My tango engineer, Diego Bado, was back in town, and I had the first of two privates with him today. We started by just dancing so he could give me his current assessment of where my focus should be, and after that we would work on my giro technique.
He complimented me on my musicality, but then we were straight into the long list of technique issues on which I need to work …
I mentioned difficulty adapting to different levels of followers when leading giros, and Diego started with some reassurance: if a beginner doesn’t know the step sequence, it doesn’t matter how clear your lead, it’s not going to happen. She’s* basically just going to walk around you.
*I’ve been aiming to be gender-neutral in my comments about leading and following, but it does feel awkward sometimes in the phrasing. Since I’m leading a woman 99% of the time, and this blog is about my own experience, I’ve decided to be more relaxed about pronouns.
At the other end of the scale, a really good follower won’t need any specific lead at all in the steps: the leader can just pivot. It’s between the two where a clear lead is needed.
Diego started by focusing on the follower’s back step. Here, he said, three things need to happen. First, this is an exception to the ‘keep opening, keep opening, keep opening’ mantra. Just for that step, my left arm needs to contain movement. Second, my torso and right arm need to give a sense of wrapping around the follower from the outside. Third – and this applies to ochos too – having more flexibility in the embrace. A sliding embrace on her back to allow her to get further away in the back step and closer in the forward step, but also generally having more elasticity so I can just go with the follower if she moves further away than I intended, and then welcome her back when she comes closer.
Diego lead me in some giros, and that was enormously helpful in understanding the feeling I needed to create. It was also a real object lesson in clarity of lead. The way he lead the giro, there was only one possible direction in which I could go in each step – and although my pivot into the back-step as a follower is very much at a ‘first few lessons’ beginner standard, he made me feel like it was a decent one here.
Ocho into a parada ending
I’m much better at ending giros than I used to be! I generally end them on the follower’s back step, I think because that gives me a little more time to prepare. I just take a side-step to go with her in her back-step, then lead a back ocho and half a front ocho to bring her back in front of me.
Diego had me practice ending them on the side-step and forward step too. The side-step feels very easy too, as I just take the step with her. The front step is where I find it most challenging, and Diego showed me an easy and really lovely way to do this:
- As the follower takes her forward step, stop turning myself
- Pivot her into a forward ocho
- Then parada
- She steps over, then collect
There were two keys to this. First, wait until I’m certain she is in fact pivoting into the ocho. If I was too slow to stop my own turn, or she is on auto-pilot, I need to be able to just go with her into the following side-step and end it there instead. (He sometimes deliberately kept going so I got to see the danger of trying to start the parada sweep before I knew for certain that she was pivoting!)
Second, to avoid any risk of our feet getting tangled, I need to do the parada by first sweeping my foot forward and then back toward her. This also has the virtue of looking great!
To help me get the feel for this, we initially did it with medio-giros. Once that was working reasonably well, we then moved into doing it with full giros. And yep, this is a really lovely way to exit.
I do include suspensions in my dance, but Diego recommended more. Then again a reminder to use every pause to run a quick check-list: my posture, my left arm position, my head position, my right arm. And making this check like entering the embrace at the start of the song, just settling into the embrace again together. Much like Bridgitta’s ‘dancing the corrections‘ concept.
Beginning work on my barrida
We also worked a little on the barrida. Diego said this was all about the timing! Too soon, and the follower hasn’t fully transferred her weight, so her other foot isn’t free; too late, and she will have started to collect. I can somewhat guard against that by ensuring I hold her in place while I transfer my own weight. Finally, I need to bend my leg more to keep my knee out of the way. So a lot to work on there!
Diego led me, which was again super-helpful in getting the feel, and we’re going to work on it more in Monday evening’s lesson, in which he will also show me an easier barrida. I will also get Diego’s input on my cross and cross-system cross.
I’ll practice my giros – and particularly that forward-step ending – in tomorrow’s practica. After that, there’s a very interesting-sounding intermediate lesson with visiting teachers Lorena Gonzalez with Gaston Camejo: ‘Lead, embrace to lead and communication: myths and truths.’ And then my favourite milonga!