A little over a week ago Jeff and I took part in a seminar hosted at Aria Ballroom for visiting coach Paul Holmes. Mr. Holmes was himself a Blackpool finalist and champion dancer, so all of us students were eager to learn from the best some ideas for taking our tango to the next level. Before the seminar, Violetta led us through a basic tango routine to give us some steps to work on in the seminar and to avoid wasting Paul's time just learning steps. Luckily for Jeff and I, the routine was almost taken directly from our own tango routine, so we hoped that meant we'd get some specific pointers on how to improve this part of our routine, which, by the way, needs a lot of work.
The seminar itself ended up being more conceptual and was less focused on particular details of each step, but it sometimes those overall concepts are just what you need to shift the way you think about executing a certain figure. He talked a lot about what he called the "triangle," which is the shape one's legs form when evenly split weight. Rather than transferring all weight suddenly and completely from foot to foot, and therefore essentially falling into each step, a dancer should allow his body to pass across his feet with an even transfer of weight, just as we do when walking. Mr. Holme's demonstration of a tango walk was quite impressive to behold; it was lightening quick, yet incredibly smooth at the same time. That dichotomy between body flight and foot speed I believe is the real difference that makes this kind of quality of movement so difficult, yet look so good when executed. While the feet move quickly and confidently from step to step, the body must float across them, without pitching forward or back to try to keep up with the foot.
He also spoke a lot about leading the lady in front of the body, rather than letting her slip behind or to the side, or pitch over, likening her to a tray of drinks that the lead is carrying. The visual image must have been effective, because when Jeff picked me up to dance the figure in question, he kept me in a good position in front of him the entire time, and didn't let me slip to the outside as so often happens in our tango. Paul also demonstrated how the fallaway reverse slip pivot is actually danced in a straight line, and showed how the rotation should work to accomplish this. The change in the way it felt for us was dramatic...dramatically improved. Jeff had been attempting, per directions, to dance the figure in kind of a curved direction, and somehow the rotation was just not working like it should and always felt bumpy.
One point he brought up is that, as a dancer, you have only two people to whom who should listen and whom you should consider your best friends: you coach, and your partner. No one else can really give you valuable information about your dancing. Your partner will tell you things about what he or she is feeling, and while it may be easy to become defensive and think the problem is on the other side, it is important to realize that these comments are made for a reason, and whether or not the problem is identified by your partner, something is going on that you need to figure out. It's not about fault finding, it's about problem solving and figuring out what is causing the feeling. Listen, listen, listen. Compared to a lot of couples we've seen practicing and training together, I think Jeff and I do a pretty good job of this. It's frustrating sometimes when you don't know what the problem is but you think it's your partner, but oftentimes it's not what you think, so listening is really important.
After the seminar, we spent some time practicing our fallaway reverse slip pivots using the new concepts and direction. Lots of things to think about, and on into the next week we had some new food for thought going into practice.