Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elegant Turn Transition Class (Close to Open Embrace) with Leader and Follower Embellishments (Int/Adv)

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
May 12, 2012
Video courtesy of Steven Spura

Cristina and Homer will develop two beautiful transitions between close and open embrace turns via both an ocho and a leg-wrap.  They will sprinkle the movements with a few generous embellishments for leaders and followers!

The focus of our class was on close embrace turns and transitions from them into an open embrace, all the while making it elegant.  Our goal was to be able to go from close embrace to open embrace, and then back into close embrace, making the transition smooth and elegant.  For the Leader, his goal should be to make it very clear if he is leading something in close embrace or open embrace, and not some slushy hybrid in between if he is uncertain. The embrace lives and breathes to accommodate something beautiful to happen, so sometimes it is close, and sometimes it needs to be open.

We began in close embrace, doing no-pivot (Vanilla bean) back ochos, into the Leader leading a close-embrace turn/molinete/hiro counterclockwise (to the left) around him. To lead the Follower into the turn, the Leader plants his left foot and does a half turn (Follower’s footwork is left foot back cross, right foot side, left foot forward). After this half turn, the couple will be facing opposite line of dance. To get out of it, they can do a rock step back around, or a full turn instead of a half turn.

Focusing on each piece:
No-Pivot Back Ochos (aka Vanilla Bean back ochos)
The Follower’s hips should not pivot. It is more like just a back cross step across our own bodies.
The Leader leads the no-pivot ochos by not having any rotation in his upper body/shoulders, and just doing rollerblading footwork.

Turn footwork:
Follower should step long and around the Leader.

1st Transition:
The first transition to an open embrace from close embrace is after the Follower’s left foot forward step of the turn, where the Leader leads her to pivot on her left foot, and then to step right foot forward.  The Leader leads both the pivot and the opening up of the embrace.  He leads the opening up of the embrace by releasing his right hand so that his hand goes away from the Follower and his body tilts away.  The Follower feels this too, and she tilts back in response to feeling the Leader’s body tilt back.

To help us understand this concept of mirror and matching the tilt, we played the Human Magnet Game.

Human Magnet Game:
Leader attracts and goes away from the Follower by moving his axis forward and back with flexion in his ankles, not by bending at the waist. The Follower mirrors the Leader’s tilt/axis. We drilled this concept face to face with each other, with no embrace, not touching with the hands/arms in any way.

Human Magnet Concept solidified by doing side steps:
We added another element to the Human Magnet Game by adding the embrace and doing just side steps.
We began in open embrace while doing side steps.
At some point, the Leader would lead getting into close embrace while still doing side steps.
And then at some point later, the Leader would lead getting back into open embrace while still doing side steps.

Leader’s Right Arm/Hand:
The Leader’s right arm begins from his shoulder, so it has to open from the shoulder, letting go so he can get his hand around the Follower as she goes into a more open embrace.  He should not do the Bear Claw where he clenches the Follower into him in a tight grip. This would keep her close to him, which is opposite of his goal of going into an open embrace.
The opening up of his right arm/hand and his axis moving back tells the Follower that he wants the embrace to open up.

Follower’s Left Arm/Hand:
The Follower needs to let her left arm go, to let the embrace open up.

Leader’s Left Hand:
The Leader’s can convey the opening up of the embrace with his left hand, so that the Follower knows something is about to happen.  It’s very gentle slight firming. 

We drilled the side step with opening and closing of the embrace.

Leader: The Leader does not need to tilt much to open or close the embrace.  The tilt should be from the ankles, and he should lift his chest a little as he tilts.  In tilting forward, he should only tilt enough so that he can still wiggle his toes and the backs of his legs still work.  So the weight should just go to the balls of his feet.   
Follower: Her forward tilt should be such that if the Leader walks away from her, she should not fall, even though she is tilted.  Her toes should never curl.

To tilt back to open the embrace, the concept of the Gentle Walrus was introduced.  The Gentle Walrus is a very slight bounce off each other, and is connected to the Leader’s breath, as there is an expansion in his chest cavity as he exhales.

To Get In Close Embrace:
Human Magnet
Leader’s right hand/arm/shoulder opens out
Left hand does little pull

To Get Out of Close Embrace Into Open Embrace:
Gentle Walrus with slight bounce a little up.

So we drilled our simple pattern some more:
Side step to close
To no-pivot ochos
To half turn/molinete/hiro counterclockwise (to the left).

Bend knees, but keep upper body straight.
Leader bends knees for stability and a little bit of style.
Leader needs to release his right arm and tilt his body back.

Next, we attempted to make it more snappy in time at the point of transition to the moment after she crosses.  So the Leader collects, changes weight, bends and pivots all that the same time to lead the Follower to pivot on her left foot and then step forward with her right foot.  The Leader dictates how the Follower arrives at her cross, so he can make it more snappy or less.

Since the pattern ends in the opposite Line of Dance, when the Leader steps back (to lead the Follower to step forward), he is stepping in the correct Line of Dance.

We attempted to make transitions inside a transition: in the embrace, in a step. 

Maestros concluded with a demo to Ricardo Malerba’s Remembranzas.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

No comments: