Sometimes lessons can pay unexpected dividends some time later. There can be things I didn’t really grasp at the time, which later make sense. Or things I thought were minor points, which subsequently reveal themselves to be far more important.
There was one of the latter in a private with Maeve. Indeed, I didn’t even include it in the blog post at the time, as it just felt like a reminder of something I already knew …
Maeve said to think of linear movements as being circular too. With a forward step, for example, to think of the energy going down into the floor, a little backward toward me and then forward and up, and finally back down into the floor.
What I took from this at the time was a reminder to smoothly signal the beginning of a movement. A very slight movement in the opposite direction first is a good way of doing this, giving the follower time to feel what is about to come.
I simply heard this as something on which I need to keep working, but it was only today that I realised it was a far bigger deal than I’d thought.
I don’t focus much on technique while actually dancing in a milonga. I aim to have most of my attention on my partner, the music and the navigation, which leaves enough spare brain capacity to remind myself of one technique element from time to time. Definitely not more than one!
So after each private, I make notes of the technique issues on which I need to work, and pick one for each milonga. For today, at Tango Garden, I picked that circular movement idea. To explain why this turned to to be A Big Deal, I need to digress …
The joy of weight-sharing in the walk
The walk remains my favourite tango figure. There’s nothing I love more in tango than walking with a significant degree of weight-sharing. Some degree of apilado.
I adore this for two reasons. First, it makes it possible to lead a step at literally any speed. Because there is always resistance to push against, there is never a point at which the follower gets ahead of me. There is the moment of weight-change, at which the step is inevitable, but at any time prior to that I could literally stop the movement and we’d remain exactly as we are. I could take an entire phrase for a single step if I wanted to. (I don’t think I’ve ever actually done so, but I have certainly taken half a phrase for a step.)
Second, and as a result of that degree of control, to me there is no greater sense of connection with a follower.
I love, love, love this sensation.
The problem is that only some followers provide it. Any that do are very likely to go straight onto my list of favourite followers.
Julia has given me some tips on how to enter the embrace in a way that will encourage weight-sharing. Keeping some distance between our feet, offering my left arm first and then moving my upper body in to meet the follower as we complete the embrace. That definitely helps, but still there seemed a lot of pot-luck about it. Ultimately it’s the follower who chooses the embrace, and if she doesn’t choose to weight-share, there isn’t anything I can do to change that.
Or so I thought!
The revelation about a circular start to the walk
When I’m working on a technique issue, I have a couple of different approaches. One is to start small and work toward what I think is the right level for something. The other is to start with what feels like an exaggerated version, to be sure I’m doing it, then dial it down.
Today, I was taking the latter approach. So when I was leading a forward step, I would begin with a noticeable backward movement. We’re probably only talking a centimetre or two, but in close embrace that feels like a lot!
What I found was something magical happened. Followers who don’t normally give me much of a sense of weight-sharing suddenly did! Just that centimetre or two of reverse movement was enough to shift the centre of gravity between us. As they came slightly back (forward for them) toward me, I matched that weight to keep us balanced, and then we had that slight feeling of apilado.
There are still degrees, of course. But there were followers with whom I’d never before felt a sense of weight-sharing where now I did.
What’s also interesting is that it was mostly maintained after that. If a follower dislikes it, she can end it as easily as I can begin it. But with most, that didn’t happened. Once we were weight-sharing, we continued to do so. I’m going to ask for feedback from a couple of today’s followers to make sure it didn’t feel uncomfortable for them, but given how easily they could break it if they wished, my money is on it feeling neutral to good.
I cannot tell you how happy this makes me!