Saturday, September 21, 2013

Close Embrace Surprises (Intermediate/Advanced)

Song: Fumando Espero by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
September 1, 2013, Denver Labor Day Tango Festival

Maestros began with a demo of a split-weight surprise.

1st Surprise: Split-weight stops with weight transfers and penguin walk side steps
We began with walking. Then we did side steps.  Then the Leader does a playful stop foot work as he steps inside her feet, one foot then the other, and then plays.
The details: Leader does left foot rock step, turns his body, and then steps back into the space he just left. He leads the Follower to do a right foot side step, then he stops/meets her left foot with his left foot. Then he shifts his left foot to her right foot and his body shifts the weight to his left foot. Then his right foot sneaks in next to her left foot.  The Leader’s left foot sneaks to the other side of the Follower’s right foot, and then they can do the side penguin walk side steps continually together linearly on the close side of the embrace.

We drilled this to Donato’s Carnival de mi Barrio. 

The Leaders shifts the Follower’s weight from one side to the other as his left foot blocks from her left foot to her right foot, and then his right foot sneaks in to block her left foot.  He does a little lift to make her right foot collect as he gets to his left foot.

The Follower should be straight up and down when the Leader is that close to her during his steps. 

2nd Surprise: Follower’s split-weight pivoted change of direction

From the parallel system walk, on the Follower’s right foot back step the Leader stops her in the middle of her weight, pivots her on both feet clockwise, and then steps out in forward step (Follower’s left foot forward step). During this pivot, the Leader sends the Follower around (like a small stirring motion at the point of her pivot), stirring the caramel.  The caramel is the middle of the stir.

(1)   Can do the other side – called the hard side promenade and needs to be open
(2)   Swivel on one side, then go back to the other.  In the Swivel, the energy is from the Leader’s hips, so he needs to do it himself as well.

Leader’s weight change
Can do a volcada
To catch a wrap

In open embrace,
Leader offsets his foot work with Follower’s. 
Leader’s side step, changes weight, takes two forward steps with the Leader’s left foot forward as the Follower does her right foot back step.
Leader steps around the Follower and gets her to swivel her hips
The Leader’s right foot forward step is in between the Follower’s two feet in her back step before she pivots. 
The Leader’s steps are around the Follower’s.
The Follower Pivots and she steps over in a parada (doing the usual ocho parada exit)

Maestros concluded with a class review and a demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor’s Fumando Espero.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Enrosques for Leaders & Followers (Advanced)

Song: The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
September 1, 2013, Denver Labor Day Tango Festival

Our class focus was on the Leader’s backward and forward enrosques and the Follower’s forward enrosque (the Secret Garden or during the turn).

Exercise 1: Cross behind while walking forward. 
In circle formation at the perimeter of the room, the class practiced moving forward using back crosses to the center of the circle. Here we need to:
-            Bend the knee of the front leg
-            Stay the same height throughout
-            Keep chest up
-            Squeeze/engage inner thighs
-            To make it more elegant, we were to imagine we were holding a big bowl of sleeping fish.
-            We would make a letter A with out feet with our pinkie toes touching.

Exercise 2:  Cross in front while walking backward. 
In circle formation at the center of the room, the class practiced moving backward using forward crosses to the outside of the circle.
-            Same technique as the above applies.
-            At the end, we would make a letter V.

Exercise 3: Warming up our Ocho Factories
In partnership using a light hand-to-hand embrace, we did forward ochos, stepping to our partner’s trailing foot. We were to take long steps around each other, and pivot enough/a lot.  Posturewise, in our upper bodies, we were to be tall and broad, flaring out as much as we could with our tango wings

Exercise 4: By ourselves, we practiced crossing in front as foundational work on our forward enrosques.  We were to think about where the weight is on our standing leg.  We were to spread our toes and image that our standing foot has four corners, and we should be centered in the middle of those four corners. 

There are two options for the Forward Enrosque legwork
(1)   The Eagle Pose: really tight and snug with thighs squeezed tight and close.
(2)   The Eye of the Needle Stance: a looser, very open stance. 
Either way, at the conclusion of the enrosque, the outside of our trailing foot has to be in contact with the outside of our standing foot, with the toes at the middle of the opposite foot, touching the standing foot.  This entire movement is the basis of our enrosque.

Exercise 5: Forward ochos with crossing, with the Leader’s option to change his weight.

Exercise 6: Step forward, enrosque, weight change, step back
Individually, we practiced the following footwork:

Left foot forward step
Right foot cross hook in front
Change weight to right foot
Finish Pivot
Back step with left foot
Finish where you start

Opposite foot:
Right foot forward step
Left foot hook in front
Change weight to left foot
Finish pivot
Back step with right foot
Finish where you start

The class was then split: Leaders with Homer and Followers with Christina.

The Leaders worked on their back enrosque: taking a forward step and then hooking behind.

Leaders group footwork:
1st partnered exercise with hand-to-hand embrace:
Leaders led their partner (the person taking the Follower’s part) to do the forward step, side step, and back cross step of the turn/hiro/molinete.

Leader’s left foot forward on Follower’s left foot forward (front cross) step
Leader’s right foot hook and weight change to right foot on Follower’s right foot side step
Leader’s left foot back step on Follower’s left foot back (back cross) step

The Leader’s enrosque is easiest to do on the turn to the left.

The Leader’s left foot forward step can be changed into a Leader’s left foot forward sacada, so it naturally brings him closer to her and develops more spiral energy so that it is easier to do the Leader’s enrosque.

There are three exit options:
(1)   Back sacada option
(2)   Pivot in place with no step
(3)   Regular back step with no sacada

The Follower can do an enrosque after the forward step and before the side step of the hiro/turn/molinete

Follower’s group footwork:
In a partnered exercise with hand-to-hand embrace:
Forward ocho with Follower’s enrosque embellishment of an outside rulo (curly Q, swirl).
We were to practice this, as one side is easier/more difficult than the other.

The Follower does a forward enrosque with her free foot tracing a small circle on the floor around an imaginary axis unseen by the Leader (that’s why it’s called the “Secret Garden” Enrosque – because the Leader doesn’t see the axis the Follower is circling).  The Follower needs to decide before she transfers weight to do the enrosque. So she reaches, and as she transfers weight but a little bit before, she shoots out the other foot/leg with a little bit of Captain Morgan, pivots and from her knee down, draws a circle/rulo/lapice/corkscrew with her calf/foot (“stirs the pot”) and then collects with ankles together.  We were to keep this on the floor, and do one or two circles/corkscrews/rulos/lapices, with the Follower keeping her hips close to the Leader. 

To do this enrosque, our foot goes with toes pointed to the floor out as our hip opens up with the inside of our thigh exposed. Then we draw a quick little circle with the tip of our toes, after which we bring the leg back in so that our foot remains tucked against our standing foot at the conclusion of our pivot. Keep the toes pointed toward the floor complete with the knee out and hip open.  The standing leg needs to be strong and stable.  The floor is the source of power.  How the Follower connects with the floor determines how much power she has in her dance.

Exercise 7: Adding sacadas
Leader does a sacada to Follower’s trailing foot of her side step, into a Leader’s back enrosque. The Leader’s sacada puts them in position so that afterwards they are simultaneously doing back pivots.  It’s a “we” feeling at that point, which is very nice and fun.

Leader leads Follower to do 1-2 forward ocho with or without enrosques as Leader does side steps with her. Leader leads the Follower to do a turn/hiro/molinete to the left and then he does his sacada into an enrosque.  Our goal in drilling this was to figure out the timing:  The movement goes where it needs to go to maintain the relationship between the dancers.

In all our dancing, we should always maintain good walking technique and take long, reaching steps around the Leader.  When the Follower reaches and transfers the weight is when the Leader has time to do his enrosque, so she should not cut short or rush through the movement. 

In the turn/hiro/molinete, the Leader does his job, but the Follower has to do her job as well.  Her foot arrives on top of the strong beat, but she should take the whole beat to transfer weight.

The Follower needs to be aware in both sides of her embrace to receive the appropriate energy that the Leader is giving.  She needs to be connected to the Leader, otherwise the message will be lost.

Maestros concluded with a class review and a demo to The Luckiest by Ben Folds.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rhythmic Ochos (Intermediate)

Song: Milonga De Los Fortines by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
August 31, 2013, Denver Labor Day Tango Festival

We began with a warm-up exercise doing pivoted ochos, but keeping them small.
The Leader steps with the Follower and rotates his spine/upper body a lot.

We drilled to one song, with Leader alternating leading big pivots or No-Pivot Ochos with the Leader’s hands at his front pants pockets in modified sugar bowl embrace, and the Follower holding on to the his triceps/biceps.

Leader starts leading No-Pivot Ochos, then he releases the Follower a little, and she pivots a little in response to the freedom.  They continue to do ochos, small and fast.  For the Follower, it is very challenging to follow No Pivot ochos. 

We first stayed in a line and did No-Pivot Ochos.  The Leader right hand releases the Follower’s back, so she can do slightly pivoted ochos.  The Leader also releases the control in his body over her during the No-Pivot Ocho engagement so that the Follower regains her natural contrabody movement.

Exercise: Leader leads No-Pivot Ochos, then releases the Follower so she has room to pivot.  We alternated between No-Pivot Ochos to pivoted ochos back to No-Pivot Ochos.  This exercise was for the Leaders to feel what it is like to cage the Follower and then set her free, and then cage her again and the transitions he needs to do with his right hand.  For the Leader, during No-Pivot Ochos, he gives the Follower a cage with  his right arm. When he releases his right arm, the Follower is free with the natural curves of her body.  The energy is into the floor and into our partner.  The Leader attaches to the floor.

We did this in practice hold to make the Leader more efficient in his lead.  We did more drilling of No-Pivot Ochos into Pivoted Ochos, sometimes double time and tight.

Exercise:  In partnership, we drilled the ochos, with the Leader moving through space rollerblading, moving through space with No-Pivot Ochos.

Exercise: We did this in double time and in close embrace.

CHAPTER 2: Turning it
Next, we turned it, with Leader doing Igor footwork, with his left foot doing a small step and his right foot doing a bigger step around the Follower.  This puts circularity into the move.  The Follower’s legs want to squeeze together, even though her feet are still traveling through space.  The Follower’s outside or left step is larger as the Leader walks around her.  The Follower walks forward in a circle around the Leader. The Leader needs to be opposite the line of dance to start this move. The Follower’s long step is her right foot. Her left foot is into the Leader.  The Leader does a circle and doubles back.  The Leader walks backward doing tiny back ochos around the Follower counterclockwise as the Follower does small forward ochos to the close side of the embrace.  The Leader does a little step, and then a big step, grapevining into it and grapevining out of it.

The Leader needs to learn how to manage his space and where he steps in the line of dance. 

Maestros recommended we drill this to a slow milonga song.

Maestros concluded with a class review and a demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor’s Milonga De Los Fortines.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Monday, September 16, 2013

Baby Back Volcadas (Intermediate/Advanced)

Song: Araca La Cana by Osvaldo Fresedo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
August 31, 2013, Denver Labor Day Tango Festival

First, we began with doing close embrace ochos with no pivot as a base of getting the Leader to lead the Follower to hook behind.

CHAPTER 1: “No-Pivot" Ocho
Leader: Imagine you are rollerblading down the boardwalk in your feet, but have NO shoulder or spine rotation in your upper body, and collecting in your footwork in between the steps.

Follower: Reach back with your right leg, and go across yourselves (your left hip), and open, reach back with the other leg, and across yourselves.  Open the hips without pivoting the supporting, standing leg so your shoulders do not rotate and there is no pivot in the spine.

Next, in a partnered exercise, we came together to do the No Pivot back ochos.  Here, we were to try to make the ochos symmetrical for both the Leader and the Follower.  Hints: there is a good (easy) side and a dark side.  The Leader’s left side is much easier.  Be careful to not do The Igor (where there Leader makes a big step and then a little step).  The Follower has to wait for the Leader in his collection, otherwise the embrace will inadvertently open or be lost.  The Follower should use connection with the floor to power her back and power the pressure she gives to the Leader. She should not leave the weight so soon, so that the pressure is constant and there are no air bubbles in the embrace.  She should build a little bit of resistance as the Leader prepares to go forward.  Both dancers should be clear, comfortable and consistent.

The Leader should really collect, trying to get his thighs, knees, and ankles to pass each other.  In double time, the Leader’s heels do not collect because it’s difficult. However, the Follower still needs to collect during her double time.  In regular time or half time, the Leader should always collect. 

To drill this concept, we practiced doing No-Pivot Ochos in regular time, half time and double time. We discovered that to make this most effective in terms of communication, there should be a bit of tension or pause before the double time.  The Leader should be like a panther getting ready for attack/to strike.

CHAPTER 2: Baby Back Volcada

Start with the hook behind.

The Leader’s forward steps are symmetrical.  For the hook behind, the Leader keeps his foot behind, transfers the weight from his left to right when the Follower’s hook behind happens and her weight goes from her left to her right. The Follower should stay in front of the Leader.

There are two exits:

(1)   The regular exit, which consists of back ochos, or
(2)   The Leader touches the Follower’s right thigh with his left foot forward step to the inside of the embrace.

Some students were creative/ambitious, and attempted to do this on the other side (the dark side). When doing it on the more difficult side, there is a cheat step to help you do it.  The Follower should cross really tight and deep to maintain connection with the Leader.

This is a lateral move, not a circular move.

The baby back volcada can be used to initiate a regular forward volcada.

We did some footwork exercises:
Cross behind while walking forward.  In circle formation at the perimeter of the room, the class practiced moving forward using back crosses to the center of the circle. Here we need to:
Bend the knee of the front leg
Stay the same height throughout
Keep chest up
Squeeze inner thighs
To make it more elegant, we were to imagine we were holding a big bowl of sleeping fish.
We would make a letter A with out feet

Maestros concluded with a class review and a demo to Fresedo’s Araca La Cana.

Notes courtesy of Anne at