Feeling like I’m on a roll now

This evening’s lesson with David began with more technique refinement and texture.

On the former front, for example, David approved of my collecting my feet fully in the side-steps when leading ochos, but wanted me to ensure that I was dragging my feet along the floor, not lifting them …

That’s a simple thing to do in itself, but it is also another thing to think of while leading pivots. I’m already focusing at present on thinking spine not chest; fully following the follower with my torso in each ocho; keeping my core engaged to avoid collapsing my hip; not having my head follow the pivots; ensuring the follower has completely finished her pivot before initiating the next one; and playing with variations like staccato pivots to match sharp moments in the music – so I’m not certain I’ll manage it with consistency, but we’ll see!


On the texture side, David said that a good dance begins with the way you enter the embrace, and suggested a few things that could feel more performance-orientated – but which I do playfully sometimes anyway. I guess if I think of it all as playful then it won’t feel too pretentious!

For example, lifting my left arm from the elbow and then turning the palm outward in one fluid motion. Fully entering the embrace with one arm before the other. The latter I tend to do anyway, left arm first, and that was suggested to me a long time ago as a way of ensuring that the follower got to choose the closeness of the embrace.

Next up was a way to add drama to a side-step, which is again borrowing from performance tango, but I can see how it can add variety to the dance in the same way that leading a mix of sharp and smooth ochos does.

He also suggest a lift when ending a walk as a way to signal to the follower that there is now going to be a change of pace or mood in what follows.

Getting a new sequence in three goes

Much as I’m not aiming to collect sequences, there was something I was introduced to in a lesson in Boston that I was recently reminded of after seeing something similar in a vals video. It was a way of turning while walking – or, more precisely, a linear giro.

I did a solo approximation and asked him if it was realistic to tackle this in the remaining 30 minutes. He said it was, and … was very right!

One limitation with David as an observer only is that he can’t demonstrate steps with either me or Wai Fong, so it took a couple of explanations before I understood what he was describing.

  • Back ocho to the right
  • Step around the follower with my right foot
  • Lead a back rebound for her, then step back in the line of dance
  • Which brings the follower into a forward step for her
  • I turn with her, which leads a side-step for her
  • Keep turning with her, which leads a back-step for her
  • Then repeat with the step around

(Only one repeat, though, as three is too much!)

Literally three goes in, we had it. I mean, a very rough-and-ready version, obviously, but it worked, and we were dancing it.

This is still an incredibly new and pleasing experience for me! Normally, any kind of sequence leaves me struggling for a while, but this just clicked. I mean, sure, getting the technique right will take a lot of practice, but getting to the point where I could dance it (and to vals, which doesn’t really allow for pauses) in just a few attempts amazed me.

It’s what lots of teachers promised me would happen: when you start to understand something new in terms of things you’ve already done. This very quickly made sense as just a variation on a giro, where the follower’s steps are back, forward, side, back.

Which was another thing that was really satisfying: I found it was much easier if I just focused on the follower’s steps and not my own. When I did that, my own steps just worked.

Another win was that I wasn’t sure how to exit, and David said that a forward ocho was a satisfying end, and then into the walk. Previously, I’d have had to think through exactly how to do that, but this time, as soon as he said it, I just tried it and it was obvious.

Finally, there’s the fact that I’m willing to share a video of something completely new on what was by then I think maybe the fifth or sixth time. (Thanks, too, to Wai Fong for giving permission.)

Lockdown means that will be the last private with David for at least a month, but there is a small chance I might squeeze in one last small-group class with him on Wednesday – we shall see!

Image: Shutterstock

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