Swirly twirls in vals: the cadena and a walk-around front sacada turn

We tackled several fun but complex turns in Rachel Lidskog's and my Sunday Specials vals workshop this month. Elizabeth taught the cadena (chain) step, and Rachel taught a walk-around turn, followed by a turn with a leader front sacada. Both sequences can be done in part (use a few steps), completed once, or repeated for a long twirly sequence if there is room.

The cadena (chain step)

I first learned the cadena in a workshop with Fabian Salas in the mid-1990s. The cadena is a crossed system traveling turn. I find it easiest to lead if I have done a complete traveling back ocho with the follower before I start the cadena, but it is possible to simply get into crossed system on your first forward step and launch the cadena directly.

The cadena can be done both turning right (clockwise, CW) and turning left (counter-clockwise CCW). Rachel prefers CCW; I prefer CW because the couple does not need to turn as far to complete each sequence. I will describe what we learned: turning clockwise.

Once the couple is in crossed system, and both partners are on their left feet:

  1. The leader rotates the torso to the right (clockwise) so that the follower steps back to the left diagonal with the right foot WHILE the leader steps forward THROUGH that step with the right foot.
  2. The leader steps line of dance with the left while continuing the clockwise rotation of the torso (if it helps, think AROUND the follower, but you are really traveling straight down the room). The follower is pivoted on the right foot, and steps diagonally forward line of dance with the left foot.  NOTE: So far, the leader has basically stepped forward, side, down the line of dance, and is now ready to step backwards in the line of dance. The follower has done a back rock step diagonally across the line of dance, and then a front step diagonally across the line of dance, and is now headed line of dance forwards. The second half of the cadena has the leader repeat steps 1 & 2 of the follower, while leading the follower to repeat steps 1 & 2 of the leader.
  3. The leader continues to rotate the torso to the right while stepping back diagonally with the right foot (step #1 for follower). The leader leads the follower straight down the line of dance, through this step. OK, this is the hardest part of the cadena: convincing the follower that you REALLY want her/him to step through, rather than around your other foot ;-)
  4. The leader continues to rotate the torso to the right (almost done!) while pivoting on the right foot and then stepping forward diagonal with the left foot to finish ready for step #1. The follower steps straight down the line of dance ("around" the partner) with the left to finish ready for step #1 again.

SECRET to the cadena/true confessions: This is simpler if danced in close embrace, but harder in open. If you are in close embrace, you can effectively body-block the follower from stepping around you. I use my entire torso to lead my follower into my space. I use my hip/torso to stop her from doing a back ocho in #1 & 2, and then I roll my hip/torso to the other side of her leg and block her from going around me. As a smaller leader, I can't wrestle my partner into submission (if it comes to wrestling, I am a "gentleman" and let her win!), but if I set up the placement of the step correctly, I can prevent wrestling.

Counter-clockwise cadena: Reverse the entire thing by rotating to the left and starting the cadena with the follower's back cross step with the left (leader steps through with left).

Good luck!

Walk-around turn + turn with leader front sacada

There are two parts to this combination. Either may be used separately (I'll describe them this way) or together (I'll remind you how to combine them at the end). Just like the cadena, you can use a part of the combo, the whole thing, or string several together to make something VERY swirly.

The walk-around turn

  • Lead the follower into back traveling ochos in crossed system.
  • After the follower steps back on left foot, both dancers have the right foot free. The leader overturns the follower to the leader's right (CW) by rotating the torso as far as possible.
  • As the follower begins a three-step turn (back cross with right, open step to left, front cross with right), the leader steps where the follower was standing and then turns in place while follower finishes the walk-around turn.
  • This turn progresses down the room because of the leader's "replacement" of the follower (the argument is open whether a step that replaces the partner, but does not step through the partner's step, is a sacada or not; but it's the same idea).
  • The follower begins the turn with the center of the turn circle in one place, but then completes the turn around the new center post.
  • The leader has several options for the feet during this turn. However, for all of them, make sure they are under you! I see a lot of folks who reach for the "walk-around" idea with their feet, but never arrive on axis during the turn. Push off, leaders! Land with your whole axis in the new spot to make the follower feel good during the turn. Once you accomplish the "walk-around" you can either spin on one foot (harder to do but spiffy-looking) or just turn in a circle while stepping in ONE place with your feet. I tend to do the second when leading a less-advanced follower, just for balance. The spin I save for moments when I know my follower will not need me as a balance point.
  • You can: continue on with the dance; repeat this move; or combine it with the turn and leader sacada below.

Turn with leader front sacada

  • Turn the follower to the right (CW) around the leader for the following steps: open with the left foot, back cross with the right foot, open with the left foot, etc.
  • On the follower's first open step to the left, the leader does a sacada through that step with either foot. A sacada is a step where the leader is taking the place vacated by the follower (or vice versa for a follower sacada). The leader's body must continue to lead the follower around the turn here WHILE the leader moves to a new spot on the floor (where follower used to be). The requires a spiral in the leader's torso. In this sacada, the leader needs to maintain the same distance with the follower as before the sacada.
  • As you are doing the sacada through the follower's slow step, the next steps will be quick, quick, slow, and then another slow open step for the follower. You can break out of the turn on any of these steps.
  • If you want to repeat just this move, remember that you need to be ready to sacada on the next slow, open step of the follower. To repeat exactly, sacada with the right foot and change weight in place while the follower turns so that you are ready with the right foot again for another round (you can also do a right sacada and then sacada with your left next time, or . . . whatever).
  • If you want to link this to the walk-around turn, only use the first move of this turn. The follower steps open to the left, with the leader doing the sacada through with the right foot and changing weight to the left, so that the right foot is free to immediately do another walk-around turn. In this case, the follower has a QQSS QQSS pattern of timing (QQS in the walk-around, slow during your sacada; repeat) and the leader has a SSQQ SSQQ pattern of timing, so the steps work together, but having a pleasing dialogue with each other.

February Sunday Special classes

Rachel Lidskog and I really enjoyed teaching our second monthly workshop together.  Based on our students' VERY helpful feedback, we are changing our offerings for the next session.  From now on, we will have a beginner/advanced beginner level class at 1 PM, followed by intermediate/advanced level workshops at 2 & 3 PM. Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions!

We're gearing up for Valentango with:

1.  Navigation for the faint-hearted (beginning level and up): come play some games and get strategy secrets for getting around the crowded Valentango dance floor without getting maimed! Learn to read the "traffic" clearly, improve your defensive "driving" and have fun at the same time. (1-2 PM)
2.  Milonga; the rhythm method (more advanced than #1): build your vocabulary of milonga steps that can be done in small spaces. We'll focus on making your milonga more rhythmic and playful in tight spaces. (2-3 PM)
3. Vals: more swoopy things to do--in small areas (swoopettes?): Use the energy of the dance and the music to keep vals swirly, even in bumper-to-bumper tango space. We'll continue adding to our turn vocabulary that we've been building during the past two workshops. (3-4 PM)