’m able to make sense of a sequence of steps, then try three different versions and (a) feel ok about it and (b) get an appreciation for the fact that, while the approach is very different, these are just variations on a theme … well, frankly, that’s miraculous.

I’m also feeling like I’ve found my tribe. I’m in the fortunate position that Steph seems to know everyone, so she’s been introducing me to lots of lovely people – but Tango Space has also done a fantastic job at creating a real community. Between the two, I’m already feeling at home on the tango scene.

At which point, I should note that I have a mild form of facial aphasia. This means I have to meet someone many more times than normal before I can reliably recognise them. So it helps me enormously if people kind of re-introduce themselves when we meet!

But this crazy idea of going to Buenos Aires in November? It doesn’t seem quite so crazy any more.

Photo: Shutterstock

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