Friday, December 10, 2010

An Introduction to An Effective Use of Body Weight in Tango

Song: Comme Il Faut by Carlos Di Sarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 8, 2010, Cellspace, San Francisco

This was a brand new, experimental class.

We began with an exercise. In teakettle open embrace (with both the Leader's hands at the small of his back, and Follower hanging on to his biceps), the Leader was to lead the Follower in a dance. The following things were things we should think about:
Leader: How do I use weight to lead?
Follower: How do I use the weight to respond appropriately to the lead?
We were to be slow and elastic, dynamic, and in control in our dance (in teakettle open embrace).

How do we use our standing leg? We should connect with the floor with our standing leg.
We should spend time and effort to really settle in to our standing leg, settling first, and then reaching with our free foot for our next step.
Try to use the connection to the floor.
The Follower's embrace is elastic: each arm can bend and flex.
In the Follower's steps and dancing, she should not be flighty and try to get away from the Leader.
She should use her whole body when she starts moving.

We then danced a song, again in teakettle open embrace, where the Leaders were encouraged to change it up more by:
Changing weight
Being subtle at times
Being energetic at times
Changing from one direction to another
Followers were instructed to be grounded, and show a bit of resistance.

The question came up: "What is resistance?"
Does the Follower slow down the Leader?
The Follower's purpose is to connect with the Leader.
The kind of resistance we hope to achieve is horizontal in energy, not vertical.
It is the Follower choosing to actively stay longer on the standing leg before reacting to the lead.
This is the Follower's way of letting the Leader know how she moves through space using her weight.

The question came up of how to handle males who follow since they have higher centers of mass. How does the Leader compensate for the male follower's higher center of mass?
Cristina's answer: You connect with the floor more.
Homer's answer: (1) You play with the tilt of the bodies/axes and (2) Make the Follower learn to connect with the floor more.

Next, we played a game.
In teakettle open embrace, in partnership we were to walk forward and walk backward.
In our forward walk, our bodies are slightly toward each other /\.
In our backward walk, our bodies are slightly away from each other \/.
Our goal in this game was to feel the weight of our bodies.
The Follower should take long forward steps, but not plank in her body. She should also not fall into her steps, especially the forward step.
Both dancers should create a natural resistance and communication in the embrace.

The Leader changes the embrace compression at the point when the direction changes forward to back, or back to forward. He does this by taking a moment to create the resistance by settling into the floor.
The Leader and Follower should both collect first, and then work through the neutral zone, and then change the direction before the next step is made.
For the exercise, it is OK to exaggerate it, to feel and understand the concept.
The Leader tilts his axis by flexing his ankles as he changes direction forward to back or back to forward. If his or her toes are crunching, he/she is too far forward. The toes should always be able to wiggle.
The change from forward to back feels like a slow vacuum.
The Follower feels the intention to change direction in the change in the tilt of the Leader's body before the change in direction, so she knows where to go.
It is up to both the Leader and Follower to build the relationship before you step/change the direction.
This game gave us a concept that will help us add elasticity to the embrace. Shifting weight has great leverage potential.

Next, we worked on the concept of Dynamics, that is, going from a linear to a circular move using the above concept.
The Follower should have an al dente embrace (not too soft and not too hard, but firm and responsive), using her back and core muscles.

The step, still done in teakettle embrace, was a simple one:
Leader's side step left (Follower's side step right) to step forward with his right foot, change weight, and then back with his right foot, as he leads the Follower counterclockwise molinete/hiro/turn around him.
This was a very simple step, and our goal was to work on quality of movement.

The dancers are close to begin with together at the side step, and then the Leader changes his axis back as he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. The Follower's embrace has flexibility (compression and extension). The Leader works through a forward tilt and back tilt during the Follower molinete/hiro/turn, and the Follower feels a "slingshot" type of energy as she comes around him.
To get out of it, the Leader captures her with another side step left.
The movement is soft and quiet, and then explodes, and then quiets down again.

The Follower should not take short steps, and not fall into her steps. Otherwise she will kill the dynamics of the molinete/hiro/turn. She should also make a good reach effort.
The Follower should really arrive on her step before reaching for the next step, and use everything in her body as she moves through space. She should not rush, and not be afraid of being left behind by the Leader.

Next, we added the teapot embrace with the Leader having a right hand handle and left hand spout to have more control.
The Follower must really hold onto the Leader.
Again, we tried the side step to molinete/hiro/turn on one side (counterclockwise) and then the other (clockwise).

The Leader should not move his body in a block when he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. Otherwise, he will be inefficient in his molinete/hiro turn lead. Instead, the Leader should use disassociation to make the movement easy and with finesse. Leaders tend to use their arms too much when leading the molinete/hiro/turn, so our work using the teapot embrace should alleviate that, and to also work on the secret agenda: that is, for the Leader to develop more pull energy with his left hand (as opposed to overusing and misusing his right hand by pushing the Follower to do the molinete/hiro/turn).
The teapot embrace also causes the Leader to engage his arms to his back to the floor.

The Follower works through many different types of strength in her embrace in this simple sequence in teapot embrace: soft, al dente, and firm, but she should always have elasticity, with each arm expanding and compressing as she goes around the Leader.

Maestros concluded with a demo to DiSarli's Comme Il Faut.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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