Friday, June 7, 2013

Universal Tango Technique (Improvers)

Song: Tormenta by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 25, 2013, England International Tango Festival (at Ardingly College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex)

We began in bare feet/socks, with trying to find the four corners of our feet.  We stood with our feet 6-8 inches apart, feet straight in line, either imagining the letter H or the number 11. Have even distribution of weight between two feet, be really in the middle. Our hip bone is aligned with our shoulder joints and ankles.  We stretch the neck up, being really tall, and going into the floor.  We should have soft knees. This is the sweet spot to feel really rooted in the floor.

Next, we put all of our weight to the right side.  Our right toes spread out into the floor.  We can push with the right foot to create length.

Next, we put all of our weight to the left side and do the same thing.

Next, with weight on the right foot, we imagine that our foot has four corners, two in the front, and two in the back.  We should have straight legs, but our knees are always soft. We push down to create length, and everything is stacked up.  The four corners of our feet are like suction cups, not just pushing, but creating vacuuming up, suction, creating length.  It pulls down to push up.  Followers: do not forget the four corners, even though you are wearing high heels.  We should use the four corners of our feet as much as possible, though we pivot on the first two corners only.

Next exercise: Reaching
We began with stabilizing our body using the four corners idea.  Then we reach, and then we extend our reach a little farther, and then transfer weight. We were to avoid kerplunking and control the landing.  We should try not to change height.  As you reach and transfer weight, think about what muscles are working to make a really nice collection.

Next exercise: Crossing game
We cross behind and walk forward, or cross in front and walk back.  We should still think about the four corners of our feet to make this happen.  We bend our knees, but lift our heels to get enough clearance to move forward.  Doing it backward, it is called the Michael Jackson Moonwalk in tango, crossing in front to walk back.  We need to be clear about it, but take as much time as we need. Our feet are in a little bit of an A shape, as we cross behind to walk the way forward, and cross in front making the A walking backward.

How to do crossing game exercises
We were to think that we are holding a giant bowl of fish that are sleeping.  So our upper bodies need to be very quiet.  We achieve this by using our core and inner thigh muscles, squeezing the top part of our thighs.  We can do this exercise anywhere: in the grocery store line, or behind a podium during a speech, the goal of which would be to separate our lower half from our upper half and no one realizes what we are doing behind the podium.

No-pivot back ochos
In close embrace, we worked on no-pivot back ochos, where the Follower’s ball of foot does not rotate. She can open the hip, but her feet do not pivot.  We can do this in open or close embrace, but we tried in close embrace first.

Leader’s technique: For the lead, the Leader’s spine, shoulders, and chest have no rotation while he does rollerblading on the California boardwalk.  With the class in a circle formation, we tried this, rollerblading in the center, collecting our heels in between.

Follower’s technique: She zig zags back to the outside of the circle, opening her hips and reaching, but not pivoting.  Because the Leader’s chest does not rotate, the Follower does not pivot.  The Follower’s foot should roll to the middle of the foot, and then reach with the other foot for her next step. She should not roll to the back of the foot to avoid kerplunking. 

Both Leader and Follower should make everything even. We are products of our partner, so if they are uneven, we will be uneven.

In between his steps, the Leader can collect or do double time and not collect, but the Follower has to always collect, even if the Leader goes fast in double time.

Follower: Do not push with your right hand, but engage the right lat instead.

On the hook behind, from the no-pivot ocho, the Follower’s footwork needs to be very pointed in the foot and straight in the ankle so she doesn’t scrape over her other foot as it comes around.

The resolution after hooking behind: The Leader can get into perpendicular and rotate the Follower, which is good for taking corners.  Or he can just lead her back into back ochos.

For the more advanced dancers, he can hug her a little more and shift from left to right, where he will lead continuous hooks behind.  The Follower makes her crosses tight and deep.

When practicing, be sure to make clear exits and really know what you are going to do/are doing once you finish the movement.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Tormenta by Francisco Canaro.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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