The lady is for turning


Tonight’s Tango Space workshop was an intensive one on the giro. This is something I could do in a rather clunky fashion, but wasn’t anything like confident enough to consider trying it in a milonga, so two hours devoted to it seemed like an excellent plan.

After a little dancing to warm up, the leaders and followers separated while Pablo and Anne respectively taught us our own parts. For the leaders, we started with a 180-degree pivot, then a 270-degree one, and finally a 360-degree one …

The emphasis was on dissociation: having the chest pivot 90 degrees before the hips and feet got in on the action, and to have the whole thing be one fluid motion.

180 degrees was easy. 270 degrees worked most of the time. But the gap between 270 degrees and 360 seemed rather larger than a mere quarter-turn! It was somewhere in that gap where my sense of control and balance deserted me – at least, most of the time. I did have a couple of times where it worked.

Meantime, we could see and hear the followers being taught their ‘sidestep, forward step, sidestep, back step’ pattern.

Let the games begin

To emphasise that a giro can begin and end anywhere in the sequence, Pablo and Anne introduced a couple of games. In the first, we worked in threes: a leader, a follower and observer. The observer called out left or right, and side/forward/back. The leader then had to lead that opening. For example, if they called left back, then the leader had to lead a backward ocho to the left, and continue the giro from there. For right side, lead a side-step to the right – and so on.

It was really good at giving a sense of the flexibility available to us. Each thing I learn, I tend to start with one fixed version, and stick with that until it feels comfortable, and only then play with variations. That’s an effective approach for a bear of little tango brain, but it’s good to see the future possibilities. For now, however, my giros begin strictly with a side-step to the left, thank you very much.

I won’t go into the second game, as it would take longer to describe than is justified by your likely interest level, but it was again another effective way of giving a sense of the flexibility that will, one day, be available to me.

Giro time!

After that, it was time to see whether all this preparation delivered the desire result …

There were three good pieces of news for me. First, the entry method being taught was the one I’m already comfortably using for medio-giros. Second, I was initially partnered with a follower who was unsure of her own steps, so I helped her by calling out ‘side, front, side, back’ – which was equally helpful to me in familiarising myself with the follower’s steps, and was something Bridgitta had me doing when we worked together on them. Third, we had a fixed exit for the purposes of the exercise: taking a side-step as our follower did the back ocho, so I didn’t end up going round in an endless circle trying to figure out how to exit it.

Once we’d practiced them with a number of different partners, we then spent a little time dancing – again, with a new partner each dance – so that we got some experience of including them in our dance.

I wouldn’t say I reached the point of being comfortable with them. I was still struggling with the exit, where I either needed to change my own weight without changing my follower’s weight, or vice-versa. Mostly that didn’t work, but when I asked one of my final followers what was a clear way to change her weight, she gave me an idea which I employed with some success in the last few dances. If I combine that approach with Bridgitta’s one of simply closing the embrace again and then leading a weight change, and I think I will finally get there.

I definitely want more practice before I try it in a milonga, but the evening did represent marked progress in the right direction. If I’m able to incorporate it into the practicas on Monday and Tuesday, alongside the ocho-cortado which is next week’s theme, it might even happen this week …

Image: Shutterstock

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