Trying Tango y Nada Mas for the first time; a lesson in levels

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A couple of my Ms had both suggested I try a new school: Tango y Nada Mas. They run three classes, all on a Monday evening: fundamentals, improver/technique and intermediate/advanced – followed by a one-hour practica.

The plan was to try the improver/technique class, have a drink with M while we sat out the intermediate/advanced one, and then do the practica. This, it turned out, was a very sound plan …

It was fairly quickly apparent that the levels here were rather different to the ones I was used to: what Tango y Nada Mas labelled improver was the equivalent of Tango Space intermediate.

The bad news in this is that most of the class was significantly above my level. But there were two pieces of good news.

First, there were no complex sequences! Indeed, understanding what we were aiming to do was mostly rather simple, even if I struggled with the how. Second, although the level was high, the nature of the class was very much in tune with what I want.

There is a very strong emphasis on musicality. There’s not too much concern with steps. And the focus is very much on technique.

Things started easily enough. It was quite a big class, so Luis and Elizabeth had us work on options for dancing in small spaces. Option one was a tight counter-clockwise walk. This has long been one of my staples, so that was a good start.

Option two was a particular type of clockwise walk. This sounded simple, but was actually rather tricky, involving a snappy 180-degree pivot of the follower. Everyone else seemed familiar with it; I wasn’t, so didn’t really get it exactly, and there wasn’t time to get help with it. I think I get the basic idea, though, so it’s something to play with in a future practica.

The power of pausing

Luis was trying to get leaders to pause more, bringing me back into comfortable territory. We started by splitting the leaders and followers and doing a group call-and-response exercise. The leaders, all dancing on their own, danced one phrase, then the followers, also solo, danced a response, which the leaders responded to in turn.

I very much liked the idea of it, though it was kind of hard to do when you had so many different followers doing wildly different things. In the end, I picked one and aimed to respond to her dance.

One of the followers said she loved it when leaders led pauses, and allowed time for the follower to express herself. Luis said she was a spokesperson for many, many followers, and there was a lot of nodding in the room. Elizabeth said that many leaders were afraid followers would be bored with too much pausing, but we shouldn’t be: it’s usually viewed as a treat.

Diego’s urging more pauses had already done the trick, so I was very happy when the next exercise was simply to dance with plenty of pauses.

I did find one follower who did nothing at all when I paused. Elizabeth had already noted that might happen, and said we shouldn’t view it as a problem. Some followers may not want to take the opportunity, and some may actively like the stillness. M later gave another angle on this: some followers may be still working on how to use such opportunities, so even if they do nothing now, it may be getting them used to the idea that such opportunities will arise so they can start working on how to take advantage of them.

The final exercise was switching between single- and double-time. Regular readers will know this is my nemesis. I made a tiny bit of progress with it, but it mostly wasn’t pretty!

Making good use of the intermediate class slot

During the intermediate/advanced class, M and I chatted, drank Prosecco and ate cake. From the bits I watched, this was an exceedingly wise choice! The sequence I saw was only moderately complex, but it was clear that it required really good technique on the part of both leader and follower, with timing crucial. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere remotely close.

While M and I were chatting, she brought up something which made me think back to a day when something really clicked for me. When I decided it was finally time to put into practice Pablo’s actitude concept. It’s the same thing with that next level of pausing: it’s all about confidence.

Practica

M booked me for the first tanda after washing the cake from her hands, and by the time she returned it turned out to be a milonga! But I’m now happy with these, and had a great time. M said my milonga had completely transformed; I was still doing only simple steps and rebounds last time, and now I was doing the 6-step sequence with some fake double-time, aka short rebounds.

She had one suggestion, which was that the rebounds feel really nice in the cross-system step. It took me a little while to figure out how to do this, but then I got the hang of it and she said it did indeed feel great. I realised that it’s another way of making that simple sequence feel more varied, as there’s a very different feel from the back-step rebound I usually too. Mixing and matching the two means yet more variety.

Another familiar face there was a very experienced follower now focusing on leading. I’d earlier watched her leading, and she’s a really lovely leader. Very much my style: slow, calm, lots of paradas.

We’ve danced several times, but not for a while, and it was really nice to dance with her again. To give people a chance to dance with lots of partners, each tanda is just two songs, so after the first she asked me if I wanted to follow. I said yes if it was just walking, as my follower ochos are terrible. She did mostly walk, but later lead some very slow forward ochos with paradas, and I did manage something which didn’t look entirely unlike an ocho!

I also danced with another follower who used to come to the Tuesday Tango Space milongas but whose work schedule no longer allows it. She’s a significantly more advanced dancer than me, but also enjoys simple dance, so we too had a very nice tanda.

The last tanda was a vals, which I danced with M. I do have some work to do on my vals, but it was still a very nice dance.

Conclusions

The class is a little on the advanced side for me, but I do like the approach. I’m going to try at least one more and see how it goes. I think the Tango Space Thursday intermediate class will be my regular weekly class, but I do have some theatre clashes, so this could be a good plan B.

Tomorrow, though, is pure fun: the Tango Space Tuesday milonga! It will have been a full fortnight since my last milonga, and that is way too long …

Image: Shutterstock

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