I've reached an interesting point in my journey. Some of my experiences this year have convinced me that I really need to reconsider some of my attitudes to how I dance - both AT and MJ.
Over the past few years I've been certain that it's vital to master the fundamentals of technique (lead; balance; how to take a step etc.) and focus on the feeling of the dance (connection with my partner, in a more than physical sense; musicality; expression; listening to the follower etc.) rather than build a repertoire of movements. As a consequence, I've barely added to my MJ vocabulary in the last 3 years and I've only just started to play with rear sacadas and ganchos in AT. It's not that I haven't done plenty of figures or "moves" in classes, it's that I haven't really thought of them as things to use in my social dancing; they've been interesting exercises through which I've learnt new techniques and polished other ones. I'm beginning to think that I now need to concentrate on using these figures more in the dance, to be more daring with movements to express the music particularly when dancing with followers I'm not familiar with.
I was dancing after a class given by Jose Vazquez in Bristol a couple of months ago - Jose was dancing alongside and called over "Jon, do you want some ganchos?" as he demonstrated some spectacular movements that would cripple my partner if I attempted them. I laughed and said that I'd never done a gancho on my partner but it made me think that I really ought to learn these things. Perhaps I've been too focussed on the fundamentals and need to "lighten up", take some more risks and generally extend myself rather than taking such a step-by-step approach. (By the way, Jose is a really good teacher and I'm planning to do a series of privates with him when he gets back from BsAs next month. His command of English isn't great but I've got huge respect for his teaching and his dancing. Nice guy too.)
That feeling was reinforced in Tavira. For my money, the best teachers were Leandro Oliver and Laila Rezk (before any nuevo fans get on my case, Ezequiel Farfaro & Eugenia Parilla were bloody good too, as was Pablo Inza). Leandro & Laila are principle dancers with Tango Por Dos so you can imagine the kind of stuff they can casually throw into their dance - just fantastic! They introduced each class with an exhortation NOT to simply learn the figure; the aim was to learn the technique that made the figure possible. But what figures - elegant, not overly complex, but expressive and creating beautiful lines. (In the first class we did with them Leandro said "We'll start with something simple then build it up"; he demonstrated the "simple" bit and my heart sank into my boots. But with clear teaching and sensible progression it all turned out fine).
I like being complimented on my technique - a follower said that I had "such smooth feet" at the last milonga I danced at and I positively glowed. But, I'm beginning to feel that I make the same kind of movements all the time in AT - something I've felt about my MJ for a good while. As I say, it's not that I don't know loads of "moves" in both dances (at Nelson's last MJ coaches day we ran through the 128 moves on his "moves cards" in about 55 minutes, including mini-aerials, drops and such like so I clearly have them in my muscle memory. On that basis I must have 500+ MJ moves somewhere in my memory banks but I don't seem to be able to access them when I'm actually dancing). Now I think I need to focus on using and adapting more of them; I need to have the option to to inject some real "fire" into my dance. I want to get to that stage where followers say to themselves "That was amazing. I don't know how I did that; his lead made it inevitable".
The journey continues ... will I become a "move monster"?!
- Jon Dixon