Saturday, June 28, 2014

Baby Back Volcadas with NO Pivot Ochos (Intermediate)

Song: Gato by Edgardo Donato
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2014, Ardingly College, England

We began with a warm-up dance doing back ochos in close embrace. 

We refined the Follower’s no pivot ocho.  Ochos do not pivot because there is no chest rotation from the Leader.

Leader’s rollerblading footwork: he does not turn his spine, and walks side to side into the center of the circle, keeping his chest square and collecting at every step.

Follower’s no pivot ocho footwork: her hips are open, and she reaches across, behind her self, transfers the weight and collects. She should not fall back in her steps.

In partnership, we did baby back ochos together, with Leader focusing on his rollerblading footwork and not pivoting in his spine, an the Follower being very clean in her footwork and not falling back and not pivoting in her feet while she reaches back across herself.

The perfect step is when the heel goes down. If her step is too long, the heel won’t go down because the Leader is too far away.  If this is the case, she should make a shorter step.  She can create extension by reaching without a bent knee.  Resistance starts on the standing leg.  The other leg takes resistance as the weight transfers.

Needs to collect with thighs touching, with ankles touching in between step as if “I have to pee”.

In partnership, we were still to do the no pivot ochos, but we also add double-time ochos. So we would do S-S-S and then add Q-Q-S.

In single time, we should collect in between each step.
In double time, the Leader does not have time to collect in between each step
The Follower should have tone in her inner thighs.
Followers: When wearing heels, be aware of how your whole foot is connected to your leg.  Have an active turnout.

The Leader leads the Follower to hook behind on the easy side (the Follower’s right foot hooks behind the left foot).  The Leader leads this because his right foot does not pass his left foot.  Then he exits by walking forward with his left foot at the close of the embrace.

The Follower’s weight is on her right foot, and she articulates the left foot to get out.  The Leader can hug the Follower a little bit more during her hook behind.  The Leader should be as even as possible in his footwork, rollerblading equally.

We experimented doing multiple hooks behind.

The Follower’s crosses need to be deep enough and tight enough otherwise she will move the couple through space.

Cross behind while walking forward.  Here, the top of the thighs always come together, and the feet are in an A shape.  The Hook Behind is a “cross behind weight change”.  The lead is just side to side, a slight shift in weight, with minimum side to side movement. 

The Leader’s lungs fill with air, so he has naturally compression.

In the psychology of Following the close embrace ochos, the Follower should collect faster but reach slower.

The Baby Back Volcada
The farther back the Leader leaves his right foot back, the more the Leader can take her back.
The Follower hugs the Leader more and gives him compression and suspension energy.
The dancers legs are close when the Leader exits.
The Follower falls a little bit more than her usual A embrace.

Follower: Be aware of her free leg.  She can do adornos and express the music (doing little lapices) as she decides the shape of her free leg.

Leaders: Hug and lift
Followers: As if getting out of a pool, push down to lift yourself up and have compression in the embrace.

Maestros conclude with a class quiz and a demo to Donato’s Gato.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Workshop 2 - Turning and Ochos (Int/Adv)

Song: Yo No Se Que Me Han Hecho Tus Ojos by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2014, Ardingly College, England

In sugarbowl embrace, the armpits can breathe, but the arms do not flop. They are part of your torso.  Feel how engaged they are to your shoulder blades.

Rotate: see how much you can do it, with the turn equal in each direction.

Leaders should create the primarily lead through his spine.

In doing ochos, the Follower holds on to the biceps/triceps of the Leader. The Follower’s back is engaged and feet are connected to the floor.

The Follower’s hip rotation is amplified 2-3x more to what the Leader’s spine is doing. Her hips are an ocho factory.  The Follower can pivot more than she.  But receive the circular energy, absorb it, and let it travel through her body. When the Follower is in the middle of her step, the Leader should start his spinal rotation.

In open embrace, sugar bowl embrace.
We did slot ochos.
Leader steps side to side and rotates his chest.  Leader should be even in his torso turns, and wait for the Follower to finish pivoting.  Do not rush.
As the Follower arrives on her new leg, he turns his spine a little to release her ocho.
The Follower’s heels can skim/be near the floor so she is nearly on the 4 corners of her feet and ready to do another ocho and is stable.

3 rules for this exercise:
(1) Rule of the embrace: Follower can pivot as much as she can without breaking the embrace.  She needs to pivot a lot.
(2) Rule of the hip: Follower’s thigh touches the Leader’s thigh after the pivot.  The Follower really steps around long and circular around the Leader.  The Leader’s axis is tight like a willow tree, not wide like an Oak Tree.

The Leader needs to give the Follower enough time to finish her pivot before starting the turn to the other side.  Do not lean toward each other.  Take your vertical axis.  Follower foot placement is important.

(3) Rule of the Nose: Thumb to pinky distance away.  Leader and Follower noses should be the same distance away – always – thumb to pinky.

Those are the three rules for the exercise.

Leader’s feet are together as he is a willow tree.  Plant the roots and rotate the upper body 45% (so no step) although he can do one side step to start it. His chest rotation leads her forward ocho.

Concept of the turn into the ocho.
How does the Leader know when to lead a side step versus an ocho?  How does the follower know when to do an ocho instead of a side step? Often there can be unclear communication.

In turns, the Follower is slightly behind the Leader, so the Leader can catch her step and lead an ocho.  Being a little behind gives a little resistance, which is what we want.  The Follower resists by delaying her step and waiting for the Lead.

Exercise: Doing a turn with the Leader doing pacman footwork.

Follower makes side step around the Leader, so when doing the back step she is half way there. 

All the steps of the turn (forward, side and back) are all important.

Do a turn to the left and to the right.

The Follower needs to hold onto the Leader.

The leader is a narrow willow tree.

The Follower holds his arms and allows the Leader to pull her around. 

Leader: at some point, do a Forward ocho and change the direction of the turn.

In open embrace, we can add elasticity to the movement.

In the turn, The Leader’s left hand/arm pulls the Follower around.

She should give a bit of resistance in her Right hand so she can stay a little behind the Leader and the Leader can lead the ocho through his spine.

Leader does a little quick pulse through his spine to release the tension in his body, and that’s how she knows it’s an ocho instead of going to the side in continuation of the turn, and the Leader also releases his right hand a little so he can allow the Follower to do her turn.

Exercise: In teapot embrace, doing the ocho parada.

In H&C’s class, the turn is done with no automatic double time during any of the steps, so that the Leader needs to lead all the steps of the turn (the Follower does not go on autopilot).

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Canaro's Yo No Se Que Me Han Hecho Tus Ojos.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Workshop 1 - Compression and Resistance (Int/Adv)

Song: The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 26, 2014, Ardingly College, England

In partnership, we began with working on compression walking.
Using the four corners of our feet, we need to active the leg, rolling the weight to the back of the foot or to the front of the foot.
No hiccups or air pockets.
Back and forth.
Have elbows bent in.
We were to maintain the same distance whether we were walking forward or backward.

In partnership
Hand in hand embrace, with the Leader’s focus on his palm when going forward and on his finger pads when walking backwards as he leads this exercise.

When going backward, we should hang back away from each other a little, matching the resistance, but holding the tension.

We should spread our lats, have wide rib cags, with elbows pointed down.

Follower should not grip Leader’s fingers, but be a bit soft.

Rolling through our ankles to the back to the last two corners of our feet, using the energy in the hands to create resistance.  We should take long reaching steps and maintain compression.

Why is this exercise important?

For Communication.

The Leader always knows where the Follower is.
They are in balance.

We should exaggerate this exercise so that you can really feel the rolling of weight forward and back so that we create resistance.

Back of fingers to are to the other person’s palm

We are like in an A frame when walking forward with our compression energy
And like a V frame when walking back as we resist away from each other.

Follower: as you go back, engage your back.
Really roll through and collect in between each step.
To create a stronger connection with the floor, you should push more into the floor to create compression.

Homework: Do this exercise from time to time and your walk will improve.

“Superassociation” – Use the floor to get energy to use into our legs, back and core.  Whether you are compressing forward or resisting back, it is all based on how the standing leg connects with/ uses the floor.

In close embrace, the Follower gives the Leader forward compression as they walk backward. 

Use the floor to power our whole bodies.

Change of direction: 2 different methods:
(1)   Follower keeps compression forward as the Leader walks back. (They are plastered to each other.)
(2)   Follower expands back more and embrace opens up a little and there is resistance.
In (2), the Follower’s back in the Leader’s forearm is where the resistance connection is (you can slide a piece of paper between where their two bodies are).  The Follower widens shoulder blades and breathes in.

Exercise: To explore the embrace concept.
In partnership, the Leader walks outside partner.  The Leader feels resistance because the Follower is connected in her arms and breathing back.  She will feel more stable if she resists in the back as he walks back and she walks forward.

The Follower’s hips should be underneath her so she can walk forward with strength and not fall into it. 
This is good for transitions from close to open embrace and back to close embrace.
The Follower matches the leader when he opens his embrace and takes his axis. So when he takes his axis, so does she.

Follower should stay longer on her standing leg before moving to her new leg.  Use the floor to transfer the weight.
Completely arrive and use the floor to make a new step.
Actively think about going from 4 corners to 4 corners to 4 corners of the feet.
Do not just pass through the floor to the next step.

In Resistance technique, the Leader should work with whatever method the Follower knows. So he can stay better connected with whatever Follower he is dancing with.

The Follower maintaining compression tells her reaching leg how long her step should be.  The Leader might do just a small step, doing just a change of weight to get a small step.  Or he may do a long drive forward to get a large weight change to get a large step. 

Exercise in partnership:
Dancing doing short steps and long steps, with big or small weight changes from the Leader and the Follower matching the compression to step in the correct size. 

The 3 C’s of tango:

If you have those in leading and following, you have a language.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to Ben Folds’s The Luckiest.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Extreme Homer and Cristina - The 2014 Collection (Advanced)

Song: Cuore Sacro by Andrea Guerra
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 25, 2014, Ardingly College, England

      (1)   Sustained Volcada
(2)   Follower’s back sacada and back gancho
(3)   Butterfly Colgada

(1) Sustained Volcada
Sustained volcadas can be done in the line of dance, and can be big or small.
It is based on the Follower going to the cross.
It is physically easier than it looks.
Like other volcadas, the concepts of compression and lift are key.

The Leader sets up the sustained volcada by going left foot forward, and then going down as he holds the Follower is up when her right foot is back. 

The Follower crosses to get out of it when she feels the Leader’s feet get close to her body and he stops traveling, and she lets go of the connection to the floor.

The Leader needs to always take care of his back.
His hips are under his rib cage.
He suspends the Follower
When the Leader comes up, he signals that the Volcada is finished.

The Follower feels the Leader’s change of height and his compression and lift.

The Follower needs to be committed to the slide.

The Follower needs to have an active role in support.

When the Leader gives the Follower compression and lift, the Follower squeezes toward the Leader’s torso, and her shoulder blades are pushing down to have a strong fixed line.  She should not collapse in her back or hips or sides.  The Follower pushes down with her left armpit as if she is getting out of a swimming pool.  Most Followers do not push enough. The Followers need to use their lats to push down and feel lighter.  Follower needs to let herself fall into a vertical split. 

The Follower’s right leg is like a rutter. So she should keep it straight.  Keep both sides of the rib cage toward the Leader, otherwise she will cause the couple to drift. 

(2) Follower’s back sacada and back gancho
After the Follower goes to the cross, the Leader pivots the Follower clockwise, leading the Follower to do a right foot back sacada.

The Leader receives the Follower’s right foot back sacada of his trailing right foot on his left foot forward step (Leader pivots on his left foot counterclockwise, showing the Follower his back pocket), then he does a back gancho of his right foot of her left foot (like a linear boleo)

Into Captain Morgan with his right leg.  Leader does Captain Morgan leg.  The Leader needs to step away from the Follower a bit to give her room to do her sacada.

All Follower’s sacadas need space, so the Leader should walk slightly away from the Follower (not around her, or straight across from her).

Follower needs to pivot a lot – more than she thinks she can/should -- and complete her pivot a lot before extending her leg in the sacada.  The Leader leads the rotation first before he leads her sacada step into him.

Follower: after the sustained volcada slide, she should keep her knees soft so she has plenty of time to do her pivot into her back sacada and back gancho

(3) Butterfly Colgada
Here, the Follower does two colgadas, and then the Leader does a colgada.  So it is:
She goes
She goes
He goes

Leader walks outside partner as Follower does back ochos.
Leader steps left foot forward outside to the Follower’s left foot forward on her right foot back step so feet meet inside edge to inside edge.

The Follower’s right foot goes out as the Leader sends her out in circular energy (first wing of the butterfly), pivot around to the close side.
As Follower steps over with her right foot, the Leader sends the Follower out again (second wing of the butterfly) and she steps over. Then he steps over nearly simultaneously with his right foot clockwise and sends himself out in colgada as well.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and demo to Andre Guerra’s Cuore Sacro.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

The Boleo and Sacada Connection (Intermediate)

Song: Bahia Blanca by Carlos DiSarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 25, 2014, Ardingly College, England

Video not available.

We began with an independent walking exercise, walking forward and backward, as if we are holding a big beach ball, and then adding several different boleo footwork movements while walking forward or walking back:

Stay on the Right foot
Engage the four corners of the standing leg.

On our right foot
Reach back with our left as we transfer the weight
Do a forward boleo with the right foot

Reach back with our right foot
Transfer weight
Forward boleo with left foot

Start on right foot forward
Transfer weight
Do a back boleo with our left foot

Start on left foot forward
Transfer weight
Do a back boleo with our right foot

Step forward with our left foot
Right foot back boleo into
Right foot forward boleo

Step forward with our right foot
Left foot back boleo into
Left foot forward boleo

Exercise in partnership (using fingertip hold): Doing forward ochos together, and stepping around each other (instead of away) to the trailing foot
Keep head up and back
Present yourself
Pivot as much as you can without breaking the fingertip hold
Step toward back leg
Do it as slow as you need to
The point is to do it as well as you can
Take large steps
The limit is the embrace
Shoulders down and ribcage wide

Exercise in partnership (using fingertip hold): Forward ochos into forward boleos
Be in balance
Take your time
The toe points to the ground at the height of the boleo (do not sickle the foot).
The foot should be as if it is striking a match, and going from flexed to pointed.
The power of the boleo comes from how well you do your ocho, so it’s important to do a good ocho step prior to doing the boleo
Then Boleo
Take longs steps in the ocho, reaching and then pivoting.

Boleo and Sacada
The Leader can lead the ocho in several different ways, both of which still involve twists in the Leader’s spine:
(1)   stepping with her
(2)   leading the Follower to walk around the Leader

The Follower receives and amplifies the twists in the Leader’s spine through the rotation of her hips.

The Follower takes long, reaching steps around the Leader without pushing him off his axis.

The Leader can start the ocho and do sacadas at any point by doing an opposition lead for the ocho.

There are many types of ochos: Mocha Java, Rocky Road, and Chunky Monkey, where the Leader gives a lot of energy.  The Leader can have lots of energy when he steps into the space that the Follower is leaving when doing the sacada. 

In fingertip hold
With ochos where Leader steps around the Follower.  The Leader sacadas with either foot the Follower’s trailing foot.

There is send energy in the ocho.
The Wall is where the limit happens
The rebound/contra energy is where the boleo happens.

In our exercise, the Leader should try to make the Follower feel the limit.
The Leader tries to get a feel of how the Follower does her ochos.
The Leader sends the Follower around her standing leg (after he sacadas her trailing foot) until she feels the limit of as far as she can go.

The Leader is right there supporting her.

The Leader should not overfocus on his arms, but should just keep sending her until she reaches her limit, really surround the Follower’s base, standing, pivoting leg.  He needs to be next to that axis so she doesn’t fall.

Ochos are rotations based on the Follower’s axis.

The Leader goes in the direction of the Follower’s boleo (99% send).

The Leader’s Sacada
If he goes in at an angle (with his back pocket to her), he can take an extra step around her to give her more rotation in her boleo.

The Follower’s Boleo
After the boleo, be conscious of how you are putting your leg down back to collected state (foot is pointed).

The Leader needs to turn his spine more to connect everything better and don’t step too far away from the Follower at the point of the boleo.

Follower should not raise her leg too soon, because it compromises the Follower’s axis unnecessarily and spills the energy.  She should be aggressive and amplify the energy the Leader gives her. 

Tango is “romanticized physics”.

Followers should practice doing ochos by herself, making them as pretty and as strong as possible. She can do this behind the backs of two chairs, in front of a dresser, against a wall, in a dance studio at the barre, etc., so she can see how well she is doing.

Leaders should practice leading ocho and boleos using the sugarbowl embrace so he can learn about the connection of his body and the floor.  The Leader’s right hand often stops or forces the Follower instead of enabling her.

Follower side sacada to Leader:
Follower’s with boleo
Leader’s sacada with Leader stepping across, stepping around the Follower’s axis.
Follower’s left foot boleo
Leader transfers his weight to his left foot, then pivots on his left foot
Follower’s left foot steps to Leader’s right foot in a side sacada.

The Follower needs to hang onto the Leader when she does her boleo.

Leaders: Do not rely too much on your right hand, otherwise the Follower might get lazy and not hang on enough.  (Doing this in teapot or sugarbowl embrace will help both dancers with this.)

Follower needs to maintain her axis at the point of the boleo.

The Follower controls the boleo.

In doing the boleo, try to create a “thwack” noise.

There are three ways of leading ochos:
With (side) – Mocha Java
Around (rotation) – Rocky Road
Opposition – Chunky Monkey

Adding sacadas increases power.

After doing the Follower’s boleo, the Leader can lead a hiro or sacada.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and a demo to DiSarli’s Bahia Blanca.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Rough Guide to Interpreting Different Orchestral Styles (Int/Adv)

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 24, 2014, Ardingly College, England

We worked with 4 songs:
(1)   D’Arienzo’s Arnsiedad with Alberto Echague on vocals
(2)   Fresedo’s Cordobesita with Roberto Ray on vocals
(3)   Rodriguez’s No Se Porqe Razon with Armando Moreno on vocals
(4)   Tanturi’s Que Nunca Me Falte with Enrique Campos on vocals

We first did a rhythmic miniexercise since the AV wasn’t quite set up:
1 side clapping when Homer points to it, and the other side snapping its fingers when Homer pointed to it.
Then 2 snaps and 1 clap (imitating the boom chick chick Vals rhythm).

Then we moved to another room since our original room was too noisy, being next to the dining room.

Our goal was to dance, but stopping at the end of the song, finishing when the music stops. 
We danced first to D’Arienzo’s Arnsiedad.
Then to Fresedo’s Cordobesita

What were the differences in the two orchestras we heard?  Fresdo was softer, not as hard as D’Arienzo.

Next, we danced to Rodriguez’s No Se Porqe Razon
Notice that Rodriguez has a lot of nice variacion, and finished without the last note – the song is unresolved. Rodriguez’s bad is the only one that does that (cuts off the last note).

The Follower needs to listen as much, if not more to the music.

Next, we danced to Tanturi’s Que Nunca Me Falte.
Notice that this song has a nice, long ending, so you can get a good idea when the ending is coming and we can better prepare for it.

Part of developing connection with the music is recognizing the orchestra.  The main message is that orchestras have telltale signs/signatures.  One of the clearest is how they end, which can be defined by time period or singer.

How you interpret the music is how you express yourself.  Don’t just be historians.
This class attempts to get you to connect better with the music.

Next exercise: Tango Chacarera game.
Leaders behind Homer in one line; Followers behind Cristina in one line.
Tango Chacarera game is normally with 4 steps forward and 4 steps back.
This time, we take 4 steps forward and 3 steps back, so our count is to 7, followed by a silent 8.  We were to pay attention to what happens between the 7 and the silent 8.
We danced first to D’Arienzo’s Arnsiedad, where there was a pause in the momentum of the music between the 7 and the silent 8.
Then to Fresedo’s Cordobesita.
In both songs, we noticed that the phrasing stays in a pattern.
The quality of Fresedo’s song was lighter and slower, with less nervous, frenetic energy.  Fresedo came before D’Arienzo and is sweeter, with more violins than bandoneons. 
In Fresedo, there is also an extra instrument that is not heard in other orchestras. 

We were to dance to the Fresdo song again, and really listen between the phrases to figure out what that instrument was.  Some thought it was the piano, and while it is true that the piano does appear in between the phrases, the specific instrument that is only heard in Fresedo is the Harp.  Once you hear the Harp in Fresedo, you can never go back. 

Next, we were to dance, and when we hear the harp, we were to try to notate it in our movements.  So the Leaders could tap with their feet, and the Followers can tap with their hands.  The Follower can do decorations/adornos between the beats by moving her body during the little fills.

Next, we went back to our Tango Chacarera exercise to:
D’Arienzo, then changing to
Fresedo, then changing to

Rodriguez has similar energy to D’Arienzo (crazy, frenetic energy), but he creates a really interesting feeling with the bandoneons. The way the bandoneon is used in Rodriguez is more stretchy and elastic, more slinky, but not as what they would do with the violin.

What kind of movement would we use?  How do we move to this? How does the quality of movement change?
D’Arienzo is more staccato and we can do a lot of quick changes in direction via rock steps or steps that are short and sharp.
Fresdo is more flowy and sweet, syrupy, so we can do long, flowy movements.
Rodriguez, we can focus on doing changes of direction with choppy movements interspersing them with continuous and smooth wherever it is appropriate in the music. Rodriguez has the energy of D’Arienzo with the playfulness and fills of Fresedo.

Followers: Be aware of the Leader and what she can add to the conversation by being in tune to the music without disrupting the dance, being disobedient to the Leader, or changing the step.  If she is with the music, what she does will make sense to the Leader.

Someone asked a question of how we should dance to a song if the lyrics are sad. Maestro said in dancing, we are expressing that we are happy to be alive, so it is a celebration of the song.  Everyone decides individually what they get out of the song or what they hear out of it: the music, the singer, or the poetry/lyrics.

Some asked a question about where to get tango lyric translations.  H&C mentioned several of them (todotango, Alberto Paz, Jake’s, Derek Del Pilar), and suggested googling for all the different sources.

Next, we were to dance to a totally different orchestra and flavor it like a wine connoisseur.  We were to keep our movements simple.  The song we danced to was Tanturi’s Que Nunca Me Falte.

There was an element to the song that is not heard in the other three songs we worked on. And that is the “kiss me goodnight” (or syncope rhythm), that is combined with the singing, usually done three times in a row.  Also, the ending is very stretched out.

There are lots of things happening in tango music:
Musical instruments
Syncopa (kiss me goodnight).

As dancers, we make a choice, training our hearing and choosing one thing to focus on in our movement.

Next, our exercise was to dance to Tanturi with accenting all the kiss me goodnights (the syncopas) in our dancing.

Maestros conclude with a class quiz.  There was no demo song.

Notes courtesy of Anne at