Friday, June 7, 2013

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

No comments: