Adding oomph: the next step in my tango journey

More than a year ago, I wrote a lengthy post about finding my own dance.

Lengthy mostly because there’s a long pre-amble intended only as a personal reference. The relevant part here is this …

Here’s what I want my dance to be:

  • A warm embrace
  • Dancing to the music
  • A clear and comfortable lead
  • A collaborative dance
  • Simple things, done well

Of course, nothing is ever static in tango, and while all of that remains true, I do need to add to it.

One important thing has been a switch in focus from learning new figures to aiming instead to identify building blocks which allow me to create truly improvised dance.

But another is adding more texture to my dance. I’ve long done that in some ways. For example, smaller or bigger steps, ochos which are single-time pivots on one side and half-time ones on the other, tiny or big ocho cortados and so on.

One area I’ve feared

But there has been one* area I’ve shied away from: movements which involve utilising momentum, or rapid changes in direction.

*Ok, two – but my avoidance of cross system is a topic for a whole other blog post!

There have been two reasons for this.

First, given that a comfortable lead has been one of my strengths – and I’ve heard plenty of followers talk about how important that is, and how it is not always found in considerably more experienced leaders – I’ve been very wary of anything which might put that at risk.

Second, my tango brain works slowly, which is why I’m very comfortable with slow dance. It gives me enough time to be able to focus on each of the different aspects of the dance – the music, where my follower is, my own technique, the movement of the ronda and so on.

But things change

One or two things have changed, however. In the Old Days, I could comfort myself with the knowledge that my five bullets up there were enough. As I wrote at the time:

Not for everyone. Not all the time. But I’m not looking to dance with everyone. And there is, in any case, something else I’ve realised. Even followers who like to do complex figures that challenge them, or to be twirled around at breathtaking speed, don’t necessarily want that all the time.Sometimes we want a rollercoaster ride, and sometimes we want a pleasant cycle ride through the park. I’m never going to provide the former, but I can provide the latter.

But things are likely to be rather different in future. I suspect that whenever we emerge from this, things are going to open up gradually; for a while at least, milongas are going to be small. There’s also the fact that quite a few of my favourite followers have been older, and they are likely to be more cautious about returning to milongas.

So if I’m going to keep a smaller number of younger followers happy, I will need more variety in my dance. Indeed, Wai Fong – my partner for the lessons with David – said as much, in a very polite way!

The past weeks have shown that you can pick up things and refine them. A clear example is your volcada which you now make look so easy, and feels nice and smooth. Also there’s no doubt about your musicality. One thing which I think will take your leading up a notch is to add Oomph in some of the moves […]

I think you’re ready to take full ownership, which is a firmer lead. Dance like a gaucho… but not to the point where we will be fighting! David would call that passion!

Firm doesn’t mean shoving me here or there–

(Which was the concern I’d raised with her)

… but assertive (not aggressive). I could be wrong but I think the dance would look like it has more substance in this way?

Additionally, movements which involve momentum and fast changes of direction are of course more building blocks.

Finally, there’s the fact that, when I get one of these types of movement right, it feels fantastic. I’ve become a fan of voleos (though will be appropriately cautious in milongas, having been on the receiving end of one or two ill-considered ones). I now adore volcadas (which aren’t usually fast, but do still use momentum). I love colgadas when I make them work. I have a lot of work to do on ganchos, but I’m dipping a toe in the water there (we worked more on these in this week’s lesson).

Speaking of which …

I didn’t write a blog post for this week’s private with David as we weren’t doing anything new, rather working on refining existing moments. Take-outs included:

  • In the volcada, don’t put my heel down when doing the back rebounds – this creates more of a dynamic feel
  • In the medio-giro, work on my dissociation: back spiral step then keep my hips in place while I turn my torso, then snap my hip around at the last moment
  • In the gancho, my foot needs to go deeper to create more space for the follower, and I need to be more on my toe on the free leg, keeping my back leg straight

All things to work on when practicing on Sunday – along with more oomph!

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