Sunday, January 10, 2010

His and Her Pitter-Patter

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 31, 2009, San Diego Tango Festival

Homer & Cristina workshop on “His and Her Pitter-Patter: Various techniques for playful interactions between leader and follower"

This workshop was for advanced dancers, but catered to everyone. The class would progressively become more complex.

Pitter-Patters are rhythmic syncopations, playful movements with the feet. First we focused on Leader’s Pitter-Patters and then Follower’s Pitter-Patters.

The music we used for the entire workshop was from Pedro Laurenz:
Amurado (tango)
De Puro Gaupo (tango)
Milonga Compadre (milonga)
Corazon de Artista (vals)


In our first exercise, we were to do a dance in open or close embrace. Leader would then throw in a surprise Pitter-Patter:

His first Pitter-Patter is a sneaky sandwich of the Follower’s right foot. The Pitter-Patter is the focus. The idea is to sandwich with Follower’s right foot, by quickly stepping next to it with his left foot, and then enclosing it in a sandwich with his right foot. Leader should keep his thighs together and try not to change height, and to accent the rhythm/melody of the music. The Leader starts the Pitter-Patter when the Follower’s right foot goes back, and when there is good synchronicity of movement. Though he is doing his Pitter-Patter, he must also still keep leading her to walk back. Don’t change the height; there is nothing going on in the Leader’s chest that encourages the Follower to do anything but walk back normally.

Key takeaways:
(1) The focus is on capturing the Follower’s foot.
(2) Lead her on the strong beat.
Doing this sneaky sandwich Pitter-Patter is more difficult in close embrace because there is no visual cue.

Next Exercise:
Try to capture the Follower’s left foot. Here, the Leader must tune in to how the Follower is moving and transferring weight. Follower needs to be on the music so that the catch is meaningful and accents the music.

Next Exercise:
We attempted to do this sneaky sandwich Pitter-Patter on double and double-double time during the bandoneon in one of Laurenz’s songs.

Truth: Not everyone likes to Pitter-Patter.

From this Truth, we discussed the concepts of minimalism and maximalism in tango, and extreme legato and extreme staccato movements. Bottom line: Take what you can.


Here, the Leader snakes between the Follower’s legs as she walks back. This can be done in open embrace (which is easier) or close embrace (trickier). Leader needs to close his thighs so he can sneak in there. This snake walk is done in parallel system.

The Leader must isolate his feet, doing double time during the snake walk, while the Follower steps in single time. Here, the Leader’s hips move independently of his upper body. His chest is straight ahead, which is what makes the Follower walk back, straight and linear.

Leader does double time once in a while to get into and out of the snake walk. For example, he would be in it for two counts, and then out for two counts. He can get out of it with a Leader’s left foot back cross step behind his right foot, then take two steps, and get out of it again with a right foot back cross step behind his left foot.

We started this on the Leader’s left foot on the open side of the embrace. This switches from parallel to cross system with the Leader’s back cross steps of his left foot behind his right foot, and of his right foot behind his left foot. The walk is in cross system and the snake is in parallel system. It is important to not let the top of the body get too far ahead.

Next, with everyone side by side in circle formation, we did an exercise of moving forward to get to the center of the room using a series of back cross steps, trying to the be most elegant and poised, lifting our heels, and not worrying about being fast.

Next, again in circle formation, we did an exercise of moving backwards to get to the outer perimeter of the room using front cross steps, again trying to be the most elegant and poised, not just fast.

NEXT STEP (i.e., homework)
Once we’ve mastered Chapter 1 (sneaky sandwich) and Chapter 2 (snake walk), we need to be random and free with the movement as it’s a bit chaotic and the movements can work on top of each other.

We got to promenade (Americana) of Follower’s left side to Leader’s right side. The Follower’s Pitter-Patter is a butterfly step: short, small, quick, and light. For the Follower, there is no need to match the Leader’s walking. Thus, her Pitter-Patter can be done in parallel or cross system. The Leader can turn it into a circle (not just having them walk straight). Follower needs to be in tune and on time with the music. We did this to a Laurenz’s “Milonga Compadre”.

The Follower needs to be on the balls of her feet, with bend/flex in the knees. The steps are small and quick, and she needs to keep her thighs together. The goal is to envision her steps as if she’s a butterfly, and thus not make any accenting noises (stomping) with her feet. In our class work, the Leader needed to be on milonga timing of the strong beat so that the Follower has to do her butterfly Pitter-Patter steps within the strong beats and be on the beats. The Follower can snake the Pitter-Patter around the Leader.

There are two ways to lead the Pitter-Patter: psychologically and with physical assist.
(1) Psychological:
The Leader can’t lead the Follower to do double-double time. But he can start to do a Pitter-Patter during the promenade (Americana) and the Follower will follow it and match it with her same Pitter-Patter movements because she knows it’s coming. She might not get it the first time he does it, but she will likely get it the second or third time.

(2) Physical:
The Leader slightly lifts the Follower with his whole body, not just his arms, which is an extra physical lead to suggest a Pitter-Patter movement.

A didactic demo at this workshop was not filmed, but other YouTube videos illustrating this topic can be found at:

Snake Walk & Pitter-Patter

Syncopated Pitter-Patter, Snake Walk, & Sustained Volcada

Rhythmic Pitter-Patter in the Milonga (lots of Follower’s Pitter-Patter in this video)

Notes courtesy of Anne at