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Ganchos: Leg Wraps I

Leg wraps are ganchos which happen during a turn and resolve in the same direction as the turn. In other words, if we are making a clockwise turn (giro), lead a gancho and then continue turning clockwise then that is often referred to as a leg wrap. A leg wrap IS a gancho, the follower is hooking (gancho) her leg around his leg.

We cover lots of information in our classes, but here are some of the major tips.

Tips:

  • Leg wraps are executed on her open/side step during a molinete in either direction. In order for a wrap to happen the woman has to take a real side step. Often women skip or shorten their side steps during the molinete and that is a mistake. In the demo below, starting at the .10 sec mark she takes a forward cross, then a side open (which is where we lead the leg wrap) and then a back cross.
  • The leader should aim to make contact with his upper thigh to her upper thigh. He should aim for the area in the middle of her open/side step. If he goes too low or too close to the leg she is leaving then he will probably get a sacada instead of a wrap. If he goes to close to her supporting leg then he will knock her off her axis/balance. He needs to step into the middle of her open side step, but with an open thigh to recieve the wrap and then she should continue around in the same direction.
  • During the gancho (hooking), the follower should feel his thigh and "hug" his leg with her free leg. She should aim for the wrap to happen above his knee. She should release the wrap as she feels his leg straightening.
  • After a leg wrap, woman should not let her free leg float out, especially on a crowded dance floor. After the wrap, she can take her free leg up, instead of out, to release the residual energy of the wrap. Also, if she lets her leg float out then she runs the risk of falling out of balance and falling into her next step. After the wrap, she should relax her leg and let her feet fall back together (collect) so that she is ready for the next step.
  • Leg wraps should be done very close. If you are dancing in an open embrace you should adjust to close embrace for the moment of the leg wrap. Nothing looks worse than a guy stretching trying to get a leg wrap instead of just moving in close.
  • Let wraps can be done on either side of the embrace, but wraps to the close side are much easier to accomplish.
  • As always, a very relaxed embrace which allows her to breath and pivot easily is necessary.

 

Video Demonstration:

 

Exploring the Cruzada Part 3: Milonga

In this class, we explore creative ideas for using the cruzada in milonga.

The Forced Cruzada
With this technique, we lead the followers to cross their right foot in front of their left feet. This can be a strange feeling for the followers until they practice. The women should resist the temptation to twist their hips and pivot. They should have a very relaxed leg and simply let the leg, not the hip, go in the direction of the move. The clearest way for the men to lead this is to mirror the women. If we are doing the same move, but in reverse, then we should be moving in the correct direction. Also, for the women, do not cross too deeply so that your weight change can be smooth.

For the leaders, don't get too caught up on the idea of forcing the cross. We do not even need to make contact with her for this step. It is more about direction and removing other possiblities such as walking straight back.

Back Cruzadas
If we think about the cross as a technique rather than as a step then we should be able to get them on any step going forward or backwards. Here we are stepping forward and then changing direction to move back diagonally. Again, the followers should simply take their free leg in the direction that we are moving. As with the previous move, if the leaders mirror the followers then we will be assured of moving in the correct direction.

Exploring the Cruzada Part 2: Vals

In this class, we explore creative ideas for using the cruzada in the rhythm of vals.

The Double Cruzada
Here we look at combining the one step cross in parallel systme with the one step cross in cross system. So we get two crosses in a row. The leader is walking in regular time, stepping on the 1 with each step, while leading the follower to step in double time. The leader steps forward with his left while leading her to cross and change weight. Then he steps forward with his right while leading her to cross and change weight. This creates a nice rhythm which fits very well into vals.

The Forced Cruzada
With this technique, we lead the followers to cross their right foot in front of their left feet. This can be a strange feeling for the followers until they practice. The women should resist the temptation to twist their hips and pivot. They should have a very relaxed leg and simply let the leg, not the hip, go in the direction of the move. The clearest way for the men to lead this is to mirror the women. If we are doing the same move, but in reverse, then we should be moving in the correct direction. Also, for the women, do not cross too deeply so that your weight change can be smooth.

For the leaders, don't get too caught up on the idea of forcing the cross. We do not even need to make contact with her for this step. It is more about direction and removing other possiblities such as walking straight back.

Back Cruzadas
If we think about the cross as a technique rather than as a step then we should be able to get them on any step going forward or backwards. Here we are stepping forward and then changing direction to move back diagonally. Again, the followers should simply take their free leg in the direction that we are moving. As with the previous move, if the leaders mirror the followers then we will be assured of moving in the correct direction.

The Milonguero Dip

In this Tango lesson, we teach a figure called The Milonguero Dip, and is part of our Popular Steps for the Social Dance Floor series. This step is a popular step that I saw used in the milongas of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have recently been informed that the step was named "milonguero dip" by Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt.. and that they first saw it done by Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas and that Javier called it "ocho seco."

The joy of this move is in the musicality and the swoosh feeling it gives the followers during the dips (changes of our vertical plane). Every time I teach this move, it always receives lots of positive feedback from the followers. They love it.

Breakdown of the steps:

  • In this class, we started the move off from back ochos. When I lead a back ocho to the man's right, I begin by pivoting on my right foot counter-clockwise and crossing my left foot in front of my right, while leading her to take a back cross with her left around me. KEY MOMENT: My left foot should hit the floor at the same moment her left foot hits the floor. At this moment I also go down slightly in my left leg(dip).
  • At this point, there should be lots of compression in the embrace, as I lead her to take a side step around me with her right foot as I pivot around on my left and switch weight to my right.
  • I continue leading her around to a forward cross step with her left, as I step around her with my left. KEY MOMENT: As I step around her with my right, I need to make sure that I do not go too close to her (I might push her off her axis and that I don't go to far away (pulling her off of her axis).
  • I sink down (dip) into my left leg as I lead her around to another forward cross with her right. As she takes that forward cross I step back diagonally with her.
  • To finish I lead her to yet another back cross in front of me and I switch weight to return to parallel system and walk out.

Important Notes: This move requires a relaxed embrace, so that she can pivot inside my embrace (especially my right arm). If I hold her too tightly she will find it difficult to do the large pivots necessary for this move and it will be very uncomfortable.

Musicality Notes: In the first part of the demo, we danced to Carlos di Sarli's "Junto A Tu Corazon." This this we keep things rather calm and stretch the dips out as long as we can. Starting at 0.43 we dance this same way to Juan d'Arienzo's "Compadrón" to show how it works, but does not quite fit with the music. Then bumped the energy up just a little bit to fit with d'Arienzo. We shortened the steps and made them a little more staccato as opposed to the more legato of di Sarli. In both cases, we use a quick-quick-slow timing for her first back cross and side step.

 

Video Demonstration:

 

 And a second video of us teaching this step:
 

Walking While Switching Sides and Systems

This move is part of our Popular Steps for the Social Dance Floor series.

The interesting thing about this step is that while walking (caminata) the followers keep switching sides and switching systems (parallel vs cross) during the step. They start out on the leader's right side, switches to the left and then back to the right. So, this requires a flexibility or elasticity in the embrace to allow her to travel within my embrace.

The second thing is that we have the followers take two steps to our one step twice in the move. We like to call this “dancing the woman” or “the invisible lead,” when I ask her to take steps that I am not doing myself.

Step Breakdown (the numbers below correlate to the numbers in the slow-motion part of the video):

  1. We start by leading her to a Salida Americana. The leaders take weight on their right leg and as she takes weight on her left leg she comes back to neutral in front of us. At this point we are in parallel system. Now the leader stays on his right leg, while leaving his left behind, and leads her to take a side step with her right leg. Now we are in cross system and she is on our left side. We must relax our embrace during this move to allow her to travel to our left side, if we hold her too tightly then she will either not go or will pull us off balance.
  2. Now we step forward with our left and she steps back with her left. We stay on our left, leaving our right behind, as we lead her to take a back cross step across our path to our right side. We are back in parallel system.
  3. We collect and step forward (outside partner) with our right. She steps back with her left.
  4. We step back in front of her with our left as she steps back with her right and we are done.

At parts 1 and 2 above we take one step while leading her to take two steps. This takes us from parallel sytem, into cross system and then back into parallel system. We can maintain a close embrace during this whole step, but must relax the embrace enough to allow her to move slightly in the embrace.

Additons to the move:

  • At 1.26 in the video, we look at an alternative entrance to the step. Instead of starting with a Salida Americana we simply started by walking outside partner and then leading her to a side step.
  • At the beginning of step 2, when the leader steps forward with his left, he could perform a forward sacada to her left as she steps back with her right.
  • Also, at step 2, we could lead her back cross with or without pivoting her first and then changes the feeling of the move.

 

Steps for the Social Dance Floor

This series of classes focuses on popular steps for use on the social dance floor. We have compiled a list of popular moves that we have seen used by some of the very best Argentine Tango Dancers. If you travel to Argentina and visit some of the milongas, you will see these moves being used by the Milongueros. Here are some of the criteria we used for putting together these steps:

  • They keep you moving in the line of dance without disrupting others.
  • They are musical and express the rhythm of Argentine Tango.
  • They are full of expression without being flashy or dangerous to others.
  • They feel great to the leaders and the followers.

While these moves are great for tight spaces and crowded dance floors, they also require a high degree of skill, balance and communication between partners.

Class Notes for The Structure of Tango: Part I

The Structure of Tango
Part I: Cross Steps and Open Steps

Click Here to Download PDF of Full Class Notes

Introduction: At the end of this class, you will find that no matter which foot you are on or what system (Parallel or Cross) you are in that you will always have at least  8 steps that you can execute.

In Tango classes, teachers often teach figures or patterns. These can be fun and give students something to do when dancing. I think of figures as words or sentences and all the figures that we do during a song as paragraphs or chapters. In this class, we are taking a step back and looking at the alphabet or ABCs of Tango. Our goal is to look at the technique of every step and to make every step that we take in tango count.

In this class we look at the 5 basic steps of tango: Forward Open Step, Side Open Step, Back Open Step, Forward Cross Step and Back Cross Step.

See the table below for the 6 steps used in this class. The man and the woman both  have 3 possible steps a Forward Cross, an Open Step (forward, side or back) or a Back Cross. When you combine these possibilities in both Parallel and Cross Systems you end up with 38 possible steps.

Turn (Giro) to the Open Side of Embrace with Sacada

Synopsis: This class focuses on a Simple Turn to the Open Side of the Embrace with Man's Sacada.

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Video Demonstration:

Figures:

Description:

Step 1: The man takes a Forward Cross to the Open Side of the Embrace while leading the  woman to take a Back Cross (MFC & WBC) and Leads the Woman to collect.
Step 2: He then leads the woman to an Open Step (WOS) with her Right while staying on his Right.
Step 3: He then leads her to take a Forward Cross while he steps in with his Left for a Sacada (MFC & WFC).
Step 4: He then stays on his Left, leaving his Right floating behind, while pivoting 180 degress and leading her to take an Open Step (WOS).
Step 5: He then steps forward with his Right with a Forward Cross (MFC) to the open side of the Embrace while leading her to take a Back Cross (WBC).

Tip: The man takes 3 steps and the woman takes 5 steps.
Tip: Many women want to change weight at step 2 instead of taking an open step. Between steps 1 and 2, the women simply collect, no weight change.
Tip:
For the women, they want to stay in front of the man, so they user their default Giro/Turn (Molinete) technique to do so. This move uses their basic Giro technique... Their steps are Back, Open, Forward, Open, Back. They default to their basic Giro/Turn technique.
Tip: At step 1, the man does not collect his feet but rather shifts his weight over his Right foot which causes the woman to collect her feet. He waits until she has collected before he leads her to Step 2. He also stays with his upper body rotated towards the woman.
Tip: To begin step 2, the man rotates his body counter-clockwise staying on his Right foot. The follower wants to stay in front of him, so she defaults to her Giro Technique and takes an Open step.
Tip: The man will drops down slightly to ground himself when performing the sacada and should stay there for balance while pivoting 180 degrees to his left.
Tip 4: At the point of the Sacada, the man should start sending his upper body to his left away from the follower and then let his lower body catch up on step 5.

Turn (Giro) to the Open Side of the Embrace from Cross System

Synopsis: This class focuses on a Turn to the Open Side of the Embrace starting from Cross System on the Close Side of the Embrace. As embellishments, we looked at a forward circular boleo for the woman and back cruzadas for the man when getting into and out of cross system.

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Video Demonstration:

 

Figures:

Figure 1: Turn to the open side of embrace from cross system on the close side of the embrace with back cruzadas for the man and a forward circular boleo for the woman
In Slow motion at 2:44 of Video Demo

Step 1: The man takes an open step to the side with his left leg and the woman takes an open step with her right leg. She collects while he crosses his right foot behind his left (cruzada) and changes weight. At this point, he is on his right and she is on her right so they are in cross system.

Step 2: He then takes a forward cross step to the close side of the embrace and she takes an open back step.

Step 3: He takes an open side step while she takes a back cross step. On this step, the leader relaxes the embrace and brings her perpendicular to him. The man's right shoulder and her left shoulder are connected but they do not have contact on the open side of the embrace and are at a 90 degree angle to one another. At this point, he can make slight contact with his upper right thigh to her upper right thigh and lead her to perform a boleo.

Step 4: He steps back with his left but keeps weight on both feet as he begins to turn his embrace counter-clockwise.

Step 5: As he pivots around counter-clockwise, the woman will feel slightly left behind at this point and so will take large steps around him to try to get back in front of him. To start she will take a long forward step around him with her left and he will end with his weight on his left foot.

Step 6: The woman will continue to try and get back in front of him by taking a large open side step with her right. The leader will bring his right foot behind his left and change weight.

Step 7: Same as Step 2 above.

Step 8: Same as step 3 above, but now he brings her back in front of him. They are still in cross sytem so he can exit in cross system or switch weight to return to parallel.

Tip: On step 2, the man should pivot his upper body slightly counter-clockwise to make room for stepping to the close-side of the embrace.
Tip: On step 3, the man needs to open the embrace and bring her to a 90 degree angle to him and contain her in front of him by blocking her with his right arm. He is not applying pressure with that arm but merely creating a stopping place for her so that she stays slightly in front of him.
Tip:
On Step 4, he should stay very forward in his upper body and bring her around with his embrace. Since she wants to return to the embrace and get back in front of him she will take a nice large step around him. She will not step away from him. Look at how close her left foot is to his at 2:51 of the video.
Tip: On Step 5, at the beginning of step 5 she is still not 100% back in front of him so she continues to take a large open side step. MEN: If she takes small steps on 4 and 5 and is slightly to your right then you might want to stay on your left and exit to the open side of the embrace in parallel system.

Variations:

SIMPLEST VERSION OF THIS MOVE
At 23 second mark of Video
Figure 2: Same as Figure 1 only the leader does not perform the back cruzadas and they exit simply in parallel system.

Figure 3: Same as Figure 1 only the leader does not perform the back cruzadas, he simply changes weight.
At 16 second mark of Video