Monday, June 10, 2013

Homer + Cristina Extreme (Experienced Intermediate Level / Advanced)

Song: Pearl by Cirque du Soleil
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
June 1, 2013, Homer & Cristina Workshops in Hove at Ralli Hall, Denmark Villas

Video Courtesy of Tim Sharp

This workshop was advertised as “Dramatic enrosques, high leg wraps and sustained volcadas. The naga chilli of workshops hot and extreme. You will be challenged.”

Given the complexity of content, maestros asked the students if they wanted to stick with the plan and cover all three subjects or if they just wanted to focus on one or two subjects and focus on refinement of understanding the concepts and deep technique. The class voted to do all three subjects, so we set a 20-minute time limit on each: enrosques, high leg wraps (piernazos), and sustained volcadas.

We started with refining our enrosques, working in partnership in fingertip-to-fingertip hold, doing forward ochos to tight crosses, where our thighs can be open or close.  We were to do the ochos together, going toward the other person’s trailing leg and around each other, having lots of spiral and at the right time, unwinding it. 

To this, we added a weight change, and then a step back. So our footwork became: forward ocho, hook in front, weight change, back ocho step, with dancers staying together on the back step.  We were to hook in front as tightly as possible and step back onto our supporting leg with our opposite foot. 

Cristina showed us the “Secret Garden Enrosque”, where the Follower does a forward enrosque with her free foot tracing a small circle on the floor around an imaginary axis unseen by the Leader (that’s why it’s called the “Secret Garden” Enrosque – because the Leader doesn’t see the axis the Follower is circling).  The Follower needs to decide before she transfers weight to do the enrosque. So she reaches, and as she transfers weight but a little bit before, she shoots out the other foot/leg with a little bit of Captain Morgan, pivots and from her knee down, draws a circle/rulo/lapice/corkscrew with her calf/foot (“stirs the pot”) and then collects with ankles together.  We were to keep this on the floor, and do one or two circles/corkscrews/rulos/lapices, with the Follower keeping her hips close to the Leader.   For the

Next, we built a mini pattern that would include all three elements of our class subjects: the enrosque, high leg wrap, and sustained volcada.

The Leader backs the Follower up into a back ocho step after her forward ocho enrosques. 
As she steps back on her right foot back step to the close side of the embrace, the Leader steps into her and steps around her to get under her with his right foot side step. 
He quickly collects with his left foot and then takes another right foot side step around her as his body spirals and twists up, leading the Follower’s left foot high leg wrap (piernazo) back around his left side.
The Follower’s knee is pointed down during the piernazo.

If the Leader gives the Follower enough real estate and the correct energy, then the wrap should go where he wants/leads it (aiming for his left side waist/back).  The Follower’s leg rides up the thigh with her knee down. “The thighs have eyes” – so the Follower’s leg should always try to find the Leader’s leg.  It is not about how high you can wrap.  The Follower should try to keep a long spine, so she will be able to twist and disassociate more.

In the Piernazo, the Leader steps around the Follower’s axis, he does not push her off axis.  The Leader’s objective is to get close to the Follower, and go around the Follower’s axis, while keeping her on axis.

Exit:  Leader releases Follower into the Funny Volcada, and then into the Sustained Side Volcada with the Leader’s height change during the Sustained Volcada. 

During the Funny Volcada, the Leader walks backward around the Follower in a circle, and then to lead the Sustained Volcada, he walks straight back two steps (usually starting with his right leg) to lead the Follower in a Sustained Volcada.  For the Sustained Volcada, the Leader finds the line of dance and then walks backward straight.  He needs to find his center, and go down a little or a lot as he walks back.

In the Sustained Volcada, the Follower’s hips/legs remain close to the Leader’s, and her weight is perfectly in the middle with both legs straight, not favoring one or the other.

The exit is when the Leader comes back up after he hugs and lifts the Follower.  We zip up our core and push down to get up and pull ourselves out of the swimming pool.  The Leader can bring the Follower back up on her right leg, or move her to bring her back up on her left leg. 

Follower must wait for the lead
When the Leader steps in near the Follower to Capture the Moon on the close side of the embrace, he can either lead a Funny Volcada or a High Leg Wrap (Piernazo).  The Follower has to wait for the lead because the leads for the Funny Volcada and the High Leg Wrap (Piernazo) are slightly different. 

Next, we went back and added the Leader’s Enrosque.

For Leader’s enrosques, the forward enrosques are the most exciting, but the back enrosques are the most elegant. The secret entrance of the Leader’s back enrosque is on the Follower’s side step after her forward step.  Here he can do a Leader’s sacada into a back enrosque.  At the point of the Leader’s enrosque, they are both pivoting, so there is a “we” feeling as we can get lots of pivoting in the same direction for both dancers.  The Leader’s cross behind is tight and deep.  We can do this in close embrace. 

Maestros demo’d enrosques doing ochos with hooks with or without weight changes. 

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Cirque du Soleil’s Pearl. 

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Milonga Rhythm Homer + Cristina Style (Intermediate and Above)

Song: Milonga De Los Fortines by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
June 1, 2013, Homer & Cristina Workshops in Hove at Ralli Hall, Denmark Villas

Video Courtesy of Tim Sharp

Our milonga class consisted of four chapters.

Chapter 1: The Strong Beat and How We Play with the Strong Beat
We began with an individual exercise randomly walking around the room and imagining puddles on the floor.  We would walk around the room randomly and try to splash the other dancers, trying to step on the strong beat.  We would try to make little splashes or medium splashes, but not big splashes (so no hard stomping).  In milonga there are two beats that are fundamental walking beats.  The purpose of this exercise is that when we do the splash, we can be a little more down, and have a little bit of height change.  We were to walk in a more grounded manner, and to create emphasis in our dance.  We were to try to show level changes and quality of walking differences in our dance. 

In partnership, we danced to a milonga, just walking on the strong beat, with no syncopation, no double time.  Our goal was to practice our walking on the walking beat, with puddle emphasis in our steps when appropriate.  We did this to Canaro’s Milonga Sentimental for half a song (a slow milonga), and then to Canaro’s La Milonga De Mis Tiempos for half a song (a medium fast milonga).

Chapter 2: Being Grounded
In partnership, we did an exercise where the Follower takes holds of the Leader’s hips and pulls down, but she keeps a straight spine. The Leader leads the Follower to dance while he feels the heaviness in his hips, stepping on the strong beat and creating little splashes or medium splashes with his steps.  The Leader can tell the Follower to press down more on his hips if he feels she is not doing enough.  The Follower should push more than she thinks she should, all the while keeping her torso straight and long.

The Leader and Follower change their holds on each others’ hips, but the Leader still leads.  Both dancers do not compromise the length and straightness of their spines.  The Follower pushes down on the Leader’s hips.  Then the Leader pushes down on the Follower’s hips.  The Leader leads the whole time. The Followers should use the energy of the floor into her legs, into her body.  Dancers still dance on the strong beat.  We drilled this to Canaro’s Milonga Sentimental.

Then still in partnership, we alternated from holding down the hips into the normal embrace, back to holding down the hips, etc., with the Leader focusing on just walking. The Follower pushes on the Leader’s hips, and then they go into the embrace.  This helped us explore the sensation changes and qualities we should get comfortable with: qualities of groundedness coming from our cores into the floor and to be “up” but into the ground.  We should put our energy into the floor.  With hands pushing down on the other person’s hips, we dance more slowly, and everything is more deliberate.  Just because it’s milonga music doesn’t mean you have to dance fast.

What does being grounded mean?  Grounded is the act of not falling.  We need to be over our selves, over our support leg.  We should not dance milonga by falling into the movement.  Grounded means stable, not falling, whether you are up, tilted, or on two feet.

Chapter 3: Phrasing
To understand phrasing, we did the Tango Chacarera. In Chacarera formation, with the Leaders all in one line and the Followers facing them all in one line, we made eye contact with each other, and raised our arms in the air, as if we were doing the Chacarera. We then took four steps forward, where we met in the middle, and then took four steps back, signifying one phrase in the music.  Our goal was to always be back where we started at the end of a phrase.   We did this to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga because it is a very regular song, phrasewise.

We started the Tango Chacarera just walking to the beat to get our ears used to finding the beginning of the phrase, which would help us to achieve our goal of getting back to our starting place at the end of the phrase.  Building on this, we then danced more freely, still doing four steps forward and four steps back so we could end up at the same place where we started at the end of the phrase.

Next, we danced to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga doing no syncopation, just doing walking, weight changes and rock steps; no ochos or sacadas. For the Follower, it is important to really hear the music and have control over her body so that she is more responsible for the musicality and musical interpretation of the dance and has better control/expression over how she steps.

Maestros demo’d dancing to the phrase by doing one thing per phrase, such as walking for the 8 counts of the phrase, doing weight changes for the 8 counts, doing rock steps for the 8 counts, etc.  The idea was to not change the idea too much while we dance. We were to be grounded when we make our steps.

Every song has a melody, sometimes lyrics too.  You can still hear the phrasing inside the lyrics.

Next, we tried dancing to a different song, Emilio Pelejero’s Mi Mieja Linda.  We were to walk on the strong beat and pause at the end of a phrase using either a splash or by being emphatically up.

Chapter 4: Rhythmic Syncopation
The Butterfly Effect is when we want to syncopate everywhere, and we fly everywhere in our dance, like butterflies.  This is also called Schmeddling.

We went back to our first song, Canaro’s Milonga Sentimental, where we were to examine/train our ears to hear the words “San Francisco” (“San” “Fran” “Cis” “Co”) in the beats, and to step on the strong beats, the “San” and “Cis” beats of San Francisco.  “San” stands alone, but “Cis” has neighbors “Co” and “Fran”.  How do we define the rhythmic syncopation?  We practiced by doing a regular box step of forward, side, together, weight change, back, side, together, weight change.  We do our initial step, the forward step or the back step, on the “San” and “Cis” beats.

For the Leader’s technique, he can use a little bit of rocking the baby, almost imperceptibly to help lead the weight change. The Follower always copies the Leader’s level.

Finally, in our dancing, we were to integrate all 4 chapters: making medium splashes and small splashes, having groundedness in our dance with heavy hips, and doing the box step with rhythmic syncopation of doing the forward or back step on the “San” or “Cis” all within the musical phrases of the song.

What happens if we want to syncopate around “Cis”? That’s where the rhythmic change of weight (double time) goes.  But “San” is the home/anchor.  Underneath it, the rhythmic syncopation, if you can lock onto it, your milonga will be stronger.  While butterflying is OK, if you do rhythmic syncopation around “Cis” it is better. 

Maestros showed us what they meant by dancing to Canaro’s Silueta Portena. 

For our dancing exercise, we were to:
Go on walking steps. 
Take smaller steps. 
The faster the music, the quieter our upper bodies have to be.
How to get into and out of the box step just by knowing where the “San” is (Leader’s left foot forward step)

We tried drilling to a different song: Donato’s Ella Es Asi.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo’ to Canaro’s Milonga De Los Fortines.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Friday, June 7, 2013

Putting Neo in your Tango (Intermediate)

Song: The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 27, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)

The goal of this exploration class was finding your own style. We would explore some ideas in body movement. 

We began to dancing to a snippet of music Piazzolla’s Oblivion, by Los Cosos De Al Lao 
1st thing we tried: Ochos into Ganchos by making ochos last as long as possible.

We began with doing an ocho and making it last as long as possible, stretching it beyond what you normally might with your posture.  There is a technique to extending the forward ocho.  The Leader makes one extra step around the Follower (a cheat step), to get greater range of motion and also he continues to rotate around the Follower to his right.  The goal was to get the Follower to do a gancho, which she should do naturally since both Leader’s and Follower’s bodies are so twisted. 

The Follower keeps her knee bent and to keep with the softness of the music so she can ground better. But she also needs to keep her torso nice and tall to get disassociation and range of motion. 

Try to reflect what you are hearing in the music (stretchy, soft).

Leader should not collapse in his chest. We enable the move by letting go of our preconceived notions (so posture can change a little, but doesn’t collapse in the chest.

We worked on this concept to Piazzolla’s Oblivion, by Los Cosos De Al Lao

Next, we explored changing the embrace.
From the forward ocho into the sweetheart position, and then invite Follower to walk back in front of Leader
To change the embrace, we did a 360 rotation or 180 rotation in the embrace.  At the cross, the Leader can wind and unwind the Follower.  The Leader leads the Follower to walk in a line, but the Leader changes his relationship to her.

In these changes of embrace, be careful of your elbows; keep them tucked in as much as possible.

We worked on this concept to Deus Xango by Pablo Aslan

From the Follower’s cross, the Leader dos a loop turn counterclockwise to get Follower into sweetheart embrace.

The Follower needs to always be looking for the hands of the Leader.  Follower should use the momentum of the ocho to carry her through.  In sweetheart embrace, the Leader’s palms are up; that is a very strong embrace.  To get her out of it, he hand/arm does a motion similar to what it would do when starting a lawnmower (winding up).

Next, we were to name an element of tango that you normally do face to face.  The class came up with the cross back and the cross forward, and also the hiro/turn/molinete (which we will now call the anti-hiro).  However, instead of doing it face to face, we were going to do it in sweetheart embrace. In sweetheart embrace, the Leader is flexible in his hold so that the Follower can move. The Follower’s embrace, left and right hand, are reversed in sweetheart embrace as her arms cross over her body.

In the anti-hiro, as the Follower goes around, her back is always to the Leader, but he stays with her with his front, so they are never back to back.  So we tried doing the anti-hiro in sweet heart embrace, and then exit with the lawn mower arm work for the Leader. 

The Follower should always find where the Leader is.  She should always try to go back home.

We worked on this concept to Gran Hotel California by Trio Garufa

Practicing in sweetheart embrace develops a lot of sensitivities.   Breaking the embrace sometimes makes things easier.

In sweetheart embrace, we did a forward walk, and then the Leader changes weight so he can do a right leg parada with his right foot next to her right foot, both feet facing forward, and then he leads the Follower to do a left foot side step over him so he can pivot her and they can face each other again.

We worked on this concept to Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling and to Sail by Awolnation, which are both examples of a new music form called Dubstep (see

Next, still in sweetheart embrace, from the Leader to Follower right foot to right foot position, we worked on a Follower colagda out to the right, into a left leg gancho of the Leader’s right leg. Note that these positions would also work in normal promenade as well.

Next, we worked on the Leader’s soltada from the counterclockwise turn/hiro/molinete.  When we shift the embrace without letting go, it is called a change of embrace. When we let go of the embrace it is called a soltada.  We worked on this doing a Leader’s back sacada on the Follower’s side step, and then a Leader’s soltada. 

We worked on this concept to Until the Morning by Thievery Corp.

To sum up, we worked on
  1. stretching the embrace
  2. changing the embrace
  3. letting go of the embrace
But still trying to stay connected with
  1. consistency
  2. clarity
  3. comfort
You can still be close but still have your own axis. 

We concluded with the
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.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to The Luckiest by Ben Folds. 

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Follower’s Defaults + Leaders Who Enable Them (Improvers)

ong: La Capilla Blanca by Carlos Di Sarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 27, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)

"Default” is not meant to have a negative connotation. By “Default” we mean “Standards”.  We have an equal opportunity for failure or success.

Maestros demo’d a pattern: Rock step, little forward ocho from the close to the open side of the embrace.  Here, we have a platform to communicate some standards for the Follower.  We did this in Sugarbowl embrace (also called the Less Blame embrace) so that the Follower needs to have good contact with the Leader in the pads of her fingertips and in the strength and elasticity in her arms.  At the pivot, the Follower needs to be on one foot and fully on axis. As the Follower makes her long, reaching step and pivot, her body is on top of her standing leg and there is no tilt.  Her chest should be a little bit back.

The Leader’s right foot crosses behind to open room. He should lead her ocho through his spine.  The Leader turns his spine to lead the Follower’s ocho.

The Follower should pause after each ocho.

We did a partnered exercise, holding each other at the finger tips, with both dancers doing big forward ochos.

Simple forward ochos in partnership.
Inside leg/foot steps forward
Forward step
We were to target our partner’s trailing leg, and to go toward it but stay together and have a lot of twist so that our hips won’t face our partner. Our upper bodies should face toward each other, but our belly buttons face away.  Our hips open up and we step close to our partner. We should look at each other and keep our chest up, trying to pivot forever.  We can rotate as much as possible with our hips facing away from the Leader, as long as we maintain the embrace/connection with the Leader. The Follower should learn how to rate a lot and develop equal strength and skill/range of motion on both sides.  Evenness in our dance can be difficult to achieve, as Leaders tend to lead the same things on the same sides.  We are a product of our partners.

We tried this in sugar bowl embrace, with the Leader doing forward ochos from the rock step, making long steps and big pivots, and the Follower stepping around the Leader so she is close to him.

Here, the Rule of the Hip was introduced.

THE RULE OF THE HIP: after the Follower’s pivot, her thigh can touch the Leader’s thigh; they can do a “thigh kiss”.

In sugar bowl embrace, the Leader plants himself to lead the Follower to do forward ochos. After the Follower’s forward ocho, her step needs to be close enough to the Leader so that as she completes her pivot, her hips/thighs touch the Leader’s. To do this, she needs to have long, snaky forward steps around the Leader, and to step close to his hips, so that after her pivot, they graze each other’s thighs.

In our exercise, we used the sugarbowl embrace.

Our goal was for the Follower’s thigh to touch the Leader’s thigh on either side after her ocho pivot. This exercise is to help us practice getting really close to each other without leaning into each other. The Leader tries to rotate his torso 45 degrees to lead the Follower’s ochos. As always, he should keep his chest up and let his head float.

This is one of the most difficult techniques for Follower’s precision of where she puts her foot to have vertical axis. 

The Rule of the Hip is broken if the Leader stands with a wide base with his feet wide apart.  His feet should be together.

Follower needs to keep her chest up and back, and she should be on axis.  It was noted that on the second or subsequent ochos, she should aim for the Leader’s little toe.  The Follower’s standing leg has a lot of power/capability to it.

Still in the sugar bowl embrace, the Leader focuses on the body and forgets about the hands. 

We worked on the ocho parada, where the Leader leads the Follower to do forward ochos, and then he adds the parada and the Follower answers with her pasada. In the Follower pasada step over she should project her foot and step around the Leader. She should not climb over his foot as if stepping over a large box.  The Follower’s belly button faces away from the Leader. 

The Leader’s parada secret: The Leader does a ronde, going from little toe, to big toe, to little toe, making a quarter turn with a point.  To present his leg, the Leader fans into it, unweighted so that the Follower can be free to really pivot and is not blocked by the Leader.

The Leader gives the Follower an obstacle so she can go over it. 

During the Follower’s pivot before it ends, the Leader should give her his leg so she feels it and knows where she should stop and step over.

The Follower’s embellishments can include skimming/grazing the Leader’s trouser leg with the top of her foot, and she can also playfully walk around the front of his foot, like a boat going around an obstacle.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to La Capilla Blanca by Carlos Di Sarli. 

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Organic Tango Ganchos (Intermediate)

Song: Chau Pinela by Carlos Di Sarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 27, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)  

Turn to the right, lead a gancho.

Leader’s right leg to wrap Follower’s right leg on Follower’s left foot side step after her forward step. It’s almost an embellishment.

Can be done in open or close embrace.  We tried this during the clockwise turn/hiro/molinete.

Follower’s should take nice, long even steps around the Leader so he knows when to predict when he can lead the wrap.

There was no explanation, maestros just told the class to try it.

The Leader turns slowly through the process to the right to lead the actual wrap.

The Follower should give the Leader the best opportunity to lead things in tango.  She should keep her hips close to the Leader, and her footwork should land at the top of the beat, and she should take the rest of the beat to settle.

For the Follower’s turn technique, she should create even steps, and take one beat for each step.  In Homer & Cristina’s pedagogy, there is no QQ footwork on the Back, Side (of Forward, Side, Back, Side, Forward, etc steps of the turn), but the Leader can change the beat (to QQ) anywhere he wants to in the turn, and each step is equal in importance and size.  So the Follower has a lot of time to prepare for the back cross step before the side step.

In sugar bowl embrace, the Leader does pacman footwork going at a steady rate, and the Follower does turns/hiros/molietes around him.  Dancers heads should be floating and chests should be up.  Follower should collect feet in between her steps. She should not get in front of the Leader, and her nose should be slightly behind the Leader’s nose.  She should reach first, and then step.  Both Leader and Follower have to do their work. The Leader has to be at the right spot at the right time.

Back to the wrap:
Captain Morgan footwork can be up or down, and thigh is open to receive the wrap.
Follower will wrap above the knee at the meaty part of the thigh.
Leader captures the Follower’s side step after her forward step so that it flows and he doesn’t break the rhythm of her turn.
Follower should do the wrap with her whole leg, her inner thigh should do the wrap.
Follower decides how to wrap. She has the authority to interpret the wrap at the bottom of the beat where she’s landed and the weak beat after that.

Exercise: “Thwack” (Front Boleo Legwork) Exercise
Then we did the "Thwack" Exercise, with our leg wrapping around ourselves all the way up and hitting the outside of our opposite hip in a whip action and making a “thwack” noise. The goal was to get a good thwack so that you can hear the snap of the trousers. Our legs cross in front to get our hip to rotate without pivoting.  We should gently wrap, not too hard, but enough to get the “thwack” sound.  We should keep our thighs tight, then lift the thigh a little to get over our knee to hit the outside of our butt.  We should keep our knees soft.  The hips rotate in the hip socket joint.

The dancer controls the shape of the thwacking leg, even though it's the free leg.
The Follower should pay attention to what her thwacking foot is doing: pointing (the goal); sickling (bad), flexed (bad). She should not change the angle of the foot, but create the same angle the whole time. 
The Follower’s exit is also in her control, and she has two options:
1 Regularly collect
2. Take a little more time, bring the knee up (feeling your foot next to your leg) and then down (aka “the bounce off”)
Either way, the Follower should commit to one or the other, but don’t be in between.

The quality of the wrap is in how well the leg does the whip action. Keep the knee as low as possible, as long as you clear the other thigh. Knee can lift a little at the end. Hips should be even, with an even pelvic floor. The dancer needs to have a solid standing, supporting leg for the wrap to work.

How does the Follower know it will be a wrap?
She will feel contact with the Leader’s leg.

The Follower needs to stay close to the Leader on her turn steps so he as the space/room to go in. This is much more difficult if she is far away from him.

Where/what is the sweet spot?  Just as the Follower is about to put her foot down is when the Leader sweeps in with his ronde/lapice captain morganing leg as he caresses the floor in an arc. 

Physical contact during the whip is a couple of centimetres above the knee on the outside of the thigh of the Leader.

If the Leader is tall and the Follower is short, either don’t do the wrap, or the Leader should have a straight leg and expect the Follower to wrap lower (possibly at his calf).

Why does the Follower sometimes heel herself?  This would be the Leader’s fault.  If the Leader is too deep when he enters, the Follower will heel herself.
If the Leader is too shallow, the Follower is going to heel him.
The Follower’s heel should clear the Leader’s leg and the Follower’s leg.

The double can be led by the Leader or can be stolen by the Follower. However, the Follower cannot steal a double wrap if the Leader does not lead the first one.
The Leader leads a double by doing a small pulse in his spine after he leads the first wrap.
The Follower’s stealing is extra fast because she shouldn’t interrupt the timing of the Leader, their flow.

We tried wrapping on the other side, during the Follower’s turn counterclockwise.

The Follower needs to have good turn/hiro/molinete technique for this to work well. So they should practice their turns at home on their own time, around a chair, pole, etc.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Chau Pinela by Carlos Di Sarli.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Off Axis Masterclass 2 (Advanced)

Song: Velitas y Santos by Malena Muyala
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)

In our prior class, we worked on Volcadas. Now we will work on off axis in the other way: Colgadas.

To learn the concept, we began with the step-over colgada, chosen because it is the Number 1 social colgada, and is similar to the parada/pasada, which most dancers of this level are familiar with.

Maestros demo’d it, and then had the students try to do it with little explanation.

After the students tried it for a while, we came back together and the class was split in two, Leaders behind Homer and Followers behind Cristina

Leader’s Footwork
Rock step leader’s left foot forward
Bounce back with left foot
Step several centimetres off the line of dance to capture the moon
Put weight into left foot to cause the Follower’s colgada
Right foot cheat step around the Follower
Put Follower’s weight on her right foot so he can bring her all the way through.
Come around
Change weight
Left foot forward step out

Follower’s Footwork
Right foot rock back
Pivot on left foot so right foot makes long reaching side steps with no weight on it.
When Leader transfers his weight, that’s when the Follower transfers her weight in the Colgada
Step over with left foot making a long reaching step around the Leader
And then they step out.

To understand the dynamics of the colgada, we did some exercises:


This exercise is about trust and communication.  The dancers have to feel the moment of falling in order to establish trust.

The Leader walks into the Follower’s space, knocking her body off axis with direct body contact, gently, and she falls back into the Leader’s hands. Follower’s feet remain in the same spot. There are three levels to this exercise:

(1) Follower and Leader catch each other.

(2) Leader catches Follower (Follower’s arms and hands do nothing; they do not hang onto or catch the Leader).

(3) Follower catches Leader (Leader’s arms and hands do nothing; they do not hang onto or catch the Follower).

In this exercise, the Leader needs to physically knock the Follower off axis with his whole center, displacing the Follower’s space. She needs to wait for the Leader to do this, not anticipate and not go back too soon automatically with no initial contact from the Leader.

 We can also do this from behind, Titanic style, and we can also do it from the side.


In the Hip Under Colgada Posture:

Spine is straight.

Hips go back.

We were to engage our cores, and our hips were to be under our rib cages.

The Leader sandwiches (his feet are in a “V” shape) the Follower’s feet (which are in parallel).

Leader and Follower hang onto each other’s wrists, and then move their cores/centers back, counterbalancing each other, using the power of their back and core muscles (not their arm/shoulder muscles).  Their knees are soft, and shoulder blades are being pulled down.

Planking is OK, but realizes that it raises the center of gravity.  Banana-ing is bad and should not be done.

Back to the figure…
After our exercises, we were to do the step-over colgada In sugarbowl embrace, where the Follower has more responsibility to hold onto the Leader.

Follower should investigate how she hangs from the wall of the Leader, using both sides of her embrace, left and right, 50/50.  Note that at the point of colgada, there is a pause and this is the Instagram moment, with the Follower hanging out at the exact moment.  The Leader pulls her through with his left shoulder. Most Leaders do not pull enough from the left and instead push from the right.

Next, in teapot embrace, we were to make sure the Leader’s left arm does not telescope, otherwise the wall collapses and the Follower has less support.  For the Leader’s left arm, the distance between his bicep and forearm is the same length as his hand between his pink and his thumb.

THE LINE OF POWER: The "Line of Power" was introduced. For colgadas, this is the way to start it. It doesn’t happen for all of them, but it does happen for a lot of them, especially the circular ones.  The Leader sends the Follower’s hips out in the line of power and then pulls her around.  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.

For the more advanced, we went from the counterclockwise turn/hiro/molinete.

 We worked on a She Goes, He Goes colgada to the left, where the Leader leads a full turn first, then catches the Follower’s left foot back cross step, then he sends the Follower out back as her right foot steps back over in a right foot side step colgada with her right foot, he pivots a little, and steps through with his right foot forward, while she does a long side step simultaneously with his right foot step through.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Velitas y Santos by Malena Muyala. 

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Off Axis Masterclass 1 (Advanced)

Song: Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex) 

Our class would not do any sustained volcadas because Maestros will be teaching that next Saturday, 1 June at the Hove workshops.

We began with the Funny Volcada

The Funny Volcada is “funny” not because it is amusing in a laughing ha-ha-ha sort of way, but because it is peculiar, odd.  What makes it odd is the position of the dancers’ bodies at the point of initiation of the Volcada: perpendicular to each other. 

The Funny Volcada starts in close embrace, then the embrace opens up, and then dancers move into slightly closer, perpendicular embrace, after which the Funny Volcada is initiated.

Functionally, to lead a Funny Volcada, we need to understand where the Follower’s axis is.  We began with the Leader leading the Follower to do back ochos in a slot. He then plants her on her axis when she arrives to her right foot and then he starts by taking a big left foot step around the Follower’s axis, and then walks backward counterclockwise around her standing leg while she remains in calesita position, with or without doing an optional lapice embellishment with her free foot. Then he gets her back in front of him and they walk out.

We drilled this first, focusing on the Leader walking around the Follower, with no volcada, no off axis and no falling.

Leader’s footwork:
The Leader leads the ocho, with the Leader accompanying the Follower with side-to-side steps.  Follower goes in her slot.  At some point, the Leader takes a step to the right to get a little closer (called: Capture the Moon) to make the Follower feel safe.  He then engages the embrace a little to support their weight as the dancers get into a perpendicular position.  This perpendicular position happens because the Leader’s hand rotates around the Follower’s axis as she arrives on her right leg, so he blocks the completion of her back ocho and she doesn’t unwind. He doesn’t let the Follower finish her back ocho, effectively blocking it.

He then takes three tiny steps back (left, right, left) counterclockwise around Follower as she is on her right foot, and then he makes a right foot side step around the Follower to stop her calesita.  Then they step out and complete her ocho. 

Follower’s footwork:
The left foot collects with an amague, a cross in front of her right foot.
The Follower’s embrace on her left side compresses back to lift her up.
The Leader’s right foot big side step as he leads a big pivot is where the Follower completes her back ocho, which brings the Follower back to axis.

The Follower should not be afraid to use her left arm to push up and get lift and stability in her body.  The Leader will push back up with his right shoulder as support.  Both dancers push down and lift up to create length and to create strength.

The more the Leader spirals away from the Follower, the more the Follower goes off axis.

Exercises to understand the technique of the Volcada
In partnership, the dancers embrace.
The Leader makes a side step to get Follower weighted on one foot.
The Leader compresses and lifts the Follower with his body, not just with his arms.
The Follower answers back by compressing into the Leader and lifting as if getting out of a swimming pool.
Leader makes a few steps back and Follower remains strong and planted, but allows her free leg to go forward as the Leader steps back.
Then he walks forward, and Follower allows her free leg to go back.
Follower’s core should be engaged.

There are three levels to this exercise:
  1. Hug each other
  2. Follower hugs Leader
  3. Leader hugs Follower

Follower Embellishments
There is no such thing as a free leg.  It has shape and can be articulated by using the muscles to give it a certain look.  For her left leg lapices during the Funny Volcada, the Follower can do:
1.         Sassy footwork where she flexes at the ankle and has the heel on the floor
2.         Ballet footwork with the toe pointed on the floor
The Follower’s left foot adorno should not be reflected in the embrace (reverberate in her upper body) because her right leg should be solid and stable. 

The Golden Parachute of all volcadas: If you don’t feel safe, you can put your foot down and the Volcada is finished.

In the Volcada, the Leader’s right arms is where the support is.  Each Follower has a sweet spot, lower or higher on her back.

Follower: When the Leader creates the set-up, she should not fall into the Leader and she should not assume it’s a Volcada he is leading.  At the change of embrace, the Leader’s hand rotates around the Follower’s axis, so she doesn’t unwind, and then he lifts and suspends her and compresses the embrace. The Follower has a sweet spot where the Leader should hold her with his right hand, and each sweet spot is different for every Follower depending on her physical features such as height.  

The Embrace: The Follower compresses back with her left shoulder blade against his right, as if to pull herself out of a swimming pool.  The Follower’s hips should be level, and she should imagine a straight vertical line going from her right foot to her left shoulder blade. In the Funny Volcada, during his walk backwards around the Follower, he is a little farther away so that her body is tilted off-axis and yet she still remains supported by both dancers’ efforts (her left armpit/shoulder blade and his right arm/shoulder, as well as the strong vertical line from her right foot to her left shoulder). The Volcada off-axis movement doesn’t have to be large: it can be small, especially if we are just learning to do it.

To maintain the integrity of the embrace, it is very important that during the volcada the Follower’s hips remain level; she should not sit and not drop one side of her hips. The Follower needs to always know where her left foot is, as it needs to be ready to follow the exit. Sometimes her left foot might get ahead of the Leader.  That is OK as long as it is still free and as long as she knows when to follow his lead for the exit from the Volcada.

CHAPTER 2: The Side Volcada

The Funny Volcada can go from circular to linear, and can also be minimal with little off-axis. 

In the Side Volcada, the Leader also doesn’t allow the Follower to finish her ocho. He hugs and lifts the Follower, keeping her suspended so her free leg remains free. He then extends the Follower to the side so she makes a big side step during a Side Volcada.  Here the Leader suspends the Follower to a new line to direct the Follower’s energy elsewhere. It doesn’t need to be a big side step. 

The Leader spirals out a little more, and the Follower’s free foot collects and comes through.  Here the Leader goes linear and the Follower’s leg goes out linearly into a split

The Leader lifts a lot, so the Follower doesn’t have a lot of weight on her feet. She should still be engaged in her embrace with her swimming pool strength pushing down to get lift.

To end this, the Leader comes up, which causes the Follower to collect. 

As in the linear volcada, he goes into his knees, so there is a tiny big of going down. 

The Leader’s right foot step is diagonally back (sideish) so the Follower collects through and her left foot goes out to the side.

When going from circular to linear, the Leader goes a little more down into his knees so he can come up, which communicates to the Follower that she should come up.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Ocho Cortados (Intermediate)

Song:  La Melodia de Noche Adios by Rafael Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)

What does ocho cortado mean? It means cut ocho.

We began with ochos to the leader’s right, bringing his partner back around, and getting back into the line of dance.  The forward step is truncated into a forward cross step.

Rock step. Follower forward step outside partner to side step, into the Follower’s cross (left foot over right).

There is more than one way to do the ocho cortado. 

Always try to face your partner as much as possible.

We are not going to do the version with the Leader stop/sacada on the Follower’s side step version.

We did linear ocho cortados as dancers are going on a line. Then we introduced turns to the right (clockwise) get circular ocho cortados where we end up opposite line of dance.

Leader’s footwork:
Left foot rock step forward with little weight
Right foot cross behind (put weight on left foot)
Pivot around to face the opposite line of dance.
Right foot opens up clockwise
With weight still on the left foot, pivot back
Left foot rocks around

Follower’s footwork:
Right foot rock step back with heel raised (it’s a touch)
Right foot rock step forward, taking a long forward step around the Leader as the Leader rotates around
Left foot side open step with weight centered
Leader reverses rotation to left which leads the Follower to cross left over right, nice and tight.
Unwind and right leg is free to step back

Follower:  Let your right shoulder float, do not push into the Leader with your right hand.

The idea of the isosceles triangle was introduced, where for the Follower’s left foot placement on her side step, her feet need to be near the Leader. 

This is the critical part of the class:  The Golden Rule

In close embrace, we are tilted forward but have vertical energy up, not out, with chest up.  On the Follower’s side step, there is a pause afterward. At this point, the Follower’s hips are parallel to the Leader.  This is where the Isosceles triangle is: Each of the Follower’s feet are equal distant from the Leader.  When the Leader stops turning, the Follower’s left foot stops and lands on the floor.

We drilled this in close embrace with chests touching but space below so our bellies didn’t touch and our legs are long, and there is flex at the ankles.

Common themes:

Follower’s right hand/shoulder:  Let the shoulders float. Let the elbows float.  They are not in a fixed position and not tense and rigid. They are alive.  Cristina’s way of releasing tension in that area is to adjust her hands.  In tango, the communication is from the chest, not the arm.

Tomato Sandwich:
Homer is the tomato in a sandwich and Cristina’s left hand is one slice of bread, and her chest is the other slice of bread.

Follower: remember the limit on the side step; you can take a long step, as long as you stay with the Leader and do not get ahead or behind him.

Moving on, things to do to play:
The Shimmy (based on the American dance the Twist).  Here, we really work the knees. The Follower does the twist.  What is the lead for it? The Leader plants in the middle and then rotates his chest by turning his spine very little, like he’s trying to wake up the sleeping fish in his fish bowl.  The knees do all the work so the Follower’s body stays with the Leader and her sternum is still straight.

Bigger rotation back into the cross, and can uncross to do sequential crosses. 

Felipe Martinez Reverse Ocho Cortado

From the perpendicular position, in the Felipe Reverse Ocho Cortado, the Leader gets the follower into position where she hooks behind, not in front.  The Follower’s cross is a left foot back cross tuck (not a left foot front cross tuck in front of her pivoted right foot), to a right foot forward step, to a right foot pivot counterclockwise back into a normal left foot front cross tuck.

The Leader goes beyond the Golden Rule where the Leader rotates his spine to rotate beyond the Golden Rule a lot.  His right hand releases so he can get the Follower go and so she gets a larger range of motion. Their hips are perpendicular and the dancers are no longer in close embrace.  The Leader engages the embrace with a bit of compression, and leads them diagonally out so she crosses beyond.  The Leader turns to the left back into normal resolution.  The Leader makes a weight transfer from the right to the left at the point of making the Follower do her back cross.  

The Follower’s left foot side step before her left foot back cross tuck needs to be really circular and around the Leader so she can end up perpendicular to him. She also needs to accept the transition from close to open embrace.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to La Melodia de Noche Adios by Rafael Canaro. 

Notes courtesy of Anne at