While my longer-term goal is truly improvised dance, I am of course mostly dependent on figures for now.
But the two are in any case very closely linked: the more of my existing figures I can call upon in dance, the more experience I’m getting of different movement possibilities …
I’ve talked before about the three diminishing categories of my vocabulary, though I’ve defined them slightly differently at different times. My current definitions would be:
- Things I can do in a class or practica
- Those I’m confident enough to use in a milonga when I think of them
- The vocabulary I habitually use when dancing
As with any other funnel system, the key to maximising the outcome is to broaden the entire path.
Hence refining the figures in category 1 to promote them to category 2, but also consciously using my category 2 figures in milongas so they become part of my muscle-memory in dance, which is to say, get promoted to category 3.
At Tango Terra yesterday, I successfully upgraded the pivoting planeo from 1 to 2. That had been a surprise! I’d initially only expected to practice it with a friend before the milonga got going, but it had worked really well, my friend (who tells me the truth!) said it felt great and I was able to successfully lead it with other followers.
So each milonga, I’m going to pick a category 2 figure and use it a lot, and see how many times it takes to move it to category 3. I’ve started this with the ocho cortado and the cross (chosen because followers tell me they really enjoy these). These have enough in common that I’m happy working on both at once.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because I kind of did it for a while – but in a less systematic fashion.
My hitlist of things to be promoted is, in the approximate order I expect to tackle them:
- Ocho cortado + the cross
- Pivoting planeo
- Back ochos, stepping behind the follower (last four bullets in the lesson section here)
- Boleo/planeo (from side-step sacada)
- Front ochos with sacada + pivot
My guess is that each will take somewhere between three and six milongas to achieve comfort level. Given I do a minimum of three milongas a week, that’s 1-2 weeks for each. So best case would be to upgrade all of them within seven weeks, worst case would be 14 weeks.
So in say three months, I ought to have all the vocabulary I listed last week as part of my normal dance repertoire. Which would be a huge increase on today.
And dancing that many different types of movement should, I think, help my brain make connections that greatly accelerate my journey towards truly improvised dance.
Of course, I may be totally wrong! Perhaps it takes much more than six milongas to promote a figure to one I can easily call upon in dance. We shall see! My efforts with the ocho cortado and the cross should give me a good sense, so watch this space …