Leading different size steps for a saucy tango

Now that all the followers have learned to take uniformly sized steps, we are starting to learn to vary the size of steps during the dance. WHAT?!? What was the point of learning to keep them the same?

  • Safety: As the leader learns to lead, there are already so many variables that having a constant step size from the follower helps make tango danceable;
  • Control: You can't learn to vary your step size on purpose until you have learned to FEEL where your body normally exists in space (kinesthetic awareness).

Now that you have learned control over your steps, we can play with the dance to add flavor (what my teachers Oscar and Georgina call "picante") to your movement, based on musical promptings, other people's use of space, of just for fun.

Two of the combinations we have worked on in the Monday advanced class have dealt with leading the follower to use small steps interspersed with larger steps. In both, we changed the follower's "back-side-forward" steps of a giro into something a bit different.

The marca is the key to changing the follower's step size

One of my advanced students told my teachers that he didn't like using his hand as a part of the lead. He said he had been trained to NOT use his right hand and embrace to control movement. Oscar told him that he could continue to dance like that and "do your four or five moves" but in order to develop clear leads for more moves, he needed to learn to use the marca.

This is to head off all the comments from those of you who say to me, "But [x teacher] told me not to use my hands!" I believe that that person probably just didn't understand 100% how to make this dance easier and more elegant. Yes, it IS more work to learn to lead this way, but it means that your follower will go where you want, and do what you want them to do. I personally like to see that glazed, happy look on my follower's face after a tanda; don't you?

The point of the marca is not to signal the follower, but rather to be able to control the follower's movement gently and effectively. The follower does not need to "know" a signal because the follower's body is adjusted by the marca to make the move work.

The marca needed for step size is the suspension of the follower WHILE MOVING. When I suspend the follower:

  • If she is stationary, she will (hopefully) stay put on one leg;
  • If she is moving when you suspend, the follower's feet stay under her more, making her steps smaller: this is what we need!


Medialuna to the left (1st part of the combination)

Rather than getting three medium-sized steps for the medialuna, this combination asked the follower to step "big-big-tiny" in order to end in the cross: #4 is the key part:

  1. salida
  2. regresa (side step back towards original position)
  3. 1 step LOD (leader left foot, follower right foot)
  4. medialuna to the left, with the leader stepping forward diagonal on the first step with the right AND STAYING ON THAT FOOT, and then pivoting in place with the chest to twist the follower into the cross, rather than taking a forward step on the third step of the turn.
  5. Use the marca to pivot the follower into the cross with a light suspension. This limitls the size of step the follower can take.
  6. Collect and (if needed) pivot counterclockwise, then both move laterally facing left diagonal LOD, and collect again to pivot clockwise and step laterally, facing right diagonal.
  7. End ready to move LOD.

 A note: I teach followers to do uniform giro steps UNLESS led to do #4. Other teachers in the community teach to automatically do the cross, but then the leader has only one option for movement. This way, the leader has a choice of possible movements, one of which is to truncate the forward step into the cross.

Main object of doing this medialuna into the cross: use your new skills in step size to adjust spatially to position your next move on the crowded dance floor.