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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Universal Tango Technique for Both Leaders and Followers

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Providence, Rhode Island
May 11, 2012
Video courtesy of Steven Spura

Homer will explain various exercises and drills that are considered universal concepts for both leaders and followers to master.  The world between being a leader and being a follower is closer than you might imagine. For beginners and more experienced dancers alike (especially those who are having a hard time getting to the next level) this class is for you.  Be prepared to work hard and enjoy it at the same time!

The focus of the class was technique, with a theme of the Enrosque. So we will go down a path that will connect it to the Enrosque.

We were to develop our technique to enable us all to do Enrosques, so we will change roles so we could all lead and follow.

We began with the Leader leading the Follower to do a molinete/hiro/turn counterclockwise as the Leader does an Enrosque with embellished footwork.

Exercise 1a:
Cross behind while walking forward to get to the center of the circle.
Technical pointers:   lift the heel, and bend the knee to go deeper and travel forward.

Exercise 1b: (aka Michael Jackson Tango Moonwalk)
Cross in front while walking backward to get to the perimeter of the circle.

We were to make these exercises more elegant with our arms raised, imagining that we were holding a big bowl of sleeping fish. We were to isolate our upper bodies by keeping our chest straight and our torsos upright, strong and stable, so we do not disturb or awaken the sleeping fish. 

With our feet crossed, they should be like an A shape.  When our feet are together regularly (uncrossed), they should be in a V shape (a little outturned).

We drilled this cross behind and cross in front walking backward and forward. Outside of class, we can practice our crosses behind and crosses forward with A shaped feet and isolated, still upper bodies anywhere, such as at work behind a podium, waiting in line at the grocery store, at the bus stop, on the train station platform, etc.  Basically, we have no excuses not to practice.

Exercise 2:
Next, in partnership hand in hand, we did the molinete/hiro/turn footwork in a box with each other: forward side, back, side. 
When stepping on our forward and back steps, we should turn our chests toward each other and look at each other. We should not have any height change, and our goal was to see who can stay upright the most.

Exercise 3:
One person goes around the other person in the molinete/hiro/turn in four steps, or three steps to make it more challenging. 
It is important to pivot a lot on the side step after the forward step. This will help you get all the way around the center person.

Exercise 4a:
Simple forward ochos in partnership.
Inside leg/foot steps forward
Forward step
Again, we were to keep our bodies quiet, upright and still by imaging the bowl of fish between each other.

Exercise 4b:
Simple back ochos in partnership.
Outside leg/foot steps back
Back step
We were to pivot enough so that we could stay near each other on our back steps. We use our pivots and our upright bodies to balance and support each other.
We were to try to keep our hips close to each other and take longs steps and not step away from each other.

Exercise 4C:
To our ochos in partnership, we added rebotes (rebounds, twists).
Step forward
Pivot forward
Pivot back
Step back
Pivot back
Pivot forward
Step forward

Exercise 5a:
For this solo exercise, we were to imagine ourselves as spokes on a bicycle with Homer the center of the wheel.
Left foot forward step
Right foot hook behind
Left foot pivot (360 degrees), ending with weight transfer to right foot
Left foot back step back to starting position

And we tried this on the other side as well:
Right foot forward step
Left foot hook behind
Right foot pivot (360 degrees) ending with weight transfer to left foot
Right foot back step back to starting position

Exercise 5b:
We did the above footwork, simultaneously in partnership with each other, hand in hand.
This was to feel how we balance each other, and to give us all experience equally in doing the Enrosque footwork.
Our goal was to keep our hips close to our partner.

Next, we all of the above exercises brought us to combine the concepts into a pattern:

Leader leads Follower to the Forward, Side, Back, Side, Forward, etc, footwork of the molinete/hiro/turn smoothly and continuously while the Leader did his Enrosque footwork.  We were to hold at the fingertips.

Leader’s footwork                    Follower footwork
(LF/RF) Forward step                (LF/RF) Forward step
Enrosque                                  (RF/LF) Side Step
(LF/RF) Back Step                     (LF/RF) Back Step                    

Followers can do Enrosques too, but they are usually done without the weight transfer and are usually embellishments to the ochos and turns.

We can also change the Leader’s footwork so that his forward step can be a sacada to the Follower’s trailing foot. Note that his back step can also be a back sacada to the Follower’s trailing foot.

Next, we drilled all these concepts of doing the Leader’s Enrosque while he led the Follower to do a molinete/hiro/turn around him, and Leaders were also encouraged to try to do the sacada footwork on his forward and back steps.

With respect to timing, as we get better at this, we will become.  So we need to coordinate our body to our partner’s body.

As the back sacada requires a lot of disassociation, spiraling, pivoting, and torsion in our bodies, we worked on the Washing Machine Exercise.

Exercise 6: Washing Machine Exercise:
This was an exercise to help us disassociate, spiral and pivot.
Upper bodies go around first: head gets ahead of rib cage, which pulls the shoulders, chest, and then the hips, legs and feet around.
We can do this either way, counterclockwise or clockwise, and on either foot, left or right. Drilling this enables us to get the concept of top-to-bottom spiraling into our bodies.

We should drill it all these different ways so we get our bodies used to moving and disassociating in all different directions and regardless of which foot we are on.

We could also try it doing it in reverse, starting with the pivots in our feet firs, going up through our legs and hips, and then delay pulling our upper bodies around.  Drilling this enables us to get the concept of bottom-to-top pivoting into our bodies.

Notes courtesy of Anne at