Crossed system in tango (Salem Tango II)

Good to see all of you back for another session!  Here is the wish list from the group:

  • changes in tempo
  • clues for knowing what the leader wants the follower to do
  • essential tango turns
  • exits and transitions
  • moving from open to close embrace and back
  • footplay
  • "whatever" and "anything" seemed to be the most popular vote; SO . . .

My main theme for the session (into which we can build all of these things) is: crossed system. I think that acquiring an understanding of crossed system opens doors to improvisation and organicity of movement. The Free Dictionary defines organicity as: "resembling a living organism in organization or development; interconnected." I define it as flow in the dance: letting the outcome of one move decide or influence the next movement in the dance; the dance as a living organism.

Crossed system refers to movement where both leader and follower step with the same foot: right and right, or left and left. Combined with parallel system (leader on right, follower on left and vice versa), ALL tango moves are possible. As we barely touched on crossed system in the beginning class (or in the past intermediate sessions), I have decided to focus our work on this theme for six weeks.

Changing systems

There are several ways to change systems.  In all cases, either the leader or the follower must take one more/less step than the other partner. In other words, if the leader leaves a step out while leading the follower in a step, a system change occurs.  Also, if the leader steps twice while the follower is led in one step, a system change occurs.

We practiced changing systems at the cross. This is one place where it is relatively easy to lead the follower to take a step while not changing weight as the leader because the follower is going to change weight in place anyway. We practiced several combinations of steps using this principle:

  1. Walking to the cross in parallel system and then walking to the outside track in crossed system. Daniel Trenner used to call this a "three-track" or "three-skis" orientation, as the leader's left foot steps directly in front of the follower's left foot, leaving two tracks for the right feet. Eventually, the leader led back to the inside track, walking to the cross in crossed system and leaving a step out to end in parallel.
  2. Walking to the cross in parallel system and then dancing "maybe-no" steps (another Daniel Trenner term). After several "maybe-no" steps, the leader then led to the cross, leaving a step out to finish in parallel.
  3. Walking to the cross in parallel system and then walking to the cross in crossed system, thus ending back in parallel system.

Most people understood the concepts and were walking through these patterns more easily by the end of class. The hardest part was using the other foot for the leaders: "maybe yes cross" now meant using "left right leave one out" when "right left step together" (walking to the cross in parallel system) felt much better :-) I promise this will get easier!

As the follower's steps result in the same walk to the cross, all of the movements you know already at the cross work now, no matter what foot the leader used to get to the cross:

  • front ochos (Tango I)
  • right turn (Tango I)
  • left turn (Tango I)
  • front parada & stepover (last Tango II)
  • front parada, stepover and gancho (last Tango II)

Next week, we'll practice this more, but we will also start the other alternative for switching systems: having the leader double-step (quick quick) while the follower is led in a regular step (slow), either to the side or forward.  You have done both of these before to lead ochos in place or traveling back ochos, but we have not looked at how those moves fit into the dance.

We'll review traveling back ochos (perhaps new for some of you) and begin turns from crossed system that travel in space.  If you have time, practice walking to the cross in both systems and adding in the steps you already know.

Another thing we'll do next week is energy work from Oscar and Georgina.  This should make these transitions more elegant, more part of the dance.  See you next week!