Clockwise giros, and the long list of technique issues my attempts revealed!

Long-time readers will know that it took me a lot of time and a lot of privates to reach the point where I felt happy with my giros. They remain basic – you won’t find me doing any lapices or sacadas during them – but I’m happy with them for now.

Clockwise giros are another matter. Turning toward the closed side of the embrace feels a lot tricker, and my track-record with them is patchy …

Ironically, they seem to work well enough if I do them at speed without thinking about my footwork, just turning my body and letting my feet fall where they may. But if I try to do them slowly, or to remain in close embrace, then things get messy.

Filippo suggested we work first with a clockwise medio-giro – three steps, as follower’s back, side and forward steps. He demonstrated, at which point I realised there was a slight technical hitch: Janet was wearing a long, flowing skirt which looks beautiful in a milonga but makes it impossible to see either her feet or his! I asked Filippo to demonstrate the footwork on his own, and then got the idea.

The particular version was:

  • Lead a back ocho to the left
  • Position my right foot behind and in an L-shape to my left
    (which mirrors what I do for the standard giro)
  • Lead a back ocho to the right into the space I’m leaving
  • Then just turn my torso, twisting on both feet for side and forward steps
  • Pivot the follower and do a parada to exit in the reverse direction

The theory was pretty simple, the practice not so much! Filippo gave me a series of pointers to deal with my various technical failings along the way …

  • Don’t lead the follower around the outside of me,
    rather into the space that I am vacating as I turn
  • Think: Opening space into which the follower can move
  • Keep my rear foot touching my forward one (to avoid leading her away from me)
  • Point the toe of my rear foot first, then push into the heel as we move
  • Think of this movement as pulling my right hip backwards and around me
  • Move my left hand around her, as if behind her back, not toward her

And that isn’t even all of it. Plus, being a naturally curious person with the (distant!) ambition of being a dual-role dancer, I also couldn’t resist paying attention to the equally-detailed feedback he was giving to Janet. The end result was that my brain melted and I could barely tell my left from my right.

But we kept trying, and things did slowly start improving. By the end of the lesson, I still felt like I needed a lot more practice, but we’re going to Filippo’s practica on Saturday afternoon with the aim of doing about a billion of them, so we’ll see …

I said the above technical points weren’t all of it. There were a couple more things which apply more generally:

  • In a parada, keep turning my foot until a follower has actually stopped pivoting, rather than to the point where I think she’s going to stop!
  • In back ochos, ensure my shoulders go fully around the follower, and that my left hand follows the same path (not toward the follower)

There was also one more thing to try, both as a useful turning tool in a milonga, and as an exercise for turning a follower into my space rather than around me: a big circular side-step.

  • Do a big change of weight onto the opposite foot first, as preparation
  • Turn as before (L-shaped foot position), and lead the side-step around me

The technical points are essentially all the same ones as for the giro; it’s distilling the core technique for the giro into a simpler movement. Simpler in terms of mechanics, that is, not execution!

Oh, and I’m still struggling to keep my head upright, not lean forward or to the side. There are some followers who seek forehead contact, so I think that’s why I haven’t unlearned that bad habit.

Phew! Come 5pm Saturday, I’ll either be able to do halfway-decent clockwise giros, or be sobbing quietly while rocking back-and-forth in a corner of the room …

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