Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Building One Social Dance Step-Over Colgada (Intermediate "Foundation" Class)

Song: La Capilla Blanca by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
New York City
October 16, 2011


Homer & Cristina Ladas Workshops in New York City:

Weekend Theme: The Body-Spiral and Body-Axis

2.30pm: Building One Social Dance Step-Over Colgada (Intermediate "Foundation" Class)

4.30pm: Exploring Stylistic and Functional Use of Colgadas (Advanced "Exploration" Class)


Building One Social Dance Step-Over Colgada (Intermediate "Foundation" Class)

Video Courtesy of Luis Campos

Our music for the class was DiSarli with Podesta on vocals.

We began the class immediately with Maestros showing us the step, and then us trying to replicate it.

From the rock step, the Leader steps left foot side step to trap the Follower’s right foot side step, sending her out, and then she steps over with her left foot out and around the Leader counterclockwise.

For the Leader to keep this in the line of dance, he can keep turning the Follower.

After we drilled this for a little while, we went on to clean up the technical details of the step.

For the Leader rock step, in the middle he can pivot 90 degrees on his right foot, so that his left foot trap of Follower's right foot is not in the Line of Dance when he traps the Follower’s right foot (Leader puts weight on his right foot). This pivot will enable the Follower to make a long step around him. Leader sends her out. Leader puts his weight on his left foot at the same time Follower transfers her weight to her right foot to send her out. Leader does right foot cheat step up to a quarter turn around Follower (Leader can be on his heel to do this) to provide support as she hangs and steps around with her left foot Leader and Follower both keep their chests up. Follower steps long and around Leader as she goes over in her colgada, and as she passes through, the Leader puts his weight on his left foot, then changes his weight to the right foot, to then walk off with his left foot.

For the Follower, the beginning right foot rock step back is not weighted. She need to pivot 90 degrees on her right foot so that it makes it easier for her to make a long, reaching left foot front cross step around the Leader. Note that her step is unweighted (weight is on her standing, supporting right leg). As the Leader leads the transfer of weight to his right is where the colgada starts and she is sent out off axis. After the Follower’s side step around the Leader, she pivots on her left foot and they walk out (she with her right foot back step).

After drilling this for a while, we then went on to some deeper concepts:

1) Understanding initiation: when, how?

To get an idea, we did the step-over colgada in teapot embrace with the Leader’s right hand at the small of his back and elbows out (the handle), and left arm up (the proper angle of the left arm is to measure with his right hand where the thumb and pinky fingers go from his bicep to his wrist). His left arm remains fixed (as a teapot’s spout would be). The Follower embraces the Leader at his spout and handle, engaging both her left and right arms/hands so that she can hang on to the Leader. The Follower should have equal stability on both sides of her embrace/arm tone. Both dancers need to be connected to their cores so that the whole body is behind their arms. In the teapot embrace, the Leader’s right hand is taken away so that he doesn’t overuse it and so that the Follower uses both sides of her embrace to hang onto the Leader.

THE LINE OF POWER: The "Line of Power" was introduced. Two points of the Leader’s feet are in a line in the direction of where the Follower's hips are going to go. The Follower's hips go out straight: that's the line of power.

A more advanced level of this is to do it in Sugar Bowl embrace where the Follower needs to hang onto both sides of the Leader with her hands/arms only and he does not hold onto her at all, but only lead with his chest/torso rotation and is tested to see if he can lead any Colgada.

In this same step-over colgada, we drilled in Sugar Bowl embrace to work on timing, using the floor, the line of power, having more finesse, and being comfortable with throwing our weight around. The Sugar Bowl embrace also makes the Follower smarter and responsive about the embrace and hanging onto the Leader and using his body as a wall.

Next, we went on to a foundational drill to develop trust in a playful way.


Here, the Follower has her feet hip-width apart. The Leader walks into her, knocking her off axis. The Leader enters her space, displacing the Follower. Then he/she/they catch each other.

Level 1: Both catch each other

Level 2: Leader catches Follower

Level 3: Follower catches Leader

Next, we went onto a social colgada posture/counterbalance exercise.


Holding at the wrists, we were in hip under position, with our hips lined up with our rib cages. The Leader's feet, which can be in a "V" position, were outside the Follower's feet, sandwiching them. Elbows have 90 degree bend to them. We were to squeeze our transverse muscles, using our center mass in our backs and cores, keeping our chest open, and pushing our shoulder blades down. We were to hang from the hips and counterbalance each other. We were not to crunch our shoulders. We could move our belly out back a little. We were not to use our upper backs, but just use our mid/lower backs and power of our hips/legs and our core muscles. Our back and leg muscles are engaged. Our backsides were such that there is a high bar back stool behind us and we were reaching back to get up into to the chair (so it is not sitting down on a low chair).

Leader initiates the send out and controls how far the Follower goes out. The Leaders tried with different Followers to feel the height and weight differences, and how he had to change his counterbalancing efforts depending on the Follower's height and weight. This exercise was the most important five minutes of class so that we could understand the concept of counterbalancing each other.

Next, after these drills, the goals of which were to improve our Colgada technique, we went back to doing the step-over Colgada in Sugar Bowl Embrace. Only this time, the Leader sends her out and then freezes, and then sends her over, pulling her through with his left shoulder rotation counterclockwise.

Note that during the Colgada the Follower’s hips are almost perpendicular to the Leader’s.

In the freeze, the Follower starts stepping over when the Leader starts turning. The Follower’s colgada ends when she steps down and touches the floor and transfers weight.

The Follower's embrace becomes elastic first, stretching first and then start engaging it when the movement starts. The Leader’s left arm should remain fixed and stable at all times, and not telescope out or forward.

The challenge portion of the class was to work on the back step-over colgada. Or to control the timing (fast or slow) of the regular step-over colgada.

In doing the Colgada it is important for the Follower not to do any height changes because that adds another level of complexity to all that the Leader has to think about (on top of counterbalancing her weight, sending her out, and leading the turn).

Maestros concluded with a class review and demo to Canaro’s La Capilla Blanca.

During our half-hour break, Maestros generously gave us the option of using that time as a guided practica, which most students enthusiastically took advantage of.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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