Finally dipping a toe into the cross-system waters!

Fede has been trying to get me into the cross-system for what feels like most of my life, and I have always fended him off with crosses, garlic and silver stakes.

But a combination of two things meant that I finally felt ready to dip a small toe into the cross-system waters …

First, I’m just taking a more gung-ho approach. Second, cross-system is of course another important part of the building-block approach. So even if I didn’t get to grips with it in the course of the lesson, then it would at least expand my understanding of what’s possible.

As it turned out, though, it went extremely well!

Leader-only change of weight

We started with a leader-only change of weight in the walk to switch to cross-system. There were two key things here:

  • The change of weight has to be subtle, so the follower doesn’t change weight too
  • I need to dissociate to create room for the three-track walk

The first point proved tricky at times, I think more so with a very sensitive follower, but I actually found it easier when incorporating it into dance than when practicing it.

The second felt easy in a straight line, but far less so when turning at the end of the room! I found it hard to simultaneously maintain the dissociation while also leading the change of direction. Fede and Julia’s advice here was mostly not to think about it so much, just focus on maintaining the dissociation and let auto-pilot handle the curved path. That did help, though it still feels messy at this stage.

Repeating the change of weight while re-associating then leads directly back into parallel system.

Alternatively, I can exit via the cross, which works particularly well with …

Back ocho entry into cross-system

An alternative entry into cross-system was something I’d done once before in a lesson with Fede and Julia, but abandoned immediately afterwards because it was making my brain melt:

  • Lead a back ocho to the left
  • Then to the right
  • On the right ocho, straighten up and walk

We are then in cross-system. An easy exit from there is:

  • Short-step forward with left foot (care: forward step, not diagonal)
  • Normal step with right foot
  • Re-associate to lead the cross

But this time it all made sense. I also had a light-bulb moment!

Previously, I would have combined those last two bullets into one, because it seemed to me like I could only lead a cross (parallel or cross-system) by re-associating during the step. That they had to be a single movement.

But here it struck me that I could lead the step, and then the pivot into the cross. And if I can separate them like this, then I could lead the cross at any speed.

I tried leading the step, but not fully transferring my weight, and then leading the cross really slowly as a separate movement – and it worked beautifully!

The beauty of the cross-system cross is that you can walk directly out of it without a leader change of weight. I think with most followers of my own level I’d still want to have a one-beat pause, but with Julia I was able to work directly out without missing a beat.

One-step cross

Fede then showed me a way to lead the cross in a single step. This is something I’d either seen or read about a long time ago, and made some very unsuccessful attempts at it without knowing what I was doing. It is, in principle, very simple:

  • With weight on my right foot, dissociate to right
  • Then step forward with the left and re-associate

Fede suggested this just as an exercise, but I was immediately ‘No, I want to use this!’

I was able to reliably do it in the walk while dancing with Julia, and it’s an absolutely lovely element to incorporate into dance.

I think with a less expert follower, I’ll need to lead it super-clearly, otherwise it will feel like a voleo lead. I think the secrets are to have the initial dissociation be very clear, and a short step to leave room for the cross. I shall try it in tomorrow’s practice session.


We spent a little time doing some further work on the colgada. The weight transfer is now working 95% of the time, but Julia was – appropriately enough – encouraging me to give the whole thing more energy. To really go for it, accelerating into the turn and maintaining the speed.

I was losing connection in the back ocho exit, with Julia having to remind me she needed time for two steps to my one, but that has been working fine before, so I think that was just tiredness.

Rebounds in the walk

Finally, we just danced a couple of songs, and I included the back ocho into cross-system and the one-step cross, both of which were mostly working really well.

Julia also made the same suggestion David did last time, about leading some linear rebounds in the walk, which worked particularly well with the song to which we were dancing at the time. She said they were lovely, so it’s just a question of remembering to use them.

So, a fantastic lesson! I do now feel 100% confident leading the back-ocho entry into the cross-system, albeit returning to parallel system two steps later. The weight-change approach needs more work, making it smoother and more subtle so that the follower doesn’t also change weight. The one-step cross, too, needs much practice, but it’s fantastic to finally understand in principle how to lead it.

Much fun to be had in tomorrow’s practice session!

Image: Shutterstock

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