Leader back sacada technique and combining sacadas with boleos

Last night, we combined leader back sacadas with follower front cross steps and follower side steps (both line-of-dance, LOD) and looked at ways to exit the moves, depending on navigation needs.

There are three parts to a back sacada, of which only two are visible to the onlooker:

  1. The leader pivots the hips and feet as far around as possible, so that the body is still on axis, but extreme rotation has been achieved, with the torso and hips/feet facing different directions. Both feet need to face away from the location of the sacada, so that the leader's heels and rear end are facing the follower, if possible. Note: if you are not a very flexible person, use the rotation that you do have, and focus on using the next step to adjust the sacada as needed.
  2. Next comes the invisible part of this move. WHILE in full rotation (some people call this disassociation), the leader rotates in space several degrees, with heels gathered together. Don't reach for the back step yet! This is the most important part of a back sacada because it helps avoid kicking the follower's trailing ankle.
  3. As the follower is led to take a step, the leader steps back into the follower's step, landing where the follower originally stood (replacing the follower in space). That completes the sacada.

Note: We did leader back sacadas counter-clockwise (CCW) because they are easier to do in terms of the embrace. I'll address clockwise back sacadas in an advanced class, as the need to "break" the embrace to do these adds another level of difficulty to these steps.

Tips for making the sacadas work better

1. Use a strong embrace on the open side to control the speed and size of the follower's step

The leader gets to choose the speed of the move, so instead of trying to hurry the sacada, I control the follower's step by maintaining the shape of my embrace. If I need more time to prepare for my back step, I slow the follower down compared to the music: better a slo-mo move than bruised ankles!

I don't push on the follower's right hand with my left hand as much as connect with the follower's energy. Some people prefer to keep a limp connection here, but I disagree: by creating a strong connection, I can slow down the follower's movement more easily AND I get to choose the EXACT position of the follower's step. Both partners move at the same time, maintaining the spatial relationship of the steps.

 Leaders: if you pull/push the follower to step, you are losing control over the steps that happen after the sacadas. You will now need to spend several steps regaining control, rather than dancing.When I follow, I often feel leaders pull me through this step by opening their left arm away from their body and their solar plexus. I feel they are saying, "Step somewhere over here, please." Instead of actually leading me, they are indicating that they want me to move and hoping I land correctly. Stay in control and in connection with the follower at all times!

Followers: It's difficult to find the right amount of pressure to use with your right arm. Too much, and the leader can't feel where your feet are. Too little, and the leader can't use the embrace to help the dance. I focus on using my torso muscles to anchor my shoulder girdle. I use very little tension in my upper arm and forearm and wrist. Instead, I think about sending energy out from my body, along the bottom edge of my arm, through the center of my wrist, into my partner.

2. Use the closed side of the embrace to adjust for rotation

The leader's right arm and the follower's left arm need to be able to slide for this move to work. If you've ever seen Francois Truffaut's films, he was fond of the camera iris spiraling closed to end scenes, with the visible scene closing to a pinpoint and disappearing. That is the same thing that happens with the space on the closed side of the embrace. As the leader rotates, the leader's right arms slides around the follower. The follower's arm needs to slide around the leader too, which can be complicated if they are a different height :-)

After the sacada, the embrace returns to normal, with the closed side opening up again. If you are having trouble detaching the follower's hand and arm so that they slide, examine your sacada to see if you are pushing the follower off-balance: both people need to stay on-axis for this to work.

3. Adjust the distance between partners BEFORE the move

Some people teach that the leader should create more space between the dancers before leading a back sacada. I don't agree that this is always the best alternative, especially on the social dance floor. If you find that you simply cannot rotate far enough the complete a back sacada, even with using step #2, you could explore placing the follower further away on the step before the sacada.

4. Use the follower's side step for the leader back sacadas

We worked on leading leader back sacadas through the follower's front step first, in order to feel and understand the need for rotation, but these are a lot easier! The leader has more space because the follower's leg is out of the way.  However, this means that the follower's next step does not continue LOD as elegantly. Next week, I'll show you possibilities for this that we didn't cover this week.

Navigational options after sacadas

As we have been focusing on using sacadas to move around the dance floor, we've tried to do linear sacadas, followed by linear moves LOD. However, there is not always space to continue LOD in real life. One option is to turn the follower in a giro (turn) around the leader after the sacada. Another option is to change direction using a boleo, and then either continue LOD or in place with a turn, having had a few more seconds to gauge space while performing the boleo.

Example 1:

Last week, we had the leader do a leader front sacada through the follower's front cross step, followed by the leader and follower taking mirrored front cross steps LOD. After the sacada, you can lead a small front boleo, and then reverse direction so that the follower is going LOD with a BACK cross step and the leader is stepping forward OR side (depending whether the leader changed feet during the boleo or not). Hint: the follower is already rotating a lot during this combination, so the boleo is more of helping the follower to unwind from a front boleo, rather than adding more force to start the front boleo. Leaders tend to over-lead this, so careful of the follower's body!

Example 2:

On this weeks' combination, with the leader stepping in a back sacada, there are two possibilities:

  1. If the leader does a back sacada through the follower's front cross step, then the front boleo works after this move (see above).
  2. If the leader does a back sacada through the follower's side step, then a back boleo works best, followed by a front cross step for the follower. Again, make sure that the leader is helping the rebound of the boleo, rather than adding a lot of force at the beginning of the move; the follower's hip motion provides the impetus, and the rest is timing, not force.