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Walking doesn't always mean in a straight line!

Tango is often called a ‘walking dance’, perhaps in the sense that there is movement around the room rather than in one place. But it is not just a linear dance, it also involves turns and curves.

The last couple of weeks, we have started to focus on how to bring those in to our dance with ‘ochos’ (a figure of eight movement) and pivots.

This involves understanding the difference between the PARALLEL and CROSS system.

I think for a long time this was a bit of a mystery to me! But then as a follower I guess it’s not QUITE so crucial.

So, trying to keep it simple..

When we are in the PARALLEL system, leader and follower are mirroring each other. So, when the leader walks forwards with the right leg, the follower walks backwards with the left leg.

The CROSS system happens when the leader either changes weight, without changing the followers weight, or changes the followers weight without changing his/hers. Puzzled? Try it at home. Doing it is the easiest way to get your head round it!

Let’s look at PIVOTS, which are part of the technique needed for ochos.

We often use the analogy of the tea towel. Imagine you have a tea towel, you hold one end and twist it until it feels quite tight. Then you let go and it unravels. The tighter you twist it in the first place, more energy will be produced when it unravels.

Mmm, what has that got to do with pivots?

Well, we start the pivot from the upper body, turning the head first in the direction we want to move, then the shoulders and chest and the last bit to go is the legs and feet. As one of our teachers, Giraldo, drums in to us, ‘shoulder, hip and legs’

When the feet pivot, we keep the heels together and lift the heel of the standing leg as we move around.

Don’t worry, it takes lots of practise! One tip is to stay ‘up’ and not collapse the body which then becomes very heavy.

Now, let’s look at OCHOS!

A simple entrance into Ochos is for the leader to take a sidestep to the left, then subtly changing weight onto their right foot while keeping the follower ‘up’ so that they don’t change weight. This is done with the embrace.

The follower has to ‘listen’ and by that I mean listening with the body not the mind!

Leader and follower are now in the CROSS system; it’s now impossible for the leader to walk straight in to the follower as you are both on the same legs.

The leader pivots the follower, with the upper part of the body first, the hips and legs follow, takes a diagonal step forwards/left with the left leg, then pivots the follower towards the right and takes a step right, a bit like skating.

The follower keeps in line with the leaders chest, steps backwards with the left leg, brings feet together before pivoting and then stepping with the right leg, so it goes on producing a curving, flowing movement.

Tip, for the leaders; don’t do endless ochos on the dance floor. Well you probably wouldn’t have room to be honest. Remember that the follower is pivoting on the ball of her foot!

That’s quite a lot to take in, but remember we repeat and go over things and even experienced dancers are still perfecting their pivots and ochos!

LEADERS; a little bit of info about etiquette on the dance floor.

When we dance in the line of dance, we not only have to think about improvisation, dancing to the music and looking after our partner, we also have to be aware of other dancers. We are not dancing alone. If a big space opens up in front of us, then we walk a little. If someone comes to a halt in front of us, we pause, 'balanceo' (weight transfer on the spot) or a circular movement. We have to learn to navigate, do not overtake, do not bump the people in front, don not start dancing clockwise around the room! It’s multitasking, it’s good for the brain!!!

FOLLOWERS; we need to heighten our sensitivity to the length of step our leader is initiating and that helps to avoid walking in to people dancing behind you. Also try not to be too ‘helpful’. If you don’t feel it, don’t do it because that isn’t really helping the leader and you start to become a follower that anticipates.

Ok, signing off. We are really enjoying the beginners classes and we hope you are too. All of you are doing really well!!

Any feedback on the classes or the blog would be appreciated.

Here is a link to the music we used this week.

Jenny and Sarah

Di Sarli - El Pollito

Biagi - Espérame en el Cielo

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