Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Cure the Follower's Forward Walking Phobia

Song: Si Tu Quisieras by Miguel Calo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 15, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

The music for our class was Miguel Calo with Podesta on vocals.

Q: Why do Followers hesitate when asked to step forward?
It could be because Followers are trained to walk backward all the time, so they are not used to walking forward.
They feel insecure.
They are afraid they might step on their partner's foot.
Maybe they do not feel comfortable getting into the Leader's space.

We began with an exercise, where we lined up so that we could see our spines in the mirror as we looked sideways.
We were to stand as straight as we could.
Then we started to shift our weight, from left to right and back again, really feeling connected to the floor.
We were to try to feel where the weight is distributed on the foot from side to side and forward to back.
Then we put our weight on our left foot, pushing our left foot into the floor more than usual (about 5-10% more), without bending our knee but keeping it soft, and keeping our spines straight.
Then we reached forward with our right foot.
We also tried this on our opposite feet (putting the weight on the right foot pressing into the floor and reaching with the left foot).
In this exercise, our legs and backs are really working.
Left foot is grounded.
Right foot reaches forward.
Transfer the weight by moving the spine forward.
The goal as we take these forward steps is to not change the articulation of the spine as we transfer weight.
That is, we should not plank back, lean forward, or fall into our step when we take our forward steps.
Our spines move through the space in a vertical position to make the weight transfer nice and smooth.
Also, we were not to go down too much as we take our forward step.
The length or strength of the forward step depends on how you connect with the floor with the standing leg.

Phase 1: In partnership with Leader and Follower facing each other, hand in hand in open embrace, the Leader steps back, the Follower lets the embrace open up but still has tone in her arms, and then she steps forward AFTER she feels the lead and AFTER the Leader begins his step back (she does NOT step simultaneously with the Leader).
Phase 2: Similar to Phase 1, only the embrace opens up less, and the Follower does not take as much time before she goes (but she still waits for the lead and does NOT step simultaneously with the leader).
In the Follower's forward step, she reaches first, pushes with her standing leg, and then goes. She should not pre-empt the Leader's lead by matching him step for step. She is supposed to lag behind, really waiting for and feeling his lead as he steps back, leading her to take a forward step.
To begin this exercise, the Leader shifts weight a few times to be really clear regarding what leg he wants the Follower to be on.
The Follower should try not to change height when she takes her steps, and not plank back or lock her arms. Her arms need to be flexible to allow the embrace to open up, and yet she must also still have some tone in them.

Most forward steps are curved, walking steps around the Leader. Our next exercise focused on the Follower taking curving steps around the Leader with a long forward step.
With Leader in teakettle hold (both his arms behind him at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), he was to lead the Follower to do forward ochos, really taking big side steps and reaching as far as he can. This will force the Follower to take big, strong forward steps in response.
The Leader should be even in his chest rotation as he leads her forward ochos, as the Leader's tendency is to be uneven, with one side being more open than the other. We were to try to correct this by being as even in the Leader's chest rotation as possible.
The Follower's goal is to try amplify the Leader's chest rotation in her hip rotation to really pivot. Also, she should make her forward step nice and smooth.
In this exercise, the embrace was not to be too hard or stiff or too loose. It should be al dente.

In partnership, we did forward ochos together, with our forward step reaching for our partner's trailing foot.
Our goal was to keep our spines nice and stable, and use the pushing energy of the standing leg as we did our ochos. We were to add pressure with our whole foot as we reach and transfer weight.

Leader and Follower are in open embrace, hand-to-hand hold, and we did continuous right foot forward ochos and left foot sacadas around each other.
Follower does her right foot forward ocho clockwise, stepping around the Leader, and then the Leader does his left foot sacada of her trailing left foot.
Leader does right foot forward ocho clockwise, during which Follower steps forward into the Leader in her left foot sacada. Here, the Leader steps a little away from her, not around her, so that she has room to do her sacada and so that he does not block her from walking into him.
It is important that the Follower have an elastic embrace, as one arm extends as the other arm flexes.
Both Leader and Follower should have long forward steps, and have good quality of their sacada.
The Leader needs to continually rotate his chest and open his right shoulder so that the Follower knows where to step and he doesn't get in her way. So the fundamental lead is for the Leader to turn to his right.

In this exercise we are working on two kinds of forward steps:
(1) curving and around the Leader
(2) pivoting a lot, and then doing a direct step forward. This is not a cross step. You just have to go for it, pushing into the floor and then going.

To make this exercise more challenging, we could do it with the Leader in teakettle embrace (both hands at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), which would compel the Follower to have elasticity in her embrace, really demanding that the Follower be responsible for the extension and flexion in her arms.

In close embrace, the Leader leads the Follower in forward ochos. The Follower should take big long steps and not truncate the steps and jamming the Leader. She should make the Leader rotate around to meet her.

We are to practice these exercises at home. That is our homework. As we work on our technique, these concepts can be applicable to other areas of our dance.

The Follower's default steps should be LONG as long as it goes with the music and she stays with the Leader. The Follower often takes too short of a step or truncates the step, which kills energy and/or the next movement.

After our class review, maestros did a demo to Calo's Si Tu Quisieras.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Homer & Cristina’s Tango DJ Workshop Presentation

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 5, 2010, Perth, Australia

Click here to download a Tango DJ workshop presentation that Homer & Cristina Ladas delivered in Perth, Australia in November 2010.

Homer & Cristina's Tango Teacher's Training Presentation

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 2, 2010, Perth, Australia

Click here to download a teacher training seminar slide show that Homer & Cristina Ladas presented in Perth, Australia in November 2010.