Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Introducing the Torneo

At the beginning of tonight's Solares I was torn between two lesson plans. The first was a logical one: a final combination variation which would have tied up the whole capsule vocabulary in a nice neat bow. The second was an emotional one: an element from son cubano, executed in contemporary salsa, which would stretch and inspire.

I went with my heart.

The 'torneo' or potter's wheel is one of the most challenging pieces of choreography in the son pantheon. It sounds simple: one partner is poised on one foot at the centre of the wheel, while the other partner dances the circumference of the circle turning the pivoting partner. What it requires of the torneo partner is great balance, good core strength, minimal bearing contact with the floor; and the circling partner must have a constant torso speed while keeping to the dance rhythm below the waist, and a clean, perfectly described line of dance, clear of movement noise.

It proved to be the right choice; they went at it hammer and tongs all hour. The immediate skills they realised they needed to develop further were:
  • improving the quality of balance as the torneo partner
  • how to lead and follow the torneo by constraining the vertical axis of the torneo partner
  • silencing vibrations travelling through the circler's points of contact, so as not throw the torneo partner off balance
  • how to follow-up the torneo with a phase change should their partner exit on the 'incorrect' foot
  • continuously visualising the line of dance, ahead execution, as the circling partner
I consider all these skills essential, and the torneo is one of the best contexts for them because it renders any deficiencies transparent. To reprise Bloom's psycho-motor domain, the torneo class of manoeuvres requires the development of skilful precision; is the next level up from manipulation achieved through the capsule vocabulary.


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