Philip – Gustavo did not teach Thursday night at Dance Arts. Jesica, dancing with women from the class demonstrated the leader’s role. She wore flat, practice shoes and her “Can’t Bust’em” trousers. There is something almost humorous about this delicate, birdlike woman evoking the power and intention of the leader. I was fascinated because every woman she partnered with got each of Jesica’s leads. From across the room I could almost feel this teacher waiting until each element of her lead was understood and executed by her partner.
The figure, which almost featured this need to lead and then wait and allow the follower to understand and then move, was based on three “reverse of directions” or, alterationes. It started with the couple facing each other in an embrace. The leader shift his weight to his left foot and makes sure his partner is standing on her right. He then opens immediately and steps out in an Americano, he onto his right foot and she onto her left. As he steps forward he pushes his foot a little beyond his partner so that as he steps he can move in front of her, pivoting 180-degrees. He then side steps onto his left foot while maintaining his partner on axis on her left foot Since they now both have their weight on the same side foot, technically they are in cross system. The focus of the lead through these steps is to keep the follower on her left foot and pivoting clockwise so that when the leader side steps back onto his right foot, the follower steps back onto her right with her pivot reversed into a back ocho. This is of course a “reverse of direction.” The key is keeping the follower on her left foot, preventing her from stepping sideways onto her right, which immediately kills the figure. So the leader is pivoting, shifting weight and side stepping while, at the same time, over pivoting his partner on her left leg and helping her keep on-axis so that when she steps, she steps back (and not to the side) into a back ocho.
Except for the entry into the Americano, this is the same figure Gustavo and Jesica taught three weeks ago. We all worked with it for a while. Only the most stubborn followers insisted on taking a side step at the pivot but, hey, that’s tango.
The next element of the night’s figure flowed directly from the point of the back ocho. In the beginning we led another back ocho until our partner was again stepping to our left. We, the leaders, counter rotated our torso so that we could step onto the “dark side,” continuing the back ocho lead. Our next move was a side step. We interrupted our partner’s counter clockwise back ocho, reversing it into a front ocho, the second reverse of direction.
The ending, or resolution of the figure was quite elegant. The leader sidesteps to his left, keeping in front of his partner as she makes a forward cross onto her left leg. He leads the next forward ocho, which has the follower pivot counter clockwise on her left foot at step forward in a cross onto her right foot. The leader changes his weight so that he can step back on his left foot, accompanying his partner’s cross onto her right foot. With the right side of his body, he blocks her so she cannot pivot and step into the next front ocho, leading her instead to reverse direction of her pivot and step back and around onto her left foot. This is the third “reverse of direction” or alteration.
Once they again face the line of dance, the leader steps forward onto his left foot, leading his partner to step back onto her left foot. They are in cross system. They walk to the cross and end the figure.
Ruby was exhausted and stayed home. I danced the class with most of the women there and full tanda of the practica with Maya who is quite a good dancer. What struck me that night was the structure of tango and the way various moves can hook up like tinker toys. For instance my body now understands that if I have led my partner into back ochos, at a point I can change to the “dark side, side step and reverse her direction, leading her into front ochos, and from the first front ocho led to my left, I can step back, block my partner, reverse her direction into a back ocho, turn her to face me and walk out or pivot into an Americano and so on. The key seems to remain very close to my partner and make sure, movement by movement she has understood my lead and follow her as she executes, all if this without using my arms, so to speak.