Official tango dancer rating: 30%

30 percent

Yesterday, I felt 0% competent; today, I was officially declared 30% competent.

I had a private lesson with Federico and Julia, who run the Monday Tango Space classes, and the focus was on my ocho technique …

For some reason, it took me an age to understand how ochos worked back in my very early days. When I finally did, I was overjoyed.

Of course, like everything in tango, there are levels. I had an ocho lead which is clear and feels nice to both myself and the followers I’ve asked. But Federico spotted a couple of problems. First, rather than leading clean side-steps, I was doing kind of diagonal ones. Second, a tendency to dip my shoulder in the direction in which I’m moving. So today’s lesson was geared to trying to fix these issues.

Of course, we started with the walk. I said that it felt easy to project and push for larger steps, but I had much less of a sense of how to get a feeling of a strong push with very small steps – as are often needed in milongas and, indeed, in classes. The key thing I took from this part of the lesson is that you can think of small steps as a really definite weight-change: literally pushing the weight from one foot to another.

Federico demonstrated how, when you get that concept, you can also lead a really lovely circular walk. The two keys there were to open the left foot a lot and push with the right to pivot the left, and to really keep reaching around the follower with the right foot. Once I got the hang of that, it felt really nice. I’d previously done a clockwise version, and this was an anti-clockwise one I’d tried a couple of times with Bridgitta. I think with a bit more practice, this will be something I can use in a milonga.

Federico is very keen on walking with feet turned out, to aid balance, and to keep the weight on the inside of the foot. He also show how this helped lead clean side-steps in the ocho. Once I tried it, I did find it much easier to ensure I was only stepping to the side.

As is often the case in tango, my tendency to do diagonal steps and dip my shoulders turned out to be related. We worked on a whole bunch of technique issues, so much so it was a bit of a blur by the end, but Julia said that it felt a lot better by the end. How much of that will stick is yet to be seen, but I shot video of Federico talking me through the important points, so I can incorporate these into my solo practice. Plus we’re doing more ochos in the group classes this week, so I should have plenty of opportunity for partner practice too!

We ended with a really slow walk, dancing at half-speed to Poema. Doing something really slowly is always a good test of technique; it mostly felt good to me, and Julia said the same.

I really like their teaching, and because they already have a good sense of where I’m at from the group classes, they hit the ground running with private lessons. Also, dancing with Julia while Federico observes means I get double feedback: how it feels, and how it looks. I’m switching to them for my main private lessons from now on.

Having jokingly asked them if my ocho technique was now 100% perfect, Julia said ‘30%’ – which we agreed gives them two more lessons to get me to 90%. They said they’d better not give me a fourth lesson in case I then take up teaching …

So, a rather better day than yesterday! And really looking forward to continuing the ocho-fest in this week’s group classes, then seeing whether I and my partners can feel the difference in the Tuesday milonga.

Image: Shutterstock

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