Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fundamentals of Body Spiral for Leaders and Followers

Song: Sinsobar by Edgardo Donato
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
January 15, 2011, Stanford University

We began with Cristina leading several warm-up exercises to help us do twisty moves to the best of our ability.

Exercise 1:
We all stood in a circle, with feet hip width apart (6-8 inches), with feet parallel, trying to look like the letter H.
Keep knees soft, don’t lock them.
Be nice and tall.
Inhale four counts, raise shoulders, swing arms from side to side like a monkey or May pole.
Exhale, drop shoulders.
Do this twice
Begin again, swing arms, exhale, drop shoulders

Exercise 2:
Turn head to the right.
Keep shoulders parallel.
Turn head a little more, trying to look behind you.
Turn head to the left.
Keep shoulders parallel.
Turn head a little more, trying to look behind you.
Bring your chin to your chest.
Roll shoulders back.
Lean head back.
Roll shoulders forward.

Exercise 3:
In partnership, with one persons back facing the other person’s front, the person behind has his hands on the front person’s hips. The front person twists to the right to see if he can turn his head to face the other person. Then he twists to the left to see if he can turn his head to face the other person.

Next, the back person’s hands were changed to the front person’s shoulders, and again the front person tried to turn his head all the say way around so that he could see the other person behind him. Again, we did this both ways.

Next, the back person holds the front person’s head up by the ears, so that the front person’s head was more floaty. The front person tries to twist his whole body around, including his feet, to see how far he can go. We did this on both sides.

The freer the joints, the more twisty the body, and the larger the range of motion one is able to achieve.

Exercise 4: Introduction of One-Legged Concepts
It’s hard to be just on one leg.
We began with being 100% on one leg, our left leg. Do not sit on the leg, keep the knee soft. Be upright. Keep shoulders even, ribcage open, and spine long. Be rooted into the floor. We held this for several counts, and tried it on the left foot and the right foot.

Exercise 5:
Next, we stepped forward with our right leg, raised our left leg, and then take our right arm/shoulder and twist to the right, while standing on one leg (our right leg). We held this pose/position for four counts. Keep shoulders level. Try to raise the arms higher. Hold for 8 counts.

We also tried this on the other side, stepping with our left foot, raising our right leg, and twisting to the left.

Exercise 6: Disassociation Exercises Led by Homer
Walking in a line, turn our body toward our forward walking foot with our arms stretched wide like in exercise 5. Try to look all the way behind you. Keep chest up. Stay tall. Be balanced, elegant and controlled. The idea is to do this smoothly and with flow. At the time of collection, you should be looking back.

We also tried this walking backward.

We drilled this for 1-2 minutes. Practice this at home to improve your tango spiral.

Applying the above Exercises to our Walk:
In partnership, we walked, in line or outside partner in open embrace. We should keep facing each other, but the Leader should try to exaggerate his twisting toward the Follower as he walked and changed from inside to outside partner. We should feel the twist in our core and spine.

Building our Simple Walking Pattern to Leader’s Grapevine Footwork:
Next, in partnership, open embrace, the Leader does grapevine footwork, in and out. Here again, the Follower and Leader should keep their chests toward each other, and try not to move just their shoulders, but their entire bodies, with disassociation. The Leader was to hyper exaggerate leading with his spine.

In kettle embrace (leader’s hands at the small of his back, Follower hanging on to Leader’s arms), we did the Leader’s grapevine footwork, and the Follower needed to mirror the Leader’s body. The Leader should focus on the smoothness in between the transitions. He needs to know when to twist his spine, and coordinate the turn with when he steps on the floor. He should keep the size of his steps consistent, so that the timing is also consistent.

The Follower should mirror the twist in the Leader’s spine when she feels it, and keep consistency and good reaction in her own steps. She must not fall into her steps. In walking back, Follower should take care to walk back straight, with one foot behind the other in one straight line (track). Follow the direction of the Leader’s hips, even though your chest faces the Leader.

The point of this class is to maximize the torsion in our body, but still be balanced in our walk.

It is not just a twist in our front. The core has to soften a little to allow range. The back has to be soft enough to accommodate the twist and to allow separation from what the lower half is doing from where the upper half is.

Leader: Do not tilt and let your shoulders become uneven when you twist back.

Part I: Going to the Follower’s Cross
In tea kettle open embrace, the Leader tries to lead the Follower into the cross. He does the spiral in his back/body to lead it. Here in class, we were to exaggerate this.

Leader: Keep upright, do not lean forward.

Follower: Do not do automatic crosses for this exercise. Make sure you follow the lead. Be with the Leader. Follower’s cross should reflect how the Leader spirals and how his back twists. The cross should be tight. The cross, shallow or wide, depends on how much your right hip opens out and how well the left foot comes back (it should mirror the Leader’s torsion).

The Leader and Follower should be well connected to make this a very sophisticated, elegant move.

Leader: If you can make this feel good, you are on the right road.

Leader: Keep thigh close to the Follower’s. It might even touch. This is so you line up with Follower at the point of her cross.

Part II: Follower Forward Ochos While Leader Stands in Place
In tea kettle open embrace, the Follower does forward ochos while the Leader stands in place. The Follower should stay close, but don’t bump into the Leader. She should take long, snaky steps around him. The Leader really spirals in place. The Follower should have a good, engaged embrace.

Leader parada on either foot.

Follower can embellish before she steps over with a fan or rulo, but she should always step over long and snaky.

Putting It All Together In A Simple Sequence:
8CB to 5 (cross) to Follower forward ochos, to Leader parada on either side.

Followers: Because Leader is in tea kettle embrace, he can’t hold you up or twist you. The Follower has to amplify what the Leader is doing. She needs to be very smart about where she steps. It is very important. She should have tiger hips and snaky steps. Do not knock the Leader over or off his axis. Be near the Leader. The Follower’s whole body is involved in snaking around. Use your curves.

The Follower’s right thigh should brush the Leader’s pants. That’s how close she should be to the Leader.

The class concluded with a summary review of Q&A.

Maestros did a demo dance to Donato’s Sinsobar.

Bonus Material given during the break:

Leader’s Parada Exercise:
We worked on the Leader’s footwork.
Stretch the right foot forward with no body spiral.
Stretch the left foot forward with no body spiral.

Start in one direction, pivot 90 degrees. The twist is in the abdomen, and is like ringing a towel.

Release it to kick heel around.

The foot is out and curving 90 degrees around. Shoulders are twisted even more, about 105 degrees.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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