Friday, December 10, 2010

An Introduction to An Effective Use of Body Weight in Tango

Song: Comme Il Faut by Carlos Di Sarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 8, 2010, Cellspace, San Francisco

This was a brand new, experimental class.

We began with an exercise. In teakettle open embrace (with both the Leader's hands at the small of his back, and Follower hanging on to his biceps), the Leader was to lead the Follower in a dance. The following things were things we should think about:
Leader: How do I use weight to lead?
Follower: How do I use the weight to respond appropriately to the lead?
We were to be slow and elastic, dynamic, and in control in our dance (in teakettle open embrace).

How do we use our standing leg? We should connect with the floor with our standing leg.
We should spend time and effort to really settle in to our standing leg, settling first, and then reaching with our free foot for our next step.
Try to use the connection to the floor.
The Follower's embrace is elastic: each arm can bend and flex.
In the Follower's steps and dancing, she should not be flighty and try to get away from the Leader.
She should use her whole body when she starts moving.

We then danced a song, again in teakettle open embrace, where the Leaders were encouraged to change it up more by:
Changing weight
Being subtle at times
Being energetic at times
Changing from one direction to another
Followers were instructed to be grounded, and show a bit of resistance.

The question came up: "What is resistance?"
Does the Follower slow down the Leader?
The Follower's purpose is to connect with the Leader.
The kind of resistance we hope to achieve is horizontal in energy, not vertical.
It is the Follower choosing to actively stay longer on the standing leg before reacting to the lead.
This is the Follower's way of letting the Leader know how she moves through space using her weight.

The question came up of how to handle males who follow since they have higher centers of mass. How does the Leader compensate for the male follower's higher center of mass?
Cristina's answer: You connect with the floor more.
Homer's answer: (1) You play with the tilt of the bodies/axes and (2) Make the Follower learn to connect with the floor more.

Next, we played a game.
In teakettle open embrace, in partnership we were to walk forward and walk backward.
In our forward walk, our bodies are slightly toward each other /\.
In our backward walk, our bodies are slightly away from each other \/.
Our goal in this game was to feel the weight of our bodies.
The Follower should take long forward steps, but not plank in her body. She should also not fall into her steps, especially the forward step.
Both dancers should create a natural resistance and communication in the embrace.

The Leader changes the embrace compression at the point when the direction changes forward to back, or back to forward. He does this by taking a moment to create the resistance by settling into the floor.
The Leader and Follower should both collect first, and then work through the neutral zone, and then change the direction before the next step is made.
For the exercise, it is OK to exaggerate it, to feel and understand the concept.
The Leader tilts his axis by flexing his ankles as he changes direction forward to back or back to forward. If his or her toes are crunching, he/she is too far forward. The toes should always be able to wiggle.
The change from forward to back feels like a slow vacuum.
The Follower feels the intention to change direction in the change in the tilt of the Leader's body before the change in direction, so she knows where to go.
It is up to both the Leader and Follower to build the relationship before you step/change the direction.
This game gave us a concept that will help us add elasticity to the embrace. Shifting weight has great leverage potential.

Next, we worked on the concept of Dynamics, that is, going from a linear to a circular move using the above concept.
The Follower should have an al dente embrace (not too soft and not too hard, but firm and responsive), using her back and core muscles.

The step, still done in teakettle embrace, was a simple one:
Leader's side step left (Follower's side step right) to step forward with his right foot, change weight, and then back with his right foot, as he leads the Follower counterclockwise molinete/hiro/turn around him.
This was a very simple step, and our goal was to work on quality of movement.

The dancers are close to begin with together at the side step, and then the Leader changes his axis back as he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. The Follower's embrace has flexibility (compression and extension). The Leader works through a forward tilt and back tilt during the Follower molinete/hiro/turn, and the Follower feels a "slingshot" type of energy as she comes around him.
To get out of it, the Leader captures her with another side step left.
The movement is soft and quiet, and then explodes, and then quiets down again.

The Follower should not take short steps, and not fall into her steps. Otherwise she will kill the dynamics of the molinete/hiro/turn. She should also make a good reach effort.
The Follower should really arrive on her step before reaching for the next step, and use everything in her body as she moves through space. She should not rush, and not be afraid of being left behind by the Leader.

Next, we added the teapot embrace with the Leader having a right hand handle and left hand spout to have more control.
The Follower must really hold onto the Leader.
Again, we tried the side step to molinete/hiro/turn on one side (counterclockwise) and then the other (clockwise).

The Leader should not move his body in a block when he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. Otherwise, he will be inefficient in his molinete/hiro turn lead. Instead, the Leader should use disassociation to make the movement easy and with finesse. Leaders tend to use their arms too much when leading the molinete/hiro/turn, so our work using the teapot embrace should alleviate that, and to also work on the secret agenda: that is, for the Leader to develop more pull energy with his left hand (as opposed to overusing and misusing his right hand by pushing the Follower to do the molinete/hiro/turn).
The teapot embrace also causes the Leader to engage his arms to his back to the floor.

The Follower works through many different types of strength in her embrace in this simple sequence in teapot embrace: soft, al dente, and firm, but she should always have elasticity, with each arm expanding and compressing as she goes around the Leader.

Maestros concluded with a demo to DiSarli's Comme Il Faut.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploration of Styles Within Colgadas with Mixed Music (Advanced Class)

Song: No Te Mires En El Rio by Enrique Rodriguez
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 28, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

We began with Cristina leading some physical body warm-up exercises so that we could be grounded and our bodies could be nimble and flexible.

In the first colgada class, maestros gave us a simple structure (the step-over colgada). In this class we were given options to develop our own style.

The basic foundation was the step-over colgada. It doesn't need to be too big, and can be done in open embrace. We were to stay in the line of dance.

We reviewed the counterbalance exercise and hip under posture. We were not to arch our back or have ballroom posture, we were not to plank, and we were not to collapse in our shoulders or upper body.

The idea of this class was to explore what works, and what doesn't work.

We experimented with the counterbalancing exercise with different postures and embraces:
cross hand hold
arch back/ballroom
collapsing in shoulders or upper body.
If doing any of these options hurts our backs, we were to go back to the basic step-over colgada with hip-under posture.

Next, we experimented with changes in height, changes in embrace, and changes in the leg, and turning it even more.

Our goal was to experiment with different postures with the underlying thought of "How can I make this work?"

The Follower would decide one posture, and the Leader would have to counterbalance it.

The default is that the Follower should not change her height.

The Leader has to adjust instantly.

Option 1: If the Leader changes his height (by bending his knees), the Follower copies the Leader.

Option 2: The Leader changes his posture; see how the Follower responds (she usually copies it).

Since there were some students in this class who were not in the previous class, the concept of "The Wall" was reviewed.

The Leader needs to be a wall that the Follower wants to hang from. In teapot embrace, the Leader's left hand stays fixed so that the Follower can hang from it. If the Leader's left hand/arm has give, the Follower will want to step down earlier than she should. The Follower needs to be able to use the wall. The Follower has an elastic embrace, sometimes engaging more than usual. In the teapot embrace, the Leader should practice keeping his spout (left arm) solid. The Leader uses his back to keep his spout (left arm) solid to open up his lats. In teapot embrace, the Leader should not telescope his left arm.

Going back to our colgada experimentation, we were able to change:
suspending it and letting the Follower initiate the ending.

The Follower should try to copy the Leader first before she becomes disobedient (experiments).

What does the Leader do when the Follower does an abrupt change? Colgadas have a built-in parachute if something goes wrong. You can put your leg and foot down (step). If you are in trouble, put both feet on the floor to prevent falling. If something really bad happens, like someone get stuck in their pant legs, the Leader falls first and then the Follower is cushioned by him. Do not let go of the Follower, otherwise she will fall first without cushioning.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Part I: Colgada Basics with Miguel Calo (Intermediate Class)

Song: Al Compas Del Corazon by Miguel Calo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 28, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

Students said they had experience, so maestros gave a simple pattern to do, to see where we were skill and knowledgewise.

Just do a rock step. Then Leader traps Follower's right foot with his left foot. The Leader traps her right foot by stepping in front of it. She makes a long step with the Leader leading it by opening up his left shoulder as if in a little turn. Then she goes into her side step with a little pivot. The Leader's weight is on his right, where he keeps turning and pulling her through, then transfers his weight after she steps over with her left foot.

Next, we tried this in teapot embrace, with the Follower holding onto his handle and spout as they do a counterclockwise turn. The Follower should take long steps all the time. The Leader traps her right foot by stepping in front of it.

Next we worked on our colgada posture by doing an exercise.

Holding at the wrists, we were in hip under position, with our hips lined up with our rib cages. The Leader's feet, which can be in a "V" position, were outside the Follower's feet, sandwiching them. Elbows have 90 degree bend to them. We were to squeeze our transverse muscles, using our center mass in our backs and cores, keeping our chest open, and pushing our shoulder blades down. We were to hang from the hips and counterbalance each other. We were not to crunch our shoulders. We could move our belly out back a little.

Leader initiates the send out. The Leaders tried with different Followers to feel the height and weight differences, and how he had to change his counterbalancing efforts depending on the Follower's height and weight. This exercise was the most important five minutes of class so that we could understand the concept of counterbalancing each other.

The Follower's embrace becomes elastic first, stretching first and then start engaging it when the movement starts.

The Leader is well aware that the Follower hangs from him. She has the freedom to extend or flex the embrace as much as she wants. Follower needs to add tone with back and core muscles and leg/foot connection on up with the floor.

As our home exercise, we can imagine that we are windsurfing, and hang away from the side of our doors, putting us in hip under colgada posture.

In open embrace, we did the following pattern:

Leader rock step, left foot trap of Follower's right foot (Leader puts weight on his right foot), Leader sends her out. Leader puts his weight on his left foot at the same time Follower transfers her weight to her right foot to send her out. Leader does right foot cheat step around Follower to provide support as she hangs and steps around with her left foot. Leader and Follower both keep their chests up. Follower steps long and around Leader as she goes over in her colgada.

Clarification: When the Leader traps the Follower's foot, he does it in the "Line of Power". Two points of his feet are in a line in the direction where the Follower's hips are going to go. The Follower's hips go out straight: that's the line of power. The Leader's left arm is what the Follower hangs onto. When the Follower steps down with her left foot, that is when the Colgada ends.

The Follower must use good molinete/hiro/turn technique. Use all your body to create the extra range of motion when you take the forward cross step. We drilled this simple Step-Over Colgada to Calo's Lejos de Buenos Aires , Que Te Importa Que Te Llore, and Al Compas Del Corazon.

In the colgada, the technique is the same as for the molinete/hiro/turn to the left for both Leader and Follower. Follower should stay up, and don't make changes in height. The Follower should use both hands to hang onto the Leader. Her left hand slides down to his bicep in open embrace. Follower should not rush into getting out of the colgada. She should step when it's time to finish.

Be careful of the line of dance when doing colgadas. Play with how much you want to do it. In the teapot embrace, see how far Follower can go out. See how far Follower can go to the end. Leader can regulate this by how much he sends the Follower out and how much he counterweights/counterbalances her.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Part II: Close Embrace Alteration & Turn with Di'Sarli with Roberto Rufino on vocals (Advanced Class)

Song: Cosas Olvidadas - Carlos Di Sarli con Roberto Rufino
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 27, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

Our goal in this class was two-fold:
(1) Do a close embrace alteration, which is a change of direction with circular energy.
(2) Make the turn to the right in close embrace with dynamic, but still have control.

The Leaders footwork is side step left foot, weight change right foot, left foot long forward step to the outside, right foot hooks behind on line, pivot on both feet clockwise as weight is split, to walk out.
The Follower's footwork is side step right foot, back left foot, right foot crosses in front, right foot big round forward step around the Leader as she pivots on her left foot, left foot side step, right foot back step.

How does the Follower know not to do an ocho? The Leader blocks her by stepping beyond her foot and the focus is taking her around the Leader's axis (Leader is the center of the circle and Follower goes around him).

We did a lot of drilling to this to Cascabelito by Di'Sarli with Rufino on vocals.

The Follower should use everything in her body to create the curve and length of the forward step around the Leader. The Leader's cross behind is supposed to create the space to open up his right hip so the Follower can have enough room to walk through. We tried this in various speeds, first slow slow slow, and then quick quick slow on the Follower's forward and side step.

We drilled this to many songs:
Tristeza Marina
La Pasao Paso
En un vida
Adios Te Vas

One option we worked on was to do it all in open embrace. The close embrace can open up like a hinge by the Leader. We also tried to do it on the other side. Here too, the close embrace on the other side can open up like a hinge by the Leader.

If the Leader's right hand is evil and he pulls her in, he should practice doing this in teapot embrace (with his right hand as the teapot handle behind his back, and his left hand and arm up as the spout, supporting the Follower). The Follower still hangs onto the Leader, and he still turns to his right.

The Leader does a right foot tight back cross behind his left foot, to make a tight turn to the right. Then he collects, and left foot steps out. Here, each step pivots.
Since it seemed like the Leaders had problems doing TIGHT back crosses (many were not at the Beginner lesson earlier in the day when we worked on our tight cross walking exercises), we backed up to do more tight back crosses, imagining that we were speaking behind a podium, and doing tight back crosses so smoothly that no one knew we were doing them. Next, we did tight back crosses in a circle, trying to walk forward to get to the middle. The big toe caresses the floor. Next, we tried doing tight front crosses, walking back. When we cleaned up the Leader's tight back and front crosses, we then drilled the footwork for the continuous turn.

The Follower's back cross step is truncated, tight and small.

We also tried this in open embrace to get the timing synchronized where the Leader and Follower step at the same time.


The Leader does a right foot sacada on the Follower's right foot on her left side step during her molinete/hiro/turn clockwise around the Leader. We can add these sacadas to our footwork so that we end up with full turns to the right. The Leader needs to think about evening things out in his steps and the dance.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo to Adios Te Vas.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Part I: Half turn in close embrace with Edgardo Donato (Beginner Class)

Song: Se Va La Vida by Edgardo Donato
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 27, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

We began with an exercise of crossing our feet in back, deep and tight and traveling forward. Then we did the same exercise crossing our feet in front deep and tight, and then travelling backwards. During these exercises, we were to be balanced, elegant, keep our shoulders still, have flexion in the arch of the foot, really isolate our inner muscles (our core muscles). Our feet should point like an arrow when we cross (either in front or behind).

Our second exercise applied mostly to Leaders: The Paddle.

Here, we stepped to the side, and with our other free foot, paddle ourselves around, touching the floor as we paddled. We were to use small steps, not big steps. When our weight is on the right foot, our turn is to the right. When our weight is on the left foot, our turn is to the left. We were to paddle around elegantly. The Paddle adds two things:
(1) it keeps the Leader over his axis (like a kickstand for a bicycle). Do not bounce from one foot to the other. That's not paddling.
(2) The function of the free leg helps maintain stability of the standing, supporting leg and gives power.

Here, with our paddling feet off the floor, we were to kick the heel around and turn as our standing supporting leg is on the ball of foot.
As our homework, we were to practice the four different combinations:
forward with our left foot, back with our right foot, forward with our right foot, back with our left foot.

Next level: We were to imagine kicking through our partner's legs, the goal of which is to do accurate quarter turns.

Again, the motoring around was our homework.

Close embrace ocho with no Follower hip pivot (also called the Vanilla Bean ocho).
Here, the Follower walks back. The Leader walks forward as if tango rollerblading. His body is very quiet, with no torso rotation. The Follower does not pivot, does not rotate her shoulders. Her hips can be open. The Leader isolates his chest, and walks a little side to side (as if rollerblading). The Follower moves as if she is walking on butter, really crossing behind in her step, but not rotating her shoulders. For her steps back, she should have a long reach and smooth transfer of weight, but no hip pivot.

As our homework, we can practice this anywhere at home, even on carpet.

Walking in partnership, the Leader does a weight change in place to get synchronized with the Follower. He settles on his right, takes a left foot side step, does a weight change, and then steps forward with his left foot. The Follower should stay longer on her standing leg, and use it to create a good reach with her free leg by pushing into the floor. The Leader, lifting her a little, holds her up with his right hand to prevent her from changing weight, while he can change weight endlessly.

Next, we did a musical training exercise. With the rhythm of Donato's Yo Te Amo, we were to find the strong beat and lead the vanilla bean (no Follower hip pivot) ocho.

We practiced this in partnership, stepping together and collecting together, and in open embrace and close embrace. The secret to get back into the walk after this is to change weight, and start with your left foot.

Next, we worked on our connection and close embrace a little, with hugging, one arm above and one arm below the other dancer's.

The Follower does the following footwork: Back ocho to half turn of back cross left, side right, forward cross left. The Leader is on his left foot when the Follower arrives on her left foot back step, and turns to his left by paddling with his right foot, caging the Follower in his embrace, preventing her from rotating. We were to keep our connection in the chest.

In one big circle, we all held hands and then we did a molinete/hiro/turn footwork to the right, stepping side right foot, forward cross left foot, side right foot, back cross left foot. We did this as a "white" version with very open, very big steps, and then "black" version of very right front cross steps and very tight back cross steps, lifting our opposite heels when we did this. Most of tango is "gray" in terms of step size.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Cristina Favorite Milonga Moves with Juan D'Arienzo (Intermediate Class)

Song: Silueta Portena by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 26, 2010, Ashland, Oregon

Cristina Favorite Milonga Moves with Juan D'Arienzo
Typewriter Pitter Patter and Bandoneon Pitter Patter

We began with an exercise where we lifted our heels without raising or changing our height. Our knees needed to be bent. We were to keep our thighs together, pretending there was a quarter between them that we didn't want to drop. With our heels, knees, and thighs this way, we were to work forward, and then walk back, and then in a circle. This is also known as the "butterfly" or "schmedling."

Next, we were to take our imaginary quarters, drop it, but catch it before it hits our knees. We practiced this going side to side in circle formation to D'Arienzo's Silueta Portena.


The typewriter pitter patter can be done in tango, vals or milonga. In this class, our focus was on milonga.

For the exercise, the footwork for the Leader began with forward left foot, side right foot, weight change, give Follower a extra hug and lift, and then turn at the waist to the Leader's right. She then does the typewriter pitter patter to her left.

Next, we did a hug exercise. The Leader hugs the Follower with all of his back, surrounding the Follower with his whole body. Here, the Leader was to find the sweet spot on the Follower where he can surround her just below the rib cage.

Next, he was to provide a little bit of lift, by raising his diaphragm as the Follower lifts from her body. The rib cage spreads out, the shoulder blades go down to oppose the upward momentum of the Leader's lift.

We were to practice giving "extra" hugs versus "normal" hugs.

We also practiced finding the sweet spot on other dancers, tall/short, fat/thin, standing chest to chest, trying to find the sweet spot of connection. The Leader's arms will follow that line usually, that's the sweet spot.

For the Typewriter Pitter Patter, there are two parts to the lead:
(1) the Extra Hug
(2) the lift from the Leader's whole body. The Leader needs to turn his body up to 90 degrees without moving his feet, really disassociating.

To D'Arienzo's Silueta Portena, we practiced this with the Leader forward left foot, side right foot, weight change, give Follower the compression lift (extra hug and lift), and then turn at the waist to the Leader's right as he disassociates. She then does the typewriter pitter patter to her left and then back to her right as his torso goes back to his center with no disassociation. Then the compression is released and goes back into regular embrace.

Follower should not worry if she ends up on the wrong foot after the pitter patter. The Leader will figure out where to put her.

We talked about the psychological lead. Psychological leads depend on how well we hear the short staccato notes to physically interpret it in our feet. We can also interpret with lyrics. Here, Cristina sang the lyrics to a tango song. She is great!

For the Typewriter Pitter Patter, Follower takes small steps so that it's a manageable lead for the Leader's torso.

One variation we worked on was to do it in open embrace.

Leaders: How do you encourage the Follower's pitter patter? He can put it into his feet because the Follower wants to copy him. So they do it together. He can also walk it out with her, either in a line or a circle.

Another variation we worked on was to do the Typewriter Pitter Patter in promenade with the Follower to the Leader's right in promenade. Here, the Leader gives her a sideways hug and lift, and also limits the Follower's range of motion. As long as the Follower stays with the Leader in Promenade, she can do the pitter patter. The Leader can't force the Follower to do the Pitter Patter.

Another interesting variation we worked on was the Offset Typewriter. We also changed the music to D'Arienzo's La Cicatriz. In the Offset Typewriter, the Leader goes one way in pitter patter, while the Follower goes the other way, and then there is a small jump at the end where both dancers end up back together in front of each other. Here, the Leader needs to loosen the embrace a little, but still give an extra hug and lift. He extends his right arm away so the Follower goes farther away from him, while he goes to his left in pitter patter.

Maestros showed, but we did not do the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, which is when the Pitter Patter this movement goes forward and back (instead of left and right). This is called “The Bandoneon Pitter Patter” because the movement is similar to the Bandoneon bellows compressing and expanding.


This move is not for everyone.

The Hula Hoop has a down energy, but still has extra hug and compression. Maestros showed us with a tango demo to D'Arienzo's La Bruja.

In exercise, we tried standing face to face with open legs and split weight, and space between dancers, with a sway left to right. As the Follower is in the middle weight, the Leader sends her out and the Leader goes out back in opposition. Next, we made the exercise more challenging by having the Follower's feet together. Here, it forced the Leader to be more sensitive regarding where her weight was. The Leader needs to be selective in where he inserts this move. For the Hula Hoop, the Leader compresses the embrace, and then does the down (hula hoop), and then goes back to regular embrace.

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Milonga Fundamentals with Francisco Canaro (Beginner Class)

Song: Silueta Portena by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 26, 2010, Ashland, Oregon


We began with an exercise to help us on milonga phrasing through the tango chacarera. In chacarera formation with the Leaders all in one line and the Followers facing them all in one line, we took four steps forward and four steps back, signifying one phrase in the music. We made eye contact with each other, and our arms were in the air, as if we were doing the chacarera.

Building on this, we then freely danced, doing four steps forward and four steps back.

Our music for this exercise was D'Arienzo's Milonga Vieja Milonga, which is a very regular milonga. Most tango songs are well behaved (predictable), especially Milonga Vieja Milonga.

Next, in a partnered exercise, we worked on pausing at the end of a sentence. Here, we were to only do weight changes, walk, or rock steps. We were not to do any turns, ochos, double time steps, or traspie. Our goal was to show that we were able to control our pauses at the end of the sentence. Both Leader and Follower need to actively hear the music.

Our next exercise focused on the Follower educating the Leader. The Leader pretends that he doesn't know where the break is. The Follower tries to educate the Leader in a subtle way. Later on she can be a little more aggressive. The Follower is not to back lead, but subtly suggest ideas to the Leader where the pause should be.

She can do these subtle things:
hand signal (slight squeeze)
move hips
move shoulders
soft taps with hand
deliberately slow down
use breath to mark the end of the phrase
Basically, she should keep her subtle suggestions and signals in her upper body, and not use her legs and feet. Otherwise, she will be back leading.

The secret agenda for this exercise is to empower the Follower.

Without back leading, the Follower can add accents to the music.

When we really know the music, we will know it, we will own it and it will come easier.


Our next exercise was to work on being grounded. First, we walked on the strong beat by ourselves. Next, still by ourselves, we were to walk randomly still on the strong beat, and then imagine there is water/puddles on the floor and "splash" someone silently (not stomp) at the pause.

Our next exercise to continue our work on being grounded involved walking together in partnership, with one dancer's hands on the other dancer's hips. We did this with both the Leaders and Followers. The dancer pushing down should not bend at the waist. The Posture needs to be maintained, with good uprightness, and torso up. The dancer whose hips were being held down was to use their connection with the floor to get power. We were to be into the ground.

Q: What does grounding mean?
A: The act of not falling. You can be on the ball of the foot, but you need to be over your foot as you step.

Since this was a beginner class, the instruction was given that in milonga, you should stick to the strong beat. If you step on the strong beat in milonga, you will never go wrong. Keep it simple. You can get in trouble when doing double time/traspie.

Maestros demonstrated dancing a half song to a fast milonga: Meta Fierro by D'Arienzo. They showed that just by stepping on the strong beat, you should be able to talk and not be out of breath. If you are out of breath, you are dancing too hard.

Next, we danced 30 seconds to a medium-speed milonga: Silueta Portena by Canaro. Then we changed partners and danced for 30 seconds to the same song with our new partner. We were to include "splashes" (accents/pauses), little or big.

Next, we danced 30 seconds to a faster milonga: Meta Fierro by D'Arienzo. Then we changed partners and danced for 30 seconds to the same song with our new partner. We were to work the splash and step on the strong beat.

The Leader is responsible for initiating movement. More control has to deal with how quiet the Leader can make his upper body (with no bopping up and down or weird torso rotations). Later on, he can use the upper body as styling, but not a dance technique. The Follower also needs to be calm and quiet in her upper body to hear the Leader's lead.


We began with an exercise doing the box steps by ourselves, Leader on one side, Follower on the other.
Follower steps are back right, side left, change weight, front left, side right, weight change.
Leaders steps are front left, side right, weight change, back right, side left, weight change.

We were to put this box step over the rhythm of the song Milonga Sentimental by Canaro, where everything is on the strong beat, with our goal to hit the phrasing/end of the sentence. We were to hit the 1-2, and double double time and still hit the end of the phrase.

With the box step we can play with different grounding energy.

To get out of the box step, we walk out of it. Here, we can soften the embrace momentarily and then cut out to the outside to walk out of it.

We concluded the class with the "San Francisco exercise". Again, dancing to Canaro's Milonga Sentimental, we did the box step where when we heard the "1" in the song, that was where the "San" would be in our steps. The "2" is where the "cis" in "Francisco" would be. The rhythmically correct spot where the traspie would go would be at the "2 and".

Do not do traspie all the time. You can do it around the "1" if the melody is a little crazy. This would be called the "butterfly effect".

The class concluded with a student review and maestro demo.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homer & Cristina's Tango Teacher Training Class Handout

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 1, 2010, St. Louis, Missouri

Click here to download the teaching training seminar class handout from Homer & Cristina Ladas' presentation in St. Louis, Missouri, in December 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Cure the Follower's Forward Walking Phobia

Song: Si Tu Quisieras by Miguel Calo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 15, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

The music for our class was Miguel Calo with Podesta on vocals.

Q: Why do Followers hesitate when asked to step forward?
It could be because Followers are trained to walk backward all the time, so they are not used to walking forward.
They feel insecure.
They are afraid they might step on their partner's foot.
Maybe they do not feel comfortable getting into the Leader's space.

We began with an exercise, where we lined up so that we could see our spines in the mirror as we looked sideways.
We were to stand as straight as we could.
Then we started to shift our weight, from left to right and back again, really feeling connected to the floor.
We were to try to feel where the weight is distributed on the foot from side to side and forward to back.
Then we put our weight on our left foot, pushing our left foot into the floor more than usual (about 5-10% more), without bending our knee but keeping it soft, and keeping our spines straight.
Then we reached forward with our right foot.
We also tried this on our opposite feet (putting the weight on the right foot pressing into the floor and reaching with the left foot).
In this exercise, our legs and backs are really working.
Left foot is grounded.
Right foot reaches forward.
Transfer the weight by moving the spine forward.
The goal as we take these forward steps is to not change the articulation of the spine as we transfer weight.
That is, we should not plank back, lean forward, or fall into our step when we take our forward steps.
Our spines move through the space in a vertical position to make the weight transfer nice and smooth.
Also, we were not to go down too much as we take our forward step.
The length or strength of the forward step depends on how you connect with the floor with the standing leg.

Phase 1: In partnership with Leader and Follower facing each other, hand in hand in open embrace, the Leader steps back, the Follower lets the embrace open up but still has tone in her arms, and then she steps forward AFTER she feels the lead and AFTER the Leader begins his step back (she does NOT step simultaneously with the Leader).
Phase 2: Similar to Phase 1, only the embrace opens up less, and the Follower does not take as much time before she goes (but she still waits for the lead and does NOT step simultaneously with the leader).
In the Follower's forward step, she reaches first, pushes with her standing leg, and then goes. She should not pre-empt the Leader's lead by matching him step for step. She is supposed to lag behind, really waiting for and feeling his lead as he steps back, leading her to take a forward step.
To begin this exercise, the Leader shifts weight a few times to be really clear regarding what leg he wants the Follower to be on.
The Follower should try not to change height when she takes her steps, and not plank back or lock her arms. Her arms need to be flexible to allow the embrace to open up, and yet she must also still have some tone in them.

Most forward steps are curved, walking steps around the Leader. Our next exercise focused on the Follower taking curving steps around the Leader with a long forward step.
With Leader in teakettle hold (both his arms behind him at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), he was to lead the Follower to do forward ochos, really taking big side steps and reaching as far as he can. This will force the Follower to take big, strong forward steps in response.
The Leader should be even in his chest rotation as he leads her forward ochos, as the Leader's tendency is to be uneven, with one side being more open than the other. We were to try to correct this by being as even in the Leader's chest rotation as possible.
The Follower's goal is to try amplify the Leader's chest rotation in her hip rotation to really pivot. Also, she should make her forward step nice and smooth.
In this exercise, the embrace was not to be too hard or stiff or too loose. It should be al dente.

In partnership, we did forward ochos together, with our forward step reaching for our partner's trailing foot.
Our goal was to keep our spines nice and stable, and use the pushing energy of the standing leg as we did our ochos. We were to add pressure with our whole foot as we reach and transfer weight.

Leader and Follower are in open embrace, hand-to-hand hold, and we did continuous right foot forward ochos and left foot sacadas around each other.
Follower does her right foot forward ocho clockwise, stepping around the Leader, and then the Leader does his left foot sacada of her trailing left foot.
Leader does right foot forward ocho clockwise, during which Follower steps forward into the Leader in her left foot sacada. Here, the Leader steps a little away from her, not around her, so that she has room to do her sacada and so that he does not block her from walking into him.
It is important that the Follower have an elastic embrace, as one arm extends as the other arm flexes.
Both Leader and Follower should have long forward steps, and have good quality of their sacada.
The Leader needs to continually rotate his chest and open his right shoulder so that the Follower knows where to step and he doesn't get in her way. So the fundamental lead is for the Leader to turn to his right.

In this exercise we are working on two kinds of forward steps:
(1) curving and around the Leader
(2) pivoting a lot, and then doing a direct step forward. This is not a cross step. You just have to go for it, pushing into the floor and then going.

To make this exercise more challenging, we could do it with the Leader in teakettle embrace (both hands at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), which would compel the Follower to have elasticity in her embrace, really demanding that the Follower be responsible for the extension and flexion in her arms.

In close embrace, the Leader leads the Follower in forward ochos. The Follower should take big long steps and not truncate the steps and jamming the Leader. She should make the Leader rotate around to meet her.

We are to practice these exercises at home. That is our homework. As we work on our technique, these concepts can be applicable to other areas of our dance.

The Follower's default steps should be LONG as long as it goes with the music and she stays with the Leader. The Follower often takes too short of a step or truncates the step, which kills energy and/or the next movement.

After our class review, maestros did a demo to Calo's Si Tu Quisieras.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Homer & Cristina’s Tango DJ Workshop Presentation

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 5, 2010, Perth, Australia

Click here to download a Tango DJ workshop presentation that Homer & Cristina Ladas delivered in Perth, Australia in November 2010.

Homer & Cristina's Tango Teacher's Training Presentation

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 2, 2010, Perth, Australia

Click here to download a teacher training seminar slide show that Homer & Cristina Ladas presented in Perth, Australia in November 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sure Footed but Feather Light

La Abandone y No Sabia by Ricardo Tanturi
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
October, 13, 2010, Cellspace, San Francisco

There are many ways to dance tango. In this class, we would explore very light connection, feather-light connection. To do this, it is critically dependant that the dancers have really solid connection and control with their feet on the floor. A lot of this depends on how you use the standing leg and how you transfer weight.

By learning how to dance lightly, we are really working our feet, ankles, and legs and our connection to the floor. This helps us work on technique.

Weight Transfer

We began with an exploration of how we shift our weight simply standing. When we shift our weight, do we do it with our heels first, and then the toes? Or do we do it with our toes first, and then the heel? For our feet, does the weight transfer go from the outside edge rolling in? Or does it go from the inside edge rolling out? Answer: The foot should roll from the inside to the middle of the foot, not all the way to the outside.

We practiced this, standing with both feet on the ground, and then with the weight being on our left foot, and touching the inside of the right foot to the floor, to shift the weight to be on our right foot, with the inside of our left foot touching the floor. This weight shift does not take much torso motion. Our goal was to be sensitive, be subtle, and be controlled.

Weight Shift in Context of Side Step

Next, we did side steps with our right foot. Here, when we took the side step to the right, we were to focus on just transferring weight from the inside of our right foot to the middle of the right foot, and then pull our left foot in as our upper thighs and legs zip up together. Both legs work to create the collection, and we should push off from our standing leg (not just reach with our stepping leg). We tried this with both our left foot and right foot side steps.

Weight Shift in Context of Walking

Starting with our weight on our right foot, we were to reach back with our left foot, focusing on pushing off with our standing leg, pulling up with our left leg, to collect. We did this with both our left leg as the standing leg and our right leg as the standing leg, focusing all the while on pushing off with the standing leg, transferring the weight smoothly (no kerplunking), and pulling up with the other leg. We also tried this with our forward walk, with both left and right legs.

Reaching Game

Next, we played a connection game called the Reaching Game. The Leader stands with legs together and without moving. Follower’s two hands are on the Leader’s upper pectoral muscles high near his shoulders. The Follower does not put weight on the Leader, but stays connected to him at all times while also being light in her touch at all times. He is to be subtle in his weight shift so that she as a Follower also shifts her weight in response. After a few tries with this, and to make sure they are connected, he then tries to get her to start taking a step back. He does this by flexing his ankles, but remaining upright in his torso (he should not lean in on top of her or tip forward). The initial goal of this game is to become more sensitive toward each other, and to be more subtle and clear in the lead and more responsive in the follow. Once the Leader has mastered getting the Follower to reach with her foot (and the Follower has mastered responding to the Leader’s lead), he can allow the weight to fully transfer so she takes a complete back step. We tried this reaching game in both open and close (chest-to-chest) embrace.

The Leader needs to remain upright and lifted in his chest and not plank forward/lean in on top of her/tip forward, and the Follower needs to keep her connection to the Leader consistent with no hiccups and no vacuuming/pulling him into her. Her step should be as smooth as possible with no kerplunking.

We tried this reaching game while dancing to the music (doing walking only), single time and double time.

Again, the Follower’s step should be as smooth as possible with no kerplunking and no jolting – which is when her body tenses up suddenly as she gets ready to take a step. In the Follower’s step, she should push into the floor more to compel her body to stay there and not get away (jolt away). She should have strong legs to be connected to the floor.

Simple Figure

We were to incorporate all these aspects of weight transfer and connection doing all that we learned in a simple figure: Leader’s side step left / Follower side step right, to two Follower back steps with simultaneous Leader forward step outside, and then Leader forward step inside, to Leader side step right / Follower step left. We were to practice this simple figure only with no other additions (no ochos, no rock steps, etc.), although pausing and weight changes in place were OK. We could also curve the steps if we needed to to get around in the line of dance.

We were to also to practice this in open and close embrace. In close embrace, the connection should be sternum to sternum, not belly to belly. As dancers, we should hold our bellies under our ribs so that it seems like our legs come from our rib cage.

For this class, we focused a lot on quality of movement of our feet, ankles and legs. If we do good practice in our tango development, it lays a good foundation.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Tanturi’s La Abandone y no Sabia
Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Understanding the Follower “With” and “Against” (4th) Back Sacadas

Coqueta by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
September 13, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

The basis of our work was to focus on the Follower having an energetic pivot and the Leader leading it in a nice way. Since the recent local Bay Area lessons have focused on alignment, posture, and hip pivot, Maestros decided to teach something different from, but related to, those topics. Hence, the choice of the Follower Back Sacada.

Exercise 1: Couples Ocho Exercise

We began with the couple’s ocho exercise, where each person does ochos; there was no leader and no follower, we are equal partners. Our goal was to stay close to each other, and take long steps, and step around each other while doing a series of forward ochos (easier) and then back ochos (a little more difficult). There is no Leader and no Follower, and both dancers were to do their respective ochos together simultaneously. The goal was to be able to create balance with each other. If the dancers need to find their balance, their orientation should be backward (not falling forward).

Good posture is key in being able to do good ochos. We should think about spreading our “tango wings” by keeping our chest up, compress our shoulder blades out wide and down, and expand in our rib cage. We should not compress or slouch or curl forward in our shoulders. For the exercise, we were to pivot as much as possible, over rotating, with hips facing away from each other, but stepping around each other to stay close. We should stay with our partners and articulate the femur to really step around each other and add to the spiral, which is what we were after. We should step in an arc.

For the back ocho, which is a little trickier, it is important to step close to your partner, but also work on keeping your balance at the same time. Again, you should be on axis or oriented slightly back if you need to.

Building Toward the Fourth/Quattro Sacada with Leader’s Teapot Embrace

Next, our work on tonight’s subject, the Quattro or Fourth Sacada, began. It is from the Follower back sacada, so the Follower needs to develop a good back ocho. We did this by moving to another exercise where the Leader uses his body (his chest, not arms) to lead the Follower back ocho. For the exercise, the Leader Teapot Embrace was used, with his right arm is behind his back, and his left hand holds the Follower’s right hand. The Follower maintains the connection in her left hand on the Leader’s right arm, but his right hand does not touch her, remaining behind his back.

This exercise was to help us develop the Leader’s lead, where he turns both shoulders, left and right, evenly when leading her to do back ochos. He should not turn one shoulder more than the other, and he should not rush. The Follower receives the communication through the embrace and adds her own energy with her hip pivot through her connection to the floor. The goal of this exercise was to improve our communication with each other, and really communicate the pivot and for the Follower to pivot a lot. The lack of the Leader’s right hand/arm gives the Follower the opportunity, empowering her to get in touch with her relationship with the floor to power her steps and her pivot.

Adding the Soltada and Follower Back Sacada

Next, we added to this, with the Leader’s left hand with the Follower’s right hand, leading a half turn (inside/loop turn) soltada change of embrace on the Follower’s right foot back ocho step, with the Leader then stepping across her ocho path (slightly at an angle, away from the Follower so he doesn’t jam the Follower) with his right foot, while the Follower pivots, to do a Follower left foot back sacada through the Leader’s legs. The Follower should always try to look at the Leader, or for the Leader, so that she knows where to go, and to keep track of him to have an idea of where the space is.

Adding the Leader’s Right Hand to the Embrace

Next, we added the Leader’s right hand embrace to this. He should not raise his hand too high, but keep it safely low since his hand should go around the Follower’s waistline during her pivot as he leads the soltada. The Leader needs to lead the pivot first, before leading the half turn soltada (change of embrace). The Follower stays in the same back ocho line with her steps, and then takes a step back with her left foot.

Leader Needs to Lead a Good Follower Pivot

We drilled a lot on the Leader deeper idea of leading a good pivot. For this concept to work in our dance, the Follower should not fall into her ocho, and not fall forward. If she needs to fall to keep her balance, she should fall back or be backward oriented. The Leader needs to communicate the energy he gives as he “attacks” the floor. The Leader feels like he is pushing more into the floor when he leads a big pivot. The Follower needs to have the confidence to pivot a lot and completely, and not truncate the move or cut it short because she feels a change in the Leader lead or that something is coming up and going to happen.

The exit for the soltada figure is for the Follower to take an additional step back with her right foot, to a clockwise molinete of left foot side step, right foot forward cross step.

The “With” and “Against” Follower Back Sacada

“With” Sacada:

When the Follower’s and Leader’s hips go in the same direction (clockwise + clockwise or counterclockwise + counterclockwise), it is a “With” Sacada.

“Against” Sacada:

When the Follower’s and Leader’s hips go in opposite direction (clockwise + counterclockwise or counterclockwise + clockwise), it is an “Against” Sacada. An example is where the Follower’s hips turn counterclockwise, while the Leader steps clockwise. The Fourth/Quattro Sacada is one of these, with the Leader stepping counterclockwise (right foot open side step), while the Follower does a clockwise hip turn with a right foot back sacada between Leader’s legs.

Why Does the Leader Sometimes Get in the Way During the Follower Back Sacada?

For the Follower back sacadas, the question of the Leader getting in the way of the Follower came up. He gets in the way because he tends to over lead and get in the way. He needs to know (1) where to step and he needs to know (2) when to let go of the embrace.

The Leader can let his right hand/arm go, and the Follower should still hang on and remain connected to him with her left hand on his right arm. She needs to hang on because he should be leading a big, dynamic pivot with lots of energy, and she needs to use everything to protect her standing, supporting, pivoting leg. The Follower needs to be able to have active elasticity in her embrace, with her left arm being able to have a large range of motion, extending back to create a big energetic pivot. Here, she feels like she is being thrown out and led back in.

For the Leader, he steps half a foot back with his right foot, opening up the space for the Follower to do her back sacada. She aims for his left foot during her right foot back sacada. Follower needs to be precise where she does her back sacada.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor’s Coqueta.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Follower's Syncopated Baby Ochos

Mandria by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
June 9, 2010, Cellspace, San Francisco

Our music for the class was D'Arienzo.

For syncopated steps, the Leader and Follower both have to hear the music. The Follower needs to respond immediately to the Leader and to the music, so she needs to hear and pay attention to the music. She can also help the Leader with his double time step by being on the beat even if he is a little ahead or a little behind the beat.

Syncopated Baby Back Ochos

We began with the Leader leading slow vanilla bean ochos. Vanilla bean ochos are ochos with no Follower hip pivot, and no Leader shoulder rotation, and Leader legwork as if he is roller blading. No Leader shoulder rotation = No Follower hip rotation. In the slow Vanilla Bean ochos, both Leader and Follower collect in between their steps.

Next, we added the double time, or quick quick to the vanilla bean ocho, with the Leader going forward with his left leg on the QQ. Though he collects his feet in between during the slow vanilla bean ochos, he should not worry about collecting when doing double time QQ in his steps, and he might look/feel like he is waddling; that is OK. The Follower, however, should still try to collect during her QQ steps. Since the Follower does vanilla bean ochos, there should be no hip pivot during the QQ.

It is most logical to try to catch the vanilla bean ocho on the QQ when we are on the straight side of the line of dance (not on the corners or rounded points).

We could also do Mocha Java ochos with the QQ syncopation. The Mocha Java ochos are the ones with Follower hip pivot. Since the ochos would be done on the QQ, they become smaller, and are syncopated ochitos.

Syncopated Baby Forward Ochos

Walking in promenade, the Leader can lead small, syncopated forward ochos. He does this by first leading her into promenade with a side step to his left (her right), and then opening up his left shoulder. When he steps with his inside leg (his right leg), he starts to lead the syncopated ocho. The two dancers open up like two gears meshing with each other.

Here, communication between the Leader and Follower is key. To communicate the double time QQ ocho lead to the Follower, the Leader needs to compress the embrace a little. To improve our communication / sensitivity toward each other, we played a game, Tai Chi tango, for a little while. Here, the dancers stand face to face, and have hand-to-hand contact. The Leader moves his hands and arms in a patternless movement, and Follower should match the Leader's movement and energy. At a random point, the Leader compresses his hands in the Follower. The Follower's job is to mirror and match the Leader's energy so she neither gets pushed back by him or push him away from her when he compresses.

Next, we worked on the body mechanics / physiokinetics for both the Leader and the Follower. Individually, we all stepped forward with either our left foot or right foot, then we pivoted forward, and then pivoted back, and then stepped back, so that we started and finished in the same spot. It was emphasized that we should do this homework at home often so that we can be able to communicate this through the embrace, and so that the Leader can gain control over other types of movement if he can master this one.

Next, we tried this in partnership so that we could feel the Leader and Follower rebound off each other with our hip pivots. The Leader was to build up the compression, and then release out of the compression. It is very important to keep our chest up and have good communication in the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand. The Leader's left hand and Follower's right hand should be flat like a wall so that each can rebound off of each other with their respective compression energy. This flatness of the wall also helps the Leader pivot back to his original position.

Our next challenge was to change the Leader's footwork, so that instead of stepping forward with his right foot with her left foot, he steps forward with his left foot with her left foot. With this foot position, the Leader does not do a forward ocho with the Follower's forward ocho. Instead, he still leads it with his embrace/upper body. The goal of this footwork change for the Leader was so that he get used to leading it on either foot, with or without doing Leader ochos. It's tricky, but it's a road map.

To build on these syncopated baby forward ochos from the promenade, we linked a series of them linearly. The thing that changed is that for the Leader, there is a weight change to his left foot after his pivot. So, he first steps right foot front cross step, and does a weight change to his left as he pivots to face the Follower. The weight change to his left foot is a sensation of dropping into his left foot, and then the rebound, and then his forward cross step with his right foot.

Floor Craft Comments

Maestros commented about floor crafting, since our class was so crowded and a bit unruly floor-craftwise during class. Touch The Corners is one of the rules of floor crafting whereby we try to touch the outside corners of the line of dance, and not cut across the corners. For our class, we were to imagine that there were two tracks/lanes. There should be no zig zagging, no changing of lanes from one to the other to get ahead of the couple in front of you. We were to stay in our own lanes.

End of Class Lesson Highlight Summary:

Vanilla Bean Ocho: Leader does roller blade footwork with no shoulder rotation = no Follower hip rotation. Follower still tries to collect in single time and double time. In double time, Leader compresses the embrace a little, and Follower matches the energy by compressing back.

We can add a little pivot and get mocha java ochos. Doing them on the double time QQ, we get Follower pivoted ochitos.

From promenade, the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand should be still, the same, like a wall.

From here, the Leader can do ochos with the Follower's ochos, inside foot to inside foot, or he can step with his outside foot while she steps with her inside foot.

For the linear series of syncopated baby ochos, the Leader has a weight change to his left foot, and this can be done on single or double time.

The Leader and Follower need to hear the music to know when to do the double time.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D'Arienzo's Mandria.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cristina's Favorite Moves

Song: Felicia by Adolfo Carabelli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 22, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Cristina’s Favorite Moves” - Typewriter Pitter Patter and Bandoneon Pitter Patter

The material and inspiration for the class were taken primarily from our dancer friend Mark Harris. The class consisted of compact and playful musical ideas focusing on the Follower.

We began with a posture exercise, which would apply to how we moved for most of the class. We lifted off our heels, but did not crunch our toes. We should be able to wiggle our toes. When we lift off our heels and with our chest/sternum up, we should not lift our shoulders. The lift is from the heel and ribcage, but we should try to pull our shoulder blades down. Our weight is up front, but not to the toes.

To this lifted posture, we added a little bit of movement, little tiny quick side steps to the left and to the right, the Follower’s tiny pitter patter, which was called “The Typewriter Pitter Patter” (those who don’t know what a typewriter is can Google Image it or visit a museum). When this movement goes forward and back (instead of left and right), we called it “The Bandoneon Pitter Patter” – because the movement is similar to the Bandoneon bellows compressing and expanding.

In doing these Follower pitter patter steps, the steps are tiny, the thighs are together, and the knees are soft.

We worked on these Follower Pitter Patter steps using the same song for the entire class: Adolfo Carabelli’s Felicia so that we could really lock into the parts of the music where the Follower’s Typewriter Pitter Patter or Bandoneon Pitter Patter could be led.

Typewriter Pitter Patter
In partnership, we danced with the Follower’s typewriter pitter patter side steps to the Leader’s right. To lead this, the Leader’s lift comes from his chest, with a little bit of compression, at the point in the music where it would make logical sense for her to accent the music with these small, quick side steps. The leader rotates her to his right, and then back to his left. In the song “Felicia” the most logical places for this to occur would be in the piano or bandoneon fills in between the phrases of the music.

For the Follower, she needs to be in tune to the music. The move is compact and the Follower has equal responsibility for the musical interpretation of the song. The Leader can lead the general direction of the movement when he rotates her to his right and back in to the left, but the Follower’s steps are up to her in terms of the timing of each left – right – left –right pitter patter step.

The question came up of how the Follower knew to do pitter patter, quick tiny side steps, rather than regular molinete grapevine footwork. The answer was that there is a definite lead from the Leader for the Follower Pitter Patter. There is more lift and compression than a regular molinete.

Next, we drilled the Typewriter Pitter Patter to the left and to the right on the open side of the embrace.

Next, we drilled the Typewriter Pitter Patter with the Follower and Leader doing it alternately. Here again, there are the lift, hold, and compression ideas, depending on the music. The question came up of how the Leader holds the Follower and ask her not to move or step when he does his Typewriter Pitter Patter steps. The answer is that the Leader needs to isolate the embrace, holding her out there, and the bring his body when he wants her to move. Both dancers here should keep their shoulders down, as it is easy to accumulate tension during the alternate Typewriter Pitter Patter. That is why in between the Pitter Patters, we need to walk it out or do other things, before we start again with more Pitter Patter. The Leader can lift the Follower, and then let her down, and then do his pitter patter. Or, he can just keep lifting her, holding her up as he does his pitter patter.

The Bandoneon Pitter Patter
The next idea we explored was the Bandoneon Pitter Patter. In “V” embrace, we went to the forward promenade (Americana) walk. This is a move from close, to more open in promenade, back to slightly more in, in “V” while the Leader leads the Follower to walk around him with forward steps. To lead the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, again he would give her lift and compression at a place in the music where it made sense for her to do the Pitter Patter. The lift is like a little scoop as the Leader compresses. The Leader should take care that the Follower is comfortable in the lift, and that her left shoulder is not overly lifted or uneven with her right shoulder.

From this promenade Follower walk in a circle, the Leader can lead her to do the Bandoneon Pitter patter forward and back, or right and left, which would be away and back near to him since they are at right angles to each other. For the Follower, her left arm is caged in because of the compressive energy, so the forearm is what expands and shortens when she is sent out to her right and then back in to her left.

The Follower has a lot of choice in terms of how she interprets the music with her hips and body movement. The Follower needs to own her own movement.

Some Followers had trouble following the lead for the Bandoneon Pitter Patter out to the right and back in to the left from the Follower promenade walk in a circle. It was noted that this might be because the Leader had to catch the Follower on her correct foot, to enable the free foot to correctly step out to the right. The Leader also needs to ground himself a bit more to lead the Follower Bandoneon Pitter Patter out to the right and left from the Promenade Walk.

Some Followers responded with Colgada body movement. Maestro noted that there is a different send energy in the Bandoneon Pitter Patter than the Colgada. In the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, there is lift and compression and height change. In the Colgada there is no height change, not a big compression, and the send energy is much larger. There is also a definite sense of planting in the Colgada.

It was noted that there is a Physical Lead to these pitter patter moves, as well as a Psychological Lead (if he starts to do it, she might mimic him at some point, understanding what he is hearing and how he is interpreting the song and inviting her to do the same with her movements). The more you do these Pitter Patter moves, the more natural they becomes. When social dancing with someone who is unfamiliar with this concept, it is best to try The Typewriter Pitter Patter before attempting the Bandoneon Pitter Patter.

Since the class was struggling a bit with the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, maestros decided to back things up a bit, and we tried it in partnership facing each other. Yes, our butts stuck out a little bit. In this embrace, we could do the Bandoneon Pitter Patter with just the Follower, or alternating with the leader, or simultaneously.

She Steps, He Steps
Our last idea was She Steps, He Steps idea. Again, working with lift and compression, the Leader leads the Follower to do two steps, and then he takes one step, eventually leading her into the cross. First, he steps side left, changes weight, and then steps left foot forward in a sneak attack. He leads her to walk using horizontal energy in the lead, to get the Follower to take two steps. Then he takes one, and then she takes two into the cross as he takes one.

Concluding remarks:
The Follower has the freedom and responsibility to be in tune with the music.

The Leader’s lift comes from his chest, and combined with compression, is a scooping idea. He can send her alone on either side, or send the Follower and then go himself. He needs to choose the moments wisely of when to lead these Follower Pitter Patter steps.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Carabelli's Felicia.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leader's Back Enrosque

Song: Cascabelito by Osvaldo Pugliese
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 15, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

We went immediately into exercises.

Exercise 1: Crossing behind while walking forward. With all of us together in one big circle, we were to try to get to the center of the circle by walking forward with tight back crosses.

Exercise 2: Crossing forward while walking backward. From the center of the circle, we were to try to get to the perimeter by walking backward with tight forward crosses.

On both these exercises, our feet should be in tight crosses, with our two feet coming together to point in an arrow /\. We were to have no bounce, and we should lift our heels so that we can get in and move forward or back as we cross in the opposite manner. We were to try to get to the middle of the room (or the perimeter of the room) as quickly as possible, but with control, elegance, and grace.

Exercise 3: In partnership, hand in hand, we were to do forward ochos together and back ochos together, stepping around each other so that we remain relatively close. Timing wise, we were to go together simultaneously. The Followers need to create spiral in their bodies, and the Leaders should try to be as elegant as the Followers in their ochos as well. Good ocho technique applied in this exercise: caress the floor with our feet, keep our knees, thighs, and ankles together at the point of collection/pivot.

Exercise 4: Next, we were to compete with each other to see who could get the most energy in our forward pivot, pivoting as much as we could to see who has more hip energy. Here, it is very important to connect to the floor with our standing, supporting leg, so that we can pivot strongly and a lot. The energy in our hips depends on how we connect to the floor. We were to compete with each other, but have speed as well as control, but with grace and without falling. This exercise is important because most of the back enrosque is derived from the forward pivot.

Exercise 5: A drill of the Leader Enrosque footwork. The Leader walks in a line, starting with a forward step (forward ocho / front cross step) with his left foot, with his right foot hooking behind, then pivoting counterclockwise, then changing weight to be on his right foot, to a pivoted back step (back ocho/ back cross step) with his left foot. The Leader faces the same direction at the start on his first step forward, and at the finish with his last step back. His goal is to stay in a straight line for this drill.

We also did this exercise with the right foot, stepping out with our right foot first, tight back crossing with our left foot, to pivot clockwise, to change weight to our left foot, and then to pivoted back step with our right foot.

Exercise 6: The ocho exercise transformed into the back enrosque exercise. Again, in partnership, both dancers did the same footwork as in Exercise 4, of forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), to tight back cross of other foot, to pivot, change weight, and then back step (back ocho / back cross step). If starting with the left foot, it also ends with the left foot. If starting with the right foot, it also ends with the right foot. Both dancers need to be responsible for their body, to be aligned and have good spiral, and hang a little back (do not lean forward). The dancers can lift the heel a little by bending the knee, to help them pivot. The idea to focus on in this exercise is to be very grounded over ourselves as we did this enrosque footwork. We need to be on the balls of our foot, and be solid. Our whole body works, not just our foot. There was less pivot in this exercise, so the dancers danced in a straight linear direction with the pivot in between steps, to arc around each other in a half circle.

Exercise 7: Leader back enrosque footwork during Follower molinete / turn. While the Leader does his forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), tight back cross, pivot, weight change, and back step (back ocho / back cross step), he simultaneously leads the Follower to do a molinete / turn of forward/front cross step, side step, back cross step. We did this with the Leader’s left foot first and last (during Follower counterclockwise molinete / turn), and then Leader’s right foot first and last (during Follower clockwise molinete / turn).

Follower should have long, consistent steps during their molinete, and she should not transfer the weight too fast, especially on the side step. She should have complete control of her reaching leg, and take equal size steps. She should also have a smooth transfer of weight. Even if the Follower feels the Leader changing weight, nothing in his upper body should do anything other than keep leading the Follower in her molinete. The point of this exercise is for the Leader to figure out when to transfer weight to maximize the energy in the turn.

Exercise 8: The introduction of a cheat: The Forward Sacada. The forward sacada can be used so that the Leader is around the Follower’s center more, in a tighter relationship. The forward sacada helps the Leader do his enrosque. The Leader’s forward sacada is a forward ocho step, on the Follower’s forward step at her trailing foot.

Note that the Leader’s back step afterwards is optional. He can do it continuously, link it with rulos, etc.

Finally, Maestros showed us conceptually that entering (doing the sacada) on the Follower’s side step is easier than entering (doing the sacada) on her forward / front cross step because it synchronizes the pivots of the Leader and Follower, thus adding power to the Leader’s pivot.

Note that the sacada can be done on any step of the Follower’s molinete: back step, side step, forward step. There are many possibilities.

Sometimes the Leader might inadvertently get confused with his feet, and then end up in the wrong crossed feet position. To get out of it, he can do another tight back cross to be on the correct foot again to get out of it.

Summary Comments:

Leader’s back cross / cross behind technique is key. So is his forward ocho and back ocho technique.

Follower’s molinete / turn technique is key. Take long steps. Have smooth weight transitions. Keep close. Be on axis with nose over hips.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Pugliese’s Cascabelito.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Art of Floorcraft

Wednesday, March 9, 2010

CellSpace Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on "The Art of Floorcraft". After the dance floor was made smaller, to be somewhat tight, we began with some games:

Game 1: Molecule Game

Every person is a molecule that stands still, but there is one rogue molecule that stimulates random movement. When that rogue molecule touches you, you need to move away in a random pattern away from the spot you just occupied, and touch/invade the space of another person/molecule. Then that person moves, etc.

Game 2: Actors' Walk

Walk across the dance floor, in a random direction, either across or diagonally, but not in the line of dance, to get to the other side of the dance floor. Do not run. First, walk slow. Then go faster. Then faster. The point of this game is:
(1) to watch where you are going
(2) to make adjustments
(3) to increase your sense of awareness and vision

On the milonga dance floor, it is OK to dance in the middle or outside, but do not weave or zig zag between couples.

Game 3: Touch the Corner

In partnership, we danced doing just walking and weight changes, trying to go around the line of dance, but especially touching the four corners of the dance floor with one foot of the Follower, where chairs were set up to clearly delineate what the corners were, and the object we were to try to touch with our feet to make sure we actually went all the way to the four corners. The point of this game is:
(1) to be aware of how much space we have behind us and in front of us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving (do not slow it down or speed it up)

Game 4: Blind Tango
We built on Game 3, Touch the Corner, with the eyes of both the Leader and Follower closed. We were to dance with our eyes closed, line of dance, and touching the four corners with one foot of the Follower. We were to dance doing simple things, small movements, and nothing complicated. The point of this game is:
(1) to sense other people around us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving

What helped us? Lots of people, so that we could hear and feel them. No hard elbows, so no one got hurt even if there were little bumps. The bumps, if any, were soft. Soft bumps/taps are important.

Tool 1: The Switcheroo
Next, Maestros taught us a technique to help us in tight spaces: “The Switcheroo”

Here, the Leader and Follower are on the respective sides facing each other, and then they change to the opposite sides. It is similar to a cross-body lead in salsa. The Switcheroo takes a little space, and both dancers work in a little circle together. For the Leader, his footwork is a rock step on his left foot, and then a back cross step with his right foot (or the opposite side of a rock step with his right foot, and then a back cross step with his left foot) as he brings the Follower around. For the Follower, it is a rock step, where the weight remains in the middle, and then a front cross step to a pivoted collection in front of the Leader.

Game 5: The Tango Train
Our class, all couples in partnership, were formed into dance trains of 4-5 couples, each train having one couple as an engine, and one as a caboose, and the other couples in the middle the chewy, gooey center. The goal of the engine is to not let the line get jammed up into the train in front of them. The goal of the caboose is to keep the train moving, protecting the middle segment. Our goal was to keep the line of dance moving, but not move too fast or two slow. If we move too fast, we end up jamming the people in front of us. If we move too slow, we end up being a space hog.

Space Hog:
Leaving lots of space in front of you and backing up everyone else behind you.

Space Jammer:
A tailgater, dancing right up to the couple in front of you.

Game 6: Rogue Molecule added to Tango Train
One couple was assigned the task of trying to enter the line of dance anywhere, in any way possible. The rogue couple in this case had a very strong leader, who was aggressive enough to try to get between the dance couples in these very tight conditions. It was discovered that it was possible for a rogue molecule to enter, but this was only accomplished between the trains, as each train was a pretty cohesive group in our class, making it difficult to get inside of one train. If the trains were not a cohesive group, the rogue couple would have been able to get between an engine and caboose in the middle of a train.

Concluding comments:

Ideally, the buffer between dancers at the milonga should be at least one step (but ideally two) in any direction in front of, behind, and to the side.

Be aware of what part of the dance floor you are occupying.

Know the line you are occupying.

Don’t zig zag on the milonga dance floor.

If you need to change lanes, make EYE CONTACT first.

With respect to passing: Don’t do it unless there is a major accident.

Sometimes there will be couples just standing there chatting away for much longer than the 20-30 seconds at the beginning of the song. In that case, it is OK to pass them as long as the intent is to keep the line of dance moving.

Beginners are often pushed into the center of the dance floor.
Intermediates are often like Porches on the Autobahn, zig zagging in and out because they are getting the hang of how to navigate.
Advanced dancers can pass, but don’t. They prefer to stay in their lane, dancing in the line of dance.


Do not cut corners. Dancing all the way out to the corners creates space for you and everyone else.

Don’t be a space jammer or space hog.

Followers: Be precise with where you are stepping (do not fan out far and wide or do high boleos if it means it will take out all of the couples around you). Followers are also responsible for the social dance milonga floorcafting with respect to how they answer with their dancing to the Leaders’ leads. Do not collect, or do any movements, in a thoughtless manner. These movements include reaching, collecting, and transferring weight, as they all matter. Keep the footwork close to the floor and close to the embrace/body, especially in crowded social dance milonga conditions. You are dancing with the whole room.

There was no didactic demo due to the nature of the class.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Leader's Back Sacada from Close to Open

Song: Soy Aquel Viajero by Carlos DiSarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Sunday, February 21, 2010, Stanford University

In this class we continued with music by DiSarli with Podesta on vocals.

We were going to work on two Leader’s back sacadas:
(1) Organic Back Sacada
(2) 4-Step Shortened Organic Back Sacada which is better to do socially

First, the Leaders and Followers were split into their respective groups.

For Leader's back sacadas, the molinete (turn) technique is very important for Followers. So we began with Followers perfecting their counterclockwise molinetes, the goal of which was that the Follower take big smooth steps around the Leader, and employing good technique during her reach, collect, pivot, and weight transfers. To make this exercise extremely challenging, the Followers partnered up and tried to get completely around their partner by doing just the three steps of the turn/molinete: forward cross step, side step, back cross step. Follower should make steps as even and smooth as possible, really stretching the steps, and really pivoting in this exercise. She must keep her spine straight, chest up, have no forward lean in her posture and maintain her axis. This three-step molinete exercise is more difficult than what we would encounter on the social dance floor. This is so that when we try to do it on the social dance floor, it will be easier.

For the Leader, there is a pull lead in his left hand (as opposed to a push lead). This Leader's left hand pull lead is important because for the organic back sacada, the lead is also from the pull of the Leader's left hand (as felt by Follower's right hand).

The Leaders worked on doing a linear grapevine pattern of right foot FWD – (pivot 90 degrees) - left foot SIDE – (pivot 90 degrees) right foot BACK – back ocho counterclockwise all the way around, left foot BACK step (this left foot BACK step will be the Leader’s back sacada). The Leaders were to try to do this in one straight line as much as possible. This requires a 360 degrees turn for the back ocho pivot, to finish with the back step in a straight line. This exercise is more difficult than what we would encounter on the social dance floor. This is so that when we try to do it on the social dance floor (where the back ocho pivot might only be 270 degrees), it will be easier than when we tried it in our exercise.

The Follower takes big, equal steps, especially on her side step, where she receives the Leader's back sacada. For the Follower, her steps are left foot BACK – right foot SIDE – left foot FORWARD – right foot SIDE (on this side step is where the Leader does his back sacada through her legs).

At the point of the Leader's back sacada, the Leader releases the hinge of his right shoulder to give Follower room to get around because he is coming into her space. His left shoulder needs to open so that he leads her to takes her side step around him. The Leader's back sacada might not be directly on the line (but should be very close to being in line). The Leader must really engage his left arm lead so that Follower feels his pull through during his back sacada.

For Leader's technique, since the foundation for the Leader’s back sacada is the overturned back ocho, he needs to work on his back ocho to get good spiral in his body and good pivot in his feet and hips. He also needs to collect after his back ocho pivot, before he sends his left foot out in a back step / the back sacada. This is so that he can find his center and then walk gracefully into the back step. For the pivot he should keep his spine very straight to keep his axis, and not tilt his head forward or back or in a strange way as it will throw his balance and posture off. For the Leader during his back sacada, his heel should be pointed down, not up.

For the exit when Follower receives the sacada, there are options for her free left leg:
(1) She can keep it on the floor, opening out and away in a fan, and collecting afterwards.
(2) She can receive the sacada and have her leg peel away with her knee up, bouncing off, raised but keeping her leg close to the Leader's body. Her toes should be pointed down to the floor, and she should not open up her hips, but keep them close.

With both of these options, the Follower needs to be strong and supportive in her standing leg so that the free leg can be articulate (and she has more control over the movement and aesthetics of what the free leg is doing).

For the Leader:
(1) Leader steps side left (Follower steps side right) as if he is getting on the balance beam.
(2) Leader right foot steps straight forward.
(and) Leader pivots, with hips coming around 70% of the way, and right hand needs to let go and drop. At this point the Leader's left hand compresses in to stop Follower from stepping, because any pressure will make her step to the side too early.
(3) Leader's does back sacada with his left leg as his hips pivot around the rest of the way (30%).
(4) Collect.

For the Follower:
(1) Follower steps side right.
(2) Follower left foot steps straight back.
(and) right foot collects.
(3) Right foot steps side right, curving around Leader.
(4) As Leader does his organic back sacada, her left leg peels away as a consequence to exit.

We can start this step in close embrace, but Leader must let Follower go to her axis at the point of the back sacada by letting go with his right hand, while his left hand stays fixed.

Note that there are no back sacadas in close embrace. There is no physical way to do back sacadas in close embrace.

Though the two Leader organic back sacadas taught in class today can begin in close embrace, they must transition to open embrace at the point of the Leader back sacada. This is because the Leader must have his axis to be able to pivot as much as he needs to (270-360 degrees), and the Follower must to have her axis to do the turn around the Leader.

Maestros concluded with a demo to DiSarli's Soy Aquel Viajero.

Notes courtesy of Anne at