Awarding myself achievement points for three things

tango achievements.jpg

Tonight was the second Tango Space class of the week, again on the medio-giro. In hindsight, I should have gone to the improver’s class rather than the beginner’s one, as that would have further developed my skills; it just didn’t occur to me in time.

But the beginner’s class was still great to get lots of practice, and in a rather crowded room that included adjusting the size and angle to suit the available space, so that was really useful …

I’m in no way perfect at the medio-giro; some examples are better than others. But I do now feel comfortable with it. The feel of the movement makes sense to me, and I feel at ease doing it. That’s a big shift from not long ago.

And tonight, I used it in the after-class milonga. That’s my acid test of whether I’ve really got a feel for something.

I’m still getting a sense of how to use pivots to express the music. It’s more challenging than just steps, especially with a fellow beginner who isn’t expecting me to change the pace during the figure. I think this is something I need to practice on my own at home more – but I know I can do that. The hard part for me is always getting enough familiarity with the movement that it becomes somewhat fluid. Once I’ve achieved that, playing with it to the music is both easier and more enjoyable, and further fluidity follows.

Update: I’ve been playing with this when practicing on my own, and now have a good feel for how to use the medio-giro musically. The test, as usual, will be how well I can do this when actually dancing.

I’m giving myself achievement points for three things now.

Thinking movement, not steps

First, for the medio-giro, I’m now thinking much more in terms of the movement I want to communicate to my follower, rather than my own steps.  When first learning a new figure, my focus is 95% on my steps and the poor follower has to make do with the 5% that’s left. With the medio-giro, after all these repetitions (I love, love, love lots of repetitions!), it’s at least 90% follower’s movement, 10% steps – maybe better.

I’m not there yet with the full giro, in part because the focus is on leading the follower’s steps while mine are less important, but I know I’ll get there too with enough repetition. I need to persuade Steph to indulge me in some giro practice.

Figures are the journey, not the destination

Second, this whole idea that there are only two elements to tango – steps and pivots[1] – is just starting to make sense as something more than an intellectual concept. There are infinite variations. Steps can be forward, back, left, right, diagonal. They can be small or large. Full steps or half-steps. Slow or fast. Constant speed, accelerating, decelerating, with a pause midway …

And pivots can be left, right, and any arbitrary number of degrees. They too can have all the variations of size and pace. They can be interrupted by funky things I vaguely know about, like paradas, and doubtless many more funky things I don’t.

[1] Thomas Keene pointed out that pauses are another element, something I really should have included, and I guess weight changes should also be mentioned, so four elements in total.

All the figures taught in classes are just examples. Examples of how different combinations of steps and pivots can be connected. The long-term aim is not to be able to do the figures, but rather to get enough experience of myriad ways of combining steps and pivots that we are able to create our own movements.

So I see now that my initial idea of learning just a few figures, and to practice them enough to do them well, was a somewhat naive one. Without experience of different figures, it’s hard to get a feel for what is possible. How steps and pivots can be used as building blocks. Constructing a certain number of standard lego kits first is a good way to develop the ability to design your own structures. Figures are the journey, not the destination.

‘You’re going to be a really nice dancer’

I’m fortunate enough to have danced with quite a few experienced dancers by now. If any of them, or my teachers, were telling me I was a good dancer, I’d know it was BS. I’m a beginner. I make beginner’s mistakes. I have a very limited vocabulary. I don’t know the music well enough to anticipate. Etcetera, etcetera.

I have honest friends. They’re not telling me I’m good. But I am now consistently hearing one thing, often in more-or-less the same words: ‘you’re going to be a really nice dancer.’

And I’m starting to believe them. I don’t think I’m going to be a fancy dancer. I don’t think I’m going to be appearing in any YouTube videos. But the feedback I get on my embrace, on my walk, on my musicality, on my attitude, does lend credibility to the idea that I’m on the right path to one day earn that label.

Photo: Shutterstock


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