Monday, June 1, 2015

Rhythmic Embellishments (All Levels)

Song: Cacareando by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 25, 2015, Ardingly College, England

An embellishment is something that is not led. Embellishments must be safe and connected to the music. The music for our class was Vals, with lots of transitional room.

Training our ears to hear where to embellish in Vals
We began with a game of Vals Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of Leaders all in one line facing Followers all in one line, arms up and eyes making contact with each other, we took four steps forward and four steps back, similar to the Avanzado and Regreso initial steps of the Chacarera. The 4 forward steps were done in 4 beats, and the 4 back steps were done in 4 beats. During this game, maestro played a very regular vals so we could clearly hear the musical phrasing and sentence. It was basically:
4 forward
4 back
4 forward
4 back

At the Period (end of a sentence/phrase) is where the dancers, both Leader and Follower should do various embellishments/accents/do fancy things in their dancing.

Next exercise:
In partnership, we began with walking to the comma, then wait. Then walk to the end of the sentence, then wait, to hear if there is an opportunity in the music to embellish.  This was an exercise to improve our listening and to help us be more creative.  The music will guide you to pick a phrase of music and let the embellishment happen.

4 walk
4 walk
Comma (wait)
4 walk
4 walk (embellish if you hear there’s an opportunity in the music).

Some of the simple embellishments we could do were:
Tap to the side
Tap to the back
Circles with our feet
Squiggles with our body
We could use any body part – feet, shoulder, hips.

The music for this exercise was Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi Adios Marinero.

Phrasing secret:  You can do this with 80% of tangos, vals, and milongas to catch the fills and transitions to embellishments (around the 8 beat).

Led Embellishments:
3 side touch steps/taps.

Follower can feel the lead through the Leader’s body/foot making contact with the floor.  The Follower needs to hear the music with the Leader for the embellishment to make sense.

We drilled the side taps embellishment on both sides to Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi Adios Marinero.

Next Led Embellishment:

Leader’s forward tap with his left foot with simultaneous
Follower’s back tap with her left foot

This is led by the Leader making the step and then grounding it, so that the Follower does it, too.

Pitter-Patters are rhythmic syncopations, playful movements with the feet.  In our class, the Leader is leading the Follower’s embellishment, but not doing it himself.  Or he can do it simultaneously if he wishes. 

Rules: Leader needs to lift, from chest he compresses/hugs in the direction he is turning.  (We drilled with the same song.)

Any problems encountered?  Leader: Use your body to lead because it’s an interrupted step, such as 3 forward taps with his right foot and Follower does 3 back taps with her left foot.  After leading the Pitter-Patter, the Leader needs to know which of her feet is free. He can do this by syncing up with her by shifting her weight or by stepping to her outside.

Typewriter and Bandoneon
The Typewriter is where the Leader and Follower go opposite ways, left or right in the Pitter-Patter, and they can get back together by jumping.

The Bandoneon is where the Leader and Follower go back away or forward toward each other in mirror image, and jump back together.  This is called “The Bandoneon Pitter-Patter” because the movement is similar to the Bandoneon bellows compressing and expanding together.  There are many other Bandoneon variations  where one dancer can go in while the other stays put, or goes out when the other goes in, or goes out while the other goes out or stays in place, etc.

We drilled the Typewriter and Bandoneon to Alfredo de Angeles’s Sonar Y Nada Mas, a song that has 4 beat phrases instead of 8.

Safe Space Zone
We did this in a circle in the line of dance, where either the Leader or the Follower can do the embellishment.  Every moment can be “safe” if the Leader is good.  The Safe Space is where either dancer can play with the other dancer’s feet as they pass by.  For example, the Follower plays with the Leader’s feet by tapping behind, always to her right, either with her right foot or her left foot.  So she would do:
Outside right tap behind to the right, step forward
Left cross tap behind to the right, step forward

This Follower embellishment must be done in between the Follower’s step between strong beats toward the Follower’s right side.  It should not be done during the whole song, but in our drilling that is how we practiced it so we could etch it in our muscle memory.  We also drilled this with the Leader’s back pocket to the line of dance (which wouldn’t happen in real life, but again, we were just drilling).

First we drilled to just a slow beat (no music), doing:

Then we drilled to Rafael Canaro’s Cosas Viejas.

Follower’s right foot back taps Leader’s left foot.
Follower’s left foot back cross taps Leader’s right foot.

The Follower can do a tap only or can touch the Leader’s left foot with contact.

To get out of this, the Leader leads a side step in a turn. 

We drilled this to Osvaldo Pugliese’s Araca La Cana.

Maestros concluded with a class review and demo to Cacareando by Orq. Tipca Victor.

Notes courtesy of Anne at 

Back Sacadas (Advanced)

Song: Les Jours Tristes by Yann Tiersen
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 25, 2015, Ardingly College, England

The class focused on doing continuous back sacadas to each other, both Leader and Follower.  Both Leader and Follower have similar roles when doing their back sacadas, and both roles are based on the technique of turns (molinetes/hiros).  In doing back sacadas, we have the opportunity to replace the step of our partner with our own step.

Leader's footwork

Follower's footwork (molinete/turn/hiro)
Right foot forward step

Left foot back
Weight change to left

Right foot side
Right foot long back step past Follower's foot

Left foot forward (transfer weight to left foot and pivot)
Right foot pivot counterclockwise

Left foot back sacada of Follower's trailing left foot

Right foot side step
Leader: Stay tall. Do not collapse in chest.  Do not raise feet off the ground, caress the floor.  The Leader should not change height at all during his sacada.  He should not crunch down or search for the sacada.  It is OK to cheat on the back sacada step by instead of stepping straight back, he can step across the line (so it’s a back cross step, not a back open step).

Follower: In the forward step, walk toward the Leader, not away from him, as it’s a continuation of the turn.  As usual with all molinete/hiro/turn technique, take long reaching side steps around the Leader.

Leader: You should also have good molinete/hiro/turn technique, with good energy in your left hand, a solid spout to be able to pull the Follower as she goes around you.  (A broken left hand/spout of teapot will block her molinete and stall her progression around you.)  Your right hand can engage and disengage.

2 Leader Secrets:

The Leader’s arms/shoulders are like opening and closing gates.  If one gate is open (back), he needs to close the other side by bringing it forward.  This is a weird arm position that enables him to do disassociation to do his back sacada.  So the Leader keeps pulling his partner with his left hand/arm in closed gate position (forward) in the turn before his back sacada.  The right hand can open and the left hand can close, and vice versa depending on the relative position of dancers and who is doing the sacada and what the Leader is leading/enabling the Follower to do.

The Follower’s steps should be long and around the Leader, reaching steps with a smooth transfer of weight.  This will help the Leader pivot better.

2 ways for Follower to receive the Leader’s back sacada:
(1) with the foot on the floor; or
(2) raising the knee up and then down, with the goal of collecting.

We drilled this.  Those who were able to do it reasonably well or who were bored and needed a challenge were instructed to do it on the other side.

Adding the Follower’s Back Sacada
After the Leader’s Back Sacada, the Follower’s pivot needs to be overturned on her arriving right foot, and she needs to really collect and allow her right arm to extend to pivot a lot before making a long reaching step in her left foot back sacada.

Follower: Do not hurry and try to catch up to the Leader (she should be slightly behind).  DO NOT RUSH. The back pivot needs to be overturned and complete, with left foot collected to the standing supporting leg before going back out in a long back step.

Leader:  Maintain good pulling energy in your left side to enable the Follower to do an overturned pivot.  The Leader pulls the Follower through space to lead her back sacada of his trailing left foot after his right step after his left foot back sacada.

Sacadas are like closets:  Women will always need more space.
Since the Follower needs more space to pivot in her back sacada, his side step before in the setup needs to be long enough and tangent or slightly away from her. 

In doing sequential back sacadas, the Follower’s embrace needs to be elastic and flexible and there is a lot of in and out, going near and farther away to each other.

Don’t forget to breathe in the movement, as we need to allow elasticity in the movement.

Maestros concluded with a class review and demo to Yann Tiersen’s Les Jours Tristes.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Volcada Odyssey (Beyond Intermediate)

Song: Down by Jason Walker
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 25, 2015, Ardingly College, England

Video courtesy of Ken Blake (placeholder)

In this class we will explore two families of volcadas and then merge them.

We started with Funny Volcada, with Maestros first showing us what it looks like.
On the close side of the embrace, the Follower is on her outside right foot and her inside left foot is free and embellishing.  This move can be made small or big depending on how far way the Leader steps around the Follower.

The entrance/setup is getting into cross step immediately.  The Leader settles the Follower on her right when he is on his right.

Leader's footwork

Follower's footwork
Left foot forward on close side

Left foot back
Right foot back

Right foot back straight
Turn partner in calesita keeping her on axis

Remain on right foot as Leader walks backward around
Walk backward around Follower

Left foot is embellishing
Keep this in the line of dance when going in and coming out.

Leader: Do not squeeze too much in the calesita.

Leader: Do not take a side step to get into cross system.  If you can’t do this, you need to practice getting into cross system just by shifting weight.  It is important to know how to get into cross system without a side step because a lot of times you don’t have room for a side step.  So practice just shifting, and creating suspension to get into cross system.

Follower: Completely arrive on your right foot back step with confidence.  Be on axis when you arrive, so you are standing strong and stable. 

Follower: As you pivot, do not go up or be on the ball of your foot.  Be sure you have control of your spine.  You can flex through the ankle so you don’t have to be so high, because it becomes more difficult to manage your spine.  Don’t lift the heel too high; it can just caress the floor.  There is no need to be on your toes, and it will make this more difficult.  Do not pivot on your toes; pivot on the ball of your foot.

In the Funny Volcada, the dancers are at right angle, perpendicular to each other.  The Leader walks around the Follower’s right foot.

The Leader’s step needs to be near the Follower’s right back foot so that he can be close enough to walk around her without making her/them compromise their posture.

If you are able to do this and are getting bored, try this on the other side.  The open side is the hard side and the Leader needs to have a more flexible embrace.  It is small and challenging on this side.  Follower will be on her left foot and her right leg/foot is free and embellishing.

Adding the Volcada Lean:
The gym had several different patterns of lines and circles on the floor since it is used for various games, but lucky for us there were two circles in the middle: (1) a smaller yellow circle and (2) a larger green circle exactly around it.  Maestro demonstrated that in our calesita work, the Leader would be walking around backward in the smaller yellow circle. But in the Funny Volcada, he would be walking halfway toward the green circle (since it was quite a bit away), taking the Follower off axis and getting the Volcada lean.

In stepping around the Follower, the Leader should start by making 3 back steps around the Follower starting with his left foot, then getting out with a side step right to exit.  He could add more steps as he walks around the Follower, but the needed to be odd numbered (5, 7, 9, etc.), and always respecting the line of dance.

So his three (or any odd number) back steps and exit are:
Back Left
Back Right
Back Left
Side Step Right
To exit (Follower pivots)

The preparation for the Volcada is in the embrace, where the Leader hugs and lifts, and the Follower compresses as if getting out of a swimming pool (pressing down to push up).

We drilled the Calesita versus Volcada, starting with making the smallest Volcada we can.

The Leader’s step needs to be near the Follower’s standing foot.

The Follower’s body needs to be straight (not bent in a weird way).

The unwinding of the movement should be dynamic and is a Follower back ocho pivot when the Leader does his side step, bringing the Follower back to axis.

Follower: How are you falling in this volcada?  Completely sideways.  She needs to have a very strong line across her body from her right leg to her left shoulder, and again using the swimming pool compression: pressing down to push up.

During the volcada/calesita, the Follower’s free embellishing foot should always collect at the conclusion so that she doesn’t hit the Leader’s foot.

We drilled this with the Leader making a sustained number of steps around the Follower (11, 13, 15, etc.), giving time to the Follower to practice her embellishments and even play on the other/dark side (front to behind and back again). 

We were to talk to each other during our drilling, with Leaders asking if he is lifting her too much and Follower asking if she is not lifting enough (pressing down to push up).

Funny Volcada tip:  Leader is leaning slightly toward the Follower and does not go down.

Chapter 2: Extended or Sustained Volcada
This more advanced concept gets away from the standard idea of the volcada.  This is the volcada where the Follower is at split weight and her legs go out in an inverted V and Leader drives Follower across the floor.  The Follower is tilted toward the Leader, who is up. 

Leader goes down, and does not lean toward Follower. Leader uses power of his legs to maintain weight. The Follower moves through space easier this way. Follower goes into split movement and is not completely on the floor.  Her body is in an inverted Y position.

We drilled this going from the Funny Volcada on the close side, into the Follower’s split linear Volcada (Sustained/Extended Volcada).

The Follower collects before going out.  As the Leader comes up, that is the signal for the Follower to collect.

Follower:  There are 2 activations.
The right leg, then the right leg and left leg are both activated in the split.  All inner leg muscles and core muscles are turned on.  She should press against the floor to create a zipping up sensation.

The Leader transitions from a circular (during the Funny Volcada) to linear (in the Sustained/Extended Volcada), as he is first walking around the Follower, and then walking away from the Follower.  That’s when she does her split.    So the Leader is walking circularly, and then tangent to the circle in a line. 

The Follower transfers from her foot in front to the foot behind.

The Leader’s height goes down as he walks in a tangent, and when he exits, he goes back up. 

In all volcadas, the Follower’s technique should be that she presses down to lift herself up.

Maestros concluded with a class review and demo to Jason Walker’s Down.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Neo Tango Masterclass (Intermediate)

Song: Isabelita by Enrique Rodriguez
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 24, 2015, Ardingly College, England

The focus of our class would be to improvise in a small space but still be dynamic.  Since these are compact movements, they can be done socially. 

Our work started from one basic step, after which there were several different options of things we could do.

We began with the 2-foot split-weighted swivel. The Leader stops the Follower when she is in the middle of her weight. 

The Leader does a right foot Cowboy step, close and around the Follower. Then the Leader steps behind himself and then around, out to the Follower’s forward ocho. 

The Cowboy step is called that because the Leader’s legs are open and he pivots on his left foot as his right leg goes around, a similar action that cowboys do when getting on a horse (though obviously with no up and over).  The Cowboy foot steps behind the Follower so when he transfers the weight, she has room to do her ocho pivot before stepping over.

We begin in cross system with sneak attack weight change, whereby the Leader keeps the Follower on her right foot and stays on his right foot by giving the Follower a bit of suspension in the embrace.  The Leader’s left foot touches the Follower’s thigh on her left foot back step, but he does not step too deep, but in the middle of the Follower’s steps.

Leader’s steps:

Follower’s steps:
Weight is on Leader's right foot

Weight is on Follower's right foot
Left foot forward (he releases his hand embrace to accommodate the Follower’s spiral/unwinding)

Left foot back
Right foot cowboy swivel around but close to Follower. Weight change with chest torsion to bring Follower around, presenting his left leg.

Follower pivots around
Leader’s left foot is sandwiched behind Follower’s feet.



Forward to clear Leader as he will be quite deep.

Follower steps over

We were to try this with the line of dance in mind.  Are you staying in line or veering off line?  Do it slowly if you must to achieve precision.

Now for the caramel: Follower being at split weight while Leader steps around her. Some Followers find split weight an uncomfortable place to be, as they are usually only on one foot with only one standing supporting leg.  Can the Leader make a Follower enjoy the “caramel” of tango (being at split weight)?  No.  Some Followers will not like it.

The resolution is another Follower’s forward ocho, then a back ocho step back into the line of dance.

We were to try this on both sides (close or open, easy or hard).  Which side is easier?  The first or second side?  There is a difference because the embrace is difference and the ending will be different.

Chapter 2: Wrap or Volcada
The next portion is to add a wrap or volcada after Leader’s Cowboy step and Follower is at split weight.

First we worked on doing small volcadas, keeping the Follower on axis.  In doing the Volcada, the Leader’s Cowboy step is deeper on purpose so he can receive her right foot wrap of his left leg.  The Follower wants to collect, but she can’t because the Leader’s leg is encountered.  The Leader puts a bit of weight on his left leg, and that’s where the exit is.

The Captain Morgan leg is useful in tango because that’s how we receive the wrap.  It can help us get the leg into position, and the Leader’s supporting, standing leg can be doing the elevator to raise or lower a bit.  The Leader’s Captain Morgan Leg can be slightly turned in or slightly turned out.

The Follower’s standing, supporting left leg has contact with the Leader’s leg, so she knows.  The Follower’s free leg is not really free.

The Leader puts his weight on the left and then back to his right to exit.

Rock step around
Leader’s left foot forward, right foot back while Follower does left foot back, right foot forward rock.
Volcada hook behind tuck of her right foot behind the left foot.

Follower: How do you know it’s a gancho/wrap?  Because she feels the thigh contact. 

The Follower should keep her foot on the floor the whole time up until the last minute so she can shape her foot properly and not kick the Leader during the gancho/wrap.

We can exit this in many different ways.  We were to do the pattern on the easy side for the Volcada.  Leader’s Cowboy step to open side, for Follower to do a left foot Volcada as she pivots on her right foot.

The Leader’s next step after his Cowboy step should be close around the Follower.

Follower:  There is a very clear circular energy that the Leader gives the Follower.  The Leader re-engages his right hand embrace so the Follower takes all the energy in her legs. She needs to be extra strong in her core and in her right arm, with the Leader giving her extra support and lift.

The Leader’s right foot traces the Follower’s left leg as he drives her into the Volcada.  Then he pivots her around.

Exercise: Spiral exercise to understand winding energy.
Leader stops Follower in midweight feet, and he starts to walk around her so she pivots around.  When the Follower’s feet are crossed after her Volcada, the Leader walks around her until she can’t pivot any more.  Then she unwinds and he can lead her into another Volcada.  At driving the end of the Volcada, the Leader’s right foot is close to the Follower’s standing foot.

The last step to lead the Volcada is the Leader doing a reverse J and stepping toward the Follower’s axis.

There is a circular component to Volcadas.

The Follower needs to feel the Leader leading the end of it.

There were lots of Volcada concepts in this class.

Where is the Follower when she is pivoting?  On axis.

The Leader needs to lead the cross.  The Follower is on axis as the Leader walks around and she is pivoting.  The Leader’s body coming forward is when the Follower should cross.  The Leader plants the Follower when she is crossed, so she remains in split weight as he walks around her.

The Follower draws the letter “C” with her free, volcadaing leg. 

Chapter 3: Single-axis turn
The single-axis turn is a colgadaesque movement, and works in compact spaces.

When Follower is on her right foot, Leader does Pacman footwork clockwise around the Follower.

Pacman footwork is a sickle foot step with foot turned in, followed by a wing foot with foot turned out.

The Leader goes around the Follower’s back foot while the Follower pivots on her right foot.  She can be back a little. 

We were to start with very little spin.

When the Follower feels the Leader step around her, she rests her back and keeps her hips back. The weight of her hips should be back to counterweight the Leader.

We were to finish toward the line of dance, the exit being walking out (Leader steps the Follower’s outside).

Basically, our class focused on understanding/drilling how all the components work together:

Leader’s Cowboy step around into:
1.    Wrap, or
2.    Colgada into Volcada, or
3.    Volcada into Colgada / Single-Axis turn

There are many different things we can improvise in a small space, and yet still be dynamic.

For the Leader’s Cowboy step, he can vary the distance of it depending on what he wants to lead:
·         Volcada: Step farther away
·         Colgada: Step close
·         Parada: Step neither too close nor too far away.
·         Wrap: Step close

In the Colgada step, the Leader hugs a bit more in the embrace.  The Follower’s body is to create a counterweight with her back and hips going out.   Her back is really resting against his right arm.

Maestros class concluded with a review and demo to Rodriguez’s Isabelita.

Notes courtesy of Anne at 

Colgadas (Advanced)

Song: Riverside by Agnes Obel
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 23, 2015, Ardingly College, England

Because this was an advanced class, Maestros would not go over technique in detail because it was assumed we know them already.

Get into open promenade, to side colgada, into a wrap (counterweight). Be mindful of where you are in the line of dance, and be sure to finish in the line of dance going the correct direction.

To lead the Colgada, from the Promenade, the Leader’s steps right foot forward inside next to the Follower’s right foot as they are in Promenade, so that she gets on her right foot weight leg as the Leader sends her out in colgada.  She does a side colgada to the right in the direction of her hips, and her left foot steps over across her right foot.  As a consequence of the Leader counterweighting her, he can lead her back in to do a left leg wrap of the Leader’s right leg as he brings her back in.

The Line of Power is the direction of where the Follower’s hips are supposed to go.

The Leader puts his weight into his right leg as he sends the Follower out in the line of power, to bring the Follower back to the midline to get her leg to wrap.  Note that while the Follower does her leg wrap, she is still on her axis and her standing supporting weight is strong.

Leader does Captain Morgan stance at the time of the wrap.

The Follower’s leg is always active, using muscles to shape the ganchoing/wrapping leg.

Follower’s chest is up and she should not fall forward.

This first wrap we did was linear.  And we drilled this for a while, and then made it a bit harder by doing it on the opposite side.  In our drilling, we were to contain the movement and be in the Line of Dance while we drilled.

Notes on Height Change:
The Follower should not change the height when she goes out in colgada.  She should not go down, as it can either be a mistake that throws the Leader off balance, or a very advanced concept beyond the scope of this class.

Follower’s right foot standing knee is soft, but she just goes out, not sitting on her right hip or breaking at the waist when her hip goes out.  It’s her whole body.

Next, we tried this on the other side (Leader’s left foot to Follower’s left foot, and Follower’s left hip goes out in colgada, and she steps over/wraps with her right leg).

Next, we tried doing double wrap whereby the Follower wraps twice or even three times.  The Leader leads this by leading small shifts of weight, pulses in his upper body.

For our next exercise, we were to pause in the stability of the colgada, and pause in the wrap.  We were to see if the Follower is really on her axis at the time of the wrap.

Next, we explored the idea of the Follower’s rap being linear or circular and to play with the dynamics. 

In the circular wrap, the Leader has more rotation in his chest at the time of the wrap, and he sets up the circular wrap by stepping behind the Follower’s right foot (versus Linear where he is stepping inside next to the Follower’s foot).  He steps around the Follower by first doing a quick left foot collection, and then stepping behind the Follower with his right foot).  As with our previous colgada + linear wrap combination, the Leader counterweights the Follower’s colgada so he can lead a wrap afterwards.

For the Follower, she can “show him her back pocket” during her wrap. 

We also tried this on the hard side, with the Follower doing a rock step, to trap the Follower’s left foot to get her right leg to wrap around the Leader’s right leg as they face each other.

Chapter 3: Follower’s back step-over colgada. 
Leader needs to lead a wrap from it by stepping around the Follower’s colgada and her hips are out. The Follower’s leg is looking for the Leader’s.  The Follower’s right foot back cross step of the clockwise molinete/hiro/turn is where the Leader meets her with his forward left foot.  The Follower is not falling at the time of the wrap.  She is on axis.

Maestros concluded with a quiz and demo to Agnes Obel’s Riverside.

Notes courtesy of Anne at 

Vals Phrasing (Beyond Intermediate)

Song: Sonar y Nada Mas by Alfredo de Angelis
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
May 23, 2015, Ardingly College, England

Warm-ups separately and with partner.

Follower can remove heels if she wishes.

Try to see where our feet are hip-width apart.

Play with the weight, going from one foot to the other. Hands on hipbones.  Put all the weight on your left foot, aligning with the hip bone and shoulders, then right hip aligning with the hip bone and shoulders, then back to center. 

Roll forward with the flection in your ankles, and then back.  Shake your knees so they aren’t locked.

Roll Forward
Roll Back
Don’t thrust your pelvis.

Raise your arms up, and reach up as if pretending to climb a rope.  Feel the stretch along the side of your body and feel your shoulder blades reaching, and as you reach up, push down with your leg.  So reach with right arm, push floor with right foot/leg, reach with left arm, push with left foot, and then do the opposites, reach with right arm, push with left foot and reach with left arm and push with right foot.

Release arms in a circle, and release hands as if flicking water off of them to loosen up.

4 corners of the foot (2 in front at the ball not metatarsal and 2 at the back).   
Imagine that the 4 corners are suction cups, pushing down to pull up.  As one foot is supporting, with the other foot do a circle.  So circle with right foot as you stand on the left, and circle with the left foot as you stand on the right.  Really engage the standing leg with the activated 4 corners of your foot for stability and range of motion in your free leg. 

On the right, activate your right leg as you push down, reaching forward with your left foot to initiate the circle. 

Active your standing leg to make the perfect step.

The Follower’s goal in this class is to make the perfect back step.

Our first exercise in partnership is for the Leader to do a sneak attack weight change.

We begin in open embrace. The Leader shifts weight, settles Follower on one side or another. Leader makes sneak attack weight change so they both step at the same time, same foot.
Leader left foot forward, Follower left foot back
Leader right foot forward, Follower right foot back

The Follower does not do an ocho because the Leader just comes straight forward and does not rotate his upper body, so she just walks straight back. 

The Leader does snake walk forward and leads the Follower to do a straight walk back.

We practiced this to Vals music, stepping on the strong beat.

The Leader does sneak attack by changing the weight of the Follower and then slightly lifting, not letting the Follower’s weight settle, and then doing his own weight change.  Leader steps inside of Follower’s foot.

The sneak attack is difficult because we are doing it right off the bat, immediately going into it.

Someone asked about the physics of height differences.   For the embrace, it is like a football field, and each dancer remains in his/her own half of the football field.  The Leader should hold Follower’s right hand in his left whereby her hand is somewhere between her shoulder and her eye.

Leader’s Snake Walk Secrets
(1)    Leader has to pee. So his legs are coming across each other, so his legs can snake across her’s without taking too much room.  Leader activates the magnets in his lower thighs.
(2)    Leader’s big toe touches/caresses the floor the whole time.
(3)    The Leader does a little ocho, he can pivot a little to help him get by through the Follower.

Follower’s Secrets:
(1)    First challenge is to maintain the distance from the Leader as they started with. 
a.       Don’t take too big of a step, otherwise she will be too far away. 
b.      She should not take too small of a step otherwise she will prevent the Leader from doing his Snake walk.
                                                               i.      How does the Follower make the perfect size step? By reading the intention of the Leader.

Next, we practiced these concepts during 2 songs:
Follower makes perfect step
Leader does snake walk

The Leader’s steps should not open too much, otherwise he will be too far away.
The Follower needs to really arrive on the 4 corners of her foot and engage with the floor.  The Follower squeezes her inner thighs and collects in between creating a little turnout in her feet, and then she takes her back step.

Next, we did the exercise: Crossing behind to walk forward.
Caress the floor at crossing.
Keep chest up
Arms are as if holding a giant bowl with fish sleeping in it.

Next, we did the same exercise, only crossing forward to walk behind.

This is a very important exercise and will completely change your dancing.  It should be done 5 minutes a day and you will see a huge difference in your dancing.

Next, we practiced the Vals Rhythm: Boom Chick Chick.

First, we would do this solo walking forward in the line of dance, just stepping on the boom beat, which is usually decided by the bass. 

Next solo exercise, we would walk backward in the line of dance, just stepping on the boom beat.

Next, we added the syncopation, or stepping on one of the weaker beats, in this case the first chick beat of Boom Chick Chick.

Here, the Leader steps forward on the Boom beat with one foot, and on the first Chick beat he does a back cross forward step tuck against that first forward stepping foot.  

We practiced this solo, with everyone walking forward.

Then we practiced this solo, with everyone walking back.

Then we brought it into partnership:
Leader does Boom Chick steps with back cross tuck alternating with regular Boom step to get into and out of the snake walk while Follower just steps on the Boom during the whole time.  The Follower needs to keep the connection consistent with same pressure against the Leader the whole time.

The problem we encountered was that the Leader doesn’t feel confident to step Forward after his hook behind as he feels he will step on the Follower’s foot.  The solution to this was to do the hook behind, walk forward exercise more.  The Follower needs to be solid with the music.  The Leader pushes off strong with his left foot to step forward with his right foot, and pushes off strong with his right foot to step forward with his left foot.

Next, we added the Leader’s small side step on the second Chick of the Boom Chick Chick rhythm.  So now the Leader is stepping on all three beats:
Boom – Forward step
Chick – Back cross tuck behind
Chick – Small open side step

He would also add the snake walk, getting into and out of it.

We first practiced this altogether solo walking forward with a step on each of the Boom Chick Chick.  Here, we could do a “dirty cross” – one that is more open.  The side step after that is a small step.

We practiced this in partnership, but with no music as the Follower was to give the Leader the timing, going slowly enough so the Leader has time to do his steps, stepping on all 3 of the Boom Chick Chick.

The Follower keeps her legs together when they pass, and she should keep her feet on the floor.

In giving the Leader the timing, she says the “Boom Chick Chick” out loud so the Leader hears the timing. She should not go too fast, but slow enough so that the Leader has time to do all his steps.  In going slower, the Leader has time to understand and control his body, muscles and energy. He can be clean with his footwork by having control of his body.  This applies to Followers as well. 

Maestros concluded with a demo to Alfredo de Angeles’s Sonar Y Nada Mas.

Notes courtesy of Anne at