With ochos, I had a workable open embrace version. They were clear, and I felt I could easily lead them to the music. Things were trickier in close embrace, and there was plenty of scope to improve my technique, but it was a decent starting-point.
With giros, I didn’t really feel like I had that much …
In open embrace, I would struggle to coordinate my own steps with leading clear steps for the follower, and I had no real idea about how to lead it in close embrace. Plus, I was terrible at exiting it!
A new leader step pattern
We started with Federico showing me a new-to-me leader step pattern. This was left foot at right angles to right foot while leading the follower’s back step; collect while leading side-step; left foot behind right foot while leading forward step; collect for side-step. I initially had trouble coordinating my steps, the lead and the continuous opening to the left, but then it clicked. I realised that the leader’s steps are mirroring the follower’s:
- Leader left foot in front = follower back step
- Leader collects = follower side step
- Leader left foot back = follower forward step
- Leader collects = follower side step
Thinking about it like that made it easy to keep track. Once I’d got the hang of it, moving into close embrace was far easier than expected.
Of course, technique becomes much more important in close embrace, so both Julia and Federico then had lots of input here!
- Keep opening my left shoulder continuously (not on/off with the steps)
- Keep my right shoulder moving with my left shoulder
- Keep the side muscles on my right engaged (to avoid collapsing that side)
- Keep my left arm further out
- Keep pace with my follower (I had a tendency to get ahead of her)
The latter two points at first seemed tricky to reconcile, as with my left arm out further, I felt I was then pulling Julia along behind me, but Julia said no, she didn’t feel like that – and it made a lot more sense when we did it to music and I increased the speed.
Entry and exit via a back ocho
They also showed me a new-to-me entry to the giro: from a back ocho. Either lead back ochos first then enter the giro, or just lead one back ocho and immediately enter the giro. That was a simpler and more compact version than my previous method, and – hurrah! – made the exit obvious too. Since we start with a back ocho, we can end with one too.
When the follower does her back ocho, stop opening up, then there are several easy exit options:
- My usual back ocho exit: convert to forward ocho, then bring her in front
- The sandwich I learned last Saturday
- Leader-only change of weight, then walk out
Well, I say easy – I struggled at first, but then very quickly got the idea.
The whole approach is really compact, taking place pretty much within our own space, so feels very practical in crowded milongas – which my previous version wasn’t always.
Practicing in dance
We then practiced it in dance – just dancing to the music, leading whatever I wanted, and including some giros. This is part one of the real test (part two being in a milonga, of course), and it worked really well! It felt easy to use it musically, because I was leading each step and could control the pace exactly. I mixed slow and fast(er) giros, and they feel very different, so that’s again another great way to add variety with the same movement.
Julia was very complimentary about my dance, saying it felt great and my musicality was really good. (It helped a huge amount that we were dancing to Remembranzas, a song I know well. They both said that was obvious – I knew when to pause and change pace.)
They assure me that, once I have good giro technique, then adding a clockwise giro will be easy. Federico also said that when I get comfortable with the cross, that opens up a lot of possibilities – including another way to exit the giro. So continuing our work on that will pay dividends.
So, in future lessons, we’ll continue with the giro, add in a close-embrace medio giro, and add in a clockwise giro. Technique-wise, that will involve more refinement on my ocho technique, as that’s key to all giros, so we may end up devoting the next lesson to further improving that.
I feel really good about where I am right now. I know my weaknesses with this stuff, and feel confident that Julia and Federico will help me fix them. But in the meantime, I think I have a workable close-embrace giro. I guess I’ll find out at Spitalfields tomorrow!