Resuming privates with Fede and Julia, and diving into colgadas

With Fede and Julia now back from Greece, I was able to resume my privates with them. Thankfully they could see progress rather than deterioration in my dance!

I know I said I wasn’t looking to learn new figures, but I am looking to expand my understanding of the building blocks of tango movements, and having been introduced to one off-axis movement in the form of the volcada, it made sense to me to understand its converse, the colgada …

We started by working on refining the volcada. Fede uses a different step sequence to the one David had shown me, and while his is in principle simpler, it was a little less clear to me in practice, so I decided to stick to the one I know for now.

There were a few things for me to work on here …

First, if I dissociate to the left, then it creates more of a circular movement, rather than the more linear one I had. A circular movement makes it more natural for the follower to cross.

Second, I need to be careful to keep my chest forward and not step too far back during my back-step, else I’ll be leading the follower to step forward rather than just swing her leg.

Third, and similarly, not to step too far to the left in the side-step, else again I could be accidentally leading a step.

We then worked on the colgada. The version we did was:

  • Side-step to left with parada to inside of follower’s foot, and dissociate to my right
  • Sit back, while sliding open the embrace to follower’s left shoulder blade
  • As soon as we’re leaning out, immediately open and pivot to the left

The resolution Fede uses is a cross-system one, which I wasn’t going anywhere near. As evidence of the success of my first stage of improvised dance, I felt confident I could find a resolution on the fly – and did so.

I realised that the colgada is effectively a variation on the giro, and any exit to the giro would work here. For the degree of turn I currently have, that was usually into a back ocho. Another option is simply to continue the turn as a giro and end it at any point.

The important technique points here are:

  • Trust and confidence! Really sit back in the colgada!
  • Bend knees slightly, but keep my core engaged and torso upright
  • The final part of the sitting movement leads directly into the pivot, no pause

That last bullet is technically accurate but doesn’t really capture the feeling when it works well, which is more like a single outward and turning movement. But I think it is still important to think of it as expressed because unless the outward tension is there first, it is more of a giro than a colgada.

I did get the basic idea pretty quickly, culminating in one that worked so well Julia declared it a quick win. This turned out to be a premature congratulation, as my subsequent attempts were very inconsistent. Sometimes I just wasn’t getting the outward tension, which meant the turn lacked energy.

Still, they and I were both pleased at how quickly I got to the stage of being able to do them well some of the time. Now it’s just a question of a lot of practice!

Both the volcada and colgada feel absolutely lovely when they work well, so it will definitely be worth the work. Once I have them consistently working, then I can experiment with variations in order to get a better understanding of the principles.

We also worked on the walk, of course. There was a bounce they wanted to eliminate. I’ve been concentrating on brushing my knees to keep myself in a single line, and a stronger push all the way through the walk then smoothed out the vertical motion.

There are two things Fede persistently tries to get me to do, and which I equally persistently resist: cross-system, and switching between single- and double-time! His attempt to trick me into cross-system* was not successful as I could see through it, but he did manage to get me trying to switch between single- and double-time in the walk, and Julia declared it sufficiently successful to then have me try it in ochos.

*Again, a sign of me successfully understanding the building blocks: it was immediately obvious to me that the change of weight he suggested would leave us in cross-system. Fede wants me to begin using it because of the possibilities it opens, and I absolutely understand and support this idea. It’s just that cross-system consistently confuses me, and I feel it will be easier to understand once I’ve advanced my improvised dance beyond stage one.

I do vary the pace in ochos, but by slowing them rather than speeding them up. This was to switch instantly from ‘normal speed’ to on the beat. It was … variably successful. Which is to say it occasionally worked. But I get the idea, and both walk and ocho versions would work with sufficient practice.

I have a practice session tomorrow in which I’ll work on both the volcada and colgada and see how they progress!

Oh, and Steph had a lesson too, and now understands why I rave about them so much; she’s booked another too.

Image: Shutterstock

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