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Soltadas from Back Cross: Part 1

Class Topic: Soltadas from Back Cross: Part 1
Teachers: Clint Rauscher and Shelley Brooks of Tango Evolution and Tangology101
Date: 4/9/13
Song: Pa' Bailar by Bajofondo Tango Club

Disclaimer: This is a class demo for our students to remember what we worked on. Even though we give some instruction at the beginning of the video, it is only a small fraction of what we discuss in class.

In this class we looked at Soltadas from the back cross. Soltadas are releases of the embrace. We break our embrace temporarily to perform a soltada. This does not mean that we must completely break our physical connection, although we could do that as well. One important note is that while soltadas may be very modern/nuevo, they really re-enforce our knowledge of molinete and giros. So, working with them can increase your sensitivity in your regular dance.

Tip: We encourage our students to keep a slight physical connection as we do a soltada. We discuss this at the beginning of the video, that I place her hand on my chest as I am releasing the embrace and she can trace her hand around my body to help keep us from going to far away from one another.

In order to get a successful soltada, we must be able to depend on the structure of the molinete. The molinete consists of 3 steps: back cross, side open, forward cross. Once the leader initiates the molinete he should be able to release the embrace and TRUST the follower to execute the molinete, until he re-engages the embrace. We discussed that he can re-engage the embrace on any of the 3 steps of the molinete.

We then added a barrida with a soltada from her back cross.

Variations in video:

3.13 We execute the soltada and re-engage the embrace on her forward cross and continue around her to lead her to another forward cross to exit.

3:30 - We execute the soltada and then lead a leg wrap/gancho after the final forward cross.

3:55 - We execute the soltada and I re-engage the embrace and perform a leg wrap on her side open step.

4:30 - We initiate a soltada with barrida from her back cross. In this one, we keep a connection with his left and her right hands. This also results in a pasada as she passes over my right foot.

5:10 - This is a crazy one.. here I lead the soltada but then step in front of her blocking the forward cross of her molinete. She wants to take the forward cross step but she can't because I am exactly where she needs to go. So she stops. Notice her hand on my right shoulder, so I use that compression in her right hand on my shoulder to reverse the direction and lead her back around me... basically "rewinding" the soltada.

5:40 - Another crazy one where after the final forward cross, I step behind her making thigh to thigh contact and lead a reverse gancho. Yes, there is a lead for the gancho. As with all ganchos, there is thigh to thigh contact first and then the lead which is a tiny twist.

  These also work very well in vals since they are circular in nature. Take a look at 2:05 of this video of Oscar and Ana Miguel performing a vals:

Alterations from Forward Cross

Date: 02/18/2013
Teachers: Clint and Shelley of Tango Evolution and Tangology101.com
Song: Bahia Blanca by Carlos Di Sarli

The alterations happen at :18 and :22. In the first one I am leading her forward and then she pivots 90 degress (change of front) and she steps backward (change of direction). So, in one step we change fronts and change directions, thus an alteration. In the second one, we change from her moving backwards to her moving forward in one step.

Also, at 2:42 we do a Cerpentina (or reverse sacada). We did a class on this recently, but did not make a video of that class, so we worked it in here because some students had been asking for a demo of it. It can be a dangerous step, so you really should get some instruction in it before attempting it.

Embellishments (adornos)
Of course, we work in many embellishments to our dance, but some worth noting in this demo are:

1. At the very beginning, we do little tucks before taking the first side step
2. At :34, Shelley does a castigada
3. At 1:27, I do an embellishment to her ocho cortado with a a small parada.
4. At 1:36, Shelley does another castigada and then little taps before exiting the parada.

Of course, with all of these embellishments, I am waiting and giving her the time to perform them.

Second Demo

We also did a second demo for this class which shows similar steps done to the more rhythmic "Pénsalo Bién" by Juan D'Arienzo.

We pause during D'Arienzo, but they are brief pauses, not the long stretched out pauses of Di Sarli. So, most of the embellishments are "worked in" to the pace of the music. What I mean by that is that in Di Sarli, I pause and give Shelley plenty of time to embellish, but in D'Arienzo, I do not pause as much so Shelley and I work the embellishments into the rhythm. This is more difficult and requies the embellishments to be sharp and precise. Here are some to look for:

1. At :09, Shelley does a quick tap as she pivots
2. At :13, I do a quick point and tap of my toe
3. At :15, I work in a quick tap while walking
4. At :20, Shelley works in a quick tap
5: At 1:05, we both embellish our forward crosses by tapping our feet together
6: At 1:36, Shelley does multiple taps as she pivots around
7: At 2:04, Shelley embellishes the Ocho Cortado by flexing her foot up.

Compact & Elegant Variations of the Ocho Cortado

Instructors: Clint "el gato" Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Song: "Bailemos" by Carlos di Sarli with Mario Pomar singing.

Compact Ocho Cortados (for crowded dance floors)
We started by looking at very compact variations on the ocho cortado, for small spaces. Most dancers take several preparation steps to get into the ocho cortado. We tried to trim this process as much as possible. We looked at this in parallel system (.34 of video) and in cross system (.40 of video). The most compact of all is shown at 2.27 of the video.

Elegant Ocho Cortados
Usually, ocho cortados have a built in rhythm of quick quick slow. The first concept that we explored was letting go of the quick quick slow and stretching out the time it takes to execute the ocho cortado. We still want the feet to be hitting on the beats of the music, but we can skip beats and take our time.

Stretched Ocho Cortado in 3 parts

The primary move that worked on can be seen in several places in the video but at 2.12 if can be seen the best. We start with the side step with the man's left and the woman's right. The man stays on his left and leads the woman to a back cross step, then to a side open step and then to the forward cross step (cruzada).
Tip: The man stays on his left until he leads her to the cruzada at which time he switches back to his right. He should leave his right leg behind for most of the move and lead the move in his whole body. When she takes the side step, the man should pull his right foot slightly back to make room.
Tip: The man should step a little farther than her on the first side step. Each step should have a slight feeling of rising and falling into the steps. The man should not lift her with his arms but rather his whole embrace should go up and then settle.
Tip: Also, notice how much each person pivots during this move. You can not leave your feet stuck to the floor, they must pivot.

Bonus steps:
Ocho cortado with barrida to leg wrap (2.47 of video)

Initiating Ocho Cortado from a Side Step (1.54 of video)

Ocho Cortado with Barrida to Cruzada (2.07 of video)

Milonga: The Baldosa Box with Variations

Milonga is one of the 3 basic rhythms that we dance to at tango dance parties, also referred to as milongas. Milonga is in 2/4 time and is one of the predecessors of Argentine Tango.

The Baldosa Box
A baldosa is a large tile. You are considered a great tango/milonga dancer if you can dance on a baldosa (i.e. in a small area). The baldosa box is a basic and very useful figure of tango, vals, and milonga which goes like this:

Steps Leader Follower
1 Back open step with the right Forward open step with the left
2 Side open step with the left Side open step with the right
3 Forward cross step with the right to the open side of the embrace Back cross step with the left to the open side of the embrace
4 Forward open step, back in front of the woman, with the left Back open step with the right
5 Side open step with the right Side open step with the left
6 Change weight, in place, to left / Often this step is done in double time Change weight, in place, to right
  Then repeat. Often steps 5 and 6 are double timed (quick quick). Also, sometimes I like to collect and change weight at 4 instead of stepping forward (.22 of video).

To see a clear demonstration of this step, watch .15 to .19 of the video below.

Variations

We then looked at many ways to alter the figure to add musicality. We started this class, by listening to several popular milonga and finding the 1 & 2 in the music. Milonga has two beats per measure. The 1 is usually the strongest and we encouraged the leaders to find the 1 and to step on it with their right feet. We also encouraged the women to be listening to the music (as always) and to want to step or change weight on each beat, unless the men specifically do something to prevent that.

  1. If the floor is crowded, I often change weight in place instead of taking the forward step at number 4 above (.22 of video).
  2. Turning the step - You can turn any of these steps, but I especially like to turn the side step (Step 5 above) 45 to 90 degrees and then turn back to the line of dance on the next back step or side step.
  3. Rocking the side step - I also like to create a rocking feeling with the first side step (Step 2) (.39 of video). I begin taking the side step to my left, then rock back to my right, collect my left and change weight.
  4. Hesitation steps (.11 of video) - I would also refer to these as traspie. Most people refer to traspie as meaning double timed steps, but the true meaning of traspie is "to stumble". Whatever you call it, I begin taking a small step back with my right leg and stop mid-way through my step. I put a tiny amount of weight back on my left and push off to take a slightly larger step. I want to resist rocking back and forth, so I don't go completely back to my left. It is more of a feeling of going back, slight pause and going back some more. We can use these hesitation steps on all of our steps forward, side, and back. (1.21 of video). I also like to do double hesitations on my side steps (4.01 of video).
  5. Toe Points (.53 of video) - I love this one and women really seem to love it as well. There are a few hints for this one. I step outside partner to the open side of the embrace with my right foot, making contact with my upper right thigh to the her upper right thigh. Then I pivot slightly to the left and then back to the right (repeat as many times as I like) and then step back with my right. Another secret is that I try to stay as much on my left as I can, so that my right leg is free to move side to side, BUT I can't lean my upper body backwards. I want to stay upright and straight.
  6. The walk around (1.51 of video). When I begin walking backwards, I keep turning clockwise with my right shoulder going away. I also take very small curved steps to try and create a very small circle. She is on the outside of the circle so she has to take much larger steps. I have to keep curving, until I want to exit. Once I get back to the line of dance, I straighten my body and she comes back in front of me. I usually do this when I step back with my left and then have her take a straight step back into my path with my back right.

Below you will find a video of these steps being demonstrated to two different milongas, one slower and one faster.

Nuevo Bluesy Tango Parts 1 & 2

This video demo covers two classes.

The first was on finding the middle part of each step and being able to shift her weight back and forth between her legs without resolving the step, until we are ready.

We talked about the fact that each step has 4 parts.

1. We send our free leg

2. We transfer our weight 50/50 in the middle of our step

3. We completely transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (finding our balance)

4. We collect our new free leg.

Many times we skip these moments in our steps and just jump from 1 to 4, falling into steps rather than transferring our weight all the way through a step.

In the second class, we look at forward & back sacadas for the leaders and forward sacadas for the followers. At 2.30 of the video, we also looked at getting a back sacada while staying "primarily" in a close embrace.

Video Demonstration:

 

Un Abrazo // The Embrace

Here is a wonderful video by Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes on the tango embrace.

Wonderful explanation of the tango embrace. Students of ours will recognize almost all of these explanations.. such as the idea that you don't take the embrace and then begin dancing, taking the embrace is part of the dance.

I just had someone ask me yesterday about when you take the embrace do you start with the open side or the close(d) side. First I respond to the woman. If she lifts her left arm and not her right, then I start with the close side (and vice versa). If she waits for me to initiate the embrace, then I will usually lift my left arm, so starting with the close side. Then, of course, I would expect her to lift her left arm so that we can take the embrace on the close side. Notice Sebastian do this at 6.33 of the video. BUT there are many nice ways to take the embrace at 6.22 he takes both sides of the embrace at the same time.

After a class with them in Baltimore a few years ago, I made significant changes to my embrace which have worked very well for me. The main one being not bringing my right shoulder forward in the embrace. I attempt to keep my chest very flat. Many leaders reach way around the follower with their right arm, bringing their right shoulder forward, and thus they end up leading with their right shoulder rather than with their center. As he says in the video, I bring my right hand around her and try to position my right hand in front of my spine. If we are leading from the center instead of from one side or the other then the lead will be very clear.

Paradas and Barridas in Close Embrace

This was our second week of looking at split weight moments. Most all split weight moments involve a parada since we are at least temporarily pausing at the moment in the exact middle of our step. At that moment we can shift weight to a new leg or back to the leg we just left.

Circular Cruzada from Split Weight (0.26 of Video)

In the first figure, we go to the close side of the embrace in cross system. Stop in the middle of our step and then continue around in spiral (counter-clockwise) until she crosses (cruzada). Then we continue turning counter-clockwise until we are back to the line of dance. We try to keep a steady flow to this move, the pause (parada) should be very momentary.

Turning Walk from Split Weight (0.39 of Video)

In this figure, we go the close side of the embrace in cross system. We freeze her in the middle oher step (split weight) and then step around her, stand back up straight and wait for her to collect and then the leader steps back leading her to a forward step to the close side.

Parada to the Close Side in Close Embrace (0:13 of Video)

In this figure, we looked at performing a basic parada figure while maintaining a close embrace. Often the couple breaks the close embrace and transitions to an open embrace to perform a parada. There is nothing wrong with this, but for the purposes of this class we are maintaining a solid connection in our torsos during the parada. To do this, when the leader initiates her for first back cross (ocho) he stops her with her weight split or even more towards the forward leg. This way both leader and follower can stay standing up straight without leaning or being pulled over. To accomplish this he must relax his embrace and she must pivot and roll her body across his chest instead of trying to stay glued flat to his chest.

Parada to the Close Side with Barrida in Close Embrace (0:49 of Video)

This figure is the same as above only we added a barrida. Since we have stopped her with her weight split to initiate the parada, when we step around the follower her weight is naturally shifted to her back leg. We do not have to do much to accomplish this, the mere fact of us going around her should naturally make this weight change happen. When the leader steps around her several problems can happen. If he steps too close then he will enter her space ad knock her off her axis and if he steps too far way he will pull her off her axis. So, he has to step just far enough away to to pull her off her axis but still leave enough room to sweep (barrida) her free foot between their feet.

Parada to the Open Side in Close Embrace (0:58 of Video)

This is a parada performed on the open side of the embrace. The concept is the same as above, only the leaders need to really relex the right arms and allow her to pivot/turn in the embrace. Both partners should still stay standing up straight and not lean forward or back.

Parada to the Open Side with Barrida in Close Embrace (1:08 of Video)

This figure is the same as the last one only we add a barrida after the parada. With this barrida (sweep) we are stepping into her path and then sweeping her foot to our foot before resolving the figure.

Video Demonstration:

 

Split Weight Moments I

In tango, each step has a beginning, middle, and end. There is a moment in the middle when our weight is evenly distributed between both legs. We can use that moment to create some very interesting possibilities.

We cover lots of information in our classes, but here are some of the major tips.

Tips:

  • We started by practicing finding the moment where are weight is split during a step and rocking our weight back and forth between our feet.
  • We explained that if the leaders stay slightly down and don't collect their feet themselves, then it will help the women stay down and not collect.
  • Followers are following the upper body of the leaders, not their feet, so leaders need to be very clear and stop their upper body at the moment her weight is split.
  • We also talked about our crucial pivoting is to tango and that followers should not "make" the leader pivot them, but rather when they feel his invitation to pivot they should pivot themselves. We also discussed that good pivots happen on the forward part of the foot and not with the whole foot on the floor.

 

Video Demonstration:

 

The Milonguero Dip

In this Tango lesson, we teach a figure called The Milonguero Dip, and is part of our Popular Steps for the Social Dance Floor series. This step is a popular step that I saw used in the milongas of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have recently been informed that the step was named "milonguero dip" by Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt.. and that they first saw it done by Javier Rodriguez and Geraldine Rojas and that Javier called it "ocho seco."

The joy of this move is in the musicality and the swoosh feeling it gives the followers during the dips (changes of our vertical plane). Every time I teach this move, it always receives lots of positive feedback from the followers. They love it.

Breakdown of the steps:

  • In this class, we started the move off from back ochos. When I lead a back ocho to the man's right, I begin by pivoting on my right foot counter-clockwise and crossing my left foot in front of my right, while leading her to take a back cross with her left around me. KEY MOMENT: My left foot should hit the floor at the same moment her left foot hits the floor. At this moment I also go down slightly in my left leg(dip).
  • At this point, there should be lots of compression in the embrace, as I lead her to take a side step around me with her right foot as I pivot around on my left and switch weight to my right.
  • I continue leading her around to a forward cross step with her left, as I step around her with my left. KEY MOMENT: As I step around her with my right, I need to make sure that I do not go too close to her (I might push her off her axis and that I don't go to far away (pulling her off of her axis).
  • I sink down (dip) into my left leg as I lead her around to another forward cross with her right. As she takes that forward cross I step back diagonally with her.
  • To finish I lead her to yet another back cross in front of me and I switch weight to return to parallel system and walk out.

Important Notes: This move requires a relaxed embrace, so that she can pivot inside my embrace (especially my right arm). If I hold her too tightly she will find it difficult to do the large pivots necessary for this move and it will be very uncomfortable.

Musicality Notes: In the first part of the demo, we danced to Carlos di Sarli's "Junto A Tu Corazon." This this we keep things rather calm and stretch the dips out as long as we can. Starting at 0.43 we dance this same way to Juan d'Arienzo's "Compadrón" to show how it works, but does not quite fit with the music. Then bumped the energy up just a little bit to fit with d'Arienzo. We shortened the steps and made them a little more staccato as opposed to the more legato of di Sarli. In both cases, we use a quick-quick-slow timing for her first back cross and side step.

 

Video Demonstration:

 

 And a second video of us teaching this step:
 

Walking While Switching Sides and Systems

This move is part of our Popular Steps for the Social Dance Floor series.

The interesting thing about this step is that while walking (caminata) the followers keep switching sides and switching systems (parallel vs cross) during the step. They start out on the leader's right side, switches to the left and then back to the right. So, this requires a flexibility or elasticity in the embrace to allow her to travel within my embrace.

The second thing is that we have the followers take two steps to our one step twice in the move. We like to call this “dancing the woman” or “the invisible lead,” when I ask her to take steps that I am not doing myself.

Step Breakdown (the numbers below correlate to the numbers in the slow-motion part of the video):

  1. We start by leading her to a Salida Americana. The leaders take weight on their right leg and as she takes weight on her left leg she comes back to neutral in front of us. At this point we are in parallel system. Now the leader stays on his right leg, while leaving his left behind, and leads her to take a side step with her right leg. Now we are in cross system and she is on our left side. We must relax our embrace during this move to allow her to travel to our left side, if we hold her too tightly then she will either not go or will pull us off balance.
  2. Now we step forward with our left and she steps back with her left. We stay on our left, leaving our right behind, as we lead her to take a back cross step across our path to our right side. We are back in parallel system.
  3. We collect and step forward (outside partner) with our right. She steps back with her left.
  4. We step back in front of her with our left as she steps back with her right and we are done.

At parts 1 and 2 above we take one step while leading her to take two steps. This takes us from parallel sytem, into cross system and then back into parallel system. We can maintain a close embrace during this whole step, but must relax the embrace enough to allow her to move slightly in the embrace.

Additons to the move:

  • At 1.26 in the video, we look at an alternative entrance to the step. Instead of starting with a Salida Americana we simply started by walking outside partner and then leading her to a side step.
  • At the beginning of step 2, when the leader steps forward with his left, he could perform a forward sacada to her left as she steps back with her right.
  • Also, at step 2, we could lead her back cross with or without pivoting her first and then changes the feeling of the move.