Just how bad was yesterday anyway?!


With Hamdi and Amy still away, the improver class was again being taught by Federico and Julia. When they arrived about 15 minutes before the class was due to start, he wanted to know what the leaders had done to the followers yesterday!

There were about a dozen men and only one woman present …

By the time the class started, we had maybe fifteen men and seven women. Bizarrely, it turned out to be the same in the intermediate class, so Federico’s scouting mission to see if he could borrow any followers from there was also without success.

Thankfully, more followers kept arriving, and I was lucky, managing to get a follower each time.

As always, we started with walking, then moved onto back ochos. Based on my experience yesterday, I knew that the later sequences would be beyond me, but my view was that I’d still get half the class on pure technique, and could continue to focus on the quality of my ochos even when making forlorn attempts at the fiddly stuff later.

With Federico having given me feedback that I tended to dip my shoulders in the direction in which I was dissociation, I was focusing on avoiding that. Paying attention to it, I think it’s actually collapsing my hip when pivoting. I think I was at least doing it less.

I had three other points of focus:

  • a comfortable lead
  • in particular, ensuring I was waiting for my follower to fully complete her pivot
  • lead a clear end, with a simple weight-change to then walk

That was all working well, and I was especially happy that I was cleanly ending them given (a) all the trouble I used to have ending forward ochos and (b) that ending back ochos is harder.

The improver sequence

Federico then introduced the first part of The Sequence Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoke. I’d kind of managed it with Julia, but that had been the only time, and it still felt horrible to me. Sure enough, it continued to feel horrible tonight. With some followers, it simply wasn’t happening; with others, there was some kind of very vague approximation, but it just felt clunky and as un-dance-like as could be.

I didn’t mind, other than feeling I was depriving my followers, as I was getting lots of back ocho practice, which is what I really wanted from the evening.

However, the very last round, it suddenly came together. Now, to be frank, I think this was because my follower was by then very familiar with the movements and was at least on semi-autopilot. However, that effectively acted as a back-lead, and finally I got the feel.

To see whether I could in fact lead it, I then varied the number of back ochos and found I could at least lead the parada and pivot. The rest may still have been automated, but I did at least feel we were in sync. I thanked her warmly, explaining that was the first time in two classes that it had worked. She claimed it was my lead; I remain sceptical.

There is a common phenomenon in group classes. Everything is working perfectly, then one of the teachers focuses their attention on you and it all falls apart. This was the opposite: the time Federico chose to check on me was with that follower. Seeing an apparent miraculous transformation, he congratulated me effusively.

I still don’t have any plans to use that particular movement in a milonga. However, Federico explained that the parada was also used in a sandwich, which he demonstrated. I’ve seen that before, and it does look satisfying, so maybe I’ll have him teach me that at some point.

Which opportunity could arise, as I’ve booked Federico and Julia for a couple of private lessons. Mariano isn’t around for a while anyway, and the 45-minute format (so that Steph gets 45 minutes too) is a bit tight, so I thought it made sense to have a plan B. They are both really good teachers, and have a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses by now. Plus it will be my first time with two teachers in a private, which feels like the ultimate luxury! With Julia able to feel my lead, and Federico able to observe, the feedback should be good! The first lesson will be focused on refining my ocho technique.

The milonga

With both the improver and intermediate classes light on followers, and none of my regular followers in the milonga, there wasn’t much opportunity to dance. I mostly socialised.

I did, however, have an enjoyable tanda with a woman who is an experienced follower but was attending the beginner class as a new leader. Between songs, she said that she’d struggled in the class sometimes to work out where a follower’s weight was. I laughed, and passed on the extremely-obvious-in-hindsight advice I’d been given when facing the same issue: “If you aren’t sure where her weight is, lead a change of weight, and then you will know where it is because you just put it there!”

As next Monday is a bank holiday, there’s no Tango Space classes, but Ulrike spotted an outdoor milonga just around the corner from us, at Aldgate, so it would seem rude not to check it out. I’ll be arriving sometime between 4.20pm and 4.45pm, depending on how my afternoon goes, if anyone wants to say hello.

Image: Shutterstock

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