Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rock Step - Concept and Variations

Song: Rawson by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
April 6, 2011, Cellspace, San Francisco

Our focus of class was the rock step, and how to execute it so that it feels good and so that we do it efficiently in tango or milonga.

We began with a warm-up 1/2-song dance doing as many rock steps as we can so that Maestros could asses where we were skillwise and tailor the class accordingly.


Beginning with the basics, Leader begins in Tea Kettle arm position, or what is now known after Maestros' visit to New Orleans as the Sugar Bowl hold, with Leader's hands at the small of his back, elbows out to the side. The Follower holds onto the Leader's arms at his triceps. In this embrace, the Leader and Follower were to communicate the Lead and Follow of the rock step. We were to make the movement as small as possible. The goal for the Leader is to communicate the rock step cleanly without using his hands. The goal for the Follower is to engage appropriately to read the Leader's communication correctly. We drilled this for a song.


Then we backed up a bit from here. With everyone working independently and separately, we were to do the rock steps on our on, keeping our upper inner thighs together as if holding on to a quarter. We tried this rock step with our left foot forward, then right foot change weight, to do left foot forward again in rock step.
We also did this with our right foot forward and left foot weight change, back to right foot rock step, etc.
We also tried turning clockwise and counterclockwise with our left foot forward rock steps and right foot forward rock steps.
We were to keep our back foot heels off the floor.
The knees are bent and soft.
The muscle memory goal was to make our rock step efficient by being tight, controlled, and quick. In doing it this way, we would make our partner feel more comfortable.
For the Leader, it is important that when he does the rock step, that he has enough room in between both his feet. Ideally, this should be 1-1.5 shoe lengths. Thus, at least one foot/shoe should fit in between the Leader's front and back feet. He should lock the top of his pelvis so that he is tight at the tops of his inner thighs.
For the Follower, it is important in her back foot rock steps that she reach back first, and then transfer the weight to catch the rock step. She should not just step back and automatically transfer the weight back fully. She should also not go too far back in her rock step.


It is important to not send the weight too far back on the weight change of the rock step, and not land on our back heel. If we do, then it takes the weight too far back. We need to keep our back heels off the floor. The rock step is not a huge range of motion. We should try to prevent ourselves from going too far back or too far forward. One way for us to practice this is to do one rock step, and then a forward step.


How does the Leader use the embrace?
The Leader's right hand is like a wall, but it should not be alike a Star Wars trash compactor where the Leader's arm moves independently. He should not telescope or move his arms, but keep them consistent. He should not force the Follower to do anything with his right hand.

The Follower also has to engage, but not anticipate the rock step.


In terms of height change, we go down a little when doing the rock step since we are on two feet. While doing the rock steps, we remain level at that slightly lower height. To get out of the rock step, we can also use the height change rise to fully communicate that we are getting out of it.

are the normal ones we usually do.
Leader's left foot forward
Follower's right foot back.


Both Leader and Follower begin with side steps (Leader left, Follower right).
Leader does a quick cheat weight change. Follower does not change weight.
Leader steps inside with his left foot, touching the Follower's right foot/thigh in the rock step.
Here, he can turn the rock step, clockwise.
As an exercise, we also tried to turn it counterclockwise.

Our homework was to practice our Leader's Snake Walk (slight forward ochos), as the Follower walks straight back. Here, it is important for the Leader's thighs to be together as if he has to pee.


Here, we do the parallel position rock steps, with travel to the side.
As an experiment, we also tried this in Cross Position, and though possible, we found it to be more difficult for the Follower to follow.

Adding the Snake Walk adds a lot more possibilities to how we get into doing the rock step.


Finally, we concluded with the most difficult type of rock step.
Here, the Leader puts a lot of energy into his middle (his belly area), but keeps his embrace steady and torso toward the Follower to maintain connection.
In the Windshield Wiper rock step, the Leader does his rock steps first in a forward slight front cross step, then a forward slight open step, like a windshield wiper, side to side. His back weight change step is generally in the same position.

The class concluded with a short quiz and Maestro doing a demo dance to D'Arienzo's Rawson.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arizona State University Tango Performance

Song: Mil Pasos by Soha
Performers: Homer & Cristina Ladas
April 1-3, 2011, Arizona State University Workshops, California