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