Friday, November 4, 2011

The Art of Surprise - Part I (Intermediate)

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
October 29, 2011


The Providence Tango Tricks and Treats Weekend with Homer & Cristina Ladas

Friday, October 28, 2011

Something Scary Spins This Way (Int)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Art of Surprise - Part I (Int)

The Art of Surprise - Part II (Int/Adv)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cool Tricks and Traps for the Social Dance Floor - Parts I (Advanced)

Cool Tricks and Traps for the Social Dance Floor - Parts II (Master)


Video Courtesy of Steven Spura and Bill Pease

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Art of Surprise - Part I (Intermediate)

This Intermediate class lays down the groundwork for good vs. bad surprises in tango. We played a few fun games to get warmed up for various fundamental surprises.


Walking in partnership in promenade, the Leader bumps the Follower with his hip periodically. He should not hurt his partner, but let her know that he is there. The bump is done inside leg to inside leg. The Follower can do this joke back to the Leader.



This was an independent exercise where we all walked around in random directions, and we went up to someone and scared them with hands up, but only stepping on the strong beat. We were not to run or do double time, or walk in the line of dance. This built up to the:


To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in any/all directions, always stepping on the strong beat to accent it in our walk, with energy going into the floor. Every once in a while, we were to surprise someone by touching them appropriately with both our hands at two points on their body (arms, shoulders, hips), always staying on the strong beat.

The purpose of this game was to get us used to the element of surprise as a musical tool, coordinating our dancing with the music. Every strong beat is a potential surprise. The Follower needs to feel safe and comfortable before she is surprised.


Next, we did the Tai Chi Tango exercise, which is an exercise to help us work on our connection, really mirror and match our partner’s energy, and feeling compression. Leader and Follower face each other and are hand to hand (or palm to palm). The Leader does a big, flowy circular motion with each of his hands with big range of motion, releasing his shoulder joints, and his arms going into his body, engaging strongly or subtly and using his breath. At some point, he stops and gives compression. The Follower's response needs to be immediate to mirror and match the circular motion and to give resistance when she feels the Leader compress, giving the Leader the same mount of energy that he gives her. This was first done with no music.

Then we added music. So with Tai Chi hands, we were to focus on the music, giving compression at the accent points in the music, with the Follower waiting for the Leader to initiate the compression. Follower’s eyes are closed for this exercise. We can change the flavor of the embrace with compression to create a surprise with music.


We were to dance, doing just walks, and then freezing for a moment. The Follower should always feel safe. To freeze, the Leader’s embrace changes, with compression energy to firm/tighten up/jolt/get more rigid, as his steps have more down energy into the floor. After a moment of freezing, he then keeps going by releasing the embrace into the normal, non-compressed close embrace.

The Leader should wait for an appropriate strong beat, freeze for a moment, and the ease back out of it to normal dancing. He needs to actually stop before the midpoint, compress the embrace a little, being subtle or dramatic, to play with the music. The Leader creates the Freeze by using compression and being very grounded, and maintaining the compression the whole time, sticking to the moment even though the music continues. The Follower needs to respond to the change of energy.



Leader tries to trap Follower’s foot in a quick sandwich without stepping on her foot. It is easier to trap the Follower’s right foot, by the Leader approaching with his right foot first, and then completing the quick sandwich with his left foot. For this, the Leader needs to be snappy to catch the surprise to stop the Follower in the middle of her weight so that she doesn’t collect. The Leader’s heels stay together in the sandwich so that he doesn’t go too deep. The Leader should keep his thighs together and try not to change height, and to accent the rhythm/melody of the music.


Here, it is important to be appropriate; otherwise this surprise could be taken the wrong way. It should be comfortable and not at all inappropriate, but the move is somewhat “PG” rated. It is a gentle squeeze, with contact in the thighs, not the feet. It’s a very quick move and should not linger. It is a “hello and go” movement. Don’t sandwich too long, otherwise it’s not “PG” anymore. Like the Foot Catch, there is an easy side and a hard side. The exit is to release the thigh easily and loosen up the embrace.


The Leader’s Pitter-Patter are small, short quick baby steps. Though the Leader does his Pitter-Patter, he must also keep leading the Follower to walk back normally, stepping on the strong beat. He should not change the height; there should be nothing going on in the Leader’s chest that encourages the Follower to do anything but walk back normally. The Leader starts the Pitter-Patter when the Follower’s right foot goes back, and when there is good synchronicity of movement.


Leader does rock step to turn to the right (clockwise), and his left foot crosses in front of his body to catch the Follower’s right foot forward (front cross) step on the clockwise hiro/turn/molinete, to sweep it back. Note that both dancers’ sweeping/swept feet need to be unweighted (weight is on the back, standing supporting leg/foot). We practiced this in Sugar Bowl or Teapot Embrace. The Leader’s right foot cross behind after his rock step is very important for stability and to open up his right hip for maximum range of motion for his left foot to cross in front to catch the Follower, who should be taking a long, reaching step.

It is important for the Follower to have a good embrace and give horizontal energy. The Leader’s lead is the turn/hiro/molinete. The Follower’s default step should be long and around the Leader. She should take long steps, reaching first, and then transferring the weight smoothly. The Leader leads the turn and also leads her to stop. The two exits are:

(1) The Parada/Pasada by leading a turn to the left (counterclockwise), or

(2) A mini colgada, doing a rock step around and paying attention to the Line of Dance.

ADVANCED OPTION: Instead of a front catch, he can do a back catch with his left foot crossing behind and across his body to trap in the back, into a drag and sacada.

After the class review, Maestros demo’d the surprises to Rodriguez’s A Mal Tiempo Buena Cara.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

No comments: