Tango course: Week 2 of 8

9th October 2008

Class Date: Thursday 9th October 2008, 8pm - 10pm

Teacher: Amir Giles & Jenny Sayer

Class Type Beginners / Intermediates (8-week course)

Location: The Philbeach Hall, 51 Philbeach Gardens, Earls' Courts, London SW5 9EB (map)

(Other write-ups: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8)

Class review

Class review and comments: This will be the first of a series of descriptions of Amir's 8-week Argentine Tango course; I'll be using these as a "notebook" to help me remember what topics we covered on which weeks.

Introduction

I missed the 1st week, but as I understand it, Amir & Jenny covered the basics of connection, walking, and taking basic steps to the side, forwards and back.

(One thing that struck me about the course is that it's not "rushed" - in comparison to other Tango / Jango courses I've been on, this is the first time I've felt that the material was covered in an unhurried way. It's a great improvement, and of course the 8-week format allows them to do it this way.)

Segregation exercises

We started out working separately (not in couples), by doing the walking-thing; walking forwards and backwards across the hall. Amir spent some time talking about dissociation during walking - that is, twisting to the side of the foot you're walking on. Ivan Arandia of Negracha's approaches walking in a very similar way, with the same emphasis on dissociation whilst walking. We practiced standing still and simply turning our upper bodies without moving the hips, more difficult than it sounds. Oh, and belly buttons and nipples were mentioned, but in a good way.

We then moved on to pivots / ochos. Firstly by doing forwards ochos up and down the hall, and then backwards ochos up and down the hall. Amir emphasized the need to start preparing for the motion with the upper body, and using dissociation (or torque) to "unwind" the body allowing you to do the pivot on each occasion. Amir also emphasized the need to push off correctly on each foot - whenever he lost balance at the end of a step, it was usually because the initial push wasn't correctly done.

Partnering up

We then moved on into partnered work. Firstly in practice hold - woman's hands on the man's shoulders. We did some simple standard exercises: changing weight in a non-rhythmic way, raising and lowering.

Amir described the motion of preparing - pre-leading - a step, in an "over-and-under" sort of way. That is, if you're going to lead a lady backwards, you need to first make a small pre-lead forwards, to get her onto her toes in preparation. If you're leading a sidestep to the left, you need to first make a small pre-lead to the right, and so on.

Note: this type "over-and-under" preparation, I believe, is only or mainly relevant when starting to dance - it's probably not so useful when actually in motion.

We then actually moved on to stepping - sideways, forwards, and backwards, just working on connection.

Another useful tip was to relax during dancing - tension communicates itself. If you're tense, your partner will be also, so the dance is likely to be - well - tense. And tiring. Of course, knowing you need to relax is one thing, doing it whilst trying to remember 21 other things simultaneously is another...

We then moved on to walking forwards a few steps - moving to the man walking to the outside on occasion (4-track) then back again (2-track). One point I thought could have been mentioned here (possibly it was in week one?) was that the man's centre should still be aligned to the woman's, despite walking on the outside - otherwise the woman is likely to move sideways as well as backwards, which is Bad.

Ochos

We had a bit of a break then, and played the Amir-patented "grab-a-shoulder" game, where you put your hand on a leader's shoulder and try to follow them whilst they make a succession of movements and steps around the room.

After the break, we worked on leading ochos, with the leader's hands held out in a horizontal "V" (level with the afore-mentioned nipples), and the follower's hand on the leader's arms. We spent quite a lot of time simply rotating our torsos to lead the follower into forward ochos, ensuring we can lead these properly, without actually waving our arms around and hoping.

We then moved into the standard (open) embrace, and Amir and Jenny spent some time talking about the handhold, and the positioning of the leader's hand on the "countours" of the follower's back. Another useful tip with the handhold; ensure the follower's middle finger is pointing in the same (horizontal) direction as her forearm.

Suggestion: it would have been useful to say something to the women about their left arms, in terms of not pulling down so much on the man's right arm / shoulder.

Routine

We had a little routine at the end, several walks into a set of forward ochos, then back into walking, to demonstrate how the steps can be used. But this was definitely a technique-heavy class, and as Jenny said, you can apply technique to everything.

We finished off with some walking side-by-side - "Americana" - varying speeds and trying to get connection that way.

After the class, I spent a few tracks dancing as a follower, which was very useful for me, although possibly a painful experience for my follower...

Summary

All in all, it was a very thorough class - far more so than any other of Amir's, in that he took the time to cover each area in sufficient detail to explain it well. I'm looking forward to the rest of the course, I hope they'll all be this useful.

More class details: www.jango.co.uk/Philbeach Thursdays.htm

- David Bailey