Thursday, February 17, 2011

Getting Your Lead / Follow Spiral On

Song: Don Juan by Carlos Di Sarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
February 16, 2011, Cellspace, San Francisco

This workshop was similar to the one held at Stanford in January 2011

Our focus was on the body spiral, connecting to our bodies and having more self-awareness.


We began with the Washing Machine Exercise.

Here, we turn our bodies to our left and then release the right foot, pivoting on our left foot. Our hips catch up with our chest.

The goal was to do a 90-degree (quarter) turn with our chest, with everything else following, and then do a 180-degree (half) turn with our chest, with everything else following. Then if we could master that, we could try doing a 360-degree (full) turn, with everything else following.

The motion is:

(1) Turn

(2) Release Hips

(3) Get all the way around.

We were to try this on both sides (turning to our left and turning to our right), engaging and then releasing.

We were also to try this on each foot, in each direction, so there were four possibilities:

(1) Pivoting on our left foot while turning to the left

(2) Pivoting on our left foot while turning to our right

(3) Pivoting on our right foot while turning to our right

(4) Pivoting on our right foot while turning to the left

The first level of this exercise is to have the hips catch up to the chest.

The second level of this exercise is to have the hips go past the chest.

This action is called the Washing Machine exercise because it mimics the spin cycle of a washing machine. It is a good oblique workout.

Next, we were to apply this exercise in a real tango move.


In teakettle embrace with Leader’s hands at the small of his back and elbows out so that Follower can hold onto his arms, the Leader steps around the Follower and leads her in a turn/hiro/molinete on either side. The Leader uses a bit of spiral, turning his chest first, and then his hips coming around.

The Follower also uses spiral while she does the turn/hiro/molinete around the Leader. The only point of contact is in her hands on his arms. Follower, be active in making this contact work. Hold on enough. Wake up that part of the embrace. Keep both sides (her left and right hands) awake. Her arms should be like spaghetti al dente, not too hard and stiff, but not too loose and soggy/absorbing. She should feel and be responsive to the Leader’s body so that the Leader doesn’t have to push her around.

The Leader should not overuse his hands. This is why we practiced the turn/hiro/molinete in teakettle embrace with the Leader not using his hands at all.

The Leader’s right foot outside forward step is where his first spiral is. The Follower spirals in her chest in response, to maintain connection with the Leader and to be in front of him. This is not a square move, it is a circular rotation.

We practiced doing this to a slow Di Sarli song on the strong beat.

With respect to Follower’s turn/hiro/molinete technique, she should keep her nose back on the side step, stay near the Leader, and do not float away at all on all steps of the turn/hiro/molinete: forward (front cross) step, side step, back (back cross) step, side step.

The “Rule of the Nose” was introduced. Since we were doing our work in Open Structure (as opposed to Close Structure), the Follower should try to keep the distance between her nose and the Leader’s nose the same at all time, and not get ahead or behind his nose, and not change the level of her nose up or down, or tilt her head forward or back.

More on Follower’s turn technique: Do not rush in the steps. The Leaders were instructed to lead it on the strong beat, so you should know how much time you have and what the pace of steps should be. Each step in the turn/hiro/molinete is worth $100. Do not rush through the side step and short change it. Step long and consistently around the Leader. Make the weight transfers smooth.

For Leader’s turn technique, the Leader opens his left shoulder to get the Follower to go around him in the clockwise turn/hiro/molinete. It is a pull energy. Leader needs to engage his core.

Here, Maestro demonstrated the wringing/torsion a la washing machine with his right foot forward step, and then his left shoulder opening, and as she goes around in the turn/hiro/molinete, his hips come around.

More on Follower’s turn technique: She should collect at the end of the movement where here feet pass each other, rather than throughout, which takes too much time and looks stiff and robotic.

Also, since we are working using the Open Structure, the axis of both dancers is straight.

Going back to the "Rule of the Nose" since there were questions about it, Maestra commented on how to use the nose. Having the nose and head up raises the eyes and head, which opens up the chest. It is a different way of presenting yourself. This is in contrast to looking at the Leader’s chest, which can cause the Follower’s head to tilt forward and break the line of the body and throw her off axis (make her lean in).

Next, onto the more challenging part of the evening.

The Leader’s back sacada.


Leader does a right foot back to big spiral, into a left foot back sacada while Follower does a counterclockwise turn/hiro/molinete around him. The Leader uses pull energy in his left arm so that the Follower continues to go around him in a turn/hiro/molinete.

There are two options taught in receiving the Leader back sacada:

(1) Follower raises her knees up, collects, and then steps back.

(2) Follower keeps her feet low and down toward the floor, fluidly receiving it with a little fan out, collects, and then steps back.

Either way, the Follower needs to have control of her receiving leg with either option and not let it flail around, our or away.

With the Leader back sacada option, there are three places of Leader spiral:

(1) Right foot forward step

(2) Left shoulder opening up to initiate the Follower turn/hiro/molinete

(3) Right foot back step to counterclockwise pivot

The class concluded with a review and class summary that included Maestra demonstrating the Follower homework of working on the turn/hiro/molinete footwork around a chair with her focus on keeping her spine vertical and using her arms up, like holding a beach ball over the center of the chair, to also work the spiral in her body.

Maestros demonstrated the class concepts to DiSarli’s Don Juan.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

1 comment:

Manager said...

Can a beginner learn Tango from videos? It seems that there is a lot of information in the didactic Videos here. Whats the best approach to using media to learn Tango? I think the way these videos and notes are presented is great if you attended the workshop. What would be the best approach if you did not? What tips are there for a 2 year beginner who wishes to learn from this blog and the videos presented here.