Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Universal Tango Technique for Both Leaders and Followers

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
May 11, 2012
Video courtesy of Steven Spura

Homer will explain various exercises and drills that are considered universal concepts for both leaders and followers to master.  The world between being a leader and being a follower is closer than you might imagine. For beginners and more experienced dancers alike (especially those who are having a hard time getting to the next level) this class is for you.  Be prepared to work hard and enjoy it at the same time!

The focus of the class was technique, with a theme of the Enrosque. So we will go down a path that will connect it to the Enrosque.

We were to develop our technique to enable us all to do Enrosques, so we will change roles so we could all lead and follow.

We began with the Leader leading the Follower to do a molinete/hiro/turn counterclockwise as the Leader does an Enrosque with embellished footwork.

Exercise 1a:
Cross behind while walking forward to get to the center of the circle.
Technical pointers:   lift the heel, and bend the knee to go deeper and travel forward.

Exercise 1b: (aka Michael Jackson Tango Moonwalk)
Cross in front while walking backward to get to the perimeter of the circle.

We were to make these exercises more elegant with our arms raised, imagining that we were holding a big bowl of sleeping fish. We were to isolate our upper bodies by keeping our chest straight and our torsos upright, strong and stable, so we do not disturb or awaken the sleeping fish. 

With our feet crossed, they should be like an A shape.  When our feet are together regularly (uncrossed), they should be in a V shape (a little outturned).

We drilled this cross behind and cross in front walking backward and forward. Outside of class, we can practice our crosses behind and crosses forward with A shaped feet and isolated, still upper bodies anywhere, such as at work behind a podium, waiting in line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, on the train station platform, etc.  Basically, we have no excuses not to practice.

Exercise 2:
Next, in partnership hand in hand, we did the molinete/hiro/turn footwork in a box with each other: forward side, back, side. 
When stepping on our forward and back steps, we should turn our chests toward each other and look at each other. We should not have any height change, and our goal was to see who can stay upright the most.

Exercise 3:
One person goes around the other person in the molinete/hiro/turn in four steps, or three steps to make it more challenging. 
It is important to pivot a lot on the side step after the forward step. This will help you get all the way around the center person.

Exercise 4a:
Simple forward ochos in partnership.
Inside leg/foot steps forward
Forward step
Again, we were to keep our bodies quiet, upright and still by imaging the bowl of fish between each other.

Exercise 4b:
Simple back ochos in partnership.
Outside leg/foot steps back
Back step
We were to pivot enough so that we could stay near each other on our back steps. We use our pivots and our upright bodies to balance and support each other.
We were to try to keep our hips close to each other and take longs steps and not step away from each other.

Exercise 4C:
To our ochos in partnership, we added rebotes (rebounds, twists).
Step forward
Pivot forward
Pivot back
Step back
Pivot back
Pivot forward
Step forward

Exercise 5a:
For this solo exercise, we were to imagine ourselves as spokes on a bicycle with Homer the center of the wheel.
Left foot forward step
Right foot hook behind
Left foot pivot (360 degrees), ending with weight transfer to right foot
Left foot back step back to starting position

And we tried this on the other side as well:
Right foot forward step
Left foot hook behind
Right foot pivot (360 degrees) ending with weight transfer to left foot
Right foot back step back to starting position

Exercise 5b:
We did the above footwork, simultaneously in partnership with each other, hand in hand.
This was to feel how we balance each other, and to give us all experience equally in doing the Enrosque footwork.
Our goal was to keep our hips close to our partner.

Next, we all of the above exercises brought us to combine the concepts into a pattern:

Leader leads Follower to the Forward, Side, Back, Side, Forward, etc, footwork of the molinete/hiro/turn smoothly and continuously while the Leader did his Enrosque footwork.  We were to hold at the fingertips.

Leader’s footwork                    Follower footwork
(LF/RF) Forward step                (LF/RF) Forward step
Enrosque                                  (RF/LF) Side Step
(LF/RF) Back Step                     (LF/RF) Back Step                    

Followers can do Enrosques too, but they are usually done without the weight transfer and are usually embellishments to the ochos and turns.

We can also change the Leader’s footwork so that his forward step can be a sacada to the Follower’s trailing foot. Note that his back step can also be a back sacada to the Follower’s trailing foot.

Next, we drilled all these concepts of doing the Leader’s Enrosque while he led the Follower to do a molinete/hiro/turn around him, and Leaders were also encouraged to try to do the sacada footwork on his forward and back steps.

With respect to timing, as we get better at this, we will become.  So we need to coordinate our body to our partner’s body.

As the back sacada requires a lot of disassociation, spiraling, pivoting, and torsion in our bodies, we worked on the Washing Machine Exercise.

Exercise 6: Washing Machine Exercise:
This was an exercise to help us disassociate, spiral and pivot.
Upper bodies go around first: head gets ahead of rib cage, which pulls the shoulders, chest, and then the hips, legs and feet around.
We can do this either way, counterclockwise or clockwise, and on either foot, left or right. Drilling this enables us to get the concept of top-to-bottom spiraling into our bodies.

We should drill it all these different ways so we get our bodies used to moving and disassociating in all different directions and regardless of which foot we are on.

We could also try it doing it in reverse, starting with the pivots in our feet firs, going up through our legs and hips, and then delay pulling our upper bodies around.  Drilling this enables us to get the concept of bottom-to-top pivoting into our bodies.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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