My delusions of competence left the building

left the building

You know I was saying I was enjoying my delusions of competence, and expecting to continue to do so until Sunday? Yeah, not so much …

In a group class today, my delusions left the building. It was doubly frustrating, as it was a class I was really looking forward to: Understanding the Vals: rhythm and phrasing – how to keep it simple but ‘vals’ to it

I love the vals rhythm, but as I have limited tango vocabulary, and some of it isn’t appropriate to vals, I feel even more constrained in what I’m able to do. There are lots of circular rebounds involved.

Part of the challenge with vals for me is that I feel like it’s less forgiving than tango in terms of timing. With tango, you always have the option of doing things half-time, and of course pauses are all part of the dance. With vals, it feels like you need to keep moving at all times, and the pace is often fast. This means I don’t often have the confidence to lead a giro or Medio-giro.

Similarly with ochos. My view was that you can lead snappy walking ones in vals, but those require more precision than the slower ones you can use in tango.

Meta Fierro Tango, aka Yuri Bellacanta and Kate Miller, were offering a Saturday afternoon workshop specifically on the vals rhythm. I didn’t know them, but one of the Ms rates them.

Both teachers were lovely people, and all was great for the first two exercises. One was simply walking to the rhythm. I have three ways to do this to vals:

  • Step, step, step, weight-change
  • Step, step, step, half-time step
  • Step, step, step, rebound

When doing the latter, I can also lead it in a circle as the world’s most basic way of including the circular feel of a vals. All incredibly simple, but at least has the virtue of feeling like vals.

Exercise two was also marking the phrases. That was good too, as I could simply use one approach to mark the rhythm and another to mark the phrases. After that, however, it all went rapidly downhill.

Mixing in a double-time step and a short sequence

They introduced a short sequence which was, if I can even get it straight in my head by now: normal-time step, double-time step-and-collect, pause, weight-change.

I struggle to lead double-time at the best of times, so a rapid switch between single- and double-time was already tricky. But then they added a (very lovely) short sequence to follow on from this. That movement required weight to be on the left foot, and every time I tried the switch to the double-time step-and-collect, I seemed to be on the right foot. Or, in this case, the wrong foot.

I could solve that with a weight-change, of course, but then I was out-of-phase with the phrasing, so that wasn’t going to work. I tried starting from the other foot, but somehow that wasn’t working either.

Yuri came over and tried to help, but he couldn’t quite figure out what the issue was. Practicing didn’t seem to help, and after a while I was over-thinking it to such an extent that it was just getting more confusing, not less.

The class proceeded with some variations on the theme, but I still wasn’t getting the above bit. Eventually, dancing with M, I just said to her I wasn’t even going to attempt it any more, and just focus on returning to my basics. I felt if I didn’t manage something which at least felt like vals, I was going to have to go back to Ceroc.

With the benefit of hindsight, what either I or Yuri should have done was say ‘Ok, forget the double-time bit, let’s just try the follow-on sequence on its own.’ As that could have been led from anything that had my weight on the left foot. But that occurred to me only toward the end of the practica after the class, so I only got to try it a few times.

Two small saving graces

I did manage to get two things out of the class.

The first was seeing how ochos can be used in vals. They’d never seemed to me to fit the feeling of continuous motion, unless you’re good enough to lead snappy single-time walking ones, which I’m not. However, they showed how you can make slower ochos fit the feel of a vals. It didn’t feel like the best fit for a vals, but it is at least an option.

The second was that rather lovely sequence which followed the bit I couldn’t do. It was a back-step into a side-step, change of weight and forward-step with cross. I didn’t get to do that enough times in the class to get a feel for it, but I can remember how it works, and do really like it, so it’s something I can practice on my own, and then try in the practica on either Monday or Tuesday.

Sharing the Follower’s Liberation approach with M

M had said beforehand that she was unclear how and when to do decorations. I said I couldn’t help at all with the how, but could at least be a little help with the when.

During the practica that followed the class, I showed her the ‘lead a parada and wait for the follower’ approach. She still has to figure out the how/what part, but I said if she can do that by Tuesday, then we can have a play in the practica and, if that goes well, in the milonga.

So, all in all, not my most successful class! But hey, I got something out of it, and tomorrow there will be No New Steps! It’s a pure technique private lesson, working on refining my ochos.

Image: Shutterstock

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