Learning Nuevo: Sacadas

1st March 2010

The preamble

So, this year (2010), I've made a resolution to start "Learning Nuevo".

Whilst I'm fully-aware that the term "Nuevo" is both inaccurate and misleading, I'm going to use it anyway.

(I'll define "Nuevo" as being "That style of Tango dancing which is constructed around pivot-based steps". So I'll be learning sacadas, boleos, ganchos, volcadas and other movements with strange Spanish names.)

Caveat - I'm not a total beginner

Don't get me wrong - I've learnt these steps before, and I even use them at the moment, in social dancing, to a degree.

However, I don't feel I'm... "comfortable", I guess... with them. They're not integral to my dance style, I have to work at them. At best, I'm at the boundaries of "conscious competence" in a few of these movements. But I want to achieve a level of "unconscious competence" in many of them.

My feeling is that, now I've spent a year or so working on getting OK at a very small range of steps in close embrace, I can now expand my repertoire a little, but retaining any gains in technique I've made.

We shall see...

Caveat again - This is not a class

Effectively, this is simply a collection of my own notes and thoughts. If it's useful to you - great. But it's not an attempt to explain, describe or teach any of these steps.

So, to start, I've been working on the first step of a sequence that I encountered with Richard Manuel a few weeks - a man back sacada.

Some conclusions:

For Leaders

  • Fluid embrace: you'll need to adjust the embrace as you pivot; otherwise the follower will pivot too early. Typically as back sacadas are done to the "close" side of the embrace, this means ensuring the follower doesn't have a death grip on your arm, and that you can "close in" as required.
  • Practice pivotting: men are of course rubbish at this, but it's just something to practice. If you can't pivot well, you're likely to be lifting your foot and possibly stepping on your partner's foot. This will not endear you to her.
  • Sacada before she pivots: if your follower starts rotating as soon as you start pivotting, you'll never be able to sacada her; she'll have moved out of the way by the time your leg arrives. So you'll need to ensure that your leg arrives before she moves. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Double-time pivot: for a smooth natural motion, you'll need to pivot at double-time, so to ensure your leg arrives at the right place. This is the best way, but most difficult.
    2. Hold follower in place: hold your follower in the same position whilst you pivot, then sacada her and allow her to move. This is the easiest way - and it's the way you see most often-done in London - but it's not so smooth.
  • Don't look at her feet: Most guys look down at the woman's feet to see where to sacada which royally messes up posture and makes the whole thing much harder. Provided you've led her to step forwards, the space for your foot is always going to be directly under her head - sothere's no need to look down.
  • Practice in socks: It's probably courteous to do this, until you're sure about the step, to avoid horrible step-on-feet situations....

For followers

My advice for followers will necessarily be more generic and based on observation rather than experience, but here's some thoughts:

  • Don't look at the leader's legs: I think this applies as a general rule to many (all?) nuevo movements, but I think one key difference between a successful move and a failure is whether the follower follows the chest or the legs. If the follower gets distracted by the leader's legs, she's likely to follow the legs. Which is Bad. So don't look at the legs.
  • Wait until the chest moves: A similar point - or the same point, another way - is that followers should only follow the movements the leader's chest (well, "centre", but "chest" is close enough usually). So don't react to any other movement the leader makes.
  • Don't "ronde" the leg: There's a good technique for "resisting" a sacada - not moving your leg away as soon as it's touched, but forcing the leader to actually displace the leg. This "resistance" causes a delay, resultsing in a nice line and a dramatic motion. Of course, you're not really resisting the move - you're simply not moving your free leg; the leader is doing that for you.

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