Intermediates Tango workshop: notes

Data and Time: Sunday 21st November 2010, 2pm - 6pm

Section 1: Free Leg Technique and embrace variations

Free leg technique

After warming up, we spent some time working on leading free leg movements.

Followers did some "leg-swinging" exercises, getting used to feeling your legs swing, in as "free" a matter as possible. We then got the leaders to start to try to influence this "swing" - feeling the way the follower's legs moved, and trying to enhance / damp down this movement.

The idea of this exercise is:

  • To get the followers used to free leg movements,
  • To get the leaders used to being able to effectively lead and change these movements.

We then partnered-up, and worked on "linear boleo" movements - otherwise known as "emergency stops" - when walking around.

This movement is designed to get the leaders used to interrupting a movement, and to get the followers used to having free leg movements.

Key points

  • Leaders: get the timing of the halt right. You need to lead the follower to start to take a step back, and give her enough time to start to move her leg, before you apply the "emergency stop".
  • Followers: let your free leg be free in its movement. Don't tense up if the leader stops you.

Finally, we adjusted this, applying a pivot, then an "emergency stop".

Section 2: Whips and wraps

Whips (boleos)

Using the free leg movement and "emergency stop" steps we worked on in the beginner class, we then extended a particular movement using that technique - a boleo, followed by a leg wrap.

  1. Leader sidestep left, change weight, pivot follower anti-clockwise, then start to lead a back ocho step
  2. Follower starts to take that step, leader then interrupts the step with an "emergency stop"; follower's leg sweeps back.
  3. Follower completes the movement, then collects as normal.

This movement can be done on the back step of any ocho - we demonstrated on it on the leader's right side also.

Here's an example video of this type of movement:

(See the Boleo description for more example videos)

Wraps (enganches)

Secondly, we demonstrated and practiced a leg wrap motion, starting from both a boleo base, and also from a forward ocho base.

From a boleo base:

  1. Lead the boleo as described above, then, when bringing the lady back around, place your outside (right) foot alongside the lady's right foot.
  2. Simply pivot the lady around clockwise - her left leg should swing around and wrap around your right leg.
  3. You can reverse the motion to unwrap her - if your right leg is bent, straighten it to provide extra momentum.

From a forward ocho base, it's a very similar movement - simply block her right foot, then pivot her around as before.

Key points

  • Followers, keep your leg relaxed as it swings around. Wait for the movement to be led.

Close Embrace review

The close embrace is like an airport hug where you are meeting someone special after a long break.

Key points

  • Close is close - yes, it's intimate, but if you don't press against your partner, it doesn't work.
  • If you do it right, close embrace makes leading and following easier, because you have more contact - at least for the steps covered so far.
  • Don't force (pull) your partner into a close embrace - he/she may not be happy with that. Invite it, don't force it.
  • Always keep in contact with your partner
  • Don't lean back - if you do, your partner will feel off-balance as they'll have to lean forwards too much.

Close Embrace Variation 1: hold changes:

We worked on lifting the arms up, which provides a higher "contact point" for the couples, and we looked at the advantages and disadvantages of this higher hold.

Close Embrace Variation 2: Apilado style

We looked at adopting a "shared-axis" style of embrace:

Sometimes called "Milonguero-style", this style has a slightly leaning posture, to create a merged axis while allowing a little bit of distance between the couple's feet. The embrace is also typically closed with the woman's right shoulder as close to her partner's left shoulder as her left shoulder is to his right, and the woman's left arm is often draped behind the man's neck.

More information

Section 3: Introducing Vals

Or, "The Waltz-y One" :)

The Tango Vals is danced to Waltz music 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, time.

Typically, you step on the "1" beat (to keep it simple) - so 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, and so on.. (Musically, this is probably closer to Viennese Waltz than traditional Waltz; it's not particularly slow in tempo.)

We played a number of Vals tracks, and we worked on listening to the beat, and dancing in time with the music.

Key points

  • Dance on the "one" beat by default
  • Keep it simple, relaxed and flowing
  • Don't try too many figures (such as the ones covered in the previous section!) as these don't often fit with the "feel" of Vals dancing

For more information

Section 4: Introducing Milonga

"Milonga" is the name of a specific dance style, with many similarities to Tango.

(Confusingly, "milonga" is also the name for a social dance evening. So you can dance Milonga at a milonga - or you can dance Tango at a milonga :) )

Typically, one in every 6 "tandas" (groups of dances) is a Milonga. So up to a 1/6th of the dances in a milonga evening will be non-Tango.

Milonga music is typically far faster than tango music, and is characterised by a "habanera" rhythm - "da-dum, bom, bum". The feeling of Milonga is more "fun" than tango, typically.

The good news is, it's fairly easy to get started with - step on every beat, take small steps, keep it simple, and you'll be OK. The bad news is, it's typically a much faster rhythm, so you'll need to move quickly and lead / follow correctly, all the time; there are no real chances to pause in milonga.

We played a couple of milonga tracks, and danced to each of those, and we then worked on a couple of simple steps.

Step: side-and-change. This is a simple sidestep, followed by a weight change. The key point it to keep the steps small - tiny, in fact. An extension to this is to do the same with forward steps: step forward, weight change, and repeat. This can also be done with a forward step-and-change.

Key points:

  • Take small steps
  • Keep it very very simple
  • Step on the beat

For more information

Musicality for Ceroc-ers Four: Milonga