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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.

Exploring the Cruzada Part 1: Tango

In this class, we looked at different ways of using the cruzada (cross) to make our dance more interesting.

Slowing Down the Cruzada
Normally when we go to the cruzada we cross on a beat and change weight on a beat, or double time the cruzada. Here we were looking at slowing it down and taking several beats to complete the cruzada, especially in slower or dramatic music such as Pugliese or di Sarli. The important thing here is that the moment of the cruzada is being led. She is not putting her weight down until the leader is settling his weight down.

Unwrapping the Cruzada
This is a fun move, but requires a very high level of communication between the couple. Here we are leading her to cross her left foot in front of her right (normal cruzada) and then leading her, while still crossed, to change weight back to her right foot. Then we unwrap the left foot and exit. We can also play with the weight changes while she is crossed.

The One Step Cruzada
Here we are leading the cruzada in just one step in parallel and cross systems. This clearly shows that the cruzada is a technique rather than part of a more complex pattern. The secret here is the followers should take their free leg in the direction that she is being led.

Overarching Concepts

  • Timing - For the leaders, we must always begin leading cruzadas at the exact moment that her free leg begins moving. We want to move in the direction that we want her free leg to move in. If we wait until she is half-collected then getting the cross will be very difficult.
  • Balance - For the followers, take your free leg in the direction that you are moving in. If you do that then you should stay balanced. If he moves diagonally, but you send your leg straight back then you will find yourself tilted and off-balance.
  • Let every step have a beginning, middle, and end. Don't rush your steps and don't take super small steps.

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.

Milonga I The Basic Steps

Milonga has two meanings to tango dancers. A milonga is a tango dance party where tango dancers gather to dance with one another, as in "Let's go to the milonga and dance." It is also one of the 3 primary rhythms that tango dancers dance to: Tango (4/4 time), Vals (3/4 time) and Milonga (2/4 time).

The milonga rhythm derived from the habanera rhythm and is in 2/4 time and is generally danced faster than tango. For more on the History of the Milonga Rhythm go here.

We use many of the same steps in milonga that we do in tango, but there are also many steps which fit especially well into the milonga rhythm. This class introduces students to these basic steps of milonga.

The box step is a very basic pattern used in Milonga and we examine several variations of this step in the milonga rhythm.

Here are two very popular steps used in Milonga. The first is the zig zag step or  "the grapevine." The second is the pendulum step.

Traspie means "stumble" and this step gives the illusion of someone stumbling down the street.

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.

Intro to Barridas, Pasadas y Paradas

A Barrida (a sweep, a drag) is the dragging of a partner’s free leg during a Caminata (walk) or Giro (turn). During this series, we will examine the proper technique for leading and following both external and internal Barridas in both open and close embrace. During the class we will also look at Paradas (stops) and Pasadas (passovers). Barridas are also known as, Arrastre (sweep, sweeping) and Llevada (carried, carrying).

4 Parts of a Step
Each step that we take in tango consists of 4 separate parts. Imagine that your supporting leg is your right leg, meaning that your weight is completely on your right leg:

  1. We send our free leg (left) to find the floor where we are about to step
  2. We begin to transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  3. We finish transferring our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  4. We collect our new free leg (right) next to our supporting leg (left).

Practice finding and feeling all 4 parts of a step by taking slow, deliberate side steps. Feel every moment of the step.

Barrida Technique
Barridas are largely about positioning. While walking or turning the leader wants to stop his embrace while the follower is between her steps, so that she is mid-stride with her legs apart. He then positions himself over his new supporting leg, without shifting his embrace which might cause her to complete her step. He then uses his free leg to find the leg he wants to sweep. He leads her to transfer her weight to her new supporting leg and sweeps her free leg. Once he has completed the barrida he should lead her to settle her weight over her new supporting leg and to collect.

Tips:

  • Triangles - We are often forming triangles when we do barridas. Notice in the video, if you look at the 12sec mark, when the the barrida is being initiated we could form a triangle by drawing a line from the mans left to the woman's left to the two left feet. Then when the barrida is executed the triangle would simply flip, seen at the 15sec mark.
  • The leader wants to find the forward part (toe area) of her free foot with the forward part of his foot. He does not want to go in too deep. See Image 1 below.
  • The leader starts with his free leg’s knee bent and straightens it during the barrida. His supporting leg should be bent slightly, so that he can be grounded and very well balanced during the barrida.
  • Once the barrida has been initiated, the follower wants to apply just a tiny amount of pressure against his foot, so that she can easily stay with him. This would include going up into the air with the feet.
  • Technically the barrida is usually an illusion. The leader is leading her to step and it only appears as if her foot is being dragged, but it is nice to have enough pressure so that the drag is felt.
  • The leader should turn to get the hip of his free leg close to the hip of her free leg. This should result in his supporting foot being parallel to her supporting foot. See Image 2 below.
Image 1
Image 2

Figure 1: Simple Sacada

  1. We start out this move with back crosses (ochos). When I lead her back cross to the open side of the embrace, I initiate a barrida with my right to her right.
  2. I then lead her to take weight on her right. My weight is still on my left and I don't collect.
  3. I lead her to take a forward cross step, passing over my right foot (pasada) as I take weight onto my right. We pivot to return to our neutral position.
  4. We could do an arrepentida to return to line of dance.

Figure 1: His and Her Sacadas

  1. We start out this move with back crosses (ochos). When I lead her back cross to the open side of the embrace, I initiate a barrida with my right to her right.
  2. I then lead her to take weight on her right, while I collect my feet around her right foot (mordida / bite).
  3. I leave her on her right while I switch weight to my left and then lead a back cross to the open side of the embrace (my left side and her right side) for both of us.
  4. As we complete our back crosses, I lead her to execute a barrida to my left with her right and switch weight to her right. In the video, notice the triangle we create at 1:19. Also, leaders need to adjust their left foot at the end of this step to give her more room for the next step.
  5. Now, I lead her to take a forward cross step over my left foot, as I pivot and take weight onto my left foot creating a sacada to her right foot.
  6. We pivot to our neutral position as I switch weight to my right so that we end in parallel system with me on my right and her on her left.

 

Part II:

In this second part, we look at paradas which are stops and happen whenever we stop our movement for any length of time and pasadas which happen whenever one partner has to step over (pass over) the other partner's foot or leg.

Figure 1: Basic Parada Sequence
We started by looking at a very basic parada sequence.

  1. The sequence begins from back crosses (ochos). When the leader leads the woman to a back cross to his right side he stops her (parada) mid-step and extends his right foot to find her left foot. He wants to put the forward part of his right foot to the forward part of her left foot, not going in very deep, just right at the toes. 19 sec of video
  2. He then takes weight on his right and steps around with his left to face her. His feet collect around her left foot creating a mordida (bite). Again, his left should not go in deep and the contact should only be at the forward part of the foot. 40 sec of video
  3. He then switches weight to his left and steps back and around with his right bringing her forward onto her left. At this point she should have her feet surrounding his left foot (mordida). Notice in the video that when I step back Shelley just comes straight forward onto her axis but no further and the I don't lean back, but rather keep my upper body over my hips while I settle my weight onto my back leg (right). 52 sec of video
  4. At this point, she is facing me so if I were to lead her to take a forward step she would have to walk into me, so I pivot her counter-clockwise. She is still on her left foot. Then I lead her to take a forward cross step over my left (pasada) and around me with her right as I take weight on my left. 54 sec of video
  5. Then I lead her to pivot and to take another forward cross as I return to my right. We are back in parallel system and can walk out.

Figure 2: Basic Parada Sequence with Barrida
This figure is the same as the one above only we add a barrida (sweep) at step 3. To accomplish this, at step 1, we must make sure that we stop her (parada) with her weight all the way back onto her right leg, so that her left is free to sweep.  1.30 mark in video. Then we step around with the left and sweep her left with our right. 2.07 mark in video.

Tips:

  • Triangles - We are often forming triangles when we do barridas. Notice in the video, if you look at the 2.38 mark, when the the barrida is being initiated and when it is completed.
  • The leader wants to find the forward part (toe area) of her free foot with the forward part of his foot. He does not want to go in too deep. See Image 1 below.
  • Once the barrida has been initiated, the follower wants to apply just a tiny amount of pressure against his foot, so that she can easily stay with him. She should also keep her foot on the floor and not to take it up into the air unless the leader takes his foot up in the air.
  • As the follower's foot is being swept, she should pivot on her supporting foot to keep her hips and upper body facing in the same direction as her foot that is being swept. 3.03 mark in video

Figure 3: Basic Parada to the Leader's Left with Barrida

This move uses a very similar technique as the other moves only we are starting with a parada to the leader's left (open side of the embrace). Then we are stepping more around her so that we can sweep her right foot to our right foot. 4.02 of video

 

Part III:

Figure 1:
Parada and Barrida from Follower's Forward Cross

Tips

  • At the 1.19 mark, the leader stays on his left foot while leading the follower to switch weight to her left at the cruzada.

Figure 2:
Forward Sacada to Forward Cross to Parada and Barrida

Tips

  • At the 1.47 mark, notice the proper barrida technique of finding the forward part of her foot with the forward part of your foot. Don't go too deep with the drag.
  • At the 1.54 mark, notice that as I rotate my chest that my left foot pivots with me to provide stability.

Figure 3:
Barrida to Colgada

This figure is for more advanced dancers who already know the proper technique for leading and following colgadas.