After rather too little sleep last night, I was feeling very tired, but didn’t want to miss a second Tango Space class, so decided willpower would make an adequate substitute for energy.

The theme was the back ocho, and the improver version ended in a new-to-me version of a Medio-giro, with a parada to complete the sequence …

A back ocho is where the leader takes side-steps while dissociating (or in some versions, just dissociates without the steps) while the follower is at 90 degrees to the leader, steps backwards in front of him, pivots 180 degrees and then repeats as desired. We then added a half-turn to this, where the leader keeps their feet still, opens the chest to the right and keeps opening to lead the follower in a side-step and forward step followed by a 180-degree pivot. Finally, the follower steps over the leader’s foot. (There was one extra element thrown in at the end, where the leader sweeps his foot around as he pivots and then snaps it back into the parada; my attempts at that weren’t pretty.)

It was the usual story: as soon as I have steps (or movements) to master, my technique suffers. I’m calmly resigned to this now, and know it’s just a process: get a handle on the sequence and then, once I have the basic idea, bring my focus back to my technique.

It’s not a 100% ideal process, of course, in that poor technique can make it harder for the follower, but having decent technique while failing to lead the movement we’re supposed to be learning is even less helpful, so c’est la vie.

I still seem to be struggling with my left hand for some reason. In part because different followers seem to want very different things. Steph wanted a rather strong push from the hand, while other followers find that too much. But for ochos, both Hamdi and Julia emphasised the importance of a solid connection in the hand.

I was also making connections of a different kind. The half-turn wasn’t given a name, and looked very different from the medio-giro I’d learned before, but it was as Julia was talking the followers through their steps – back-step, side-step, forward-step – that I realised that’s a medio-giro. To the opposite side, and with a very different look and feel, but the same sequence of movements. The interconnectedness of everything tango.

My ocho-leading technique can definitely use more work, and in an ideal world I would have stayed on for the beginner’s class afterwards, but I was keen to get in a little dancing in the milonga and knew that the willpower/energy substitution plan wasn’t going to hold out for another hour’s class plus milonga, so I danced a couple of tandas.

I did manage to successfully lead some giros, though my exits are rather flakey! I need to do more work on those, but am very happy to promote giros to something I can actually do in a milonga.

My first tanda was with a regular from the improver’s class; my second was a more experienced dancer, so I thought I’d experiment with the Follower’s Liberation idea of offering her the space to propose something. That didn’t happen – she just waited for me to lead – but she was doing some adornos, and I had better sensitivity to those.

One amusing possibility did strike me: that both leader and follower could be waiting for the other. I could do a suspension, and feel the follower is doing something, so I wait for her to finish. Meantime, she’s just doing adornos while she waits for me to lead the next thing. So we both wait for each other!

That idea seemed all the more possible when my second follower said that sometimes leaders start ploughing on while she’s still in the middle of something. I didn’t want to be the guy to do that to her – especially after she’d just mentioned it!

But Steph said I didn’t need to worry about it. Because I dance to the phrases in the music, I’m not going to suddenly set off mid-phrase, and because the follower will also be dancing to the music, setting off at the beginning of the next phrase will be safe.

I was too tired to stay longer, much as I’d liked to have done so, but it was good to do some dancing in the milonga.

I returned home to find lovely messages from both Diego and Emma in appreciation of my blog post about their class. And tomorrow my lesson with Diego – really looking forward to it.

Image: Shutterstock

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