Tango Tiger Tuesday: a review of Jennifer Olson and Martín Bel in Edinburgh

Guest blogger Damian Thompson shares his thoughts on a recent performance by Jennifer Olson and Martín Bel in Edinburgh. Feel free to comment.

Martín and Jennifer have been dancing together for such a short time, but already are working extremely well together. For me, this is a sign, not just of great dancers, but of great connection.

Control, unrushed, deliberate, soft and connected – these are some of the adjectives that I think of when I watch these two dance.
Leaders, gents – sometimes, or often, doing less is more in tango. Not hitting every accent can say more about you as a dancer than hitting every beat in the music! For the ladies, followers – not decorating/adorning madly is also important. When there is quietness, have quietness in your dance.
In this performance, they both take their time! Such a difficult thing to do socially for many and even harder when performing until you are more seasoned as performers and these professional dancers show us how to enjoy the moments within the walk and at the end of phrases.
Immediately from the side open step, there is gorgeous control within the pivot for change of direction – instead of heading forward as most will, a controlled lapiz (0:15) and pivot to then lead off to the left, now his new forward direction. Simply elegant and a simple change to what the vast majority do.

Simple moments and sharp finishes, hitting the end of the beat with the parada at 0:30 – for me, this noticeable accuracy in Martín's musicality is always noticeable. Followed up immediately with the quality in the way the note is played – stronger to softer, look at how the speed of Martín's foot changes from fast to slow (0:34 – 0:37). Even at the slow transfer by both dancers at 0:42 matches the music.
Beautiful connecting walks (caminta) from 0:40 – 1:09 before the extremely elegant low boleo by Jennifer which is the perfect response to the lead by Martín.

Notice at 1:18 a gorgeous back sacada lead by Martín and executed by Jennifer! What is impressive here is that they don't 'run' off after this. Martín continues around Jennifer's axis to lead a contra-boleo before the parada at 1:20.

SACADA HEAVEN – Continuing the skill with an excellent enrosque (1:34) to back sacada for Martín only to be matched in skill and execution by Jennifer at 1:39 with her enrosque and back sacada at 1:40. Martín continues with another back sacada at 1:41 and then leads a soltada (1:43) to back sacada for Jennifer which becomes her side open step as Martín then steps forward with a forward cross!

BEAUTIFUL!! Oh, don't miss the next enrosque and back sacada at 1:47 which after that seems too easy! Leaders, note the pause at 1:49 or 1:50ish.
Well, it's not over yet. Stepping out in cross system now allows Martín to revert to parallel system for the colgadas at 1:53. Entering between Jennifer's open step, with a forward cross (1:53) sets Martín up for a very quick open step around behind Jennifer's support leg and then with the back cross at 1:56. This gives Jennifer's free leg a clear path to the forward cross (cross system exit) which is made more spectacular when Martín steps with another back cross (1:57) and leads Jennifer to another enrosque with back sacada to be followed again by another back sacada by Martín.

Elegant walking, changes of direction with simple forward sacadas leading to the connection of the milonguero dip (2:09) reconnects this couple into close embrace. There is another back sacada (2:22) with Martín continuing around Jennifer and leading a back boleo. The giro with lapiz leading to the enrosque for Jennifer ending in a back gancho is also an excellent variation when most would do a sacada – of which they have many in this performance already! 

Using the long note, a well-timed volcada at 2:34 is now a welcome change and well executed! Jennifer's golpecitos at 2:42 are extremely well timed with the musicality of the song and Martín, still not finished with sacadas, leads Jennifer into another, but this time forward (2:45), so that in Jennifer's open step, he is able to execute a back sacada (2:46) which is extremely difficult do the amount of contra-body technique required do the the frame. He throws  in another 5 sacadas before the finish with the accents in the music! 

A masterful display of sacada skill and change of direction by Jennifer and Martín.

Damian Thompson