Combining leader and follower front sacadas with other tango moves

Sunday Special participants: good work yesterday! Below, I'll outline the drills we did to prepare for sacadas, sacada technique for leader and follower front sacadas, and the combinations we played with in class, as well as some other ideas to work on yourselves. Remember, next Sunday Special will include a review class on this material, so if you have any questions, comment here and I'll get back to you, as well as making a list of what to cover

Types of sacadas

  • circular or linear (we worked on circular and linear forms in our combinations, but we emphasized circular this time)
  • leader or follower (who is replacing the other person?)
  • forward, side or back (what kind of step is the person doing who is doing the sacada?)

Preparing for sacadas

The most important element of a good sacada is a good turn. Even if you are doing linear sacadas, the technique inherent in turns and ochos is needed by BOTH partners to do spectacular sacadas: pivoting well against the floor, having your axis perpendicular to the floor, grounding in each step, and using the floor to push off for each step. For that reason, I always have leaders and followers do "follower" turn technique to warm up the body for sacadas.

Follower technique (for good turns and sacadas):

  1. Grapevine step (molinete) across the floor in a straight line: get your balance, breath & grounding in place
  2. Grapevine step in a circle: add your focus on keeping the energy of the body towards the center of the circle
  3. Square/Chair drill: "the dreaded chair drill" came to me from Luciana Valle. The chair drill alters a turn into a square, so that four steps completes a full revolution. The torso faces towards the center of the chair at all times. The hips flip 180 degrees before the back cross step, as well as before the "slow" open step of the turn. The front cross and the "quick" open step of the turn do not result in much hip motion at all (think zero for the purpose of this exercise). Remember to change directions so as to practice to the right and left, and to avoid dizziness.
  4. "Watch your hand" drill: This was taught to me by Oscar Mandagaran in Buenos Aires in 2000, and I have used it more and more in my dance and my teaching. To turn CCW (to the leader's left), make a normal embrace. The follower watches her/his hand, and "drives" the turn. This helps focus on having an embrace that is parallel to the ground in energy (even if the dancers are not the same height and the embrace does not physically follow a parallel path!). Also, the follower is responsible for helping to create energy and give that to the leader for the dance: make sure no muscles are locked in the embrace that will hurt the turn.
  5. Naughty Toddler: in this version of Naughty Toddler, the follower is still in control of the dance and the leader is still trying to carve a tango out of all that wild, untamed energy the follower lets out. However, what we focused on was having Naughty Toddlers who wanted to TURN! so that the followers could still practice turn technique, while searching for just the right amount of energy to give to the leader. Leaders: see how much easier it is to turn when the other person does most of the work? :-)

Leader technique to prepare for sacadas:

Do all the follower exercises. #1, 2 & 3 are especially important. A good sacada lead includes preparing to step through and then (often) pivoting to continue to another step, just as the follower does in all turns.

Spiral exercises/Disassociation exercises:

  • I just discussed these in the lapiz blog entry below, so I'll be quick here. Find your axis through your foot into the floor, and up through your head to the ceiling. Rotate your solar plexus, keeping your hips stable in space (solar plexus and hips are pointing different directions; disassociated). When you have reached your maximum twist, release the hips to realign under the torso.
  • Part #2: As the hips release, continue to spiral them while keeping your torso stable. When your hips get ahead of your torso, release your torso to realign with your hips. This level of control helps your body learn to move only one part at a time, while not breaking your axis line. Also, it will aid in all sorts of fancy stuff later on.

Sacada practice:

  • Make a path: One partner walks slowly around the room. The other partner steps exactly where the first person stepped. Notice that, if you step exactly where they were, you remain the same distance apart. Although in some combinations, the sacada is used to get closer or further from the partner, in most sacadas, you are trying to remain the same distance apart.
  • Slo-mo: Without touching, the leader's torso leads the follower to a new place on the floor. For leader sacadas, the leader then steps where the follower was. For follower sacadas, the leader is moving the follower to the place where the leader had been. Slo-mo makes sure that the leader is completing the lead, rather than indicating a location in space and abandoning the follower to finish on their own. If you can lead sacadas without arms, in slo-mo, you can do it with NO problems in an embrace, up to speed :-)

Leader front sacadas:

  • Practice doing leader sacadas through the follower's turn. You can step through the follower's front or open steps. If you step through their back cross step, this creates a different result (boleo-like with unwind) that we will tackle another time. High school math version of tango: don't step through the follower's back step for the moment!
  • For leader sacadas, the leader can step through with either foot, to either side. Sometimes, this results in the leader doing a "front cross" step (for example, doing a clockwise, circular lead sacada through the follower's front cross step with the leader's right foot; whew!). Other times, it feels like a straight-ahead step: you are actually doing the sacada with an open/side step. Let's not worry at this point whether this is a front or side: just get comfortable with using either foot, and we'll get technical about terms next time. Also, the leader can use back cross steps to perform a sacada, but we'll do that next time.

Follower front sacadas:

  • Practice doing follower sacadas through the leader's open step. The leader stands in a wide stance, with the follower centered in front (making a triangle). The follower holds onto the leader's torso, at the level of the solar plexus, and closes his/her eyes to focus on following. Using torso rotation, the leader moves the follower towards one of the leader's feet, and gets out of the way. Rachel advocated leaning to one side as well.
  • Be careful not to change your level! The knees are flexible, but you don't want to bob up and down. Once you can get the follower to step into your space to replace you (do a sacada through the leader), try it in an embrace.
  • It is HARD to convince a follower who is new to sacadas, to walk into the space where you were. Make sure you don't overturn the follower, or they will happily do an ocho around your center instead of stepping where you asked. Be clear, and the follower will eventually become comfortable with stepping into a sacada. Try not to pull!

Sacada combinations

We only had time for a few combinations this time. Remember: play around! Try new stuff! You may find a combination that you really like. Use it! Here's what we did in class on Sunday:

  • Leader front sacada + follower front sacada: Walk the follower to the cross. Start a right (clockwise) turn around the leader. Leader front sacada with left foot (actually a side sacada) through follower's front cross step (1st step of turn). Then, lead the follower to do a front sacada (actually a side sacada) through the leader's front cross step. Repeat a few times (each person alternates front cross step, sacada through other person's front cross step) and exit. If you want a specific exit: let the follower take a side step around the leader, collect feet and walk out in a regular tango walk.
  • Leader sacada + drag: Walk the follower to the cross. Sacada through the first step of the right turn. Turn the follower one step more of the turn (open step). Drag the follower's foot (follower's back step) around with either foot of leader (try both and see what you like). Lead a stepover and exit.
  • Leader front sacadas: Lead overturned front ochos down the room (these are linear sacadas, BTW). Sacada every step, using either foot: you can mix it up and step with the same foot each time, switching between steps; or just "walk" alternating feet. Find an exit you like and keep dancing.
  • Follower front sacada: Walk the follower to the cross. Lead a follower front sacada straight forward, with the leader moving clockwise in an open step with the left foot. If you want a circular sacada, move around the follower's position. If you want linear, move left BUT remember to finish the follower's step with your chest rotation!

Next time, we'll review these. Then, we'll learn follower and leader BACK sacadas, and combine those with front sacadas and other stuff. The next Sunday Special is slated for Sunday, April 26th.

Let me know if anything is not clear here, or if you'd like more detail.  Thanks for coming to class!