Tango lives in the details

I once saw an interview with Carlos Gavito, toward the end of his life, where the interviewer asked him what he was working on at that time. ‘My walk,’ he said.

I guess at a high enough level in any discipline, people still work daily on the fundamental techniques, but I can’t think of many other activities where we consider ourselves beginners for two years and are still having lightbulb moments about the most basic of things …

A recent conversation had me look out a Diego Bado video for someone, and I discovered he’d posted a few technique videos to his YouTube channel. Including this one:

It was a complete revelation to me! I was wondering why no teacher had ever mentioned it to me. In reality, they almost certainly have, but my baby tango brain was too full at the time to take it on board.

But now … wow! Just thinking ‘Relax hip’ before anything where balance is an issue has improved my balance dramatically overnight.

The great thing about this is that I don’t have to think about projecting or the position of my foot or any of the other things I’ve focused on when trying to work on my balance. Just thinking ‘relax hip’ is enough.

I had a similar experience practicing colgadas after a lesson with David. One common issue with my lead was Asia starting to lose her axis backwards. In principle, this seemed like an easy fix – keeping my left hand further forward – but it was still very hit and miss.

Then it occurred to me to simply try thinking ‘weight forward.’ This immediately resulted in a dramatic improvement in my lead – so much so that Asia was able to do adornos during the rotation!

The impossible cross

David sometimes gets a little carried away in my privates with him, introducing things which I consider rather too advanced for me! One such was a cross variation where I continued the follower’s sideways movement until her weight was on both feet, then walked around her clockwise to spiral her from a cross on one side to a cross on the other.

This had a number of challenges, the first of which was how to lead Asia past the normal cross position to put her weight on both feet equally. After trying and failing several times, David said this was one movement where it was ok to use my arms to guide the follower. After spending so long trying not to do this, that was quite a counter-intuitive idea!

After that came the problem of how to feel when Asia was in that middle position, which I couldn’t do reliably at all. Then knowing when Asia had finished her spiral. Oh, and I also struggled to figure out a reliable exit.

All-in-all, that was something I was going to file under ‘Useful to understand another type of movement, but impossible for now.’

However, when it came to our post-lesson practice session, Asia was having none of this! She insisted we try it. The weight-sensing problem did seem to be solved by repeating only that movement, slowly back-and-forth. Afterwards, I still didn’t feel like I reliably knew, but apparently my body did.

Detecting the end of the spiral turned out to be simple by slowing it down, allowing me to feel the increased resistance. Resolving it seemed to be another thing that my head didn’t understand but my body, for the most part, did.

I’m still not convinced it’s something I’ll be using in dance anytime soon, but we’ll see! It is a very nice-feeling movement …

The end of lockdown is in sight

There are still some doubts about whether lockdown will end on 21st June as planned, but with the vaccination program still going well, and no sign that the Indian variant is any worse than the others, it does at least feel plausible.

What happens then is still very much up in the air. Will all the London milongas re-open? Will people flock back to dance, or will some remain cautious for a while?

Personally, I’m optimistic, and I’ll definitely be there on the opening night of whichever of my usual milongas opens first!

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