I have been practising my needle giro. I want to get it perfectly. And so I practise and practise, like a boy determined to master a trick.
It’s one of the most difficult things to do; a complex action.
I need to be able to do it using either foot as my base, turning clockwise or counter-clockwise.
In either case, I step back with my right, I step to the left with my left, and then, if I want to turn counter-clockwise, I step forward with my right on my partner’s far-side, that is, keeping her on my right, so our hearts are further away from each other than they would be if I kept her on my left, the near-side.
I make the needle with my left foot, my instep lifted, the point of my left big toe just touching the ground next to my planted right foot at the same time as I slightly flex my right knee and rotate my thorax counter-clockwise, thus causing my partner to take a sidestep counter-clockwise, and I continue rotating my chest as I pivot counter-clockwise on my right sole, keeping the needle of my left foot exactly at the centre of the circle, so that my right pivot happens around it. As I do this, my partner takes a forward step counter-clockwise around me, and my pivot takes me through 180 degrees – which means that the big toe at the apex of my needle is now on the other side of my right foot. She takes another sidestep around me, and as she does so, I sink onto my right heel, bending my knee, and let my thorax continue turning, which gives me the power to swiftly pivot again and then, on a bent right knee, extend my left foot and let it describe a half-circle around me as she takes a back-step, followed by another side-step followed by a forward step, at which point we have rotated through 360 degrees and I invite her to pivot clockwise, so that she ends up gracefully blocked by my left foot which I bring forward and extend in front of me after its completion of its half-circle.
That’s if I want one needle gyration. If I want two full revolutions, I bring the left foot back to the original needle position it started in after it has described the half circle around me on the floor, still rotating my thorax counter-clockwise, just as she is taking the counter-clockwise sidestep that precedes her forward step, as she did at the start of the turn. Again, I continue rotating my chest as I pivot counter-clockwise on my right sole, keeping the needle of my left foot exactly at the centre of the circle, so that my right pivot happens around it. As I do this a second time, my partner takes that forward step counter-clockwise around me, and my pivot again takes me through 180 degrees – which means that the big toe at the apex of my needle is again on the other side of my right foot. She takes her next sidestep around me, and as she does so, I again sink onto my right heel, bending my knee, and let my thorax continue turning, which once more gives me the power to swiftly pivot again and then on a bent right knee, extend my left foot and let it describe the circle around me as she takes her back-step, followed by another side-step followed by a forward step, at which point we have rotated through 360 degrees a second time, and now I invite her to pivot clockwise, ending up blocked finally by my left foot which I bring forward and extend in front of me after its completion of its second half-circle.
Not a single detail of this process can be missed out, nor can any single action be fudged. If I want to turn clockwise, the preparation is different as I need to keep her on my near side, inviting her to step back on her left as I step forward on my left, but then I place my right behind my left for a half beat, which enables me to step forward again on my left, but now my left matches her step back with her right. By this means, I am in the correct position to make a needle of my right foot and commence the entire turn to the right, this time using my right foot as the apex I rotate around.
The counter-clockwise needle gyration feels different to that of the clockwise one because of the asymmetry of the embrace: my right hand in the centre of her back, her left hand behind my right shoulder, her right hand held by my left hand. Since this embrace doesn’t change, there is a difference in structure and dynamic, and a turn in a counter-clockwise direction offers challenges which are different to those offered by a turn in a clockwise direction.
I practise on my own. Juan Martin advises me to practise while holding a pillow, so as to ensure I know exactly where my partner is at any given moment in the sequence, for our actions have to dove-tail exactly. The coordination must be mutual, and the timing precise. I do not move my hips and my thorax together. The rotation of the thorax independently of the hips supplies, in the manner of a torque, a dynamic which propels the hips, enabling me to make the crucial pivot that releases the half circle of the free foot. I can only get this rotation of the thorax in the midst of the turn if I put my weight on my base heel at that moment. This requires considerable application. To be accurate, I sink just as she makes the pivot out of her forward step that takes her into the sidestep. There is a specific rhythm to the entire gyration that fits the music. So the beat, the pivot on the sole, the sinking into the heel, have to all come together for the the rotation of the thorax to ensue.
Later in the afternoon, I practise with my partner, and the more I have practised on my own, the more accurately everything is managed together.
It needs to explained that I am in my sixty-seventh year. I took up this dance a little over a decade ago. It has taken me several years to learn what needs to be done for these needle gyrations, and it will take me even longer to master the execution of their turns. Yesterday, I spent five hours practising; going over the process again and again, returning to my boyhood, returning to that determination to master a trick, a gymnastic spring, a flic-flac, and then, later, a pirouette.