Ever since I started considering dropping the Tuesday Tango Space milonga from my weekly schedule, just to calm things down a bit, it has been conspiring to prevent me from doing so …
First, there was a full evening of really great music. Then there was the simple fact that Sunday to Thursday feels like a long time with no tango. And this week, something remarkable happened: successful improvisation!
I got such a constant stream of invitations that I think I only managed to sit out two or three tandas all evening. This included not just my regular followers, but some with whom I hadn’t danced for some time, as well as some new ones. The world seems to be telling me that Tuesday dancing is not optional.
The music was very good. Lots of lyrical songs, even though the general pace was faster than I’d have liked. I mostly danced it at half speed and all was good. But I did mix-and-match the pace a little, so threw in some faster sections, and enjoyed it.
I even danced two Troilo tandas! I think I’ve decided that matching my dance to Troilo on a beat-by-beat and phrase-by-phrase basis is a lost cause at this stage, but what I found was that I could dance something which felt in keeping with the overall feel – and that felt a lot better than I would have expected. My followers seemed of the same view, so perhaps I’ll risk it a little more often.
I was also trying two exercises to help me work on my improvisation. First, I led some figures I don’t often use – like the cross and the ocho cortado – and then paused at the end of them just to mentally note where the follower’s weight was and how I normally exited. I will then review those mental notes to think about what else would be possible from that point.
That was all theoretical. I wasn’t risking any actual improvisation there, just logging data.
But the story was very different when it came to vals!
Vals tandas have long been a tricky one for me. I really love the rhythm and the feeling, but I feel like my dance is too limited – most of the things I do to tango don’t seem a good fit for vals. Paradas obviously don’t work with the flowing nature of the music; giros require more precision than I can manage to the 3/4 signature; I am finally able to lead ochos at vals pace, but it feels like they must be hard work for the follower so I try to limit them. So it doesn’t leave me with much! But …
Whenever a follower has invited me for a vals tanda, I’ve warned them that my vals is extremely basic. And almost without exception, they’ve told me afterwards that it was lovely because it really expressed the rhythm. Since the same followers have come back for another one later, I have to believe them.
So, I decided this would be a safe way to play with really easy improvisation. No pivots in the mix, just playing with steps. For example, a mix of smaller and bigger steps – like big, big, big, change-weight, small, small, small, change-weight. And rock-step, rock-step, rock-step, slow side-step, then repeating the pattern to the other side. I tried a few different things, and found that the gentle pace actually let my tango brain keep up!
This was remarkably successful. I was actually improvising!
A simple rhythm, a manageable pace and Maeve unlocking something in yesterday’s freeform lesson combined to produce an unexpectedly rapid result.
I have a feeling I’m going to be dancing a lot more vals …