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Nuevo Bluesy Tango Parts 1 & 2

This video demo covers two classes.

The first was on finding the middle part of each step and being able to shift her weight back and forth between her legs without resolving the step, until we are ready.

We talked about the fact that each step has 4 parts.

1. We send our free leg

2. We transfer our weight 50/50 in the middle of our step

3. We completely transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (finding our balance)

4. We collect our new free leg.

Many times we skip these moments in our steps and just jump from 1 to 4, falling into steps rather than transferring our weight all the way through a step.

In the second class, we look at forward & back sacadas for the leaders and forward sacadas for the followers. At 2.30 of the video, we also looked at getting a back sacada while staying "primarily" in a close embrace.

Video Demonstration:

 

Un Abrazo // The Embrace

Here is a wonderful video by Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes on the tango embrace.

Wonderful explanation of the tango embrace. Students of ours will recognize almost all of these explanations.. such as the idea that you don't take the embrace and then begin dancing, taking the embrace is part of the dance.

I just had someone ask me yesterday about when you take the embrace do you start with the open side or the close(d) side. First I respond to the woman. If she lifts her left arm and not her right, then I start with the close side (and vice versa). If she waits for me to initiate the embrace, then I will usually lift my left arm, so starting with the close side. Then, of course, I would expect her to lift her left arm so that we can take the embrace on the close side. Notice Sebastian do this at 6.33 of the video. BUT there are many nice ways to take the embrace at 6.22 he takes both sides of the embrace at the same time.

After a class with them in Baltimore a few years ago, I made significant changes to my embrace which have worked very well for me. The main one being not bringing my right shoulder forward in the embrace. I attempt to keep my chest very flat. Many leaders reach way around the follower with their right arm, bringing their right shoulder forward, and thus they end up leading with their right shoulder rather than with their center. As he says in the video, I bring my right hand around her and try to position my right hand in front of my spine. If we are leading from the center instead of from one side or the other then the lead will be very clear.

Paradas and Barridas in Close Embrace

This was our second week of looking at split weight moments. Most all split weight moments involve a parada since we are at least temporarily pausing at the moment in the exact middle of our step. At that moment we can shift weight to a new leg or back to the leg we just left.

Circular Cruzada from Split Weight (0.26 of Video)

In the first figure, we go to the close side of the embrace in cross system. Stop in the middle of our step and then continue around in spiral (counter-clockwise) until she crosses (cruzada). Then we continue turning counter-clockwise until we are back to the line of dance. We try to keep a steady flow to this move, the pause (parada) should be very momentary.

Turning Walk from Split Weight (0.39 of Video)

In this figure, we go the close side of the embrace in cross system. We freeze her in the middle oher step (split weight) and then step around her, stand back up straight and wait for her to collect and then the leader steps back leading her to a forward step to the close side.

Parada to the Close Side in Close Embrace (0:13 of Video)

In this figure, we looked at performing a basic parada figure while maintaining a close embrace. Often the couple breaks the close embrace and transitions to an open embrace to perform a parada. There is nothing wrong with this, but for the purposes of this class we are maintaining a solid connection in our torsos during the parada. To do this, when the leader initiates her for first back cross (ocho) he stops her with her weight split or even more towards the forward leg. This way both leader and follower can stay standing up straight without leaning or being pulled over. To accomplish this he must relax his embrace and she must pivot and roll her body across his chest instead of trying to stay glued flat to his chest.

Parada to the Close Side with Barrida in Close Embrace (0:49 of Video)

This figure is the same as above only we added a barrida. Since we have stopped her with her weight split to initiate the parada, when we step around the follower her weight is naturally shifted to her back leg. We do not have to do much to accomplish this, the mere fact of us going around her should naturally make this weight change happen. When the leader steps around her several problems can happen. If he steps too close then he will enter her space ad knock her off her axis and if he steps too far way he will pull her off her axis. So, he has to step just far enough away to to pull her off her axis but still leave enough room to sweep (barrida) her free foot between their feet.

Parada to the Open Side in Close Embrace (0:58 of Video)

This is a parada performed on the open side of the embrace. The concept is the same as above, only the leaders need to really relex the right arms and allow her to pivot/turn in the embrace. Both partners should still stay standing up straight and not lean forward or back.

Parada to the Open Side with Barrida in Close Embrace (1:08 of Video)

This figure is the same as the last one only we add a barrida after the parada. With this barrida (sweep) we are stepping into her path and then sweeping her foot to our foot before resolving the figure.

Video Demonstration:

 

Split Weight Moments I

In tango, each step has a beginning, middle, and end. There is a moment in the middle when our weight is evenly distributed between both legs. We can use that moment to create some very interesting possibilities.

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

Tips:

  • We started by practicing finding the moment where are weight is split during a step and rocking our weight back and forth between our feet.
  • We explained that if the leaders stay slightly down and don't collect their feet themselves, then it will help the women stay down and not collect.
  • Followers are following the upper body of the leaders, not their feet, so leaders need to be very clear and stop their upper body at the moment her weight is split.
  • We also talked about our crucial pivoting is to tango and that followers should not "make" the leader pivot them, but rather when they feel his invitation to pivot they should pivot themselves. We also discussed that good pivots happen on the forward part of the foot and not with the whole foot on the floor.

 

Video Demonstration:

 

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 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.

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 9 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 sentences and all the figures that we do during a song as paragraphs. In this class, we are taking a step back and looking at each and every step we take as a word. And each of those steps will have a beginning, middle, and end. Our goal is to make every single step that we take in tango count.

There are 3 basic steps of tango: the Open Step, the Forward Cross, and the Back Cross.

A Cross Step is defined by the orientation of the man and woman to each other. Whenever a couple takes a step, if they both stop in the middle of their step and turn (pivot) so that their hips face one another and their legs are crossed (twisted) then they are taking a cross step. If their legs are not crossed then they are taking an open step.

Cross steps can move in only two directions forward and back, but Open steps can forward, side, and backwards. In fact, Open steps have a 180 degree range of movement.

At any moment in the dance, both the man and the woman have these 3 steps available to them and when you combine these possibilities in both Parallel and Cross Systems starting on either foot you end up with 36 possible steps.