Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tango Performance 3: Homer & Cristina Ladas

Song:  Hot Stuff by Donna Summer
Instructors and Performers: : Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

Performance 3

Tango Performance 1: Homer & Cristina Ladas

Song:  A Oscuras by Edgardo Donato
Instructors and Performers: : Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

Performance 1

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tango Performance 2: Homer & Cristina Ladas

Song:  Somebody That I Used to Know by Pentatonix (Gotye Cover)
Instructors and Performers: : Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

Performance 2

Monday, June 4, 2012

Easy Social Colgadas

Song: Neruda by Rupa & The April Fishes
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 20, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

Maestros demo’d a couple of easy colgadas: the first of which was looked more along the lines of a shared-axis turn, and the second was a step-over colgada.

The word “colgada” comes from the Spanish verb “colgar”, which means to hang.  Imagine yourself driving in a truck around on a high mountain road coming around the corner quickly and feeling a bit of a tilt.

The ideas of colgadas have always been around a long time, but was made popular by the 1990s Tango Investigation Group, as the group exaggerated the move and made it bigger and more obvious. (See Wikipedia Article on this group’s beginnings in the Wikipedia entry on Tango Nuevo

Colgadas are an extension of communication and trust.

The Leader leads the Follower to step forward and around him with her right foot.

Starting with no colgada, the Leader does a rock step, right foot cross behind, to invite Follower to step through, long and around him, near the Leader and staying with the Leader.  There is a quick weight change to the Leader’s left foot so that his right foot is free. Leader’s right foot traps the Follower’s right foot forward step, and then he goes around clockwise as he puts weight onto his right foot.  It is like an ocho parada, but he keeps the weight in the front while his hips are back.  The Leader should not put his foot down before the Follower steps forward on her right foot.

We began with close embrace side step hypnotizing.
The Leader’s right leg is stuck between the Follower’s legs.
The Leader needs to release his right arm a little so that the Follower has room to hang back.
We tried this in open embrace.
The Leader sandwiches the Follower’s foot, then tries to walk around the Follower’s axis.  He does a bad Pac Man walk, more like a pigeon-toed duck walk, to get around the Follower’s axis.  The bad Pac Man Leader’s footwork is:
Turn in
Turn out

The Follower’s posture doesn’t change that much.
It’s an isolation movement so the part between the chest and the hips go back.

Since our class didn’t look so hot, we stepped back a little and worked on posture a bit.  


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. We were not to use our upper backs, but just use our mid/lower backs and power of our hips/legs and our core muscles. Our back and leg muscles are engaged. Our backsides were such that there is a high bar back stool behind us and we were reaching back to get up into to the chair (so it is not sitting down on a low chair).

-       do not plank
-       do not ballroom
-       do not back dive
-       do not banana
-       Leader can’t tell the Follower what posture to have
-       Follower: do not change height unless the Leader leads it. (Any height change adds another level of complexity to all that the Leader has to think about on top of counterbalancing her weight, sending her out, and leading the turn).

The Leader initiates the send out and controls how far the Follower goes 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. The Leader needs to send the Follower out first, and then he needs to immediately counterbalance her. 

This exercise was the most important five minutes of class so that we could understand the concept of counterbalancing each other. In colgadas, the axis goes away from each other. That’s why it’s important for the Leader to be able to find the leverage and balance point.

Next, we played a Trust Game based on the concept of displacement.


Here, the Follower has her feet hip-width apart. The Leader walks into her, invading her space and knocking her off axis. The Leader enters her space, displacing the Follower, by walking into the space between her feet. Then he/she/they catch each other.

Level 1: Both catch each other
Level 2: Leader catches Follower
Level 3: Follower catches Leader

The Follower needs to not be paranoid and fall before the Leader actually invades her space and knocks her off axis. She needs to wait for the Leader to first knock her off axis before falling.

With these technical details of posture and trust cleaned up and refined, we went back to drilling the pattern

In open embrace, Leader leads the Follower to do a turn/hiro/molinete clockwise (to the right), the Leader does Pac Man footwork. After her right foot forward step, he traps right foot with his right foot.  At this point, she is already in the hips under position, so the Leader just has to keep her out there. The Leader keeps turning the Follower to the right (clockwise).

The Golden Parachute for the Follower if she is in a panic is to put her other leg/foot down so she doesn’t fall. 

Note that during this move, the shape of the Follower’s hips change, because the movement is circular.  There are minute changes in the Follower’s body to keep the colgada from collapsing.  The Follower is in colgada until the Leader steps out of it.  To get out of it, the Leader stops the motion, and then steps back.  His step back needs to be very clear and deliberate.  As the Leader steps back, the Follower bends her knee to walk smoothly out of it, instead of catapulting (which would happen if her leg was straight). 

To make the move feel better/sexier, we turn and twist toward each other.

If we are the milonga and are dancing with someone who is new to us, the Leader can test the waters to see if the Follower knows how to do colgadas.
-       1st test: Calesita/Carousel.
-       2nd test: Step-over Colgada.  If she doesn’t do this, you will get more of a parada/pasada effect with no off-axis movement.
You can work up to doing colgadas with this new partner, but the Leader should first try to make it as easy as possible, initiating with a little side step, and then sending the Follower out a little to see if she will go.  If she does well with the calesita, you can turbo charge it once you are off axis. 
Follower should go for it if the Leader leads it.

Followers: do not clamp the Leader’s legs.  In colgadas, it is important for the Leader to have the freedom to spin around the Follower (versus the hiro/turn/molinete where the Follower goes around the Leader).

Maestros showed us a back step-over colgada during the turn/hiro/molinete clockwise (to the right) from the Follower’s right foot back cross/back ocho step (Leader’s right foot to Follower’s right foot).  Leader sends her back, and then Follower steps through as she normally would to make a side step.  Leader looks over his shoulder to do a shoulder check to see if it’s OK to step out, back into the line of dance. 

To avoid the AGR (Automatic Gancho Reflex), the Leader needs to avoid giving his thigh at all.

Any parada or sacada is a potential moment for a colgada.  If the leader can get his feet next to her leading leg, such as from back ochos.

Colgadas are initiated by the Leader invading the Follower’s space to her lead leg (right leg).

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Rupa & The April Fishes’ Neruda.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Volcadas and Embellishments

Song: Tu El Cielo y Tu by Carlos DiSarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 20, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

We began with a warm-up dance doing small, simple forward volcadas with no embellishments. We were to keep the volcada small and strong.
Follower: Do not collapse your belly button.
Leader: Do not be hollowed out in your chest when you lead the Volcada.

Follower: There is no such thing as the free leg. We can control our leg, shape it. And articulate it in a pretty manner.

Our practice hold would be as if we were starting a Greco-Roman wrestling match where each person’s hands are on the other person’s front shoulders.
-       We should have straight, stable spines.
-       The Follower pushes against the Leader’s shoulders.
-       The Follower tries to knock the Leader off by pressing into the floor and not breaking alignment or collapsing anywhere. 
-       The Follower pushes on the Leader by being strong and firm into the ground on her standing legs. 
-       The Leader plays with the Follower’s axis, trying to push her back mostly with his body.
-       If the Leader does a good job, the Follower should let him win.  If the Leader does not do a good job, she should let him fall.
-       Leaders should be stable and secure, and should give the Follower support energy from the very beginning and all throughout.
-       Leaders should not collapse in energy or fall, otherwise the Follower will push him back up.
-       The Followers should let the weight carry through
The point of this exercise is so that Leaders learn how not to collapse and to always be ready to engage, and to be able to push back right away and hold his ground to always give support to the Follower. At the moment of the Follower’s fall, there can be no air pockets or bubbles in terms of the energy that they are both giving each other.

In this Greco-Roman hold, the Leader leads a volcada by doing a side step diagonally back (open back) with his left foot, and then steps diagonally forward (front cross) with his right foot to drive the Follower’s left foot into a front cross against her right foot.

Leader should always face his partner. 

Follower: Give a lot of weight into the Leader, and this depends on how much the Follower pushes into the floor.  Do not collapse into your body.  Push more into the floor with all of your joints (hips, knees, ankles) to keep upright and not collapse. Engage your core muscles. 

The Leader equalizes and matches and stabilizes the Follower.  This is how we take care of each other.

We drilled this, trying with different partners of varying dimensions.

Use strength to keep each other up.

The Leader lifts Follower in a way. It’s a sustained lift.

The Follower pushes down with her left shoulder blade and pulls herself up, as if she is trying to get out of a swimming pool. Pushing down to pull yourself up is not about going up in height.  It is about creating space between your ribs.  Imagine your own wishbone being pulled up an inch. So your height will remain constant, but there will be more lengthening in your spine from the increased space in your rib cage.

The Follower’s right foot pivots to face the Leader. She should not underpivot, otherwise she will end up with twisted feet.  Her joints should be aligned with the Leader’s body.

With embellishments, the focus needs to be on the floor for strength.
Both the Leader and Follower need to engage their muscles in their cores, backs, and legs.

Exercise:  Footwork – Ballet or Sassy
(1)       Ballet:
-       Foot has pointed toe
-       Follower’s hips face the Leader
-       Hips are level in the same line

(2)       Sassy
-       Foot is flexed so heel remains on the floor
-       Do not drop or collapse the left hip; keep the hips the line level and the same by engaging the inner thigh of the standing right leg.

Regarding ballet or sassy, master each one before you play in the middle and do a hybrid.

(3)       The Ultimate Embellishment: Cristina’s Air Enrosque (in-air rulo/Arabesque)
-       This entails really opening up the hip and doing a clockwise enrosque/rulo (draw a circle) out to the side with ballet footwork (ie, a pointed foot).
-       She can keep this on the ground, which is easier when just learning to do it, and then putting it in the air, doing it at the height of the volcada, and then resolving it.
-       Follower shouldn’t be slow. She needs to be able to do it within the time the Leader gives.
-       The bend is at the knee, and the enrosque/rulo is out to the side. For the left foot the enrosque/rulo is clockwise, in the same the direction of where the left leg will go.
-       If done on the right leg, the enrosque/rulo is counterclockwise.
-       A student in class dubbed the initiating stance “Princes Morgan” – like Captain Morgan stance, only the female version.  So our hip opens up in that same manner, with knee straight down and toe pointed to floor.
-       From the hips to the knee is isolated during the Follower enrosque/rulo.
-       At the inflection point, the knee and hips close as the leg goes into the cross.
-       There are two distinctive shapes.
-       As the Leader swings the Follower, she breaks at the hip.
-       Keep hip open; the motion comes from the foot.
-       At the inflection point, the Follower’s straightens her leg out into the cross like normal.
-       Can do two circles: one out to the side, and one more toward but before the inflection point.
-       We can practice this footwork against the wall, just as we can practice doing ochos. It is important to practice to get this into our muscle memory. The isolation of the thigh makes this challenging.

The Leader can lead multiple volcadas in a row by doing windshield wiper footwork, so he never collects his left foot with his right foot.

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to DiSarli’s Tu El Cielo y Tu.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Something New, Cool and Simple

Song: Mendocina by Pedro Laurenz
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2002, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

We did an exercise called Project M.  This was named after one of Maestros’ students in the San Francisco bay area about seven years ago named Muliono, who was a very creative dancer.  Muliono could act out anyone in dancing (Fabian Salas, Chico Frumboli, etc.) and look just like them when he danced.

Exercise 1: Leader is back-leading Follower
We reverse the embrace so that the Leader is now in the Follower’s position, but he is back leading her to lead him to dance.

Exercise 2: Leader ochos during Follower side steps
In normal embrace, we did side steps, then Leader changes weight and does back ochos while he still leads the Follower to do side steps. The Leader can try doing forward ochos as well. To get out of his back ochos, the Leader pivots, changes weight, and then steps side to side with the Follower.

In all of these exercises, the Follower is not passive. 

Exercise 3: Exploring the rock step, making it turn and making it travel
Leader does normal rock step
Turns it
Can be in the middle or outside partner, and rotate in the line of dance and march it down the line of dance.
We should keep our thighs together.  The Leader’s thighs should touch the Follower’s thighs for more connection and communication.

After drilling this, we added a bit of sway to the movement.  The Follower should keep the connection and not go away from the Leader.

Exercise 4: Crab Walk
From the rock step, we did the crab walk with the Leader in front going down the line of dance using rock steps.  Each of the Leader’s feet are pivoting, so he can rotate a little to get down the line of dance.

Exercise 5: Follower rollerblades while Leader does sexy back ocho crab walk
Follower should do her side steps with elegance and she collects in between. 
Leader does rock steps down the line of dance, so dancers’ hips are perpendicular to each other.

Exercise 6: Follower forward sacadas to Leader’s sexy back ocho crab walk
The Leader leads the Follower to walk into the Leader down the line of dance as he does the crab walk rock step.
Leader leads the Follower’s forward steps on his forward steps so that the Follower sacadas the Leader’s trailing feet. Follower makes long, reaching steps.

The Leader does ochos and then gets into perpendicular hips with the Follower. 
Follower makes long, reaching steps.

Maestros demonstrated the class concepts to Pedro Laurenz’s Mendocina.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Putting the “Neo” in your Tango

Song: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by Cat Power
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

Building on the prior workshop, the focus of our second workshop of the day was Neo sacadas. 

The term “Neo” or “Nuevo” came about from a  practice group that was developed in the 1990s to study the structure of tango.  This group of dancers came together to break apart and study each component of tango.  (See Wikipedia Article on this group’s beginnings in the Wikipedia entry on Tango Nuevo One of the members agreed to the “Neo” word as a market tool, and it stuck. What the group did was to empower the Followers.  Two of the members of the group were Luciana Valle and Cecilia Gonzalez. 

To understand the Follower’s Sacadas involves a lot of defaults and strengths of the Follower.  You will find your own style.

We began with work on Technique and the open structure of the turn/molinete/hiro.
-       The Leader pulls the Follower around with his left shoulder/arm.  His hips are slightly ahead of the Follower’s.
-       the Follower has long, reaching steps around the Leader and uses the embrace with engaging the open side of the embrace (her right hand in his left hand).

We practiced this in teapot embrace (Leader right hand at small of his back, Follower’s left hand wrapped around his right tricep so her thumb is at the front of his muscle, fingers at the back of muscle; Leader’s left arm up and out like a spout, holding onto Follower’s right hand).  For the exercise, the Follower was to step only on the strong beat, so the movement was all S-S-S-S, with no syncopation of QQ at the back and side steps.

The Leader has two options for the footwork during the turn:
(1)  Pac Man footwork (chomp chomp chomp)
-       Keep back of Pac Man jaw (Leader’s ankles) mostly touching. 
-       The first step is larger as Pac Man’s mouth opens, like an L shape; while the second step is smaller as the Pac Man’s mouth closes (like a V).
(2)  Kick heel around, and this can be done on either foot, either way, so there are four options (left foot, clockwise and counterclockwise and right foot, clockwise and counterclockwise).
-     Like the kickstand/paddle of a bike, but stay on axis.

Follower’s Technique:
-       Take long, reaching steps.
-       Use the 4 corners of your feet.
-       Understand how and when to energize the standing leg at each step.
-       Each step is worth $100.
-       Pivot enough at the two points: from forward into the side step and from side to the back cross step.

Overturned back sacada from a back ocho (like the end of the last class).

In teapot embrace, the Leader’s steps should be as if he is on a balance beam, or slightly off by 2-3 inches.  Captain Morgan leg becomes kick the heel around.
Before the sacada, the Leader first leads an overturned back ocho, then he leads the Follower to walk around him in a hiro/turn/molinete. The Leader should be smooth in his hiro/turn/molinete lead for the Follower to walk around him.

For the Follower, she is doing an ocho first, and then a hiro/turn/molinete.  So in terms of energy, she should have fire in the hips, but ice in the steps.  She should also pivot more  than she thinks she should.  The Follower’s embrace is elastic to stay longer on the standing leg and create a good reach.  At the point of the overturned sacada, the Follower needs to be on axis, not leaning forward.

We can do this on both sides. We are making embrace transitions to close to open to close. 

Leader steps slightly off the line, and should not give any block or wall energy, otherwise the Follower will do a gancho instead of stepping back to sacada.  The Leader should leave his right foot/leg  for the Follower to sacada.

Option 1: Follower’s left foot gancho after the sacada
The Leader leads the sacada and they move back a little so they get comfortable and as she moves over her axis, he can lead a gancho of her left foot (the Leader turns the Follower around counterclockwise on her axis with smooth energy).

Option 2: Follower’s alteration after the sacada
Do an alteration (a change of direction) instead of a left foot gancho, so the Follower does a left foot forward step. This is an alteration off the open step.

A gancho to an immediate sacada is a nice way to exit. 

There are more options for creativity.  Line of Dance constraints will tell you what to do.

The Leader needs to do and plan ahead Gancho versus sacada from overturned back ocho/pivot. For this, he needs to think about
(1)  Real Estate / place:
-       Be Near or Far from each other?
-       Who is axis (Leader or Follower?)
-       Step on the line like on a balance beam or slightly away?
-       Near to Follower + Balance Beam + Follower as axis = gancho
-       Far from Follower + Walking a little off line + Leader as axis = sacada
(2)  Energy:
-       If you are close and stop abruptly you will get a gancho
-       If you are farther away and don’t stop the energy, she will do a sacada.

The Follower needs to be sensitive to the space (near or far, the difference is mere inches) and energy (smooth versus abrupt).  She has to wait and decode the space and energy from the Leader.

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Cat Powers’s (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Finding your Style “MO” vis Leg Wraps

Song: Sentimiento Gaucho by Francisco Canaro with vocals by Nelly Omar
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 19, 2012, Northampton, MA
Video Courtesy of Todd Griffen

The focus of our class was on overturned ganchos (wraps) from the Follower’s cross.

Maestros demo’d a simple PATTERN:
8CB to the cross
To Follower’s pivot clockwise
To Follower’s right foot back gancho between the Leader’s legs
To Follower’s pivot back out
Into the Line of Dance

The Leader’s footwork:
Left foot side step
Weight change to right foot
Walk two steps forward (left foot first, then right foot)
Leading Follower into the cross.
Rotate clockwise around the Follower, while making a Captain Morgan left leg to get thigh into position to receive the Follower’s gancho between his legs. Here, there is a weight change to his left leg as he rotates around to lead the Follower to do an overturned back gancho between his legs. Leader leads Follower to pivot back and then collect with her right foot to her left, standing, supporting leg/foot. 

So basically, the Leader is leading a back ocho, and then a gancho.

Follower’s Footwork:
Right foot side
Left foot back
Right foot back
Left foot front cross over right foot
Transfer weight to left foot (so right foot is free)
Pivot clockwise (a lot more than you think) so your feet are facing away from the Leader, but maintain your connection with him in your torso (this requires a lot of upper body disassociation)
Gancho with free right leg, starting from the top of the hip.
Reverse pivot counterclockwise while still on the left foot, to collect.

For the Leader:
Do not do the Tokyo Drift during the cross. 
-       The Tokyo Drift is where the Leader steps outside to his left a little bit, off the balance beam, instead of keeping his steps straight and in line (as if he is walking on a balance beam). 
-       Drifting off the line produced a slightly different movement, and the Leader will be too far away from the Follower for a gancho. 
-       So he needs to stay on the line, imagining he is on a balance beam the whole time while doing the 8CB to the cross (5). 
-       If the Leader changes the alignment, he changes the pattern.
Leader should stay close to the Follower’s thighs.
Leader’s right arm needs to release from the shoulder.

For both Leader and Follower:
They need more upper body disassociation.
Both their embraces has to change.
Create gentle contact.

For the Follower:
The Follower’s embrace needs to open up too as the embrace becomes more elastic.
-       She should not let go or release the embrace. 
-       The embrace transitions to open up, and yet remain close to the Leader. 
-       This enables her to have more pivot in her feet and hips and more disassociation in her upper body, but not jam him or herself as she ganchos.
While she ganchos, she is pushing the four corners (up and down, left and right)
Do not do a knee-jerk gancho where only the knee portion down does the gancho.
-       Knee ganchos are dangerous because you could stab the leader with the back of your stiletto heel.
Follower should not change height. If the left knee bends, she should keep the torso nice and tall, and note bend at the waste.
The swing should be from the whole leg, as in a linear boleo.
To help us work on these concepts, we did the Pendulum exercise.

The Follower swings her leg, being really big and strong in her swing, really opening up and toes pointed forward, with leg straight and strong (like a pendulum or match stick) and the knee only bending when it has to.

At the right moment, the Leader puts his leg behind the Follower's supporting standing foot/leg, with his heel lifted from the floor, and his thigh opening up, exposing the soft part of his leg to receive the Follower's swinging pendulum leg in a gancho. This is called the "Captain Morgan" (of rum fame) position. The Captain Morgan is flexible and he can open it in and out to accommodate the Follower’s ganchoing leg.
Again, the Follower's bend in the knee happens at the maximum height of her back leg swing, and she should have good flesh contact with the Leader's thigh.

In the Pendulum Exercise, the Follower should be tall, lengthen the leg, pointing her toe.
The Leader's foot goes behind the Follower's far away foot, unweighted, with just a little bit of pressure to keep it steady, so perhaps 10% of his weight is on it.
If the Follower is much shorter, the Leader's knee needs to bend, so that he goes down like an elevator. She should not look for the Leader’s leg to wrap, and not deviate from a regular, straight line swing.

The Follower’s leg should not be floppy like a limp noodle, but straight like a pendulum or a  match stick. So it’s a controlled, but “free” movement.  Follower should have tone/control in her pendulum (gancho-ing) leg).  There is no such thing as a free leg, as we can control the leg, and the foot muscles. She should control the foot muscles, big and small to the tip of her toes from the top of her thighs/hips to help the momentum of the swinging leg. 

There are three levels to the Pendulum Exercise:
(1) Both dancers with both eyes open
(2) Follower's eyes closed.
(3) Leader's and Follower's eyes closed.

If the Follower can do the exercise well, they are almost there.

This pattern has many other possibilities:

Follower left leg Arabesque gancho:
Like if the Leader does not lead the Follower to do a weight change at the cross, so she remains on her right leg, she could back gancho with her left leg, Arabesque style. For the Leader to lead no weight change, he needs to lift the Follower a little, keeping her on her weighted leg.

Leader Tokyo Drift for a Sacada:
If the Leader doesn’t walk in a straight line, but instead does a Tokyo Drift, he can get a sacada instead, as he creates room for the Follower to walk through.  The Leader can give the Follower continuous turn energy as he becomes the axis (middle of the circle), as the Follower walks around him in her back, side, forward steps of the clockwise molinete/hiro/turn.

We drilled these: doing the regular overturned gancho, the Follower’s no weight change left leg gancho, and the Sacada/Turn option.

Note that this overturned gancho can be led from anywhere where the Follower is in the cross with her left foot crossed in front of her right foot such as in the ocho cortado or from the close embrace small turn/molinete.

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Canaro’s Sentimiento Gaucho with vocals by Nelly Omar.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Class Explore Alternative Music Part Lecture/Part Dance (Intermediate/Advanced Level)

Song: Somebody That I Used to Know by Goyte
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 18, 2012, Northampton, MA

The class began with Cristina teaching some fundamental techniques regarding moving through space:

We began with removing our shoes.

With our feet hip-width apart, there was about 6-8 inches between our two feet.

We were to look down and consider them as if they looked like the letter H.

We were to distribute the weight evenly between our two feet, backward and forward, and side to side. We were stand up as straight as we can, and envision a line going down from the top of the center of our heads going through the middle of our bodies. We were to push from the waist down, and also push from the ribcage up. This creates more room in our torso. We should keep our knees soft. Then we had flexion in our ankles, moving our weight toward the ball of our feet, and then back up to axis to the sweet spot. We should imagine a hanger pulling our chest up and slightly forward. Then again we go back to axis.

Dancers should not curl their toes. Curling the toes creates a gap in the arch, which is bad for stability, so we should not do it.

It’s important to instead spread our toes, and imagine that our feet have four corners (where the pinky toe is, and where the future or current bunion is, and at the left and right sides of the heel). In standing, we should press the four corners of our feet into the floor and lift up the inside parts of our legs, lifting the inner thighs. Here, we can feel more strength in our arch. In dancing, we should be on all four corners, the front two corners or three corners (two front corners and inside back corner), but not on the two outside corners.

Standing with our weight on the right foot, we put our left foot beside it so that only one foot has weight on it. We were to try to push down on the four corners of our right foot, but lift up in the body, lifting the inner thigh. We should not have any tension in our butt. Here, we are creating length as we ground ourselves.

The concept of the four corners of body was discussed. Here, we reach out with the four corners of our bodies: down into the floor and up into the sky, and out and expansive from our sides, both left and right.

For steps (side, forward and back), we push off with our standing, supporting leg, and reach with our free leg. When we are on our right foot, we push off with our right foot as we reach with our left foot, then stretch to gain 2 more inches, and push with our left as our right leg becomes free and we make the collection.

We did an exercise on pivoting and pressing down into the floor with our standing, supporting leg, and using the four corners of our feet and stretching out in four directions (into the floor, up to the sky, and out to left and right).  We should use the floor, really digging into it to lift ourselves up and out.

For the musicality portion, Piazzolla was our focus, with discussion on his Piazzolla’s music, as well as dancing to it after we were made aware of what we can be listening to during his songs.  Piazzolla started in traditional music, as a bandoneonist in Troilo’s orchestra.

One way of interpreting Piazzolla is by dancing to the suspended, sustained notes in his music, whereby we play up the legato quality in our dance by being long in our steps and going extra slow.  Piazzolla often stretched the melody in his music, so there’s a lot of stretchy movement we can do while dancing to Piazzolla.  We do this by softening our frame.  As we push into the floor, we should float up.

Followers’ defaults:
- Take long, even steps
- Pivot forever if the Leader enables it.

Leader’s option:
Stepping around Follower, using both feet, step around the Follower to lead her to pivot in the direction of her pivot, transfer the weight slowly and soften the embrace. Here the frame really opens up, and the Follower is stretched in four directions (up and down, and out on each side).
Try to enable Follower to make a long step by making a long step yourself, be flexible in the embrace, and don’t block the Follower.

Pivot forever from forward ocho:
The Leader:
-           Extends his ocho leading by stepping around the Follower. 
-           Pivots the Follower on her axis, enabling her to stretch and pivot more.

The Follower:
-       needs to be really secure in her standing leg, otherwise she will put weight on the Leader.
-       Follower needs to engage her whole leg.
-       Keep long, floating torso.
-       Do not sink.
-       Try to stretch herself in 4 directions (up and down, left and right) so there is a sense of spreading out, but digging into the floor.
-       Pivot as much as she can.

Gist of Chapter 1: Take long steps, with the music, and have long stretchy movements.

There’s an underlying milonga rhythm to a lot of Piazzolla’s music, particularly in the songs with “milonga” in their titles (like Milonga del Angel, Milonga Tres, Oblivion, etc.).
Because Piazzolla’s music is typically slow, it is possible to hit every beat during his songs.

Our exercise was to dance as if we were dancing a slow milonga (i.e., we don’t need to stretch or take long steps).

Next, we combined dancing the concepts of Chapter 1 (long, stretchy) with Chapter 2 (Milonga rhythm).

What’s the point of a slow Piazzolla song?
We have both options to dance:
-       Long and stretchy
-       Milonga rhythm

Contrast can be really exciting/interesting.  Lots of music have underlying rhythm that ‘s stretchy and slow.

The rhythm in Libertango and many other fast Piazzolla’s is “3-3-2” in musicians’ terms or “1-4-7” in dancer terms.  It is exactly the same as the milonga rhythm, but is missing 1 accent from the milonga rhythm.

For our first dance exercise, we were to dance fast, but with small steps, speeding things up (frenetic Piazzolla).

Next, we danced to a song using slower milonga rhythm (Chapter 2), and then switch to Chapter 1 (long and slow, stretchy movements) at times where the music dictates.
Next, we switched between Chapter 3 (fast, but with small steps), and Chapter 1 (long, slow, twisty, with a focus on the Leader extended the ocho to enable the Follower’s defaults (make the longest steps possible as long s it fits the music).

We danced to a song using all of the above Chapters (1: long and stretchy, maximally pivoting; 2: milonga rhythm, 3: fast, small steps), so basically we should either stretch our steps or dance fast, with Homer calling out how we should dance to each portion of a song. 

We did this to explore the dramatic concepts between two extremes to push the boundaries of normal tango.

We should also try to incorporate interpreting the vocals in our dance. Sometimes vocals are soft, and other times they can be loud and explosive.

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

General Theory of Blending Leader's and Follower's Sacadas (Very Advanced)

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
May 12, 2012
Video courtesy of Steven Spura

This advanced class will develop the foundation for creating the flow in continuous sacadas for leaders and followers.  It will then branch out into often unexplored territory showing how to stay connected and at-ease during the most creative sacada endeavors...  You must have some experience with leader's and follower's sacadas on the social dance floor to attempt this class.  Not for the faint of heart! If you are not an advanced dancer, you may take this class at any level provided that you have a partner that you will stay with for the whole class.

In this class, we were going to use Sacadas as a vehicle for trying to communicate elasticity and connection.

He Goes, She Goes Sacadas
We began with alternating she goes, he goes sacadas, using our outside legs.  Here the goal is for the Leader to lead the Follower to do a forward sacada into him, and then the Leader doing a sacada into the Follower.  Our outside legs were the sacada-ing legs.  We were to incorporate transitions and use rock steps.

Backing up to work on the fundamentals, the Leader leads the Follower to walk into him.  He does this by leading the Follower to make a forward step with her outside leg toward his trailing foot.  Then he does a sacada by walking forward with his outside leg toward her trailing foot.  So the Leader steps across the Follower, and then the Follower steps into the Leader.  The Follower steps across the Leader, and the Leader steps into her.  We drilled this so that we could feel and understand in our bodies the concepts of space and timing.

Simple Pattern:
Next, we did a simple pattern that started with doing some side step hypnotizing.
Then the Leader leads the Follower to stand still on one leg.
Then Leader does a “sneak attack”, by making a reaching side, slightly diagonally forward step with a weight change, while NOT changing the Follower’s weight so she remains still.
He then leads the Follower to step into his other leg as he rotates his body as he arrives on his new leg.   As his weight transfers to his left leg, his chest rotates to his right.  If using the other foot, as his weight transfers to his right leg, his chest rotates to his left.

The Follower needs to step long and around the Leader, just the same as if she was doing it for a turn/molinete/hiro.

We then did this in teapot embrace (Leader’s right hand at the small of his back as the handle, left arm up as the spout; Follower’s left hand on his right tricep).

The Follower needs to allow the embrace to stretch open and close by staying back on her standing, supporting leg and taking long reaching steps into the Leader.

We drilled this a lot with each other, as it was a difficult concept to master, especially where the Leader leads the Follower to stand still and not change weight while he does his sneak attack and changes weight.

However, there were some advanced couples in class, and they moved on to doing a leg wrap using the Captain Morgan set-up.

Advanced Leg Wrap:
Here, the Leader plants his left foot and leads the Follower to sacada it with her left foot, but instead of his left foot being free to be taken out by the Follower in her sacada, he instead keeps it on the floor, though unweighted but firmly planted, as he takes the Captain Morgan stance (see  The Captain Morgan stance enables the Leader’s left leg to be unweighted and free to pivot and out and offered up to the Follower to wrap.  His left foot remains on the floor as he leads the Follower to step into him with her left foot, and since her body is rotating and his leg is offered up slightly, her right leg is free to wrap around it.  The trick to the leg wrap is for the Leader to put more weight into his leg in the Captain Morgan stance, and do more rotation and blocking energy to lead the wrap.  The Follower needs to let the embrace be elastic.

Piecing it all together:
He goes, she goes sacadas.
Leader turns 90 degrees while keeping the Follower on her right leg to lead the Follower to step around him while he keeps his axis.  (Imagine that the Leader is the Earth and the Follower is the Moon.) 
As the Leader changes axis, he turns his body and has the Follower walk around him through the sacada leg. 
Leader: make the step and turn to the right as weight is going on to his foot.
Follower steps around the new axis in a straight-on forward step (not a front cross step).
Dancers are perpendicular with hips at 90 degrees to each other.

The difference/secret between the timing of Leader and Follower sacadas.
Both are based on turns, but the timing is different.
In the Leader sacada, the Leader turns first, then reaches. 
In the Follower sacada, the Leader leads the Follower to reaches first, and then arrives on it, and then turns.  So the order of the reach and turn are opposite.  This is the key difference.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Cat Power’s (I can't get no) satisfaction.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Elegant Turn Transition Class (Close to Open Embrace) with Leader and Follower Embellishments (Int/Adv)

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
May 12, 2012
Video courtesy of Steven Spura

Cristina and Homer will develop two beautiful transitions between close and open embrace turns via both an ocho and a leg-wrap.  They will sprinkle the movements with a few generous embellishments for leaders and followers!

The focus of our class was on close embrace turns and transitions from them into an open embrace, all the while making it elegant.  Our goal was to be able to go from close embrace to open embrace, and then back into close embrace, making the transition smooth and elegant.  For the Leader, his goal should be to make it very clear if he is leading something in close embrace or open embrace, and not some slushy hybrid in between if he is uncertain. The embrace lives and breathes to accommodate something beautiful to happen, so sometimes it is close, and sometimes it needs to be open.

We began in close embrace, doing no-pivot (Vanilla bean) back ochos, into the Leader leading a close-embrace turn/molinete/hiro counterclockwise (to the left) around him. To lead the Follower into the turn, the Leader plants his left foot and does a half turn (Follower’s footwork is left foot back cross, right foot side, left foot forward). After this half turn, the couple will be facing opposite line of dance. To get out of it, they can do a rock step back around, or a full turn instead of a half turn.

Focusing on each piece:
No-Pivot Back Ochos (aka Vanilla Bean back ochos)
The Follower’s hips should not pivot. It is more like just a back cross step across our own bodies.
The Leader leads the no-pivot ochos by not having any rotation in his upper body/shoulders, and just doing rollerblading footwork.

Turn footwork:
Follower should step long and around the Leader.

1st Transition:
The first transition to an open embrace from close embrace is after the Follower’s left foot forward step of the turn, where the Leader leads her to pivot on her left foot, and then to step right foot forward.  The Leader leads both the pivot and the opening up of the embrace.  He leads the opening up of the embrace by releasing his right hand so that his hand goes away from the Follower and his body tilts away.  The Follower feels this too, and she tilts back in response to feeling the Leader’s body tilt back.

To help us understand this concept of mirror and matching the tilt, we played the Human Magnet Game.

Human Magnet Game:
Leader attracts and goes away from the Follower by moving his axis forward and back with flexion in his ankles, not by bending at the waist. The Follower mirrors the Leader’s tilt/axis. We drilled this concept face to face with each other, with no embrace, not touching with the hands/arms in any way.

Human Magnet Concept solidified by doing side steps:
We added another element to the Human Magnet Game by adding the embrace and doing just side steps.
We began in open embrace while doing side steps.
At some point, the Leader would lead getting into close embrace while still doing side steps.
And then at some point later, the Leader would lead getting back into open embrace while still doing side steps.

Leader’s Right Arm/Hand:
The Leader’s right arm begins from his shoulder, so it has to open from the shoulder, letting go so he can get his hand around the Follower as she goes into a more open embrace.  He should not do the Bear Claw where he clenches the Follower into him in a tight grip. This would keep her close to him, which is opposite of his goal of going into an open embrace.
The opening up of his right arm/hand and his axis moving back tells the Follower that he wants the embrace to open up.

Follower’s Left Arm/Hand:
The Follower needs to let her left arm go, to let the embrace open up.

Leader’s Left Hand:
The Leader’s can convey the opening up of the embrace with his left hand, so that the Follower knows something is about to happen.  It’s very gentle slight firming. 

We drilled the side step with opening and closing of the embrace.

Leader: The Leader does not need to tilt much to open or close the embrace.  The tilt should be from the ankles, and he should lift his chest a little as he tilts.  In tilting forward, he should only tilt enough so that he can still wiggle his toes and the backs of his legs still work.  So the weight should just go to the balls of his feet.   
Follower: Her forward tilt should be such that if the Leader walks away from her, she should not fall, even though she is tilted.  Her toes should never curl.

To tilt back to open the embrace, the concept of the Gentle Walrus was introduced.  The Gentle Walrus is a very slight bounce off each other, and is connected to the Leader’s breath, as there is an expansion in his chest cavity as he exhales.

To Get In Close Embrace:
Human Magnet
Leader’s right hand/arm/shoulder opens out
Left hand does little pull

To Get Out of Close Embrace Into Open Embrace:
Gentle Walrus with slight bounce a little up.

So we drilled our simple pattern some more:
Side step to close
To no-pivot ochos
To half turn/molinete/hiro counterclockwise (to the left).

Bend knees, but keep upper body straight.
Leader bends knees for stability and a little bit of style.
Leader needs to release his right arm and tilt his body back.

Next, we attempted to make it more snappy in time at the point of transition to the moment after she crosses.  So the Leader collects, changes weight, bends and pivots all that the same time to lead the Follower to pivot on her left foot and then step forward with her right foot.  The Leader dictates how the Follower arrives at her cross, so he can make it more snappy or less.

Since the pattern ends in the opposite Line of Dance, when the Leader steps back (to lead the Follower to step forward), he is stepping in the correct Line of Dance.

We attempted to make transitions inside a transition: in the embrace, in a step. 

Maestros concluded with a demo to Ricardo Malerba’s Remembranzas.

Notes courtesy of Anne at