Corridas and toquecitos: technique for milonga excellence

Milonga is perhaps my favorite dance in the entire world (tango, cover your ears!). I love the groove of the dance and the simplicity/challenge of playing with syncopation instead of the more varying syncopation, pauses and slo-mo possibilities in tango. Many dancers who come from other rhythmic dances, find milonga easier to approach than tango.

However, because of its speed and the need for smaller steps, milonga can be more challenging than tango to reach a level of excellence. It is SO easy to abandon technique and just clomp through the dance, panicking at the needed speed of each step.

I have just taught six weeks of milonga technique in my beginning, intermediate and advanced classes. The Body Dynamics class has been focused on small steps, elegance and speed for the session as well.

Corridas and toquecitos

Corridas

Corridas, or "runs" are a series of fast, small steps that can be moving forward, backwards, or laterally. Corridas are also done in tango and vals, and have the same considerations there.

For forward or backwards steps, the main issue is making the fast (syncopated) steps feel comfortable. Remember:

  1. Take quick steps that are half as big as the regular steps.
  2. Get your heel down on each step to balance yourself for the next step.
  3. As you shift feet, keep your knee and hip alignment so you have cushioning.
  4. Core, core, core! Engage your deep core to make a dynamic step your partner can feel.

For lateral steps, a lot of people find the errors in their normal side steps are magnified by going quickly! Focus on:

  1. Rolling through your foot on both the step traveling to the side, AND on the step in place!
  2. Letting the natural shift in the hips happen when you change feet. Don't keep your hips flat to the ground!
  3. Keeping the knees soft.

Toquecitos (little touches)

Toquecitos are adornos that work really well in milonga. BE CAREFUL to avoid overdoing them. I distinctly remember one woman who was dancing when I started in 1995: she sounded like she was tap dancing! Don't be that person ;-)

That said, toquecitos that are soft and get your feet under you can be used as what I call a "functional" adorno: something that improves your technique, rather than just an ornament.

Toquecito tips:

  1. As one of my teachers used to say, "Don't kill the cockroach!" Just tap lightly.
  2. Use the ankle muscles so that the movement is the whole foot.
  3. Think of using it just before you move, rather than step and tap. I think of it like a downbeat: "And, go!" instead of "Step, TAP!" which is too loud/harsh.

 

The video

Lapiz: Using lapiz as a simple adorno, and in turns

The lapiz, or "pencil" is an adornment for the leader.  When used in a turn, the leader draws a quarter circle (more or less) on the ground to mark the path of the follower's back cross, side and forward cross steps of the turn.

Exercises for disassociation (to prepare for doing the lapiz and other fancy stuff)

These are exercises from Oscar Mandagaran, Luciana Valle, and Chicho Frumboli. You can use them to develop the ability to move upper and lower body parts at different times, without falling over. This disassociation of the body refers to remaining on axis, but rotating around the axis: rotating the chest to turn the follower without moving the hips, or executing an ocho for the follower twisting the lower body more than the torso.

  1. Step forward with the right foot. I leave my left foot back to feel the twist of the body, but this is not necessary.
  2. When you are on axis, rotate around your axis to the right (clockwise, CW).
  3. After you twist to your maximum, let the twist resolve by allowing the hips to rotate until your body is in neutral again (hips/solar plexus pointing the same direction).
  4. At first, this may be only a quarter turn. Remember, the follower's movement in the turn provides some momentum for the leader's pivot in a "real" turn. Do not wind up with your arms, shoulders, butt, etc., in order to turn faster. Once the mechanics are working in slow motion in a small rotation, you will find it easy to turn further and/or faster.

After this is working, add another section (preparation for enrosques, drags, etc.):

  1. As the hips return to neutral in #4, don't stop them! Keep rotating your hips until they are ahead of the torso.
  2. Continue the torso's motion until it is neutral above the hip's position.

I use this same motion to prepare for some kinds of drags and enrosques. In these moves, I need to lead the follower with a consistent motion, but I need to get ready for another move for myself at the same time. Using these drills helps the body memorize the feeling of keeping the torso with the follower, while doing something else. After years of working on this drill, I can depend on my body to do the movement correctly in the heat of the dance, rather than just on the practice or class dance floor.

Lapiz Technique

  • The leader stands on one foot.
  • While leading a turn (if the leader is standing on the left leg, turn to the right, or CW), the leader makes a quarter circle with the free foot on the floor and collects it back under him/her. I think "Noon to 3 o'clock" to get the right shape.
  • For me, the lapiz does not change level.  That is, I don't sink into it and then rise again. I try to maintain the same level so that the follower's turn is not disturbed.
  • Because a turn is occurring while the lapiz happens, it FEELS as if the lapiz is much bigger. Do NOT make a bigger sweep ("noon to six o'clock") with your leg to get momentum: let the follower's turn make the momentum, based on your body's disassociation/rotation around the axis.
  • In the variation we learned last week, the lapiz ends with a front parada (stop) and stepover for the follower. In this case, the quarter circle gets a little tail, as the leader completes the lapiz and then extends the foot again to block the follower's path for the parada.

The lapiz itself is not difficult, but doing it while still leading the follower to turn around the leader can be tricky. The leader's chest needs to turn (as usual) to make the follower turn. The leader is standing on one leg during the turn and moving the other leg without disturbing the balance of the hips. In order for the movement to work, the torso and hips need to disassociate from one another, without losing the axis of the body.

Lapiz as an adorno

Using lapiz as an adorno is a very short clip from Body Dynamics class a few weeks ago. We learned this in the Next 10 Tango Moves class last session.

Lapiz in turns

You can also use the lapiz in turns. We learned this in the Next 10 Tango Moves class, and have been using it in longer combinations in the advanced class this past session. Here is a short clip from Body Dynamics class, reviewing what we've been working on.

 

Note to followers: The energy and precision of the follower's turn helps the leader to achieve an elegant lapiz. For me, the follower is the "motor" of this move, but does not take over. Give the leader your best turn, keeping the steps equidistant to the center of the circle (the leader). As the leader becomes more comfortable turning on one foot, this will become easier for both of you.

Adornos in Body Dynamics class

Last week, we worked a lot on adornos.  Here is the video summary of class--yes, I think I finally figured out how to convince my computer to talk to YouTube (by NOT using my video editing program :-() and YouTube to talk to my blog!

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0lGC2p3GOU?fs=1&feature=oembed] 

 

Adornos we worked on:

  • lineas (lines)
  • circles (circulos or firuletes)
  • amagues
  • "the elevator"
  • "shine your shoes"
  • "double Georgina"
  • "raise and lower" (sube y baja)
  • "floor caress"
  • toquecitos (little touches)

YouTube has refused to save my video as unlisted, so any of you who know how to convince it otherwise, let me know!