My legally-mandated dose of self-delusion was delivered after all

forward ochos.jpg

Be careful what you wish for …

In conversation among experienced dancers, someone said most people make it through the first couple of years of tango thanks to a healthy dose of self-delusion. By the time they realise they weren’t anything like as good as they thought they were, they are over the hump – or at least, too far in to escape.

In reference to my six month appraisal, I complained that I hadn’t been supplied with the self-delusion to which I was apparently entitled …

But it seems I was wrong.

I’ve said that a downside of the steps-focused nature of group classes – a necessity for schools given that’s how most people measure their progress – is that I have to spend a lot of time focusing on that what, and don’t get as much as time as I’d like to concentrate on the how.

But the great benefit of repeating the Tango Space cycle is that I’m this week on familiar territory, at least for the beginner classes: the forward ocho. That allows me to have my attention on technique rather than steps.

Which is great, but … better for one’s development than one’s ego!

Seems I did have some self-delusion after all

I was happy that I can lead ochos easily and fluidly. I can end them nicely for beginners and experienced dancers alike. They feel good to me. I get nice feedback from my followers. And I even have enough comfort with them that I can be playful, varying the timing and pivoting my follower between front and back ochos.

However, put all my focus on technique – and have teachers now casting the same eagle eye over my pivots they did over my walk – and things look rather different!

Where ochos are concerned, I’ve been cheating.

To give a really clear lead, and to feel like I’m staying with my follower, I was focused on my chest. But lacking the degree of dissociation I really want, I’m twisting my lower body somewhat too. Instead of nice, clean side-steps, I have kind of diagonal ones.

It works, and Diego’s advice to think chest and not worry so much about feet was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. But, to lead ochos properly, I have a lot of work to do on my dissociation. 

I think it may now be brutal truth time: I think I need to take a deep breath and actually video my pivots so that I can see the gap between my mental image of what I’m doing and what I am in fact doing. And then, slowly, gradually, eventually, work on closing the gap between the two.

That’s not the only thing, either. I led Julia, and she said that I wasn’t consistent in holding my frame. My left arm was sometimes getting ahead of my shoulders, sometimes lagging behind them. I’ve been pondering some method of practicing this. I’ve tried it with a broom handle across my shoulders, but that’s totally the wrong position. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Though no self-delusion about steps!

The improver’s class introduced a sequence that went from forward ochos into an Americana, then the leader keeps opening to the left into a kind of variation on the medio-giro. The follower’s steps after the Americana were a side-step, a back-step and <mumble>. The leader’s steps were <mumble>.

Somewhere in the mix was a leader cross. I managed the worst version of this that has ever been seen. The leader cross itself is something I can practice; the steps, not a chance. No-one will ever accuse me of a choreographed dance as I’m physically incapable of remembering any sequence of more than three things. A giro is the absolute limit of my tango brain.

But although there is no hope of me ever doing anything like that sequence, the first part of it – the ochos into an Americana – is rather nice. And experimentation showed that you can go directly from that back into ochos, which also feels rather lovely. So that much of it, I hope to employ at some stage.


Tuesday has an improver’s class, a beginner’s class and a milonga. Last Tuesday’s milonga was where I had my first tangasm, and I’m kind of a bit scared to dance tomorrow as there’s no way it can compare.

But then, highs wouldn’t exist with lows and in-betweens, right?

And it seems I have a tanda booked already: I helped a beginner follower break in her (rather lovely) new shoes during tonight’s practica, and she felt it might be time for her first milonga outing. Since I didn’t break either her or her shoes, I have been entrusted with the task of taking her onto the pista for the first time.

Image: Shutterstock

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