Even more about sacadas

As both my Salem and Portland intermediate classes are tackling sacadas right now (due to requests from class members), I want to offer more tips about executing specific sacadas, as well as general comments about sacadas.

Kinds of sacadas

A sacada is a step where one dancer "replaces" or "displaces" the other in space. Often, it looks as if one partner has stepped through the other dancer's step and pushed the first dancer's foot/leg away. This is an illusion, as the step is led by the torso.

There are many types of sacadas.

One way a sacada is named by the person executing the step:

  • Leader sacadas: the leader makes the follower move, and steps where the follower had been standing.
  • Follower sacadas: the leader moves to a new spot on the floor WHILE leading the follower to move to the leader's original location.

Another element of the naming process is determined by what step the person doing the sacada, was performing during the sacada:

  • For example, if the leader walked the follower to the cross and then initiated a clockwise (or right) turn (so the follower was doing a front cross step with the right), and did a sacada with the leader's right foot, that would be a leader front sacada.
  • However, if the leader used the left foot for the same setup, this would be a leader side sacada, as the step is really an open step executed as a forward step.
  • Hint for the highly structured: To determine whether a step is "front" or "side/open" you can stop the motion and see what system is in place. If the follower is doing a cross step and we are in crossed system (both using right foot), then the leader is doing a front (or back) sacada. If the couple are in parallel system (follower's right, leader's left), this is a side sacada.
  • Hint for less structured folks: Don't worry if it's a front or side sacada, since using either foot is kosher. Use a foot and then figure out what to do next :-)

A third element of naming a sacada is the step upon which the sacada operates. For example, the leader can do a leader front sacada through the follower's front cross; or a follower can do a side sacada through a leader's back cross.

A fourth element of naming a sacada is the shape of the step. There are circular and linear sacadas. If the step is done as part of a turn, or staying in the same general vicinity in the room, it is probably a circular sacada. If it is used to travel in the room, it is probably a linear sacada.

Figuring out how many this is would take someone more structured (and mathematical) than myself.  It's probably been done before; go look on the web and tell me who has figured this out!

Easy vs. problematic circular sacadas for leaders

Easy (OK, less difficult!) sacadas are those which can be performed without breaking any tango codes or causing interesting dilemmas about what to do with dangling/moving legs and feet that now appear to be in the way. We'll deal with those later.

When doing leader circular sacadas, the "easy" versions are those which are done using the follower's front cross step and the open/side step after that. In both of these cases, the follower can continue doing a turn without breaking code (i.e., s/he can continue with the next expected step: front, open, back, open, etc.).

Interesting problems crop up when doing leader circular sacadas through the follower's back cross step or the open step following that step. When doing a sacada through the follower's back cross step, the follower's other leg is blocking from stepping into the next side step (for sanity's sake, let's pretend that this is always true). In this case, a front-boleo-like moment occurs, followed by the natural rebound inherent to boleos. This means that the follower will usually continue with another back step, either linear, or back the other way in a turn (change of direction).

When the leader does a sacada through the follower's open step after the back cross, this also blocks the natural turn progression because the follower cannot step forward with the leader in the way. Doing a sacada through this step produces a back cross step (rather than the expected front cross).

To summarize: if you are just learning these sacadas, ONLY do the sacadas through the follower's front cross and open steps of the turn. Try the others when you are bored/more advanced/feeling crazy.

The leader can do any of these sacadas with either foot to either side, using the leader's front cross, open and back cross steps (ack!). Most sacadas are easier if attempted with a front or open step, as the leader back sacada requires the leader to pivot A LOT and then step through the follower's step moving backwards. Again, only try these more difficult sacadas after you understand how to lead the easier ones.

Follower sacadas

First, you need a follower (I just type foolower--perhaps you need a tango fool?) who is not afraid to step towards you.

Leaders: remember the first day (month, year) you spent getting used to walking towards someone whose feet were RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOURS? The follower gets very little practice stepping towards your feet, and the typical intermediate follower gets nervous when you ask her/him to do that. Be sympathetic and patient!

Followers: here is a major test of your tango powers. You have been carefully trained to do ochos and turns AROUND your partner. Now they are going to lead moves that are very similar, but require a different angle of preparation from you. Take a deep breath. Take a very deep breath. Then, exhale and trust that the leader is indeed sending you where the leader has asked. Try not to "help": follow the leader's torso and angle of rotation. I promise you that this will become easier as you get comfortable. And, if they ask you to step on their toes, please do so :-)

For a follower sacada, the most important part of the lead is to let the torso point where you want the follower to move: the location from whence you came. This is harder than it sounds, but it gets easier as the follower becomes more willing to step into your space.

Next, the follower can step through any step of the leader's: front, back, open. However, in some cases, you will encounter the "leg/foot in the way" issue that I discussed above. As the person in charge, however (we hope!), the leader can either respond to a leg block with a boleo-like motion, or can simply untangle the legs and move on.

The easiest way to do follower sacadas is to move across the line of the follower's momentum, rather than redirecting the follower (these are usually linear sacadas). Because we have only tackled circular sacadas so far, we redirected the follower, either at the cross, or in the turn.

My favorite sacada (and organicity of movement) game

Perhaps this is only because I am somewhat insane from almost fourteen years of tango, but I enjoy taking all the possible moves, writing them down on scraps of paper, pulling them out of a hat, and trying to create new patterns from the steps that I know. If I want to work on a specific step, I'll put that on a scrap: "leader back sacada through follower back sacada, clockwise." If not, I might just put "some leader sacada" or "leader sacada through follower open step" or "back leader sacada" or "counterclockwise leader sacada" or something like that. Then, I'll put some other ideas in the hat: follower gancho, follower front boleo, follower back linear boleo, overturned ocho, etc. I pull three scraps of paper out of the hat, and then I have to do them in that order, with as few steps in between as possible. 

Make sure that you have either a patient dance partner, or someone who also likes to play with tango puzzles and can help you figure out what works best. Sometimes, a combination only works clockwise, or counterclockwise. Sometimes, if you change systems in the middle, it simplifies the pattern. Be creative!

I'm sure I have a lot more to say (as you all keep asking questions in class!), but that's enough brain food for one day.  Have fun!