A giromaniac is born, and a whole new tango world opens up


I am officially now a giromaniac.

After a false start a couple of months ago, I’m finally able to fluidly lead giros and contra-giros in a milonga. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me feel! Partly just the relief of finally getting there after so long, but mostly because it completely transforms my dance and the crowded milonga experience …

Yesterday, I could say ‘I can now lead giros and contra-giros’ with four asterisks. Last night, I was able to delete two of them:

  • with much work still needed on technique
  • with a follower who knows her steps
  • in open embrace
  • at speed

I’m now able to lead them in close embrace, and at any speed.

A bonus milonga

I said ‘fewer classes, more dance‘ – and I think I can safely say I’m living up to that at present: four nights, four milongas. Sans Souci, Tango on the Thames, Tango Space bank holiday Monday … and there’s the regular Tango Space Tuesday milonga tomorrow. With only one lesson in the mix – and that one an absolutely key one.

O’Neills on Wardour Street was a new venue to me. It was 32C outside, so I was immediately sold on one feature: powerful air-conditioning! I think that would be my number one criteria for a tango venue in this kind of heat. Music, floor, followers, friends – all nice to have, but let’s start with the AC.

In objective terms, the floor isn’t ideal. It was apparently sticky, as they were coating it in most of the annual output of a talcum powder factory. There’s an uneven stone strip on the bar side. There are a couple of uneven bits elsewhere. And there’s a pillar in the centre,

But I actually like the venue. I’m sure my wonderful dance experience creates a halo effect, but I do remember thinking it had a nice feel about it even before dancing.

I employed my new drinking-and-dancing policy: one glass of Prosecco. I’ve mostly never dared drink at milongas, but at this point a single glass of wine helps loosen my inhibitions just enough to take some chances without affecting my coordination and balance. I’m normally a red wine man, but white runs less risk of wine breath.

Giros! All the giros!

I do apologise for the exclamation marks. I’m not normally the sort of man given to such vulgarities, but I think on this occasion their deployment can be justified.

I tonight led so many giros I had to be careful I didn’t become the kind of dancer who has frustrated me so much in the past: so busy going round in circles they are oblivious to the large gap that’s opened up ahead of them. I was switching between giros and counter-giros, and both felt very natural and comfortable.

I was initially opening the embrace significantly to lead the giros, then coming back into close embrace afterwards. Gradually, though, I was opening it less and less. I wanted to wait for a very familiar partner before attempting giros in close embrace, and Asia provided the perfect opportunity.

We always dance in close embrace and feel really well connected. Plus neither of us are afraid of things going wrong; we just reset and continue. So after warning Asia that it would be an experiment, I gave it a go.

It was the most undramatic experiment in the history of tango. It just worked. It didn’t feel messy, it didn’t feel difficult, it just felt perfectly natural. The same experiment also showed that I don’t need momentum to lead giros: these were slow ones.

Following that, I tried close-embrace giros with other followers. Again, no problem.

Later in the evening, Asia and I danced a vals, and I found I was even able to lead the quick-quick-slow rhythm during a giro. I then tried another experiment: going straight into the contra-giro without a giro first. Once more, no drama.

This is a whole new tango

Until this weekend, I’ve had a whole succession of tactics for coping with crowded milongas. Things – anything! – I could do in a small space until there was once more room to walk.

Any of them could feel great for a time. Circular ochos, circular walking, circular rebounds, ocho cortados with turn … but do them enough times in a tanda and they start to feel like marking time to the beat while waiting for the opportunity to walk.

Part of that, I think, is that some of them are things that you can do to the beat, but it’s harder to use them to express the melody. Circular walking and rebounds, for example. I’m sure a really skilled dancer could take absolutely anything and use it to express the melody, but any time I’ve tried to do that with steps, it kind of just felt like I was off the beat. Or, at least, I’d worry that’s how it would feel to a less experienced follower. So if I wanted to dance to the melody while stuck in place, I had … ochos. Which I love, but there’s only so many you can do in a row.

It’s totally different with giros. As soon as I got the hang of doing them slowly as well as quickly, they became a really flexible tool, equally useful for dancing to the beat and to the melody. Couple giros, contra-giros and ochos, and I felt like I had everything I needed to dance to the melody when there was no space to walk.

The circular walk is still good when it comes to dancing to the beat in place. I’m probably going to let rebound turns fade into semi-retirement for now. Rebounds are nice to use in the walk, so using them to turn too has felt like over-use.

Things got pretty crowded at times last night, but there was literally never a moment when I felt pressure as a result. I now have enough tools that I can walk or not walk, and I’m happy either way. Well, ok, I do still love to walk, so I wouldn’t be happy if there was no opportunity at all,

And more coming soon to a milonga near me

I practiced the barrida-into-planeo with a friend. I hadn’t quite got the weight-transfer fully sorted, but I think I’ve worked out why, so will try that tomorrow. The sacada into planeo works beautifully, though: I’ve now led that part with several followers who weren’t in the class.

I’m going to work on leading the planeo at different speeds, as I can see that as a very flexible tool for expressing different moments in the music.

Also on my hit-list is successive crosses. The class which included them may have been a lesson too far, but I’ve practiced the technique at home and think I now know what I’m doing there – we shall see!

Oh, speaking of crosses, memo to self: don’t try to lead one straight after multiple giros … They don’t work so well when either of you is slightly dizzy! Additional memo to self: don’t lead so many giros that you make either of you dizzy. Ok, that’s enough memos.

I’m really looking forward to the last of my back-to-back milongas. After which I will also be looking forward to a full night’s sleep …

Image: Shutterstock

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