My teachers here have never met, but they work in perfect harmony

Diego and Laura (website to follow) have never met, but their teaching couldn’t be more complementary if they were a team. Each is, in theory, working with me on different aspects of my dance, but it all meshes together so well it’s as if they planned their privates with me together.

Today’s private was with Laura, and I find it hard to believe we covered so much in such a short time …

My objective for the class was to get more comfortable dancing pivots in close embrace. In London, it’s typical for the walk to be in close embrace, then to have a more flexible embrace for pivots. (There are exceptions, of course, but I would say this is the norm for most.)

I wanted help with two things. First, the feeling I have of being constrained by the close embrace when pivoting, feeling like I don’t have enough room to comfortably lead things like giros. This turned out to be simple: Laura said that close embrace is constrained, and it’s just getting used to that feeling. We danced everything in sustained close embrace, and everything felt great!

Second, I couldn’t always tell exactly where a follower was in close embrace, with one example in particular: the ocho cortado. I said that some followers do the classic version, open and then cross, while others do two extra steps for the pivot into the cross. This, too, turned out to be simple: Laura said that sometimes I led the second version! Although (mostly) unintentional, this was just a question of containing the follower, or allowing her more space. If I do the latter, then an experienced follower will use it.

We tested this by dancing, and me leading a mix of the two versions. Yep! It was entirely down to my lead. It was the age-old tango lesson: you know where a follower is because you put them there!

I say two versions, but I already have a few different variations on the ocho cortado, and I was able to reliably mix and match them, fast and slow, long and short, contained and flexible.

Laura then added in something I had tried ages ago, and long since forgotten: using my foot to interrupt the ocho cortado, and to play back and forth within the return side-step. This was really interesting, because my instinct was to move my foot to the beat, but this was far too slow for the follower – Laura was already changing weight, and she said a less experienced follower might kick me. I need to practice this much more, but did succeed in ensuring it was the follower who felt the foot contact on the beat, which means me being ahead of it. It’s exactly the same principle as the walk: leading the step so the follower lands on the beat.

Regular readers will know that I have for some reason always struggled to feel comfortable with the cross. Never sure whether my lead is too much or too little, or how to adapt it to each follower. During this trip, without consciously working on it, it has completely clicked! That adapting my lead is as simple as – again – feeling where the follower is and ensuring I wait for her to land. Adjusting the pivot to be bigger or smaller then becomes easy!

Laura noticed that I often followed the cross with a forward ocho, and encouraged me to take advantage of the momentum of the cross to create a more dynamic and fluid transition into the forward ocho. Such a simple concept, yet this was a major revelation to me! The difference between what I was doing before and after the lesson was night and day.

Of course, some elements of a lesson are reminders rather than new information, and more dissociation in ochos was one of these (especially forward ochos) – but the thing Laura clarified for me was that the difference between what I was doing and what I needed to do was actually rather small. I didn’t require an elastic waist, only a little more intention.

Feeling the movement of the follower’s spine to ensure I didn’t get ahead of her was another reminder. I tried different hand positions on her back, and it is something I can feel in all of them, I just need to change what it is I’m sensing depending on the position.

I mentioned that Diego and I are working on double-time. Laura further refined my fast rebounds, ensuring that my upper body remained connected to my lower body, and we then tried this with double-time weight changes too. This was something I’d filed away to work on next time with Diego, but we played with it now, as it was the same knack of keeping the upper and lower body connected.

Laura seemed to have a slightly different take on this than Diego, but I again strongly suspect this is just coming at the same thing from opposite directions. This is something I’ll explore in my next lesson.

I really couldn’t believe how much we’d covered in less than an hour. Indeed, I had to stop Laura from introducing something else, protesting that my brain was full. Something she got to appreciate when I asked for a video recap and she’d done so much that even she struggled to remember it all!

I again can’t wait to put it all into practice in tonight’s milonga!

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