I love it when a plan comes together

a plan comes together.jpg

This weekend was going to be pretty tango-centric, with a practica and private on the Saturday, and a milonga on the Sunday.

Saturday got the weekend off to an excellent start …


This week was just one me and one follower, and she was only free for an hour, but we really got a lot done in that time!

I worked on the gentle boleo/planeo movement:

  • Lead a side-step to my left
  • While doing a parada to the follower’s right foot
  • Then pivot her left and then right

Which seemed to work well.

I also practiced the opposite-side parada exit to back ochos which Laura showed me. I progressed from ‘so wobbly I’m almost falling over’ to ‘Hey, this almost works!’ – which was good enough for me for now! One more practica, and I think this could be milonga-ready.

She wanted to work on ochos, which is ideal given how many I lead! We also both benefited from working on planeos. The hour flew by, but at the same time it felt like we packed in a lot of useful stuff.


This was my first private with Julia and Fede since Buenos Aires.

We normally start by me dancing one song before feedback, but this time I suggested two as it gives me more time to get warmed-up and relaxed, and also ensures what I’m doing in the lesson is more representative of my real-life dance.

Both said they could really tell I’d been dancing a lot: they could see and feel a big difference in my dance. Julia said my embrace felt great, and she could feel a lot more confidence in my dance. That was very good to hear.

Fede also said there were issues they’d been working with me on for some time which were really starting to click now. More on that shortly.

Of course, there’s always good news and bad in privates! The bad news was that some issues which have long been present are still present. Head position not far enough to the left. Collapsing hip in pivots. Unbalanced pivots.

The good news, though, was that I think we made an amazing amount of progress on each of these within a 90-minute lesson. That’s what Fede meant by things clicking.


For example, the collapsing hip issue. They said that I just need to focus on keeping my core engaged. That’s something I’ve heard said in many group classes (to the group as a whole, not just to me specifically), and I’m certain Julia and Fede have said it many times to me. But this time, it did fall into place. When they just prompted me with ‘Core!’ during the dance, I could feel the difference it made – and Julia said it was a night and day change.

They always make a great team, and this was exemplified when they both called out ‘Core!’ at exactly the same moment; Julia had felt it, and Fede had seen it.

We work a lot with ochos because it’s a familiar pivot for me. Julia said she could feel a break in the connection on right-hand pivots, and Fede could see the reason: my left shoulder gets left behind. When we analysed this, we realised there were a couple of things going on. One, I’m focusing so much on trying not to lead with my arms that I’ve over-compensated and am stopping not just my arm from moving but my whole shoulder. Two, I wasn’t really appreciating just how far Julia was pivoting in back ochos, so wasn’t following her all the way around in my own pivot.

But it’s not about me needing more dissociation than I have – it’s just about staying with her all the way. Julia said that less dissociation with more contact is worth far more than a massive amount of dissociation but less contact. In close embrace, I have enough dissociation.

This is hard to describe as it sounds contradictory on paper. Less dissociation but more contact. You’d think staying connected to her throughout would require a lot of dissociation (as she can pivot a long way). But, somehow, it doesn’t. It just requires me to focus on remaining in full contact with her throughout the pivot.

Both Julia and I could feel a massive difference when I got this right.

I think the secret here is actually some abs work. Not because it requires strength – as they said, there are some 90-year-olds with milonguero bellies who have incredible technique – but because if I exercise my abs enough to feel them more, it will serve as a reminder.

A new type of planeo

I’d said that I want to work on component parts rather than figures, but also that it made sense to refine two figures I theoretically already know how to do: the planeo and Americana.

We started work on the planeo toward the end of the lesson, and Fede demonstrated a version I haven’t seen before, but which I really liked:

  • Lead a side-step to the left
  • Leader-only change of weight (exactly as if for an ocho)
  • Project the left foot diagonally left and forward while leading a pivot to my left
  • While doing this, lower myself to ‘sit’ on my right leg
  • Then do a two-footed pivot in which I transfer my weight from left foot to my right (exactly the same as one type of medio-giro) to end with a parada to the follower’s standing foot (right)

It feels lovely. You can easily do it at different speeds. And it has a defined end-point (a parada). By varying both the speed of the planeo itself, and the length of the pause in the parada, it becomes an incredibly flexible tool.

This partners really well with the gentle boleo I practiced earlier. Each is a great way to express sweeping moments in the music.

I need to practice it, of course, and we’ll pick it up next lesson, but this is exactly the sort of simple addition I need. Especially as Fede demonstrated how this can lead smoothly into a calesita. Again, those type of connections are perfect.

I love it when a plan comes together

I feel really excited about where we are now with these lessons, with a three-pronged approach:

  • Technique still the primary focus
  • Working on refining figures I already know (or simple variations thereof)
  • Identifying the smallest elements, and exploring how these can be combined

My next private is with Maeve, and I think I’m going to use it to work on ochos as a follower. I currently have only a very rough-and-ready version of the follower’s ocho steps thanks mostly to drill exercises in the Thursday intermediate class with Luis and Natalia. If I could get this slightly closer to something resembling actual ochos, I think that would be the perfect complement to the work I’m doing with Julia and Fede.

Image: Shutterstock

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