Never mind the easy stuff; back to work …

Back to work

I’d warned Fede and Julia that I hadn’t danced for a week, and would need to see first whether I could remember how. We danced a warm-up song, and Julia told me I could.

She had one piece of feedback to offer and a number of compliments, but I knew that ratio wouldn’t last when we got to work …

The focus today was pure technique; in particular, continuing our earlier work on the giro.

We were working on staying connected in every step. Julia is really good at identifying exactly where she feels I am in relation to her at each step, and said I was sometimes a little ahead, sometimes a little behind – or, rather, in that latter case, not opening fast enough to maintain the sense of momentum.

Fede had previously suggested a particular step pattern for the giro. I mentioned yesterday’s discovery, and he said the steps themselves weren’t important, but no matter that I did with my feet, matching the follower’s steps with my own was the best way to ensure a great connection throughout. Doing that, Julia said the difference in feel to her was huge.

I was also focusing on some of the points from the connection and embrace workshop, which meant I was hitting my limit on the number of things on which I could concentrate at once. In particular, the issue of either focusing on matching steps or maintaining a clear sense of continual opening. But that’s just practice.

Fede had a slightly different take than Diego on the follower’s back-step. Diego had emphasised a feeling of coming around the follower, while Fede and Julia didn’t feel I needed to work as hard there, but there was agreement on the importance of flexibility in the embrace for that step, so the right arm can easily slide. The common thread is the follower feeling free to move as much as she needs to within the embrace.

What was working really well was ending the giro cleanly from any step. Given I was no longer struggling with that, Fede suggested a parada ending, which Julia said was a really lovely-feeling way to close a giro. Which was when we discovered a missing piece I didn’t know I had …

A parada revelation

Paradas had been another case where I would worry about getting tangled up in feet, which meant I had a somewhat vague ‘contact the leg’ approach. They both said the nicest-feeling parada was very clear sideways contact with the follower’s foot. I said I wasn’t confident in trying to get a precise placement, but once they showed me exactly how to do it, it was easy!

The insider of the leader’s foot contacts the inside of the follower’s standing foot while the other leg is still moving, so there is no danger of colliding with the wrong leg/foot because that’s well out of the way at that point. Experienced dancers are probably scratching their heads thinking this should have been blindingly obvious, but it was a revelation to me!

Fede also said it was easier to maintain good technique in a giro doing only one turn at a time, or when doing a medio-giro. Which was a polite way of saying that my technique tends to deteriorate the longer a giro continues …

I tried the ‘leader cross’ medio-giro with Julia, which worked well, and when we tacked the parada onto the end of that, she said it felt great. So I think a combination of single giros and that medio-giro is a good mix to include in Tuesday’s milonga.

Back step technique

We also worked a lot on my back-step. Leaders get less practice with those, as followers get less practice with forward steps, so they had me work on the things followers work on with that. Maintaining forward intention during the back projection, and pushing with the whole of the foot in sequence: start with the toes, then the ball of the foot and finally the heel.

I’ve so far said I didn’t want to work too much on following at this point, to avoid diluting my focus, but I do think working on the back step and follower ocho technique are two things that will greatly help my leader technique. For example, my limited dissociation is a constant challenge, and doing ochos should be great exercise for that.

A friend and Step both recommended the bar/wall exercise followers do to practice their ocho technique, so that’s what I’ll be doing at home this week.

It was a great lesson. I think perhaps detailed technique work doesn’t make for the most riveting of blog posts, but in terms of the impact on my dance, it’s the greatest bang for my buck by far.

Image: Shutterstock

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