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Alterations to Both Sides of the Embrace in Tango and Vals

6/10/2013 - Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks
 
In this class, we focused on Alterations (or Changes of Direction) to both sides of the embrace. The primary focus was on musicality. The first part of the step is very floaty and smooth, then the changes of direction are very rhythmic and the final part is smooth again. The changes of direction use the quick-quick-slow rhythm.
 

In the video, we do two short demos to both a tango and a vals.

Creative Boleos I

Teachers: Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks
5/13/2013

This video is from our class on creative and unexpected boleos. We do not cover all of the instruction given in the class in this video. This demo is for our students to remind them of the material covered in the class.

 

Serpentina (Reverse Sacadas)

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks
Song: "Bahía Blanca" by Carlos Di Sarli

Serpentina means snake like, because it looks like two snakes intertwined. This video is for our students to review what we covered in class.

As you can see from the slow motion, I am starting the step from back ochos. I follow her right leg around my right leg, ultimately wrapping my right leg around her left. The important thing is that I need to get her weight shifted to her right before I shift my weight to my right, thus displacing her left.

Alterations from Forward Cross

Date: 02/18/2013
Teachers: Clint and Shelley of Tango Evolution and Tangology101.com
Song: Bahia Blanca by Carlos Di Sarli

The alterations happen at :18 and :22. In the first one I am leading her forward and then she pivots 90 degress (change of front) and she steps backward (change of direction). So, in one step we change fronts and change directions, thus an alteration. In the second one, we change from her moving backwards to her moving forward in one step.

Also, at 2:42 we do a Cerpentina (or reverse sacada). We did a class on this recently, but did not make a video of that class, so we worked it in here because some students had been asking for a demo of it. It can be a dangerous step, so you really should get some instruction in it before attempting it.

Embellishments (adornos)
Of course, we work in many embellishments to our dance, but some worth noting in this demo are:

1. At the very beginning, we do little tucks before taking the first side step
2. At :34, Shelley does a castigada
3. At 1:27, I do an embellishment to her ocho cortado with a a small parada.
4. At 1:36, Shelley does another castigada and then little taps before exiting the parada.

Of course, with all of these embellishments, I am waiting and giving her the time to perform them.

Second Demo

We also did a second demo for this class which shows similar steps done to the more rhythmic "Pénsalo Bién" by Juan D'Arienzo.

We pause during D'Arienzo, but they are brief pauses, not the long stretched out pauses of Di Sarli. So, most of the embellishments are "worked in" to the pace of the music. What I mean by that is that in Di Sarli, I pause and give Shelley plenty of time to embellish, but in D'Arienzo, I do not pause as much so Shelley and I work the embellishments into the rhythm. This is more difficult and requies the embellishments to be sharp and precise. Here are some to look for:

1. At :09, Shelley does a quick tap as she pivots
2. At :13, I do a quick point and tap of my toe
3. At :15, I work in a quick tap while walking
4. At :20, Shelley works in a quick tap
5: At 1:05, we both embellish our forward crosses by tapping our feet together
6: At 1:36, Shelley does multiple taps as she pivots around
7: At 2:04, Shelley embellishes the Ocho Cortado by flexing her foot up.

Linear Volcadas from Back Crosses

This class primarily focused on linear volcadas initiated from back crosses.

12/03/2012
Melodía Porteña (1937) by Juan D’Arienzo

As always, this demo is provided as a reminder to our students about the material we covered in class. In the actual class, we discuss both women and men’s technique, musicality, and navigation.?

Linear Volcada from Back Crosses?
At 0:06, we start by entering into cross system and leading the the woman to back crosses (ochos). When I step forward with my left, I send a small impulse forward sending her free leg (right) back, past neutral. I then take a small diagonal step back with my right, she should bring her free leg in the direction we are moving in and thus we get a back cross from her. The larger step I take back the larger the volcada, so it can be very small or large. I collect my feet and continue in cross system to a forward cross. At 1:06, we do the same step to the other side.

Tip: There is no pivoting involved in this step. When we initiate these from back ochos (back crosses) they are walking back crosses and not pivoting back crosses. I am keeping my chest flat and not using any contra-body movement.

Tip: For the men, it is very important to collect your feet after each step. When I step forward with my left, I collect BEFORE stepping back with my right.. then during the volcada, I collect my left. You can also see that I am sometimes doing an embellishment once i have collected during the volcada.

Tip: the woman’s free leg needs to be super relaxed, as always, so that it can react and move in the direction my intention/impulse sends it.

Alternating Back Volcadas?
At 0:19, we do alternating small back volcadas. The main tip here is that I am going slightly down and back up to free up her leg each time.

Back Cross and Volcada from Rebote?
At 0:28, we are in cross system and I step into her back open step with my forward cross step and then rebound (rebote) back and to the right (diagonally) causing her to do a back cross and then volcada.

Tip: With this step, I have a little contra-body happening since I am stepping outside partner. I keep that contra-body position as I step back and straighten after the back cross.

Back Cross and Volcada from High Sacada?
At 0:40, we enter cross system and I step inside with my left performing a high sacada to her right leg. At 1:22, we do the same high sacada but in parallel system.

Tip: For a high sacada, we perform a sacada above the knee so that our upper thighs touch. It is not a push, we barely make contact.

Simple Back Crosses
At 2:07, we do some simple back crosses in parallel system, but here they are pretty much all on axis and not so much volcadas.

Sacada to Giro to Back Cross and Volcada
At 2:18, we did not go over this in class.. I just did it as we were dancing.

Boleos - Circular and Linear

Music: "Felino" by Electrocutango
Instructors: Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks

In this class, we look at both circular and linear boleos (In-Line).

Circular Boleos
Boleos are moves that take a lot of time to do well and require relaxation in the embrace.

The leader should lead the boleo with a circular impulse around the follower's supporting leg making sure not to disturb her balance (axis), relax his embrace to allow her to pivot and complete the boleo, and then wait on her to return to neutral.

Women should pivot as much as they can before wrapping their free leg around their supporting leg. They should also not cut their boleos short, just when you think you have reached as far as you can, push to get just a little more out of it. The followers should let their free leg come back to collect next to their supporting leg by the time their upper bodies return to neutral.

Linear Boleos (In-Line Boleos)
Linear boleos require a linear impulse in the direction that we want the free leg to go. Once that impulse is sent, the leader should lean in the opposite direction creating a counter balance and opposition force to complete the linear boleo. For back linear boleos, this actually creates a very small colgada feeling. For forward linear boleos, it creates a small volcada (compression) feeling.

Floorcraft
Of course, we discussed floor craft and techniques for doing them safely. Forward circular boleos should not be a problem on the social dance floor.

Back circular boleos should be done with a little more care. Usually, we recommend leading them either with very low energy so that the follower keeps her feet on the floor or so that her boleo happens in a corner or towards the tables. For example, I would never lead a big back boleo with the woman's back towards the center of the dance floor. We also mentioned that if the followers do not trust their leader, that they should do very tiny back boleos and keep their feet on the floor.

Back linear boleos are rarely done on the social dance floor and only when there is plenty of room, such as late in the evening when there are only a few dancers left on the floor.

Forward linear boleos can be done on the social floor depending on how they are executed, for example, we looked at one that started from forward ochos and then the woman pivots and does a forward inline boleo between the leaders legs (1:35 of video).

Compact & Elegant Variations of the Ocho Cortado

Instructors: Clint "el gato" Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Song: "Bailemos" by Carlos di Sarli with Mario Pomar singing.

Compact Ocho Cortados (for crowded dance floors)
We started by looking at very compact variations on the ocho cortado, for small spaces. Most dancers take several preparation steps to get into the ocho cortado. We tried to trim this process as much as possible. We looked at this in parallel system (.34 of video) and in cross system (.40 of video). The most compact of all is shown at 2.27 of the video.

Elegant Ocho Cortados
Usually, ocho cortados have a built in rhythm of quick quick slow. The first concept that we explored was letting go of the quick quick slow and stretching out the time it takes to execute the ocho cortado. We still want the feet to be hitting on the beats of the music, but we can skip beats and take our time.

Stretched Ocho Cortado in 3 parts

The primary move that worked on can be seen in several places in the video but at 2.12 if can be seen the best. We start with the side step with the man's left and the woman's right. The man stays on his left and leads the woman to a back cross step, then to a side open step and then to the forward cross step (cruzada).
Tip: The man stays on his left until he leads her to the cruzada at which time he switches back to his right. He should leave his right leg behind for most of the move and lead the move in his whole body. When she takes the side step, the man should pull his right foot slightly back to make room.
Tip: The man should step a little farther than her on the first side step. Each step should have a slight feeling of rising and falling into the steps. The man should not lift her with his arms but rather his whole embrace should go up and then settle.
Tip: Also, notice how much each person pivots during this move. You can not leave your feet stuck to the floor, they must pivot.

Bonus steps:
Ocho cortado with barrida to leg wrap (2.47 of video)

Initiating Ocho Cortado from a Side Step (1.54 of video)

Ocho Cortado with Barrida to Cruzada (2.07 of video)

Milonga: The Baldosa Box with Variations

Milonga is one of the 3 basic rhythms that we dance to at tango dance parties, also referred to as milongas. Milonga is in 2/4 time and is one of the predecessors of Argentine Tango.

The Baldosa Box
A baldosa is a large tile. You are considered a great tango/milonga dancer if you can dance on a baldosa (i.e. in a small area). The baldosa box is a basic and very useful figure of tango, vals, and milonga which goes like this:

Steps Leader Follower
1 Back open step with the right Forward open step with the left
2 Side open step with the left Side open step with the right
3 Forward cross step with the right to the open side of the embrace Back cross step with the left to the open side of the embrace
4 Forward open step, back in front of the woman, with the left Back open step with the right
5 Side open step with the right Side open step with the left
6 Change weight, in place, to left / Often this step is done in double time Change weight, in place, to right
  Then repeat. Often steps 5 and 6 are double timed (quick quick). Also, sometimes I like to collect and change weight at 4 instead of stepping forward (.22 of video).

To see a clear demonstration of this step, watch .15 to .19 of the video below.

Variations

We then looked at many ways to alter the figure to add musicality. We started this class, by listening to several popular milonga and finding the 1 & 2 in the music. Milonga has two beats per measure. The 1 is usually the strongest and we encouraged the leaders to find the 1 and to step on it with their right feet. We also encouraged the women to be listening to the music (as always) and to want to step or change weight on each beat, unless the men specifically do something to prevent that.

  1. If the floor is crowded, I often change weight in place instead of taking the forward step at number 4 above (.22 of video).
  2. Turning the step - You can turn any of these steps, but I especially like to turn the side step (Step 5 above) 45 to 90 degrees and then turn back to the line of dance on the next back step or side step.
  3. Rocking the side step - I also like to create a rocking feeling with the first side step (Step 2) (.39 of video). I begin taking the side step to my left, then rock back to my right, collect my left and change weight.
  4. Hesitation steps (.11 of video) - I would also refer to these as traspie. Most people refer to traspie as meaning double timed steps, but the true meaning of traspie is "to stumble". Whatever you call it, I begin taking a small step back with my right leg and stop mid-way through my step. I put a tiny amount of weight back on my left and push off to take a slightly larger step. I want to resist rocking back and forth, so I don't go completely back to my left. It is more of a feeling of going back, slight pause and going back some more. We can use these hesitation steps on all of our steps forward, side, and back. (1.21 of video). I also like to do double hesitations on my side steps (4.01 of video).
  5. Toe Points (.53 of video) - I love this one and women really seem to love it as well. There are a few hints for this one. I step outside partner to the open side of the embrace with my right foot, making contact with my upper right thigh to the her upper right thigh. Then I pivot slightly to the left and then back to the right (repeat as many times as I like) and then step back with my right. Another secret is that I try to stay as much on my left as I can, so that my right leg is free to move side to side, BUT I can't lean my upper body backwards. I want to stay upright and straight.
  6. The walk around (1.51 of video). When I begin walking backwards, I keep turning clockwise with my right shoulder going away. I also take very small curved steps to try and create a very small circle. She is on the outside of the circle so she has to take much larger steps. I have to keep curving, until I want to exit. Once I get back to the line of dance, I straighten my body and she comes back in front of me. I usually do this when I step back with my left and then have her take a straight step back into my path with my back right.

Below you will find a video of these steps being demonstrated to two different milongas, one slower and one faster.

Sacadas II: Back Sacadas

A back sacada (displacement) is when one dancer steps backwards into the space that their partner just vacated. This class video covers 3 weeks of back sacadas.

Basic Sacada Technique
A sacada is a displacement, meaning that we are taking the place of our partner. We are entering the space that our partner has just vacated. To accomplish this, the leader leads the follower to take a step and as she is taking weight onto her new supporting leg, he steps in to the space she is leaving. He should step just inside of her free leg just after the moment that it becomes 100% free of weight. To resolve the step, he should take weight on the leg he executed the sacada with and both partners should return to face one another.

Tips for Good Sacadas:

  • Slow and Low - Don't rush back performing or receiving back sacadas. Also, stay low to the ground when performing them and that will help with your balance and will cause your partner to take a nice long step giving you a larger window for the sacada.
  • Keep the heel down - As you execute a back sacada, attempt to keep your heel as low as possible to avoid any inuries.
  • Don't fall backwards - As you execute a back sacada, do not lean back. Extend your leg while bending the knee of your supporting leg. Once the free leg is extended, push off the supporting leg sending your hips and upper body together. Often, leaders send their upper bodies and then their hips and this creates a falling feeling. Also, keep your balance towards the forward part of your foot and don't fall back onto your heels, especially when completing your step. As you complete a step, stop just shy of putting weight onto your heels.
  • Relax your embrace - If either partner has a stiff embrace, they can easily pull themselves or their partner off axis (balance). The embrace should be relaxed and should slide, adjust so that each person is only responsible for their own balance.
  • Practice pivoting - Good pivoting and balance is essential for back sacadas. You should practice pivoting 180 degress with your legs together. Think about pushing your thighs together as you practice your pivots.
  • Respect her axis - Do not step in the middle of her step or towards her new supporting leg, as this will disrupt her vertical axis and cause her to loose balance. When performing a sacada step behind the other persons hips, if the hips touch then one of you will probably be knocked off their axis.
  • Don't kick her - Step inside of her step but not on her toes and do not worry about making contact with her leg. There should be little to no contact between the leader's and follower's legs. You are not pushing her leg out of the way, you are taking the space as it is leaves.
  • Complete the step - Leaders, finish your step by taking weight on the foot that you performed the sacada with. Don't just stick the foot out and then pull it back. Finish the step by taking the space that she just left.

Figure 1: Close Embrace Sacada (.11 of video)
In this first sacada, the leader performs a back sacada while maintaining a close embrace. After leading a cruzada, he steps outside partner to the open side of the embrace with his right leg while collapsing his right arm, allowing the follower to shift to his right side. This creates room for him to perform a back sacada with his left leg to her open step.

Figure 2: Her Back Sacada (.28 of video)
We start this sacada from back ochos. When leading her to a back ocho to the close side of the embrace, the leader sends an impulse around her, causing her to quickly pivot with her feet collected.  He leaves his left leg free to recieve the sacada which he leads by inviting her to step back. In this figure, after the leader receives the back sacada he keeps leading her around in the molinete while crossing his left leg behind his right and performing a forward sacada to her forward cross step.

Figure 3: His Back Sacada to her Open Step (.36 of video)
We start this step from an arrepentida (a repent). As the leader leads the follower to an open step, he pivots on his right foot and performs a sacada with his left to her open step. He could then continue leading the molinete and execute another back sacada to her back cross.

Figure 4: His Back Sacada to her Back Cross to a Calesita. (.45 of video)

Figure 5: His Double Back Sacada (1.03 of video)
In this step, the leader performs a back sacada to her back cross, but does not complete his step. He pauses there and then performs another (higher) sacada with his right leg.

Figure 6: His Back Sacadas to Both Sides of the Embrace (1.14 of video)

FIgure 7: Altering the Speed of the Back Sacada (1.22 of video)
We should constantly be adjusting our steps to the music. If the music slows down, then we can slow down and move almost in slow motion. If we are moving together then this can be a lot of fun.

Figure 8: Interrupted Cruzada to Back Sacada (1.59 of video)
The leader leads a cruzada but does not give her time to settle. As she is crossing, he pivots her and they both step forward and he then performs a back sacada to her forward cross.

Figure 9: Double Back Sacadas (4.13 of video)
Here the leader performs a back sacada to her forward cross and then leads her to collect and to then perform a back sacada to him.

Women's Musicality
This has nothing to do with sacadas, but watch the leg wrap at 1.47 and see how Shelley completes the wrap and flicks her foot right on the accent in the music. I CAN'T LEAD THAT. That is her paying attention to the music and trying to accent the step.

Video Demonstration:

 

Demonstration performed to "Forma" by Bajofondo Tango Club

 

Nuevo Bluesy Tango Part 3: Twisty Ganchos

This class covered twisty ganchos (hooks). We start with leading a regular gancho and then give a little extra twist at the moment of the gancho.

We started by discussing that a gancho is a hook and not a kick and that each gancho has several moments:

  1. The Preparation or Initiation - This is when we position our bodies close to one another and the leader makes contact with his upper thigh to the followers upper thigh. The leader is creating an aperature (window) for her to hook through.
  2. The Lead - Then the leader leads the gancho by leading the follower to take a step, but he has put his leg in the way, so she hooks around it. The follower extends her free leg until her upper thigh cannot go back any further and then she hooks her leg around the leaders.
  3. The Resolution - The follower does not automatically exit the gancho. After she hooks around the leaders leg, she waits for him to resolve the gancho. If he were to freeze there, then she would freeze there. This allows for ganchos to be done very slowly or very quickly or with little energy or a lot of energy.

    The leader has two distinct ways of resolving the gancho. He can lead her to take a step or he can straighten the leg she is wrapped around.

FIgure 1: From Forward Circular Boleo to the Open Side (.15 and .25 of Video)
In this figure, we lead a forward circular boleo to the open side of the embrace. While the follower is finishing the boleo, the leader steps behind the follower's right foot with his right leg. At the same time, he is making contact with his right upper thigh to her right upper thigh.  He then leads her back around and she hooks around his right leg. This happens as he is changing weight to his right leg. He then shifts back to his left and straightens his right leg to resolve the gancho.

We also discussed that this gancho can be lead on or off axis. To lead this off axis (colgada) then the leader will extend his right arm during the gancho and twist.

Figure 2: From Forward Circular Boleo to the Close Side (.33 and .43 of Video)
This is essentially the same as above, but it is a bit more tight do to the embrace.

Figure 3: Rebound Gancho (1.08 of Video)
This is not so much a twisty gancho, but it came up during the class. The leader leads the follower to a forward step away from him while stepping behind her. He does this by extending his right arm and then brings her back straight into him. It is really a back inline boleo for her but since he is behind her it turns into a gancho.

FIgure 4: Reverse Gancho with Twist (2.44 of Video)
In this step, the leader leads the follower to a forward cross to the open side of the embrace. He stops her before she collects and steps behind her, makes thigh to thigh contact and then twists to get a gancho. I call this a reverse gancho since she is doing the gancho while moving forward rather than backwards.

Figure 5: Sacada to Twisty Gancho (2.20 and 2.31 of Video)
We did not get to this one during the class, but since we did it in the demo, I will comment on it. The leader leads the follower to a forward cross to the close side of the embrace. He performs a sacada, but instead of going to the leg she is leaving, he steps close to the leg she is going to (her new supporting leg). He then stops her in the middle of her side step as he does a big pivot on his right and steps behind her with his left.

Video Demonstration: