Tango course: Week 3 of 8

17th October 2008

Class Date: Thursday 16th 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

I'll divide this into several sections, as the classes seem to be structured in this way.

The start: technique

We started off with walking - again, this follows a standard AT course of this type. We walked forwards, we walked backwards. The knees should remain soft whilst walking.

Amir expanded on the topic of dissociation during walking - that is, always twisting to the side of the front foot (when walking forwards or backwards). We did a bit of twisting and swaying; Amir also re-visited his belly-button to talk about where we twist from. Fortunately, discussions of nipples were avoided this week.

Flashbulb moment one: dissociation powers the trailing leg

One concept he emphasized was that the dissociation is what brings the trailing leg in when walking. This was new to me; I was familiar with that theory whilst during ochos (Kicca has spent many an hour trying to get my lats to work in that way), but I've never realised it applies to walking also. Like all well-explained concepts, it's kind of obvious in hindsight, but I doubt I'd ever have realised it on my own.

Flashbulb moment two: push off the floor not the partner

Another very good point - the followers push off from the floor, not from their partners. Again, obvious in hindsight...


We then did some work on forwards and backwards ochos - still separated, walking up and down the room in rows.

Again, the emphasis was on dissociation powering the pivot. Amir and Jenny spent some time watching us and helping us with our technique. Nothing much new concept-wise, just emphasising that the dissociation happens before the step.

One analogy for this motion - I think Bianca of Rojo Y Negro used it - is of someone walking along naturally, then walking past a shop window, and pivoting naturally as their eyes are caught by a particular display. Well, it made sense to me at the time...

Partnering up

As usual, we then moved on into partnering up.

Amir talked about the embrace position - hand holds and so on. Some points of emphasis - the woman's left hand should not be pulling down on the man's right arm, the woman's right hand should be in line with her right arm to avoid discomfort, and the man should find a "contoured" area on the woman's back to place his right hand.

We also did a bit of leaning towards each other to get the "forwards" posture we should both be achieving by default. There was a useful exercise we did, walking in practice hold and the follower trying

We went through the standard connection exercises as for last week, re-iterating the "up-and-over" feeling for making a step, then doing sidesteps and so on.

We briefly re=visited the routine from last week - step forwards and outside, then lead forwards ochos, then back into stepping forwards.

The cross

Yes, it was time to learn the cross!

Pretty standard stuff really - actually, this was covered pretty quickly, thinking about it, presumably we'll review this in more detail as the course goes on. A couple of points worth mentioning:

  • Different teachers teach the cross different ways, often because of the different positions and styles they adopt.
  • Occasionally the cross is taught with a "lift" - but that's not really good practice or needed. It may be used that way because it's easier to cross when lifted, or (possibly) because it's easier to transfer weight to the front foot when settling down. Either way, it's not really needed.

Back ochos

We did a standard entrance into leading back ochos (man sidestep to left, man change weight, man sidestep again whilst leading woman into a bach ocho, repeat then exit). Jenny emphasized that the woman should arrive in a dissociated position, ready to power the next pivot if required.

We spent some time working on this - although, like the cross, this was covered quite quickly. Again, I assume we'll revisit this in more detail later on.


We finished off with a nice little rotating pattern:

  • Man steps forward on left foot, woman back on right
  • Man pivots 90 degrees to left, steps on right to the side (so continuing in the same direction), woman steps side. Man's step needs to be larger than woman's.
  • Man pivots again 90 degrees to left and steps on left back, woman steps (on the outside) forwards.
  • Man steps back again, on right, bringing the woman in to parallel track.
  • Man pivots again 90 degrees to left, and then sidesteps to the left. Woman sidesteps - woman's step needs to be larger than man's.
  • Man pivots again, 90 degrees, and steps forward on right, on the outside - can then lead into a cross.

I think this may work equally well for a milonga as a Tango, I'll try it out on a willing / unwilling victim.


We finished with sitting down and reviewing the topics we'd covered, taking notes. A bit like this, really...

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

- David Bailey