A perfectly-timed giro technique workshop

giro workshop

Ok, so I’m doing three lessons this week – two group classes and a private – but the extra group class was a special case. It was on the giro, my main focus at present; it was a technique workshop; and it was run by Olga, who ran the excellent musicality series (1, 2, 3, 4) …

The description sounded perfect.

Giros, made easy. All about complex circular movements.
Giro as a combination of elements. Flowing in the movement, mutual support. The idea of “leaning into the hand” to create powerful and easy giro.

It was recommended to have a partner, but fortunately Asia took little persuasion.

Olga started with grounding and the embrace. Breathing in, then, on the out breath, imagining sending our weight down to our pelvis.

It never ceases to surprise me how much difference this type of exercise makes. Logically, it’s nonsense. Our centre of gravity is wherever it is in our body, and no amount of visualising is going to move it one millimetre. Yet it does feel different. Call it placebo effect or focus or whatever, but thinking of having my weight lower in my body does help me feel more grounded, more balanced.

Olga also has a way of thinking about the embrace, as if picking up and holding a Swiss ball. That, too, is a very effective way of guarding against leading with the arms, because you can only do that by collapsing the ball.

Let the giros commence!

In the course of 90 minutes, we did many, many giros in both directions.

The practice alone was hugely valuable, especially changing direction back-and-forth. I’ve so far rather carefully stuck to always entering giros from the back ocho, so that I knew exactly where I was in the sequence. But switching between giro and contra-giro repeatedly in a quest not to get dizzy meant that I ended up entering it from forward steps and side-steps too.

Repetition also meant that the giro lost some of its mystique for me. It is, in the end, simply leading three different steps. And when a follower knows her steps, you don’t even really have to do that much, just do what Olga described as providing a direction and a space in which to move.

Steps versus pivots

Olga said she didn’t care about the leader’s feet, only the chest. “You can do anything you like with your feet.” I tried switching between what I’d been doing with Fede and Julia – one step or weight-change for every follower step – and what I’d tried at both Tango Bridge and Tanguito in the medio-giro: a leader cross and then unwinding with weight on both feet.

Both approaches worked, but I found it easier to keep a fluid feeling with the pivoting in place of the steps. I remembered what Diego had said about giros:

With a giro the lead needs to be either communicating ‘keep going, keep going, keep going!’ or ‘and now … stop!’.

He and Olga were also of one mind about feet.

“Don’t worry about your feet, your feet are fine.”

Asia said that she really felt I was communicating well that ‘keep going’ sense, especially when pivoting.

None of which is to take anything away from Fede’s approach. He gave me exactly what I needed at that time: the ability to feel I was in control of a giro at a time when I had no confidence in my technique. But having successfully restored it to my milonga repertoire, I think the pivoting approach works better for me.

‘Leaning into the hand’

One part of the workshop description had been ‘the idea of “leaning into the hand” to create powerful and easy giro.’ This turned out to be a very simple concept.

Physicist note: I know centrifugal force doesn’t actually exist, but it’s a useful shorthand, so please set pedantry to zero for the purposes of this section.

In a fast giro, centrifugal force is trying to throw the follower outward. So the leader needs to provide centripetal force to counter it. And the right hand is the most effective way to do this.

Most of the time when dancing, leaders try to keep the right hand rather loose. A hug, but not squeezing or constricting. Indeed, an overly-tight embrace is a consistent reason I hear from Steph and friends about why they won’t dance with particular leaders.

But in a fast giro, a firm right hand can be an asset rather than a liability. Olga suggested actively thinking of providing a support for the follower to ‘lean into’ as they rotate around us.

It’s all about the fundamentals

We were short one follower, so each leader got to dance with Olga part of the time, which was great as she had some really good feedback for me.

First, she noticed my head tended to be angled somewhat toward the follower. That’s something that’s been pointed out before, and I try to keep my head upright, but it hasn’t made it into muscle-memory yet.

But Olga had an interesting take on that. “I actually don’t care what you do with your head, I want your neck aligned with your spine.” And when I focused on my neck rather than my head, it did seem easier.

Second, my perennial problem with bringing my left arm in too close to my body. She had me hold it way out. It felt very exaggerated, but I think my perception of its position is so skewed that I need to seek that exaggerated feeling.

Third, the other ever-present issue for all beginner leaders: leading with my arms. But Olga’s Swiss ball metaphor made for both a handy shorthand and a way to correct it: just restore space for the ball.

But confidence has been restored

I know my giro technique needs a lot of work, but at the same time I have restored confidence in it. My giros are absolutely fine for a one-year-old dancer.

Fede and Julia’s lesson; Steph taking the bull by the horns; going for it in milongas; tonight’s workshop. All have been key in restoring my confidence in giros. They are now part of my core milonga vocabulary.

Tomorrow is my first Tango Space intermediate class, with Luis, followed by the monthly drinks. Then on Sunday I have my next private with Fede and Julia. There’s no Los Angelitos milonga on the final Sunday of the month, and I’m really going to miss it.

Image: Shutterstock

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