Salem Argentine Tango II Review--February 2009

This session, we worked on milonga and tango vals. Most of the moves we learned can be done in both styles of dance. I will note when I don't use a step in a particular dance. Of course, all of these moves can also be done in tango. Wow! I just finished typing out the instructions for everything we did this session, and it's A LOT!  Good work, folks!  Here are the notes:

Vaiven ("go/come")

  • Lead steps forward with left, in place with right, in place with left; and back on right, in place on left, in place on right.
  • Step takes six counts (or in vals, six rounds of 123, stepping on the 1s only)
  • Works nicely with traveling grapevine as a combination
  • Remember to tell the follower to change weight in place twice for each half of the move!

Traveling/rotating grapevine (rotating on line of dance)

  • Part 1: Lead steps forward with the left, through to the inside with the right, rotates 90 degrees and steps side/open along the line of dance (first three counts).
  • Part 2: Lead steps back with the right, back with the left, and open/side along the line of dance with the right (second three counts).
  • The follower does the exact same pattern, beginning with part 2, then doing part 1.
  • For me as a leader, I think about this: forward, "maybe" step, open step (make sure you catch up to follower so you are at least parallel along the line of dance); back step, "maybe"--lead the follower to the "inside" (my right) while I step back again, open to move follower down line of dance, facing me and taking a slightly smaller step than I lead for the follower.

Side together steps (line of dance or towards outside of dance floor are safest)

  • Remember to change the follower's weight so that they step with you BUT not by doing swing dance style swaying. Try either:
  • "squeeze the toothpaste up": gently lift the follower as you would for a calecita or volcada so that s/he moves along with you
  • "squeeze the toothpaste down": put the follower's feet firmly on the floor so that s/he can feel your own change of weight and match it.
  • You may need to experiment with each new follower to figure out how to best move that person along with your body.
  • I like to use side together steps to position myself for other moves, as well as use them in QQS or QQQQS patterns for syncopation.
  • possible facings (3 work well):Lead faces towards outside of dance (left side of body moving line of dance);Lead faces towards center of dance floor (right side of body moving line of dance); Lead faces line of dance (right side of body moving towards outside wall).

Corridas ("little runs")

  • Quick Quick Slow patterns of movement (QQS for short)
  • There are several ways to do this, but we practiced walking in the center "lane" and "squeezing the toothpaste up" to move our partner and ourselves in little, running steps.
  • Don't forget to RELEASE the light lift you've used to lead the follower. It also helps to breathe :-)

Ocho cortado (regular)

OK, first let's address this "linear" or "circular" ocho cortado thing: there are MANY ways to do ocho cortado. I teach a linear version of this, as I find that it feels most comfortable for followers. If I want to move into a circular move afterwards, I can make my ocho cortado more circular. If there are people in the way, I can adapt my move as needed to avoid collisions. Don't worry too much about "which is right" but rather focus on: does this work for me and my partner?

From either the "center lane" or from walking to the cross in the "inside lane", the leader:

  1. Steps forward with the left foot and back on the right (traditionally a QQ, but can be slow, too);
  2. Leader steps back with the left foot (traditionally S, or slow);
  3. Leader collects both feet together (quickly); and
  4. leader rotates CW (to right) and CCW (to left) to make the follower take an open step and then close into the cross (traditionally QQS as follower steps open on left, open on right, cross onto left).

Follower steps:

  1. The follower steps backwards with the right foot and forward with the left (usually QQ, but can be SS)
  2. The follower is led to step to the outside (to the leader's right) with the right foot (usually S)
  3. The follower is led to take an open/side step around the leader to the left with the left foot, and then to the right with the right foot, closing into the cross and transfering weight onto the left foot in place (usually QQS, but can be SSS). The two open steps are arcs of a circle around the leader's base, so stay near the leader.
  4. My favorite adorno on part 3. is what I call my "Dorothy" or "No place like home" move, where I click my heels together lightly on the open step to the left, before stepping back to the right.

People who prefer the circular ocho cortado: on part 2., the step backward for the leader becomes a T step behind to support the leader's rotation and to "get out of the way" of the follower (I'll harp on that another time :-)). The follower's forward step becomes the first step of a circular turn around the leader.

Ocho cortado turns

I think of the ocho cortado turn as an ocho cortado split open with something yummy in the middle.

  1. Do parts #1 & #2 above, then,
  2. Leader remains in place and rotates so that the follower gets a turn of open, back, open, front (usually SQQS timing, but can be SSSS or QQQQ-I never said that);
  3. Finish with parts #3 & #4 of the ocho cortado.
  4. Leaders: be clear with your partner: do you want a turn? make it energized! Do you want an ocho cortado? Clearly send them back the other way!

Ocho cortado variations

"Charleston" variation:

  • do parts #1 & #2, then 
  • lead the follower to rock step forward on the left and back on the right (leader mirrors follower movement, doing a back rock step), then
  • lead the follower to rock step back on the right and forward on the left (leader mirrors follower movement, doing a forward rock step), until you want to end;
  • finish with parts #3 & #4.
  • I've named this the Charleston variation because the middle part looks like a Charleston step.

"Rudolf Valentino" variation:

  • do parts #1 & #2, then
  • on part #3, as the follower does the two open/side steps, rotate the follower so that her/his hips face to the leader's left
  • both dancers step forward through the middle, like a "paso Americano" if you know that step (if not, ); the leader steps to the left with the right foot, and the follower steps towards the right with the left foot;
  • repeat parts #1, 2 and the "Rudolf" version of #3 until you want to end, then
  • finish with part #4 OR with a resolucion (leader's steps 6, 7, 8 of the basico, sometimes called a tango close)

"Rudolf Valentino+" variation:

  • do as in the regular "Rudolf Valentino" above, but add to part #3:
  • play with the front (through the middle) rock step you've made with both dancers by rocking through the middle, then retreating and rocking open and repeating that part as often as you like
  • finish as in regular ocho cortado, or the resolucion step (tango close).

"El Tano" variation (named after milonguero who led me in these all the time)

  • Dance parts #1, 2 and 3 of the regular ocho cortado, BUT
  • Before going to the cross to finish the step, lead the follower to take rock steps either behind or in front of her/his right foot, with the left. That is, either about to go to the cross, but without finishing the weight shift, or purposefully making the follower step behind, rather than in front to cross, again not completing the weight shift. All these steps El Tano usually led as quick steps (so, QQQQetc., cross).
  • Finish with the regular part #4.

The Gardelito (rock step turn)
Reputed to be one of the few steps that Gardel could dance well.  Of course, who cares if he could sing like he did!

  • This is a counterclockwise (left) rocking turn. The leader rocks forward on the left foot, back on the right, so that the follower rocks back on the right and forward on the left.
  • It is VERY important for the leader to use torso rotation to turn the Gardelito. This leaves the thighs of the leader together, and makes the follower's turn much more elegant (think: NO COWGIRL!) because they can also keep their thighs together.
  • Although this can be led many ways, I prefer to keep the timing even (SSSS or QQQQ) for the duration of the turn.
  • I prefer to lead this starting with the leader stepping BACK onto the right foot and then continuing the counterclockwise (left) rotation of this rocking turn with the forward step of the rock. This helps the follower stay with the leader.
  • I prefer to exit this turn stepping back onto the right foot (follower forward onto the left), and then moving into a salida; but there are many ways!

Close embrace reminders:

  • Balance over own feet (even when leaning, you are still responsible for your own body)
  • Bodies meet, THEN embrace
  • Stay together, don't escape: think of the connection being from your toes to your head, with a "force field" of energy going through your partner. The solar plexus is the focus of all that energy, but it is not the only place where you connect.
  • Your head needs to stay on axis. Followers: you can't get your head out of the leader's way; better to stay on balance. Leaders: if you tilt your head side or forward to touch the follower's, it may pull your axis off-balance. Find a happy medium between good technique and snuggling up :-)
  • Your hips are part of your axis. Even if they move to support your balance, they don't go under your partner. Leaders: your hips can't get past the follower when you walk on the "inside" or "outside"; maintain your circle of the embrace so the follower is always slightly ahead of your body, not next to you.
  • The embrace: Energy goes around the embrace and through both bodies; energy is constantly renewed, not a static shape if energy is working in the embrace; focus on using breath and the force field energy to create connection/balance; muscles just help support the breath & energy; they are secondary.