Wax On, Wax Off

28th February 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

[after failing to do a move for the umpteenth time]
'Mr. Miyagi, I can't do this. I've tried a thousand times.'
'You remember what I say first time we do this?'
'Praying mantis always drop to one knee before strike.'
[she drops to one knee and pulls of the move perfectly]
'Yes! Yes! I did it! I did it! Yes!'

~ The Next Karate Kid


When you begin a tanda, start off simple. Walking is good. Then maybe some pivots. A cross. You're (hopefully) going to be dancing together for a while, so this "feeling out" process is a useful way to gauge what the lady is likely able to follow.

That's good advice, but like a lot of tango advice, it's missing the important bits that make it work in practice.

It makes sense to do a similar thing with technique. Start off using basic techniques and then work up and see if she follows more advanced ones. Nup. Bad idea. You have to do the exact opposite. You have to start with every bit of technique you've got. You then ditch what isn't going to work as you go.

Some guidelines

Here's the important guidelines. With a beginner if you haven't used a technique in the first minute you're probably not going to be able to. With an intermediate, the first 30 seconds. With an advanced dancer, pretty much the first 3 seconds. Eek!

This isn't easy. Think about it. Say you want to dance Nuevo with syncopation. You need to do that in the first three seconds (yes I am counting the embrace in this!). Oh and you need to be able to do it well. And you still want to be following the "use simple moves first" advice.

Sadly most followers aren't open to the idea of having helpful post-it notes put on them to help you keep track of all this.

High Noon

Fortunately it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Think of the cowboy posed at High Noon

He's got everything together from the get-go. He certainly isn't loading his gun in the middle of the high street!

In the same way you don't have to wait until you're in embrace before you start sorting things out. Get your technique right before you even start your cabeceo, maintain it as you walk over to her and you're ready.

Likewise think simple - so you want to use syncopation; well you can do that in the embrace or the first couple of steps. It doesn't need to be some incredibly complicated masterpiece of giros and ganchos. Same thing with Nuevo. Sure you could start with a volcada, but you could simply start with a side step in Nuevo style instead. And so on.

The D'Oh moment

Should you get partway through a dance and have "Doh!" moment as you remember that piece of technique you've been practicing all week and aren't using, it's probably best to simply wait until the next dance.

There's a partial re-set between dances which gives you another opportunity to start with more technique. If you do decide to throw in more technique mid-dance, most of the time it simply won't work. The follower's established the rules in her mind at this point. Sometimes you'll get away with it, but it's usually not worth risking disrupting the flow of the dance over.

Final advice

I leave you with some pearls of advice from Murphy:
  • The important things are always simple.
  • The simple things are always hard.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 28th February 2009

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