I enjoyed my first taste of barridas, so was looking forward to another class on these with Juan Martin and Steffi. Steph and friends had, however, warned me that leaders often over-use them. A well-executed barrida once or twice in a tanda can feel lovely, I was told, but not more than that.
Like seasoning, then: just the right amount really adds to the dish, but too much can make it inedible …
The first class was on rebounds, so wasn’t expecting any new material, but I’m happy to practice almost anything as the simplest things leave all my attention free to focus on technique.
I did get one new thing, though, which was a short sequence of:
- Normal rebound
- Into side-step to left
- Into rebound on the outside
- Exit with a longer back-step and longer side-step to get back in line with the follower
That’s something else that can be done in a small space.
The other unexpected bonus of the beginner/improver class was several spontaneous compliments from followers. I guess that’s the benefit of a dual-level class which has more early beginners than improvers: my standard seems good!
There was one follower who was coming back to a beginner class because she’d had a long gap away from tango. Clearly it’s like riding a bike, as there was one exercise where we had to mix walking and different types of rebound, and she followed them all perfectly.
From the description, I was expecting this to introduce a range of different types of barridas. In fact, there was just one (with a variation), and the format of the lesson was the same gradual build-up from a simple start into a complex sequence.
However, I really liked what they did as I was able to take something from every stage. Here’s the full thing (omitting the initial entry):
The first element was the same barrida we did in the first class. That’s already something which feels good and which I was able to resolve into an exit.
The second part was to use your leg (rather than foot) to sacada the follower into a planeo. This again can be resolved at this point by reversing the follower back to the right, a little past the centre point, stopping her and then pivoting her back in front, which creates a cross. Then you can walk from there.
The next part was to keep her on the back foot from the planeo, then the leader changes weight and uses the right foot for another barrida – and again sacada with the leg. This second sacada, however, is a lot more difficult, as it requires the leader to change weight and move very quickly.
I honestly didn’t think my step memory could stretch that far. When it was time to try it, I was going to simply sit and watch. However, the follower next to me turned to me and we then had a comical misunderstanding where I was saying I didn’t think I’d get it and she’d be better off with another leader, but she thought I didn’t want to dance with her. By the time I’d hastily reassured her on that point, everyone was already partnered, so I gave it a go.
Amazingly, after a few attempts, I did actually get it. Even more amazingly, I was then able to lead Steph through the whole thing at home later.
Although I’d never dream of attempting it in a milonga, I think there would be huge value in practicing it a lot with a partner, as it brings together a lot of different techniques, so if I could ever get halfway decent with the whole sequence, that would be a massive achievement.
And if I ever did, it’s a wonderful sequence for circular dance, as it’s a pattern than can be pretty much exited at any point, and it’s a turn with huge variety in it. However, given the gap between what I can do in class and what I can do, musically, in a milonga, check back in with me about a year from now …
Despite not feeling on my best form today, I did so much dancing I left the milonga with very sore feet!
I’ve never understood the randomness of this ‘feeling on form or not’ business. Nor, indeed, have I established whether there is any correlation between my own feeling about my dance and the follower experience of it. Had one of my regular followers been there, I could have asked, as a calibration, but that wasn’t the case. But as it wasn’t feeling bad, just not my best, I persisted.
Even if I were still doing my tanda-by-tanda accounts, I’d have been forced to admit defeat tonight. I’d like to claim that’s because my amazing dancing was in non-stop demand, but it was a combination of things. First, I’ve now danced with quite a few followers between the various classes, so I’m more of a known quantity in the milonga. Second, it was less busy than usual (quite a few people on holiday, I think) which made people more open to dancing outside their usual social circles. And third, as things got quieter still later on, there were quite a few more followers than leaders by the last hour.
One definite challenge for me was trying to incorporate anything from the intermediate class into my dance. It took enough concentration that I felt it took me out of the feeling somewhat, and as it was an unfamiliar movement, I hadn’t really figured out how to use it musically. At the same time, I did want to try to embed some of it into dance, and I also sensed that followers wanted to experience it in the dance. I compromised on doing the first section – barrida into sacada into planeo – then simply reversed the planeo and led a parada to exit. I did that typically once per tanda, and the rest of the time aimed to do my usual simple, musical dance.
That feels easier with certain followers who’ve been dancing a very long time. I think there’s a kind of circular thing for many, where they go through all the fancy stuff and end up enjoying simple dance again. The type of follower who says they wish leaders would just walk. One of them said as much tonight, saying it was so nice to have a lead that was simple, clear and comfortable.
Not everything worked, of course. I still feel my giros don’t flow at all, so the plan for my next private is still very much to keep working on those. I forgot the crucial sandwich part a couple of times when trying to lead the barrida (finding: you can still do it, but I think it feels awkward for the follower).
I did have one amusing/confusing experience. There was one follower who seemed to be consistently mirada-ing me in quite a determined fashion. It was always bad timing, as I was either in the middle of a conversation or already had a follower in mind. Finally, though, close to the end, I cabeceod her and we danced. The dance seemed to be going well, but she got confused after the third song, thinking it was the final one. When she realised, I was expecting us to dance the last song, but she instead said she had to go. We kissed goodbye, and she did indeed change out of her shoes immediately afterwards, so I don’t think anything was wrong – but it certainly felt odd!
It was good to get my milonga fix in, as I’ll miss my Tuesday evening Tango Space one. I’d booked a night kayak way back in my pre-tango days – or, at least, pre-milonga ones! But I’ll do ok this week: aside from the JM&S classes on Wednesday, with practica to follow, we’re going to Dante’s Sans Souci milonga on Saturday, then Tango on the Thames on Sunday (hosted by Queer Tango London but open to all sexualities). The latter following my next private with Julia and Fede, so who knows, I may even manage a giro by then …