Despite working independently, Laura and Diego somehow ganged up on me while I was in BsAs back in March. There have been two things I’ve always viewed with terror in tango: cross-system, and double-time.
I’d dipped a toe in the cross-system waters, though always aimed to return to the safety of parallel system at the earliest opportunity. But the occasional rebound aside, I’d still mostly kept double-time at a safe distance …
There were a couple of reasons for this. First, my dance brain doesn’t operate that quickly. In normal or half-time, I can Just Dance; in double-time, not so much. Second, even though my dance partners have assured me it’s not the case, switching between normal- and double-time has always felt rushed, awkward.
However, in both sets of privates, I was told the same thing: You’re ready. Though personally I think this was code for ‘You can’t put it off any longer, mate.’
A lightbulb moment
Sometimes the simplest of technique tips can make all the difference in the world – and this was the case here. Both Diego and Laura independently offered me the same two tips. First, the easiest way to include double-time is to do some fast rebounds. Second, the key to these is to keep my weight on my heel, so that only about 10% of my weight is transferred – which also ensures my follower won’t transfer too much of her weight.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. I was immediately able to use that in milongas. I throw in some double-time steps, and even a fast ocho cortado when feeling confident! It’s still relatively new territory, and it’s not like I’m using double-time a lot – but it is, slowly, beginning to feel more natural.
Connection and dynamism in double-time
There was more to the privates, of course. One challenge with double-speed rebounds is keeping them feeling smooth even when staccato. Laura worked with me on ensuring I maintain the same degree of chest contact throughout a rebound, and quite a subtle difference made a huge difference in how it felt to her – staying with her rather than losing her. Everyone in tango knows how easily we can alternate between feeling great about our dance, and despairing, but when teachers work with me on this level of subtlety, that does feel like a significant compliment!
Laura also worked with me on dynamism. Something I will do quite frequently is a cross into a forward ocho, and Laura showed how I could make this transition much faster, to use the momentum of the uncross to drive the ocho.
One of the reasons this post has been so long delayed is that I wanted to take the next, uh, step before writing it. Diego has said that once I was comfortable with this work, then it would be time to work on using it at milonga speeds!
As things turned out, that lesson didn’t happen until I was back in the UK, and it was with Emma rather than Diego.
Emma started with something I’ve been told many times before, and which should be obvious, yet it appears my feet need multiple reminders: the faster the step, the smaller the distance. In that way, moving faster is actually mostly illusion: it’s moving a smaller distance in less time.
Emma took this to a new level, where my feet were actually overlapped in the forward and back steps, like so:
Side-steps were similarly tiny, yet the lead remained completely clear.
My feet are better at this stuff than my brain, as Emma proved: she said that when I was switching to double-time in the walk, for example, forget all about my feet and just focus on accelerating and decelerating my chest. I did so, and my feet figured out the rest.
Finally, she showed a couple of ways of doing super-fast steps, but both significantly exceeded the speed of my brain. However, when I reverted to Dancing With An Advanced Follower 101 – me doing basic things while giving my follower the opportunity to do sophisticated things – this worked just fine!
Speeding up and slowing down
I said waiting to work on double-time in milonga was one reason for this very delayed post, but there is another one. While my dance may be speeding up, the frequency with which I dance has slowed right down.
I wrote about the huge difference between dancing in BsAs and London, and while regular visitors to tango Mecca tell me that this is simply a price you pay – and you get over it – I kind of haven’t.
Poor floorcraft really does bother me a lot more than it used to, especially as I’ve now had a few different experiences of UK dancing beyond London – which has more in common with BsAs than it does with our own capital.
So I’ve been dancing a lot less than usual – once a week at most.
(There is a secondary – and fun – reason for this, of which close friends are aware.)
Which has led me to revisit a question I first asked myself a long time ago; but that’s a topic for the next blog post …