Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Transition from Close Embrace Back Ochos to Open Embrace Back Ochos

Song: Din Don by Lucio Demare
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Dancesport, New York City
October 14, 2011

Video Courtesy of Florin Oprisa

This lesson would serve as a precursor/springboard lesson as a teaser for tomorrow's workshop topics, sacadas. The focus of the class is the transition from close embrace back ochos to open embrace back ochos. The sacada workshops are predicated upon going from open embrace back ochos into sacadas. Our orchestra for the evening was Demare.

Open Embrace No-Pivot Ochos

We began with working on open embrace no-pivot ochos.

Leader: Upper body remains stable and straight forward. He does not turn his ribcage or spine, and keeps his core engaged so that his upper body is quiet. His footwork is rollerblading footwork.

Follower: Does not pivot in her hips. She creates a long step by keeping the knees soft, connecting her feet to the floor, and pushing off the floor to create a long step. In making her step, she first opens hip, so that her leg can reach across behind herself with her foot slightly outturned so that her hips don’t pivot as she reaches. She should not change height in her steps. Her feet are icing on the cake. Her strength comes from her connection to the floor. She should be aware of how she is using her feet. She should not pigeon toe. Again, it was emphasized that her hip should open up, and then the foot follows this opening by being slightly outturned. The Follower squeezes thighs together to collect. Her hip and footwork are the same for both sides, left and right.

We began with a footwork exercise, with everyone in class in one large circle formation, and then we all did the Leader’s footwork of rollerblading into the middle of the dance floor, while keeping our upper bodies straight with no torsion.

When we got to the center of the circle, we did the Follower’s footwork on the way back out, whereby we open our hips, so that our leg could reach across behind ourselves with our feet slightly outturned so that our hips didn’t pivot as we reached with our legs, walking out to the outside of the circle and doing the same hip/footwork for both our left and right legs.

The Leader’s goal is to be symmetrical in his foot movements, with the angle and length of both his left and right steps being the same. He will notice that the right side is harder. He should also have a longer moment of collecting, really bringing his body weight over to one side or the other so that the Follower has time to collect as well and not rush through her collection.

The Follower needs to be consistent and maintain pressure/consistency in her embrace, and not allow bubbles or hiccups in the embrace. She should also not bounce, go down, or pull away.

Both Leader and Follower need to keep their chests up in the embrace.

Our homework is to practice doing this close embrace no-pivot ocho in single time and double time (QQS), all in close embrace.

Next, we moved to pivoted ochos with the embrace opening up.

Pivoted Ochos without Chest-to-Chest Fixed Position

Follower: She collects faster but reaches slower to get the thighs out of the way.

Leader: instead of his upper body remaining fixed as in the no-pivot ocho, he lets his chest go so that it can rotate contra body. He also releases the right hand of the embrace a little to let the Follower pivot and her body rotate inside the cradle of his arm. (It was emphasized that the Leader should not squeeze her and ask her to pivot as this annoys most Followers.) He can maintain his connection with her by remaining in contact with the back of her clothes, but he should not clamp down on her back or keep her fixed with his right hand. In the pivoted ocho, she needs to be able to slide while she is in the cradle (not coffin) of the Leader’s arm.

It is important to maintain good posture during our work, whether it is in close embrace or open embrace ochos. Here, Alexander Technique can help so that our necks are long and chests are up.

In the double time (QQS) pivoted ocho, the steps are shorter so that the Leader creates a clear perimeter and the Follower swivels her hips.

Next, we did a partnered exercise with no Leader and no Follower, both dancers hand to hand doing back ochos together. The goal was to stay close to each other with our hips. We needed to reach our back cross (back ocho) steps close to each other, and pivot enough (a lot). If we didn’t pivot enough, we would go away from each other. This exercise was a test in that the Leader needs to be comfortable with stepping back; that’s when he needs to have the Follower experience.

Slot Ochos

In Sugar Bowl Embrace (formerly known as the Tea Kettle Embrace), with Leader’s hands at the small of his back, elbows out to the side, and Follower’s hands on Leader’s triceps, Follower does back ochos. Leader rotates his chest 35-40 degrees on each side, being even. The Follower does back ochos in a slot in front of the Leader, so this exercise does not travel and is not floor-space intensive if done correctly. Leader can stand with just chest rotation, and Follower does slot ocho footwork in a straight line in front of the Leader. In her embrace, the Follower provides horizontal energy, not vertical, so she does not press down onto the Leader or force him into the ground.

From here, we were running out of class time, but did a little bit of work on the body spiral, starting in close embrace to transition to open embrace to lead the Follower to do a back sacada in the Leader’s Sugar Bowl embrace. The Leader’s legwork was such that he got into the Captain Morgan (Rum) leg position.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Demare’s Din…Don

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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