A more successful variation


Regular readers may remember that the Monday Tango Space classes have a beginner’s class, a 30-minute practica and then an improver’s class. The topic is the same for both beginners and improvers – the latter doing a ‘variation’ on the theme.

You may also recall me deciding last week to stay on for the improver’s class, with what might best be described as mixed results

The first half of the class was great. It’s easier to dance with more experienced followers, so that was a treat, and the class also dances in close embrace, which I find easier. Playing with pace and degree of pivot was also easier with dancers at this level.

But then things went onto a whole new level! The ‘variation’ was a forward ocho with a sacada, a pivot with a second sacada and then into a medio-giro with a parada and finally a sandwich.

I said then that I would henceforth show far greater respect for the V-word.

So this week I came up with a cunning plan:

  • Do the beginner’s class
  • Do the first half of the improver’s class (the technique-focused part)
  • Duck out when the going got complicated

I checked that Federico was okay with this, and he said it was absolutely fine.

I started by reading my personal checklist prior to the beginner’s class, deciding to pay particular attention to the ‘leading pivots with my chest’ part as the topic was the medio-giro. The resetting of the class schedule for the new year meant I’d done the class before, but I still have masses of room for improvement, and it’s all pivot practice, so I was perfectly happy to repeat it.

The beginner’s class was great. We got to do the same movement over and over again, which is exactly what I need to try to embed it into muscle memory, and to have enough attention dollar left to focus on technique.

I really enjoyed both the class and the practica afterwards, integrating the walk and medio-giros with several followers – a mix of those from the beginner and improver classes. Then into the improver’s class.

After my last lesson with Mariano, my homework was to practice 180-degree pivots and really focus on leading first with the chest, then with the hips and finally with the feet – and to think ‘upward spiral’ while doing this. I did that daily last week, and my lesson with Maeve was focused on the giro, with fluidity the aim.

I could really feel the difference all this made when doing the medio-giro, and one of my followers in the improver’s class spontaneously complimented me on my dissociation, saying it made my lead really clear. That was lovely to hear.

Although my plan was to excuse myself halfway through, there were more followers than leaders, so I decided to stick with it as long as I could. And fortunately, this week’s sequence wasn’t as complicated as last time: a medio-giro with a parada, into two forward ochos, then exiting into the walk.

Because I’d just done the medio-giro many times, I was comfortable with that. That gave me enough brain left over for the extra bit of pivot and the parada. And half my lesson with Maeve had been on ochos, so that was all fine too. I couldn’t have been better prepared!

Everything worked really well in the open embrace. We then moved into doing it in the close embrace. That was much more challenging!

But not a disaster by any means. It was still more-or-less working, and I clearly wasn’t the only person to be finding the transition into close-embrace a challenge with this one.

I’d felt a total fraud in the second half of the improver’s class last week, but this week I didn’t. I’m going to take the same approach for future Mondays: stay on for the improver’s class and see how I get on. I can always make a run for it when the steps get too complex.

So, the tango high continues! I’m going to the Tuesday class tomorrow, which will teach a different version of the medio-giro, and I’ll then aim to do a mix of practicing and dancing in the milonga. At which point, we’ll see how much of this stuff I can incorporate into dance – and whether I can still remember how to dance milonga!

Photo: Shutterstock

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