Joining some more dots – in cross-system!

Different teachers have given me different things. David, for example, was absolutely fantastic at giving me variations on things I already knew. At helping me connect the dots – something which has made my dance both more varied and more fluid.

With Filippo, I’m working almost exclusively on technique. But five hours of dancing on Sunday made me realise there is something rather fundamental missing from my vocabulary, so tonight I asked Filippo to provide a solution. It worked out better than I could have imagined …

One obvious difference with rhythmical dance is that it’s often faster, so I find myself relying more on rebounds, in milonga especially. But that made me realise I don’t have a right-foot rebound in my toolkit. So that’s what I wanted from tonight’s lesson, just a simple way to balance things out.

I wondered what Filippo was up to when he started laying out objects on the floor in a sideways Y-shape, the prongs to the left … But this turned out to be a simple visual aid.

Rebound 1: Side-step to left, then outside walk to follower’s left with my right foot. Rebound, and side-step to right.

Rebound 2: Side-step to left, then take my right foot back and left. Rebound, and side-step to right.

With either of these, we can do incomplete transitions, that is rocking back and forth without taking the full step to exit. I’d done the forward one before, and it’s easy to turn while doing this with either version.

I was already happy I’d got what I wanted, but neither Filippo nor Asia seemed to favour my plan to end the lesson 15 minutes in and head to the pub …

Filippo instead demonstrated something that looked wow, and said we’d get to that after a couple of preparatory steps. He said this involved cross-system, so I did my usual looking around for garlic, cross and silver bullet. Not finding any of these things in the studio, I was left with no choice but to give it a go.

It was:

  • Side-step to left
  • Leader-only change of weight, while pivoting the follower 45º to my left
  • Outside walk with left foot
  • Rebound on right foot while spiralling to my left
    (pivot to my left, and bring my left foot behind me and as far around me as possible)
  • Lead the follower all the way around me into a back ocho
  • For bonus points (which I haven’t yet tried), do a leader cross with the pivot

Song one saw me managing to actually get into cross-system about 40% of the time. By song two, I was up to the dizzy heights of 60%.

My immediate challenge was to figure out an alternative resolution when I accidentally stayed in parallel system (ie. didn’t manage the leader-only change of weight). One of the interim steps we’d taken had involved a cross, and I figured out how to lead that instead. I was feeling pleased with my inventiveness, then realised I had invented … the ocho cortado!

By song 3, I was up to 90%+, and the few times when I missed, I could smoothly turn it into an ocho cortado instead, and the mix of the two felt good. I then felt ready for the next step. From the back ocho, I continued pivoting to lead a medio-giro. It worked! Asia’s smile (below) seemed to suggest she liked it too.

I always have to explain to teachers that my step-memory is exceedingly small, and the first thing I need to do is get to grips with the actual sequence. During that time, both lead and posture will suffer – if they are even present at all. Once my feet know what they are doing, then I can focus on technique and lead.

So once we’d reached that point, Filippo started working with me on technique:

  • In the rebound, a full weight transfer, for the power to really spring back
  • Ensuring I’m not leaning either forward or back in rebounds
  • In the pivot, maintain torso contact with the follower
  • Keeping a tight embrace in the incomplete transitions
    (otherwise it can look like a learner driver trying to control the clutch …)

Of course, as always, the test is leading it with a follower who has no idea what to expect. I’m feeling confident, so looking forward to trying it with a friend at Tango Terra tomorrow!

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