The term parada comes from the Spanish verb parar, or "stop." A parada is any step that blocks the follower's foot from doing the next step of the dance, creating a pause in motion for a variable amount of time. We worked on front paradas with pasadas (or stepovers).
The leader's job in a parada
There are MANY versions of paradas. For a front parada, the leader performs a parada during/after a follower's front step. We practiced doing this after walking the follower to the cross and leading a front cross step to the leader's right (as if we were doing a front ocho after the cross). After the parada, we led the follower to do a stepover. Then, maintaining the original axis placement, the leader collected both feet in place, finished the follower's step, and exited into other steps.
A VERY IMPORTANT part of the parada is the torso of the leader. This is another part of the parada lead: the foot and leg help and create the impression of a block, but without the "stop" of the torso torsion, no parada should happen. Think of leading front ochos with a stop of motion in the middle; this is pretty much what a parada is.
The foot and leg portion of the lead needs to be correctly placed in order to work well. The leader starts to place the foot as the follower steps forward, but then needs to adjust as the follower pivots to face the other direction. Make sure that the follower has room to completely pivot, rather than stopping with the support foot blocked on the ground.
I place only my little toe on the ground, as I curve my foot up over the follower's instep, around the follower's ankle. This takes quite a bit of rotation of the leg in the hip socket, and may be difficult at first. However, next week, you'll find that this creates a perfect setup to do a gancho without much more preparation. I call this the S-curve, as my upper leg in turned out, my ankle wraps around the follower's ankle, and then my foot curves out again in order to touch the ground.
The leader's torso leads the follower over into the stepover. For right now, the leader will return to the original spot before exiting, but later we will add a sacada here as a variation (more on that later, or check out my earlier blog posts on sacadas if you are feeling impatient).
The easiest way to do this parada is to use the leader's right leg/foot when the follower steps towards the leader's right. However, the leader may use either leg. Using the left leg here requires a very different setup (more on this next week when we add ganchos as well). We also tried the front parada in a turn to the left, with the leader catching the follower's front cross with the leader's left leg/foot. Again, either foot can be used to either side.
The follower's parada
The follower needs to be on axis for this step to work well. If the leader pushes too far forward, the follower cannot remain on balance. Followers: you can help with this by staying CLOSE to the leader. Make a beautiful step of a turn, following an arc around the leader, rather than stepping in a straight line (this takes the follower just a little away from the leader). If the follower stay close, the leader doesn't have to lunge towards the follower, which makes everyone fall over.
The follower needs to pay attention to collecting at the ankles. Before stepping over in the stepover, the follower needs to collect with both ankles together and both feet on the floor, even just for a moment. This cuts down on unattractive flailing legs at this point!
This is true even when the follower adds adornos (ornaments). A good leader will give a follower time to play and do adornos if the music supports that. As a follower, stick to adornos that do not trip couples nearby: darting motions ALONG the leader's floor placement (more on this in class next week), small circles, "clean your shoes" on the leader's ankle/leg, and other small, elegant shapes. Perhaps that is less dramatic than big, flashy adornos, but it doesn't look flashy when you trip other people :-)
Remember that a parada and stepover are very similar to ochos. Pay attention to keeping your center connected to your leader, taking even-sized steps, good balance, etc. And breathe!