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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.

Leading and Following

Cute video with Sharna Fabiano and her partner Isaac Oboka about the roles of leading and following.

My feeling is that the term follower is much to passive, because to follow well, one must be active and engaged.  I like to think of the follower as my partner in the dance, that I happen to be leading. She is actively accompanying me, while adding her own voice. but not interfering with the direction, general rhythm, and steps that I am proposing. But notice that I say, "proposing," that is because more experienced followers CAN, from time to time, heavily influence all three of those things. 

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.

Switching Roles: Women Leading & Men Following?

I think it can be very beneficial for leaders to learn to follow and followers to learn how to lead. Exposure to the other role is good for learning what the other person might expect from you. I think both come away with more of a respect for the other role. I don't think one role is necessarily easier or harder.. they both have unique challenges to them.

When leaders learn to follow, it makes them more aware of the necessity to be clear and decisive (but not pushy or forceful) in their movements as leaders. It also teaches them to be more patient and to give the women time to finish their steps.
 
I would be interested to hear what women learn about following by learning to lead. I know that some when I have talked to say that they did not realize how much women depend on men for their balance. They also learn that it feels very uncomfortable for leaders if the followers are guessing or fidgeting during the dance.
 
I am sure there are many more things that could be learned by switching roles.
 
Of course, there are other reasons for followers to learn to lead, other than becoming better followers. They might just want to learn to lead because they think they might enjoy it and we often have more women than men, so it would be a chance to dance more.