Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Pivot or No Pivot Back Ocho

Song: Cara Sucia by Carlos DiSarli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
The Beat, Berkeley, CA
September 3, 2018

Theme for the Month: Opposites Attract
Topic for the Evening: Pivot versus No-Pivot Back Ocho

In our class, we were to do no pivot back ocho to pivoted ocho to extreme, with test in between to transition.

Warm Up #1: Hook behind and try to walk forward.
Secret: Lift heel by bending the knee, which creates space for our hooks to go deeper. 
Make feet so that they make a letter A or arrowhead
Hold arms out as if holding a giant fishbowl.
Thighs should be in "I have to pee" tightness (or holding a quarter).
Big toe stays on the floor.
Be compact and tight.
Do not pivot, just hook your foot one behind the other.

Warm-Up Exercise 2: Full open back ocho.
In partnership in fingertip embrace, a little offset to each other
Both dancers do ochos.
First is a no-pivot step
Then a giant pivot
to finish the step
back cross step
swivel/pivot while collecting the step

In this warm-up exercise we were to do regular ochos (hence the pivot).
Outside leg reaches back cross
we transfer the weight
then pivot
We were to do it together, enjoying the moment of the spiral together at the same time.
We were to have "ice" in the steps, but "fire" in the hips.

No-Pivot Ocho Review
back cross step behind without pivoting
in stepping back, cross over the line by opening the hip
Keep big toe on the ground.
Hold quarter at top of pelvis in "I have to pee" 

In regular ochos, the Leader's spine pivots to lead the Follower to pivot in her ochos.
In no-pivot ochos, the Leader's spine stays square with no rotation.  Leader keeps spine still and quiet, controlling his oblique muscles to prevent any contrabody motion.

In sugarbowl embrace, be really subtle in your leading and following as we drilled the no pivot, walking back ocho.
Leader begins with a sneak attack weight change on his left, then left again rollerblading.  
He does not rotate his spine at all.
Follower collects quickly but reaches slowly.

We drilled, with Leader alternating between both pivoted ochos and no-pivot ochos.

Leader should be crystal clear with what he does with his body in leading a pivoted or no-pivot ocho.

Leader turns his spine earlier than you would think for pivoted ochos, so Follower can prepare to do an ocho.

Leader leads the hook behind from the no pivot ocho on the open side of the embrace (the easy side).
Follower does cross behind and then hook; there is no pivot in this action.  

Leader steps with his left foot, and then his right foot stops midweight.  Leader changes the embrace by adding extra compression.

Be clear and timing is key.

Leader: when rollerblading, do not put all your weight on your right foot, otherwise Follower will do more of an open cross rather than a tight cross
(Cross variations can be tight, deep, or shallow, but in our class we want them to be tight.)
Leaders: Try to contain the weight inside.

Many leaders commented that it's hard to feel where the weight is when the Follower is in the cross.
To help, Follower should really settle: do not be too "up" or "light"

Putting it all together...
No pivot ocho
hook behind (this is the transition)
Big pivoted ocho (could be Follower's left foot back sacada of Leader's left foot on the open side of the embrace).
In going from the no-pivot ocho to a big pivoted ocho, the embrace opens up in transition, so that the Leader invites / provides room for the Follower to do a big back step (Follower's left foot back sacada).
Focusing on the transition/opening up of the embrace:
Leader's right arm opens up after the Follower settles on her right foot.
Follower's left hand opens up in her embrace in response to Leader opening up. 
Follower needs to be fully vertical and not tiled when she pivots in her big back ocho.
Leader goes into Captain Morgan stance a little to create space for the Follower's left foot back sacada, which also gives him more rotational ability.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and with Homer demo'ing with two students to Carlos Di Sarli's Cara Sucia.
Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rhythmic Milonga Traspie

Song: Cacareando by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
The Beat, Berkeley, CA
July 16, 2018

Theme for the Month: Rhythm and Musicality
Today's Subject: Rhythmic Milonga Traspie

Our class focus is doing the Traspie on the "2"

We began with an individual exercise, walking forward to the strong beat of a very slow milonga, listening for the accompaniment that sounds like  "San Fran Cis Co" rhythm.  Our song was Canaro's Milonga Sentimental.

Then we walked backward to the same song, again on the strong beat.

There are four accents in "San Fran Cis Co".  We were to walk on the two strong syllables: "San" and "Cis".  "San" is on the 1 and "Cis" is on the 2

We could walk, change weight, do a side step, or do grapevines, but we were only to step on the 1 "San" and 2 "Cis".

We did this to a different slower version of Milonga Sentimental, by Adolfo Carabelli.

Next, we explored how to switch from Left Foot to Right Foot when stepping on the "San" or "Cis".  There are two ways: (1) we can pause, or (2) we can take an extra step (doing it in double time, QQS).  If doing the double time, it should be done around the 2, "Cis".

We tried to change the "San" from one foot to the other by doing double time or by pausing.  We tried this to 1 minute of Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental and then 1 minute of Canaro's Milonga Criolla.

For the rhythmic double time, Fran Cis Co San, are the walking beats.  In partnership, we were to walk, stepping on "San" and "Cis" and switching from open side to close side.  1-2 and 1.

Partners need to know when they are stepping on the "1" or the "2".  1 is "San" and 2 is "Cis".

Leader has to communicate the weight change.  We drilled this to Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental, and then Canaro's version.

We were to think about the two walking beats, 1 or 2, "San" or "Cis".   To change where the 1 is, we have to do a double time on the 2, so "2 and 1". 

1 and 2 have different values.  1 is more down and grounded with more density. 2 is lighter and just swims through.  Use that knowledge to change the quality of movement to enhance the communication.  Both dancers need to appreciate the different values of 1 and 2.

Milonga has an earthy quality.

Next, we drilled to a small micro pattern.

Side step
2 and 1, repeating it, whereby for the first 2 and 1, there is a sensation of going down, and then the next 2 and 1 goes back up.  So we change from going down to going up in just the side steps.  We drilled this to the faster song, Canaro's Milonga Sentimental.

Next, we drilled to a more complicated pattern to Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental

Open side of the embrace is on 2
1                      Leader left foot forward;Follower right foot back.
2 and               Leader right foot forward; Follower left foot back
1                      Leader left foot forward cross hook (Leader makes a "J" shape with his foot tracing the floor); Follower right foot back cross hook behind left foot.
2 and               Leader right foot straight back step, taking Follower with him; Follower left foot forward step
1                      Leader Left foot forward cross hook; Follower right foot back cross hook behind left foot
WALK             Leader Right foot forward, step; Follower left foot back step
TO                   Leader Left foot forward step; Follower right foot forward step
THE CROSS   Leader Right foot collect; Follower left foot front cross tuck against her right foot

Leader's chest starts square to the Follower, and then when he takes his first step, his chest gets angled to the partner as Leader does the "J" with his hooking forward foot. He should keep this angle and contain it.

Follower should always try to be in front of the Leader and mirror whatever alignment his spine and hips are doing, this makes it easier when the Leader levels out his shoulders to really understand that they are trying to create a cross.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor's Cacareando.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vals Phrasing and Rhythm

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas

The Beat, Berkeley, CA
July 12, 2018

The topic for the month is rhythm and musicality, and today the focus was Vals.

We began with exercises to get ready to dance.

Roll our necks in one direction one way for a few turns.
Roll our necks in the other direction for a few turns.

Turn head to the left. Hold for a second or two.
Turn head to the right. Hold for a second or two.
Take our head and pull it to one side with one hand, raising your opposite arm.
Take our head and pull it to the opposite side with the opposite hand, raising our arm.

Roll shoulders back.
Roll elbows back.
Roll whole arms back.

Roll shoulders forward.
Roll elbows forward
Roll whole arms forward.

Hold giant fishbowl. Turn to one side.  Then turn to the other side.

Rotate hips.
Change direction.

Put heels together.
Circle knees.
Change direction.

Keep sternum and belly button together.
Stir the pot.
Take hips with you.
It's a small movement.

Rotate both wrists and one ankle.
Change direction.
Lift the knee high, with thigh parallel to floor, stir the pot with it.
Change direction.

Do the other leg, with both wrists and one ankle first
Knee up, thigh is parallel to floor.
Squeeze the inner thighs together for stability.
Stir the pot with the knee up.
Change direction

We began our class with the phrasing exercise, Vals Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of two lines of dancers facing each other 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 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).

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

In Vals, usually the first minute is instrumental with no lyrics.  Then the vocals come in and tie into the melody.  The first minute of a vals will explain a lot about the intention of the song.

In partnership, we were to walk, pausing in the middle of the phrase, hitting the end of the phrase and getting ready for the next phrase.  We were to embellish at the end of the phrase and be ready to start at the beginning of the next phrase.

There are fills and transitions at the end of each phrase.

Followers: to help identify the middle of the phrase, use your breath to help indicate the phrase.

We changed roles, walking to a well behaved vals that has vocals.

We changed roles again, dancing to an alt song to look at the rhythms.

Vals rhythm is 1-2-3, 1-2-3 (boom chick boom or boom, chick boom -- 1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

In partnership with one person leading and the other person following, we were to just change weight and not step, trying to train our ears and lead to either the 1-3-1 or 1-2-1 for this particular alt song.

We then did  a solo walking exercise to Rupa and the April Fishes' Wishful Thinking, going forward and then backwards on the boom only first, and then the boom chick boom.

Then we tried in partnership to walking on boom only or boom chick boom (1-2-1).  For the more advanced dancers, they could try leading the boom, chick boom (1-3-1), doing a weight change or rock step to convey the rhythm.

The alt songs we drilled to generally had well behaved sentence structures, though some sentences had an extra fill or beat to them. This regular form remains very common and still being used. (1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

The way the Leader tries to project acceleration is to stay very horizontal, and be almost aggressive in the acceleration, but have control in the stop.

Try not to change height when doing the syncopation.

The faster the vals is, the more we dance on just the boom, and we may syncopate just 3 or so times during the entire song.

Other songs we drilled to and that were played in the beginning of the practica so that we could work on what we learned in class:

Hijo de la Luna by Montserrat Caballe
La Valse de Amalie
Welcome to My Planet by Lori B on the Hurricane Child Album
Mademoiselle Noir
Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny of...) by Devotchka

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Tango Music Concepts

Instructor: Homer Ladas
Athletic Playground, Emeryville, CA
July 7, 2018

I arrived to class late, as I was a first-time student at Athletic Playground, so had to spend a few minutes filling out their registration form and paying my fee.

Class began in barefeet with socks, shifting on the beat, walking back and forth, or to the side on the beat.

In an individual exercise, we were to only step on the beat, and not pause.  We could do grapevine feet, though we were to avoid crashing into people.

Next, we played a game, "D'Arienzo Surprise". To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in any/all directions, always stepping on the strong beat to accent it in our walk, with energy going into the floor. Every once in a while, we were to surprise someone by touching them appropriately with both our hands at two points on their body (arms, shoulders, hips), always staying on the strong beat.

The purpose of this game was to get us used to the element of surprise as a musical tool, coordinating our dancing with the music. Every strong beat is a potential surprise. The Follower needs to feel safe and comfortable before she is surprised.

Next, we played a game of "tag" where one person is "It" and they would sneak up on someone and give them a shock by touching them with both hands at their shoulders.  We began with two people "It".  The goal was not to be the person who was "it" at the end, though it was OK to be tagged "it" duiring the song.  We were to do this all the while stepping on the strong beat, locking onto the walking beat.

For our next exercise, in partnership in open embrace, we were to step on the strong beat only, walking mostly, but we could do other steps suck as simple side steps and collecting (weight changes).  To convey the rhythmic intensity, you don't need to change the speed, you can change direction to convey it.  Step together, weight change, then step in opposite direction.  Forward/Backward, Side (weight change in between).   We drilled this to No Mientas, stepping on the strong beat.

We added touch steps, where we reach our leg, pull back, transfer almost no weight, but have pressure on the foot.  Reach back, stop on ball of foot, reaching to the side with the big toe on inside of the foot.
On the forward step, our foot can land flat or we can land on the ball of our foot.

We should have good reach in our back step.  Put pressure, then pull back to fake out your partner to create some interesting moves.  Keep your heels together.  The Leader tilts at his ankles to initiate the step.

Our next drill/exercise was in hand-to-hand hold, we were to feel each others' weight change and lead the touch step.

Our next drill/exercise was in open embrace, where Follower could have closed eyes to increase sensitivity.  We were to change direction/fake them out. 

Mastering weight changes.

To put this all in the picture, we drilled to Mil Pasos, doing walking, full weight changes, and touch steps.

DO NOT EVER BLAME YOUR PARTNER. It's your job to work with it and figure out a solution if things aren't going as you lead them.

Final concept is the idea of contrast.

Tango songs usually follow the structure of:
1 minute instrumental
1 minute instrumental

When the singer comes on, we go in slow motion.  During the instrumental part, we can go back to dancing rhythmically to add more dimension to the dance.

In Mil Pasos, during the jazz saxophone is when you can go slow.

Class concluded with some delicious home-made vegan popsicles made by the lovely Ms. Kyra.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dancing to Astor Piazzolla

Songs: Oblivion, Milonga Tres, and Libertango by Astor Piazzolla
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
SOMArts, San Francisco
July 11, 2018

In our class, we would explore playing with really slow or really fast movement, creating contrast by using deceleration and acceleration in the context of dancing to Astor Piazzolla.

Astor Piazzolla had a love/hate relationship with tango dancers.  Piazzolla took the emotion / sentiment of tango and made it his own.

He started out in Anibal Troilo's orchestra (whose birthday is today), and who did the song Nueve De Julio (9th of July), which in 2003 was the first Cellspace (and today is the 15th year anniversary of the event).

In our class, we would interpret the music of Piazzolla in three ways.

(1) Slow
Dance very slowly, drilling using simple movements such as walking, side steps and ochos.  No sacadas or boleos.  

We were to focus on how to control things in our body to affect the movement.  What does it mean for us to dance slow?

We tried dancing slow to Oblivion, which is likely the most played Piazzolla song for tango dancers.

How did it feel dancing slow?  It was challenging.

Next, we focused on stretching the steps and doing ochos. 

What does it mean to stretch? Not just our legs and how we create a slow extension and collection.  It's how we use our whole body to create a more taffy-like embrace.  The embrace should be a little softer, more relaxed, but still connected with our partner.  Breathe into the floor.

To experience the feeling of caramel, we were to stand with our feet apart, and then shift weight slowly from one side to the other.  This is the caramel.  It is a wavy, slow, lateral movement. 

We did the same exercise with our feet forward and back to get the same quality, and also tried with the other side, opposite feet forward and back.

Next, we tried swiveling on both feet.

Then we did this in partnership where the Leader stops the Follower midstep, Follower pivots while she is on both feet, one side to the other.  The Follower's upper body goes first, then her hips follow, to do an ocho.  Leader walks around Follower's center where her spine is (between her two feet).  We were to try to be slow, articulating the space between the feet. 

We were to explore/think about what is involved in the gradual transfer of weight; how to make the collection very deliberate and with intention; create details to stretch the movement.  When to slow or stretch the movement.

In the context of the Ocho, we usually drill ochos using the sugarbowl embrace. However, for this exercise, we were to be in regular embrace and do a very exaggerated spinal rotation and active arms in the Leader to lead the Follower to do a big, slow ocho.  The Leader can do an extra step around the Follower to get a little extra pivot in the Follower during her ocho.  Leader and Follower turn their bodies, stretching their backs to rotate more.

(2) Milonga Rhythm
The song for the 2nd way we would dance to Piazzolla was Milonga Del Angel, which is likely the second most popular Piazzolla song in tango.

Milonga rhythm as a musical concept is super effective.  Most of the really slow Piazzola songs have milonga rhythm, as do all of the Piazzola songs with "Milonga" in their titles.

We raised the bass of the 2 tango songs: Oblivion and Milonga Del Angel, so that we could train our ears to hear the milonga rhythm (which was rather faint, but clearly present in both songs).
The idea of our drills is to either
(1) Dance really slowly, stretching the movements using simple steps, or
(2) Dance to the milonga rhythm (also using simple steps).

We were to have control in our musical expression, and be very clear.

The song we drilled to was Milonga Tres.

You can hear all these songs on YouTube.

(3) Dancing Faster (3-3-2 Rhythm)
Piazzolla used as a tool in his faster songs the 3-3-2 rhythm, which is very similar to the milonga rhythm, minus 1 accent.

So it is 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, where in our drill we would just step on the 1.

Libertango has this rhythm, and it was the song we drilled to.

Tango is about contrast, and in our drill, we could either dance really slow, or to the 3-3-2 rhythm.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and short demos to Oblivion for Concept 1 slow; Milonga Tres for Concept 2 milonga rhythm; and Libertango for Concept 3 3-3-2 rhythm

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Touch Steps

Song: A La Gran Muñeca by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
All-Nighter at The Beat, Pre-Milonga Lesson
June 23, 2018

The theme for June has been Ochos, but today we will deviate a little from that, connecting the dots at the end.

In Touch Steps, there are two methods for leading them.  (1) and (2), but sometimes leaders do something in between, like (1.5). In our class, we will try to be very clear and clean in our leading, doing either (1) or (2), NOT (1.5).

We began by drilling really clean side steps.

Reaching, sliding over, Leader's center does a "U".  He can also go extreme, by doing like a "U", but on its side.  Put curve in your step as you reach.

Exercise: Drill side steps, with Leader's center doing a U or a U on its left or right side.

Use the whole width of the foot, and whole length of the foot, especially when arriving, rolling toward the back, middle, and front, using all four corners of the standing foot.
Leader: be really stable.  You need the axis to power the next step.  Have maximum contact with the floor.
Follower: have compression/resistance in her embrace so she can feel the Leader's lead better.

Method 1: Go Down, Axis Remains in Place

Rule: Standing supporting leg bends and goes lower as opposite foot goes out; axis remains in place.

In Method 1, the Leader's side touch step is in the QQS rhythm, out QQS and smoothly back in, or Out QQS and In QQS. 
Drawing in at the touch step is less common, but we should try it in our drills.

Leader goes down as he goes out QQS as his standing leg bends. 
Make the first Q a bit small so you don't run out of leg. 
Have energy and attack.   Follower also attacks floor with pressure so the Leader can feel her.
Last S has a stronger stop energy.
Use the edge of your foot.
Put pressure on the floor, have a little bit of compression in the embrace as the Leader attacks floor.
Embrace creates the stop energy.

Forward and Backward Touch Steps
Using the Method 1 technique, the Leader leads the step as he steps forward and Follower steps back. 
He leads by beginning with a small tilt in his ankle joints.

We drilled the four possibilities:
(1) Leader left foot forward, Follower right foot back.
(2) Leader left foot back, Follower right foot forward
(3) Leader right foot forward, Follower left foot back
(4) Leader right foot back, Follower left foot forward

Follower should have compression/resistance in her embrace so she can feel the lead better.

Talk to each other.  Leader should feel Follower's pressure.  Follower should let Leader know if she doesn't feel the Leader's floor.

Method 1 is nice to do just touch steps forward and backward because you are not going anywhere and it is easy to recover.

Method 1 exits:
(1) return (come back to collection)
(2) Go (to new leg).

Method 2: Stay Up (Don't Go Down); Move Axis

Rule: Remain up as opposite foot goes out; axis moves.

In this method, the Leader creates extra hug, and Follower hugs back.

We were to try in different directions, and first in close embrace as it is easier, and then in open embrace.

In our partnered drill, if the Leader does the embrace in the wrong way/direction, the Follower should let him know.

Someone asked how to make it musical.  Maestros demo'd in class.  Bottom line is you should make it your own, make it personal.

Connecting Touch Steps to the Ocho via a Figure

Can we do touch steps in an ocho?

Here we drilled with two options:

(1) the Leader's right foot forward cross touch step directly into a right foot back cross touch step while Follower did a left foot back cross touch step directly into a left foot forward cross touch step.
(2) the Leader's left foot forward cross touch step directly into a left foot back cross touch step while Follower did a right foot back cross touch step directly into a right foot forward cross touch step.

We do not transfer weight.  Attack the floor with energy.
The standing, supporting foot lifts a little and pivots as the other foot goes from a forward cross touch step to back cross touch step (or back cross touch step to forward cross touch step) to change direction.

Communicating the change of direction: we were to try to make the transition clean.  Leader: use compression, Follower: give extra hug back.

Leader should not use his right hand to communicate the transition. He should use his spine, rotating it, and the standing, supporting leg pivots a little to change direction.

Exit: Leader's side step, together to go back to collect in the up position.,

Doing this from the ocho, with dancers perpendicular to each other:
Leader does side step, Follower does forward step
Leader does forward step, Follower does side step

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and demo to A La Gran Muneca by Francisco Canaro

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Volcada Odyssey: A variety of challenging, exciting and impressive off-axis figures (Advanced)

Song: Sideways by Citizen Cope
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom
May 26-28, 2018

This was an Advanced class, so no partner rotation and we got right into it.

Regular Volcada with Windshield Wiper

We began with doing a standard forward volcada, doing one and then multiples with windshield wiper footwork for the leader. In beginning the Volcada, Leader steps diagonally back with his left foot and his right foot is the windshield wiper foot, going into a U shape, forward and back, to lead Follower’s volcada leg to go back and forward.

For the technique, there is an embrace before, during and after. The Leader puts the Follower on one axis, gives her a little bit of a hug (compression), and then suspends her.  The Follower gives the Leader an extra hug, pushes down from the shoulder blade so she gets lifted up.  The pushing down comes from the standing leg.  Try to make yourself tall. This is the sensation similar to getting out of a swimming pool at the edge (without using the stairs ;o) ).  Try to create a strong line around the core, so that the Leader can manage you better.  The Leader should place the Follower’s foot with energy so she has a definite idea where to go and does not guess where to place her foot.

Preparation is key and starts with the embrace.  Suspension + Hugging = Volcada, so be ready for it.
2 ideas: playful resolution.

How can we maintain suspension?  The Leader puts the Follower on one axis or another, walks tiny steps back, to the side, do not let Follower transfer weight. Stop and unwind.

Down energy.
Leader walks around Follower when she is on 2 feet.

There are many possibilities here on how/where to do this, so we were to explore.

The Sustained Volcada

The difference between the Standing Volcada and the Sustained Volcada.

When the volcada starts to travel, it is a sustained volcada, so the 2 standard rule of the volcada are broken.

Standard Rules of the Volcada:
(1)    Whatever angle you have, you don’t change it.  
(2)    When the Leader steps back with a tilt, he does not change his height.

In Sustained Volcadas, these two rules are broken:
(1)    Leader changes his angle to take his axis
(2)    Leader's height can go up or down.
a.      When the Leader goes down, the Follower’s legs go out;
b.     When the Leader goes up, the Follower’s legs go in.

The Leader is completely upright and vertical and very close.

The Leader’s height change is dramatic, so the Follower knows to close her legs from split. They are body to body.  Sustained Volcadas can be done with the Follower going forward, to the side, or going backwards.  It can be done in a turn/hiro/circle too.

Leader has a straight spine when he goes down. He must use his legs.  Follower will feel the change of height and should hug the Leader more.

Follower’s back right foot can turn out a little bit.

Drilling other Volcadas (Back Volcada and Funny Volcada)

Next, we did the back volcada from the back hook.

We also explored the Funny Volcada.  It is “Funny” because the dancers are perpendicular to each other.  How can we turn the Funny Volcada into a Sustained Volcada?  The Leader takes his axis and goes down and comes up.  It is “Funny” because the Follower is falling sideways.  We drilled this, with Leader taking an odd number of steps, and then making a big step around the Follower.

In the Funny Volcada, there are several Follower free leg options.  We explored how long the Follower’s leg could stay in front of her before going to the outside of the Leader. Follower will feel from the Leader, always trying to track where the Leader is. Follower collects and clears the Leader’s feet before going from in front to the outside of the Leader.

In going from Funny to Sustained Volcada, the Leader goes around in a circle, then Leader starts to go in a tangent, taking his axis, then goes down and up.  We drilled this.

In the Sustained Volcada, the first thing to do is lead Follower to cross, depending on where Leader drives his axis. So it is doing the windshield wiper, except the Leader walks backward.  Left foot goes back, right foot goes in a “U”, with weight change in between, experimenting with getting a shallow cross or wide cross.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz/summary and demo to Sideways by Citizen Cope

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Back Sacadas for Leaders and Followers in line of dance (Advanced)

Song: El Abrojo by Carlos Di Sarli Orquesta
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom
May 26-28, 2018


Leader’s Sacada.

Exercise for footwork:
Get on left foot.  Push into the floor as you reach right foot back, bring back to collection.
Do this on the right foot as well.
Keep heel on the floor as long as you can until it comes up a little. Then bring it back into collection.

Leader steps right foot forward, pivots, then steps backward with left foot. (So Leader goes in a line in one direction.)  Control the back pivot so you don’t fall back.  Squeeze your inner thighs together. 
Do it more dynamically by stepping, then snapping the heels together at the pivot, and then reaching in the back step.

The Pattern:
Begins with 4 steps for the Leader:
(1)    side step
(2)    steps on balance beam
(3)    snap heels together to pivot completely, staying on the balance beam, taking Follower across it and then stepping back with his left foot to Sacada the Follower
(4)    collecting and waiting

Follower’s footwork:
Back step (she waits)
Side step (where Leader does a sacada on his (3)

The Secrets:
Everything happens between steps 2 and 3 for the Leader (the “Two And”), -- this is where the magic happens.

The Leader’s embrace opens.  The Leader’s left arm closes and keeps the Follower from moving, maintaining presence to communicate to the Follower that she should stay, and his right arm detaches like a rocket so he is really letting go so he allows his hip to get around.  The Leader needs to dramatically communicate to lead the Follower to wait.  The Leader should get the Follower to “Two And” and then freeze (smile, this is the Kodak moment).

3.     Lead the Follower across as the Leader does his sacada.  The Follower’s left arm slides around the Leader’s back so she enables closeness as the Leader does his sacada.  In his sacada, the Leader can step diagonally back in his sacada as a “cheat to win” because the hips rotate, so this is a good thing to do for those who don’t rotate that much/well). Said another way, he is doing an obvious back cross step (not just a back open step).

The Follower’s side step should be nice, long and reaching, with a strong base leg.  The Leader leading the side step is from his left side giving pull/ turn energy. Do not push the Follower with his right hand.

Second Secret:
There is a little bit of colgada posture, so the Leader’s angle is a little tilted away to create space for him to do a sacada.

(1)    Leader’s right arm opens, left closes and stops.
(2)    Leader’s heels snap 70% of the way
(3)    Leader can pivot a little after to get around more
(4)    Leader can “cheat to win” by stepping diagonally (do back cross step instead of back open step) when he sacadas  
(5)    Leader can lean a bit away / tilt the axis

Special case:
What if we did it to the other side?
The Open side has to be dropped or you can do a judo hold around the Leader’s back.  The Leader’s close side of the embrace needs to change too, sliding down and opening up, so both dancers are now holding on hand to forearm to allow room for the movement.  The Follower receives the sacada with her feet on the floor.

“Deep Sacadas”
Follower can lift her knee up and go back down in collection. When she receives the sacada, she should do so gracefully.

If both sides of the embrace open up, the Follower may stay put (not move). So timing is important in transmitting a clear message.

Next, we did a sequential Leader Sacada directly into a Follower Sacada, drilling on the easy side and then on the hard side.  We became infinite back sacada machines.  Doing 2 in a row will generally keep you in the line of dance.  After 2, it’s a good test of your precision to try to keep everything straight in the line of dance.

The Follower’s back sacada involves a big back ocho pivot.

The Leader does a left foot back sacada and then directly leads a Follower’s back sacada as she is still on her right leg and sacadas with her left foot.

(1)    Leader creates space with the embrace so the Follower can remain on axis as she rotates.  Ochos are based on the Follower’s axis, so Leader should give her as much freedom to complete her rotation on 1 leg fully and completely.
(2)    Follower’s sacada requires more space, so Leader should step slightly away, tangent to the Follower so she can do a big pivot and make her back step easier.  Follower should snap together to pivot and get around better/cleaner.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz/summary and demo to El Abrojo by Carlos DiSarli

Notes courtesy of Anne at

Back, Front and Contra Boleos - Exciting & Elegant (Intermediate)

Song: All of Me (The Voice Performance) by Ray Boudreaux
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
England International Tango Festival
Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom
May 26-28, 2018

We began with individually practicing the three main boleo foot movements/shapes:
(1)    low and continuously on the floor
(2)    higher at our knee
(3)    higher up toward our thigh.
We first did this with front boleos.  With option (3) higher up on our thigh, the ending is with our knee up and then slowly over to the other side.  We drilled this on the left leg/foot and right/leg foot, all three shapes/movements.

Exercise: In hand to hand hold with imaginary giant fish bowl between us, both dancers did forward ochos into forward boleos.  Do not use the hands for leverage to get yourself to pivot.  Do not push down.  Keep the chest up and back. Do not look down at feet.  It’s not about how fast you pivot, but about being able to pivot fully and completely.  The standing leg should be in control at all times, with foot not rolling out to either side.  Do not sickle the foot at the point of the boleo.

Exercise: In sugar bowl embrace, the Follower should be close to the Leader.  Leader leads forward ocho and forward boleos in this embrace, doing side step and using send or stop energy. 

There are two energies needed to lead a boleo:  (1) send energy, and (2) stop energy (becoming a statue). 

If the Leader gives the Follower enough time, she might do a boleo on her own (not led by him) as an embellishment.  (The Follower “takes” the boleo.)

The Leader needs to send the Follower’s hips into the boleo first, before giving stop energy. 

The magic point in the boleo and the “Point of No Return” is at the point where the Follower’s hips face the Leader’s hips.  Here is where/when the Leader needs to turn the Follower’s hips past to get a boleo.

The Follower knows the Leader has stopped because she feels it as she holds onto the Leader, so she is present. Do not be too light or floaty, and conversely, do not push down on the Leader with your embrace.

When Leader leads the ocho, the Follower needs to amplify the movement in her hips 2-3x as much, as her hips are an “Ocho Factory” – whereby they amplify the Leader’s spinal rotation and pump out beautiful big ochos on demand.  The Follower needs to power her hips through her connection with the floor.  The amplification is 2-3x, not 1x, otherwise he would never get a boleo. 

Back Boleos
Keeping our feet on the floor. There are 4 categorical shapes in doing back boleos:
(1)    keep foot on the floor
(2)    Blade of Zorro where knees are together, and leg just goes up and down in a diagonal slice of air, with front knee slightly behind the standing knee
(3)    semi-circular into drop the axe. This is the most common and is a little rounder with one knee behind the pit of the other so you can’t see the knee cap.  Boleoing leg does a semicircle and then drops down like an axe.  It is like striking a match, turning at the point where the leg drops like an axe.  The beauty of the circular boleoing leg depends on the stability of the standing leg.
(4)    in-line Boleo, which depends on how much your thigh goes backward.  The knee disappears beyond the other knee. There is lots of extension in the Follower’s hip flexors and contraction in the lower back.  This is a big movement, and could be socially unacceptable, so be mindful about where/when you do this. Only do it where conditions allow.

Back boleos are based fundamentally on the back ocho, so the Follower needs to be good/great in her back ocho technique.

Exit: collect and wait for the Leader.

The Leader is after the reflection in the Follower’s foot with what he is doing with his spine.  The litmus test of whether a boleo is good is if the Leader feels the Follower’s hips move.

The Point of No Return in back boleos.
Leader takes Follower’s hips past that point to get a boleo.  Leader needs to have clear stop energy. 

We drilled both sides, with the Follower communicating with the Leader what she needs from the Leader (more energy, etc.)

Contra Boleos
In regular boleos, the Leader employs 75% send energy and 25% stop energy. 
In contra boleos, the Leader employs 25% send energy and 75% stop energy.

Exercise: Do side steps, playing with this concept of stopping the energy to feel what it should be like.  Leader does shimmy to get the Follower’s hips going, then he steps to the side with send/stop energy, getting Follower to do a contra boleo.  The Leader’s side step is around the Follower, as his two feet need to surround the Follower’s standing, supporting leg. It is like their feet are three points in an isosceles triangle (Follower’s foot is the tip; Leader’s two feet are at the base of the triangle).

We drilled doing contra and regular boleos from the forward ocho and back ocho.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz/summary and demo to All of Me by Ray Boudreau

Notes courtesy of Anne at