Sometimes a tango teacher will say something that’s blindingly obvious once they’ve said it, but which hadn’t occurred to me before then.
One earlier example was the times I was unsure where my follower’s weight was. The blindingly obvious solution to that, of course, is to lead a weight-change – then you’ll know where it is because you just put it there! And yesterday Irina Zoueva kindly messaged me in response to my previous blog post …
She’s a teacher in another part of the country, but reads my blog for entertainment and because it provides an insight into the learning process from a student’s perspective. Her message was a lengthy one, addressing several of the issues I raised. She agreed with my conclusion on sequences, saying that she’s always tried to teach them to her students as a combination of lego pieces. Any of the pieces can be put together in almost any combination.
I wrote yesterday about my tango maths problem: trying to work out how many beats a figure takes, then count backwards from there to figure out when to start it so we complete it at the end of a phrase. Irina instantly solved this one (message quoted with her permission).
I don’t see your tango maths problem as a problem. You don’t have to finish, let’s say, an ocho cortado, or any string of figures or step, by the end of the phrase.
Ocho cortado, as you describe it, is: Forward step, rebound, pivot, back into cross. Suppose you do the pivot on the last beat of the phrase. So what??!! You just pause and complete the cross after a lovely, musical suspense. The follower doesn’t know you are doing an ocho cortado. For her, she just steps forward, side, back and pivots. What does she care that your OC bridges the gap between phrases?
I ought to have worked that out for myself at a rather earlier stage because of a big clue provided by Steph. I discovered early in my learning process it was pointless asking her about figures because, as an advanced follower, she’s not conscious of dancing any. She just follows this step, this pivot. She’s not thinking ahead to what might come next, or back to what just happened. All her focus is on following the lead right at this moment.
That was also step one in my eventual realisation that I don’t have to worry about followers being bored by simple dance. They aren’t keeping track of figures, they are following this step, this pivot. I mean, sure, they’ll walk away with an awareness of the overall style of the dance, but every experienced follower tells me that comfort, clarity and musicality are the main things they remember – and whether they got the chance to take an active role in the dance.
I tried this approach in my solo practice after work, and, sure enough, if I stop thinking of them as figures, and rather as arbitrary movements, then you can absolutely pause them at any point.
This is huge! I mean, given the standard I now expect of myself, I don’t have many figures in my toolkit, but the ones I do, I can now happily employ at any point, just suspending them midway as required.
I still want that simple, clockwise pivot – and am optimistic that Diego will provide a solution there. Once I have that, I will feel I have all the vocabulary I need. I honestly feel like my dance advanced about six months in the course of this week.
For Sunday’s lesson, I’m tempted to suggest we just dance, Julia and Fede simply providing feedback on my technique, and suggested fixes for any hiccups, rather than working on a specific goal.
This is a whole new era of tango for me.