Traspie steps; check steps; rock steps; rebound steps: What DO you call those quick-quick thingies that are in milonga, tango and vals?
I call them rebound steps because focusing on the elasticity of this step, rather than the speed of the step, makes for a much more efficient (and thus quick) execution of this kind of movement. Because milonga is faster than tango (and most valses), learning to do the rebound step is especially pertinent.
I was not taught this method when I first learned tango, but my main teachers, Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas proved to me that it worked better. After arguing about it for a while, they simply led me (and had me lead) their style of rebound and HOLY COW! it was a lot easier. Twelve years into fifteen years of tango, and I completely changed my approach and can easily lead most followers, even beginners, in milonga. And you can, too! (and Oscar and Georgina will be back in Portland and Eugene in August and November, lucky us!)
A rebound step is any step that moves away from a given point and then returns to that initial location. For example, the first two steps of an ocho cortado for the leader are forward on the left, and then back on the right. Another example: a "traspie" step to the side before moving forward line-of-dance sends the leader to the side and then back to the original location.
Think of each two-piece rebound step as one unit: rather than "rock, rock" or "quick, quick" imagine that the movement in your foot and body is more like bouncing a ball: it hits the ground and rebounds up to your hand as one motion.
Nothing on YouTube was exactly what I wanted to show you, but this is close. See how the ball flattens into the ground and then rebounds in one smooth motion? That is what the arch of your foot is doing when you do a rebound step. If you do this while leading the follower to execute the same step, you can easily change directions at any speed.
Using the ball bouncing idea, notice that:
- The ball does not stop motion when it hits the floor. Instead, it flattens and then rebounds. Make sure you do not stop your motion.
- The ball does not stop a few inches from the floor and then come back up. Make sure that you do not signal for the follower to change direction until his/her foot has softened into the floor. The follower cannot change direction easily until the moment that the foot softens. Indicating a lead "early" to give the follower time to react, slows this move down.
- When the ball finishes the rebounding motion, it comes back to center (or back to your hand). Make sure that your rebound finishes back on axis/balance before moving to a new location.
Things that are different from an actual ball bouncing:
- Don't sink in your knees to lower your body! Stay at the same height while doing this move. The knees are naturally lightly flexed at all times to aid in balance and smoothness of move.
- Any direction you send your partner, they will rebound back to you. Think of a combination of handball (trying to send it straight back to yourself, however) and bouncing a ball.
- You don't have to push on the ball with your hand to make this happen: move your body, and the follower will be moved. I hope. If not, play naughty toddler!
How to break yourself of old traspie habits
It's one thing to understand how and why a rebound step works better when done this way. It's a much more time-intensive activity to relearn the step, which is why I've begun teaching this as one of the first steps in tango, milonga and vals classes.
- Dance slow motion: slow motion movement will help you find how far transfer your weight before rebounding. Abandon the need to make this move go quickly: as soon as it works slow, it will start to work at faster speeds.
- Close your eyes: learn to SENSE the movement of the follower, either in close or open embrace. When you can feel the follower's foot hit and soften into the floor, you will be able to reverse the follower's direction without much effort on either person's part.
- Play naughty toddler: I've noticed that most leaders do a great job leading rebound steps when forced to by a follower who is not paying attention and is full-on dancing. After all, stopping early to "signal" a change in direction won't work with this kind of follower! If they are about to run into someone, most leaders do a wonderful job of using the follower's body and weight to change direction ;-)
- Ask the follower for feedback: if one of you can feel the transfer of weight and the right time to change direction, you can teach each other the rebound step. If that is the leader, the follower can be told while dancing. If the follower feels it, but not the lead, practice slow motion and verbally cuing the leader ("Now!") until the leader feels confident about leading the step.
Until the new neural pathway is established in your brain, you will need to methodically and slowly repattern your body to access the new pathway first (this is why the new motion feels "weird" or "strange"--it is not the one that feels "right" to the body until the new pathway has been established). I've looked online for a good, short version of explaining how the body builds neural pathways, but most are either too simplistic, or too long. If you are interested in this information, go play on Google, and let me know if YOU find a good article! Thanks!
If you need any inspiration, check out Oscar and Georgina dancing a milonga, and watch their tons of lovely rebound steps! Now, go practice!