A back cross private with Emma, and a practica to put it to the test

I don’t generally use my privates to work on figures, but I did want to add the back cross. There are times when a slow rebound feels right for the music, but I also feel I over-use them, so wanted to have something which had a similar feel to it, but allowed more variety.

I’d had a private on this a loooong time ago, but because I hadn’t felt confident enough to use it in milongas, I’d long since forgotten how it worked. So that was Emma’s task last night …

Revisiting the back cross

The last time I worked on it, my teacher had taught me a specific step sequence, while Emma had me do it directly from the walk – which felt a lot more natural.

I’m sure that’s entirely down to my level of technique then and now. At the time, I needed something which would ensure I was clearly signalling to the follower to expect something different; now, I’d be able to communicate it through the proper technique alone.

Within a very short time, it was working well, and we then worked on refining it so that I was giving the right amount of lead – not too much, not too little. The movement was simply:

  • From the walk, step with my right foot
  • As I lead a left step, don’t move myself, so the follower begins a back step but doesn’t complete it
  • As her leg swings back, turn my torso somewhat to the right so it swings around into the cross

The exit proved a bit tricky. The simplest resolution is to uncross her by reversing my small pivot while leading a smaller back-and-forward movement – again, only with my torso – then we can walk out.

However, Emma warned me that a lot of followers will automatically change weight in the cross, whether or not it is led. That’s partly because some followers have been incorrectly taught to do that with all crosses, and partly because the most common resolution is a small volcada to bring her left leg around to instead uncross in front.

The danger, then, is that I don’t lead a weight change, but the follower does one anyway. If I don’t detect this, I’ll think we’re in parallel system when we’re actually in cross-system. But if I can feel it, then I can use the same cross-system cross I use to exit from the back ocho to put us back into parallel system.

To test whether or not I could detect it and adapt, we danced a couple of songs with Emma sometimes doing what I led, and sometimes doing an unled change of weight. I missed it once, but got it the rest of the time – and then had no problem resolving it. We also tried me leading the change of weight in order to try the volcada exit.

The big question was whether I could successfully lead the back-cross with someone who isn’t Emma. Fortunately, I had a practica the next day which would provide an opportunity to find out …

Testing it in a practica

Tonight was the last of Esteban’s practicas in the Borough venue, before a move to Liverpool Street. As things turned out, I had to cut the evening short for non-tango reasons, but I did get the opportunity to try it with several followers, and to get feedback from each.

One of the challenges with getting feedback in practicas is followers have a tendency to be too nice, and to blame themselves for failing to follow things. I always have to be super-clear that I’m working on something new, that it’s down to my lead if it doesn’t work, and I really want to understand how it feels so that I can fix things. That done, I got some great – and very consistent – feedback.

The main issue was that my lead for the back swing was too small, so I needed to make it bigger, and to allow more time for that element. Once the leg had enough time to complete the swing, then my pivot could be relatively small, but it needed to be definite: that is, not so small that it could be missed.

Emma’s warning was absolutely correct: one very skilled follower waited to see whether I led the weight-change, but most did it automatically. It also wasn’t always 100% clear to me whether the follower had completed a weight change, so combining Emma’s advice (many followers will do it or expect it) and some advice Diego once gave me about this type of uncertainty over weight changes (“When in doubt, change her weight, and then you’ll know where it is because you put it there”), I decided the safest approach was to actively and clearly lead the change. Then I know we’re definitely in cross-system, and can use the cross-system cross to resolve.

By the time I had to leave, I was able to incorporate it into dance, but it didn’t feel quite milonga-ready. I’ll work on it in my first private with Laura in BsAs. I’m optimistic that one more lesson will get me there.

Nine days to go!

Photo: Kyle Johnson/Unsplash

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