Saturday saw me at Tango Garden for some guided practice with Bridgitta in the practica – plus a floorcraft exercise in the milonga.
Bridgitta started the latter by discussing some scenarios – like someone walking backwards into our space – and different ways to handle them. Then we just walked arm-in-arm so we could focus purely on floorcraft, with Bridgitta having the same view of the ronda as me.
I felt somewhat self-conscious about this strange arm-in-arm thing we were doing in a busy milonga, but it was obvious from quite a few knowing and approving smiles that this was a recognised and appreciated technique …
In the practica, the main focus was on giros. I’m able to use medio-giros in dance, but didn’t feel I was at that stage yet with full giros, so I wanted to get more practice at those.
Bridgitta also very much focused on a ‘following the follower’ approach, which I loved. I’m just getting small tasters at the moment of tango as a 50/50 collaboration between leader and follower, but this was a great example. When giving Bridgitta full rein to control the pace, my job then became to mirror her movements – and to decide when to end the turn.
Which was amusing – as I’m better at starting giros than ending them! Steph had given me feedback that I needed to send a clear stop signal with my left hand, not creating any more space for her to move into. Bridgitta built on this, showing how ceasing my dissociation and moving in to meet the follower leaves no doubt.
She also showed how I could, in slower dance, make moving back into close embrace really feel like part of the dance.
Refining my ochos
We played with the same idea in ochos, and Bridgitta also pointed out that I was applying pressure on her back that (a) isn’t needed and (b) can make a follower feel like she’s being pushed into an ocho, rather than invited into one. This is likely a bad habit picked up when dancing with fellow beginners, trying to make the lead very clear – and Bridgitta says even some very experienced dancers still do it because it’s never been corrected.
Some technical corrections feel like hard work – an extra layer I have to think about. But this one was the opposite: it makes leading an ocho easier when I understand all I need do is issue an invitation. Similarly, following the follower in giros isn’t an extra thing I have to manage, but rather the opposite. It makes my job simpler.
Bridgitta also did some embellishments in ochos. As I’m mostly dancing with fellow beginners, I have next to no experience of this, and when I do dance with an experienced follower am worried that I won’t realise she’s doing it – and will then move off before she’s ready. In this case, it was obvious Bridgitta was doing something, but I wasn’t sure what or how long she would need.
But that was again a comforting learning point: so long as I can see/feel that something is going on, I don’t actually need to know what. I also don’t necessarily need to know when the follower plans to complete it so long as I don’t move off abruptly, rather using a suspension to make it clear that I’m leading up to a move, so the follower can adjust if required.
The key thing is for me not just to stand there, but to continue dancing, even if that is the smallest and slowest of pivots.
Dancing to Pugliese
Bridgitta laughed at the fact that I now wanted to dance to Pugliese! She remembered me finding it impossible to dance to not so very long ago. But now, I really love the popular Pugliese songs, and am, slowly, learning to dance to them. Remembranzas is perfect for slowing my dance, and especially for using suspensions – something in which I’m just starting to feel my way.
Glossary: A suspension is a barely-moving pause in which you can feel tension building, leading up to faster movement.
We danced several Pugliese songs, and Bridgitta said it felt really nice. She said if I danced like that in milongas, I’d get dances.
Dancing the corrections
Beginners make plenty of mistakes, and very new beginners tend to freeze when we do so. A common theme from all of my teachers has been to dance through them – to just figure out a correction and keep going.
Bridgitta built on this idea. She’d noted me suddenly becoming aware of an issue in my technique, and correcting it, and talked about ‘dancing the corrections.’ In other words, instead of making an abrupt change from the ‘wrong’ way to the ‘right’ way, to play with it – make the change part of the dance itself. That’s a really great approach.
So a really fun and useful session! Then another lesson with Mariano tomorrow, and Tango Space classes on Monday and Tuesday. Bridgitta is as amused as Steph by the way I’ve been completely sucked into tango.
I just upgraded my Tango Space membership to the unlimited one, so I have the option of doing the Improver as well as beginners classes as appropriate. Next week’s theme is just given as ‘Changing direction,’ so I’m not sure exactly what we’ll be doing, but am looking forward to finding out!