As I started doing the improver as well as beginner classes at some random point in the cycle last time, there are things in the improver class I’ve done before, and other things I haven’t. The cross in cross system is one of the latter.
I wasn’t wildly optimistic, for a couple of reasons …
First, the cross itself is one of those things that I never really felt like I’d got, hence recently devoting a private lesson to it. And although that was an incredibly helpful lesson, the variety of followers I dance with – from very new to very experienced – means I still struggle to adapt the level to each.
Second, I also feel a bit shaky with cross system. It usually works, but not always. So combining the two things felt like it might be challenging. Plus Federico likes to throw in a little something extra at the end, which generally leads to my brain catching fire. And not in a good way.
But tonight worked pretty well. I arrived just as they were in the last ten minutes of the beginner class. They were short of leaders, so I jumped in, and that actually proved a really useful reminder that one of the real keys to the cross is having that last step be a shorter and more abrupt one. That, as much as the re-association, is a signal to the follower.
Later, in the improver class, they also said that giving the time and space to cross is itself another signal. Julia told followers that if they are unsure, and the leader is allowing them enough time and space to cross, then cross. The very fact that they felt the need to offer such advice – in contradiction to the usual ‘if the leader doesn’t lead it, don’t do it’ philosophy – reassured me that I am obviously far from alone in having difficulty with the lead!
The cross in cross system didn’t actually feel any harder. In fact, in some ways it was easier, as they taught an approach of a very short first step – only like 20% more than an assertive change of weight – and a big second one to create the momentum for the cross, and most followers seemed to find that much clearer.
With each of my followers, I asked them for feedback on a 10-point scale, where 1 was totally unclear, 5 was perfect and 10 was totally clear but rough. I then adjusted to suit, and found that I did need to be more toward what felt like an 8 to me. That too was very useful feedback. I’m thinking a lesson of learning the cross as a follower might help me get the feel.
Finally, there was the variation. Presented as an option when you have no room to walk out of the cross, it was leading a parada with the left leg. I initially didn’t feel like I had room to do this, only able to move my left leg a foot length in front of my right one. But my follower was managing fine and not understanding my concern, and when I checked with Julia, she said that was all that was needed.
It did feel like a very nice movement, especially to vals, with a faster step to the cross.
Of course, I need to insert the usual disclaimer here. This was in a class, with a follower who knew what she was supposed to be doing, so I’ll need to discover later whether I’m really leading it, but I was feeling surprisingly confident.
It also seems to be that others in the class struggle with the same things as me, or some variant thereof. And I noticed at one point a leader who does the Monday improver class and the Tuesday intermediate class, and whose dancing looks lovely, was still having mixed success leading the cross. So I do finally feel I’m a legitimate member of the improver class.
There was a 30-minute practica between the two classes, and I took advantage of that to practice my giros with three different followers. There were some false-starts, and I don’t think any of them were pretty, but I did feel like I made some progress.
Tomorrow is the second improver class, which is the same topic but a variation on the theme. Hopefully by the end of that I’ll feel sufficiently confident to lead some crosses in the milonga. We shall see!
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