Sunday, December 5, 2010

Part I: Half turn in close embrace with Edgardo Donato (Beginner Class)

Song: Se Va La Vida by Edgardo Donato
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 27, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

We began with an exercise of crossing our feet in back, deep and tight and traveling forward. Then we did the same exercise crossing our feet in front deep and tight, and then travelling backwards. During these exercises, we were to be balanced, elegant, keep our shoulders still, have flexion in the arch of the foot, really isolate our inner muscles (our core muscles). Our feet should point like an arrow when we cross (either in front or behind).

Our second exercise applied mostly to Leaders: The Paddle.

Here, we stepped to the side, and with our other free foot, paddle ourselves around, touching the floor as we paddled. We were to use small steps, not big steps. When our weight is on the right foot, our turn is to the right. When our weight is on the left foot, our turn is to the left. We were to paddle around elegantly. The Paddle adds two things:
(1) it keeps the Leader over his axis (like a kickstand for a bicycle). Do not bounce from one foot to the other. That's not paddling.
(2) The function of the free leg helps maintain stability of the standing, supporting leg and gives power.

Here, with our paddling feet off the floor, we were to kick the heel around and turn as our standing supporting leg is on the ball of foot.
As our homework, we were to practice the four different combinations:
forward with our left foot, back with our right foot, forward with our right foot, back with our left foot.

Next level: We were to imagine kicking through our partner's legs, the goal of which is to do accurate quarter turns.

Again, the motoring around was our homework.

Close embrace ocho with no Follower hip pivot (also called the Vanilla Bean ocho).
Here, the Follower walks back. The Leader walks forward as if tango rollerblading. His body is very quiet, with no torso rotation. The Follower does not pivot, does not rotate her shoulders. Her hips can be open. The Leader isolates his chest, and walks a little side to side (as if rollerblading). The Follower moves as if she is walking on butter, really crossing behind in her step, but not rotating her shoulders. For her steps back, she should have a long reach and smooth transfer of weight, but no hip pivot.

As our homework, we can practice this anywhere at home, even on carpet.

Walking in partnership, the Leader does a weight change in place to get synchronized with the Follower. He settles on his right, takes a left foot side step, does a weight change, and then steps forward with his left foot. The Follower should stay longer on her standing leg, and use it to create a good reach with her free leg by pushing into the floor. The Leader, lifting her a little, holds her up with his right hand to prevent her from changing weight, while he can change weight endlessly.

Next, we did a musical training exercise. With the rhythm of Donato's Yo Te Amo, we were to find the strong beat and lead the vanilla bean (no Follower hip pivot) ocho.

We practiced this in partnership, stepping together and collecting together, and in open embrace and close embrace. The secret to get back into the walk after this is to change weight, and start with your left foot.

Next, we worked on our connection and close embrace a little, with hugging, one arm above and one arm below the other dancer's.

The Follower does the following footwork: Back ocho to half turn of back cross left, side right, forward cross left. The Leader is on his left foot when the Follower arrives on her left foot back step, and turns to his left by paddling with his right foot, caging the Follower in his embrace, preventing her from rotating. We were to keep our connection in the chest.

In one big circle, we all held hands and then we did a molinete/hiro/turn footwork to the right, stepping side right foot, forward cross left foot, side right foot, back cross left foot. We did this as a "white" version with very open, very big steps, and then "black" version of very right front cross steps and very tight back cross steps, lifting our opposite heels when we did this. Most of tango is "gray" in terms of step size.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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