Tonight’s tango itinerary was the Thursday intermediate lesson with Luis and Natalia, and then … a dilemma! It was the monthly Tango Space drinks, which I always enjoy, but also Tango Terra.
It wasn’t feasible to do both, so a decision needed to be made …
Tonight’s lesson again opened with practice at dancing in small spaces. This time, chairs were used to give each couple a space about one typical forward step by one typical side step, and we had to dance a song in that.
I don’t know that I’ll ever actively enjoy being that hemmed-in during a milonga, but it is a lot of fun to practice it in a class, and to figure out just how much I can lead in that space. Typically in a real milonga that crowded I’ll stick to small steps, rebounds and a tight circular walk, but was tonight able to lead some small back ochos and paradas – especially now that I can more-or-less do the opposite-side sandwich to give more directional options. (It’s still slightly shaky, but I’m gradually getting there.)
We did this for three songs with three partners, and I had a lot of fun! Luis said he really liked the tight circular walk; it’s funny that this was my first ever solution to dancing in small spaces, and now that I have other options, I find followers often comment appreciatively on it. I also tried just pivoting in the centre while the follower walks around me, something I think I first saw in BsAs, and which a friend says one of the teachers often leads.
After that, we resumed work on the evolving sequence from the previous two weeks. The final sequence was lengthy:
- Lead back ochos
- Then a circular back ocho to the right
- Sacada as the follower steps around
- Collect and and pause as the follower is alongside at a 90-degree angle
- Side-step into a forward ocho
- Convert to back ocho
- But step around the follower in her back ocho
- Lead it so she doesn’t fully step but rebounds on her back foot
- While the leader pivots 180 degrees around her
- Resolve with back-step, or back ochos, or as desired
The point, of course, was not that we would ever lead that sequence, but to give us an understanding of different possibilities at different points.
For me, the most exciting aspect was the contra-giro part: stepping around the back ocho and pivoting while the follower rebounds. We only got to that at the end, and I’d need to fully understand the technique required, then to practice it a lot, but I think that is a small sequence that would prove really useful in small spaces. I also think understanding this principle will prove a real eye-opener.
At the end of the lesson, I gathered a few of us together to see if we could reach a consensus on drinks or Tango Terra. We couldn’t, so I proposed a solution. Usually, drinks have been in a large space at the back of the pub with plenty of room to socialise and move between tables. But the last two, someone else got that space so we were at the front, where it’s much less practical to move between groups. I suggested we go to the pub first, stay if we were at the back, go to TT if we were at the front. We were at the back.
Tango Space drinks
I did miss Tango Terra! But I didn’t regret the decision. The Tango Space crowd are such lovely people, and it’s always really good to talk properly.
I mean, we socialise at milongas, of course, but often with half an eye on potential cabeceos, and many half-completed conversations when a new tanda begins and one or more of us dash off to dance it. Being able to have a proper sit-down conversation is a luxury!
There was one regular leader from the Thursday intermediate class who says he hardly goes to milongas as he feels intimidated. I did my best to encourage him, recommending TT as a friendly, low-pressure milonga, so hopefully we’ll get him along there in the next week or two. Another was saying he worried about lack of vocabulary, and I shared my own experience of that – enthusiastically backed by two followers who agreed that a comfortable embrace, clear lead and musicality were more than enough.
Luis also made the point that while any one leader might have say three things they do a lot, the next leader the follower dances with will have three different ones. So followers get variety between leaders, they don’t necessarily need it with any one leader. Indeed, some followers seek out specific leaders for a specific style of dance, when consistency is actually a virtue rather than a limitation. The trick is not to bore ourselves with our own dance.
Luis said one of his early teachers had told him that you only need five things to be able to dance to just about anything. He couldn’t recall now exactly what those five things were, but something like:
- Back ochos
- Sanguchito (sandwich)
- And … he couldn’t recall, which was evidence how little the specifics matter
He said you could put together almost any set of four or five simple things and dance well forever with those.
Finally, we talked about Maria’s blog post, and I said I felt we were entering tango at a really exciting time, when collaborative dance and dual-role dancing is becoming mainstream. I’ll talk more about that in a future blog post – and, separately, discuss further the ‘five things’ vocabulary concept.
Next up in my tango schedule is a Tango Space webinar on Sunday morning, and Los Angelitos in the afternoon. I’m looking forward to dancing there again!
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