Colgadas: more tips for off-axis tango moves

A colgada puts the follower off-axis AWAY from the leader. Like the volcada, it is a move that works like a pendulum or a wave. The leader sends the follower away, counterbalances, and then allows the move to resolve to the best exit point available.

The big picture: get the follower feeling safe and on balance, and then tip the follower over, adjusting for free leg motion and rotation; and get the follower safely back on balance.

Upcoming classes

We will be working on volcadas in my 8 PM Thursday classes at Om Studio August 9, 16, 23 & 30, 2018 if you happen to be in Portland.

Tips on colgadas

Following a colgada can be a scary experience: the leader asks you to trust them, and there is nothing behind you to hold you up if the move does not work, except your own behind :-)  I find that leaders scoff at this being scary, but are very nervous about being LED in colgadas. Trust has to be built for two people to do colgadas well.

Leading colgadas

The main important focus of leading a colgada should be making sure the follower feels safe so that s/he will LET you go off-balance with his/her axis.

Regular (with or without a free leg moving):

  1. Put the follower ON-axis, with the supporting foot grounded, first!
  2. Add tilt away from you.
  3. Counter-balance from the same shared axis point.
  4. Feel the pendulum of the follower's movement, and exit with it.
  5. Don't hold the position! It's a pendulum.
  6. Exit the direction that feels the easiest for the follower, barring obstacles.

Colgadas with pivoting:

  1. Not all colgadas have rotation/pivot, so make sure you read the follower's movement.
  2. Do steps 1 & 2 from the previous list (put follower on-axis and then add tilt).
  3. Add the rotation.
  4. Again, there is a pendulum motion to colgadas, so don't hold it; let it keep moving.
  5. Figure out the exit pattern based on tilt AND rotation. You can S-T-R-E-C-H it out.

Following colgadas

Although you can't control the leader, you can make your half of a colgada work better.

Regular colgadas:

  1. Get on/off-axis from the floor up. If the leader can't feel your connection to the floor, they will push/pull harder, which will knock you over. 
  2. Keep yourself ON your foot. If you are rolling off your little toe or the inside of your foot, you are too far off-axis to do a good colgada.
  3. Feet, knees, hips, spine and embrace all work together as a spring to make the colgada work. Tone (but not locking) throughout the system makes colgadas feel easier for you and the leader. Think like a "water spider" that spreads its weight out to all limbs.
  4. Feel the pendulum of the motion through your body, and follow it. The leader can better resolve a colgada by reading where your body wants to go.
  5. Practice, practice, practice to feel safe enough not to clench your body. See the drills below on the video.
  6. If it's not working, step out of the move: Your free leg should be available to put down under you.

Pivoting colgadas:

  1. Focus on how your axis/spring of your body can stay springy first.
  2. If you can let your free leg go free without collapsing your center, do so.
  3. Keep your foot balanced over your metatarsal arch. I find it helps to put a little extra energy into my big toe so that I don't tip onto my little toe.
  4. Pivoting off-axis is much harder than on-axis, so practice (see below) with a door jamb before working up to a human :-)

Solo drills and tips to prepare for colgadas

New Monday night sessions start 2/27


Both the Body Dynamics class and the Advanced class start new sessions the Monday after Valentango. There is NO CLASS 2/20: we are all too tired to learn after a festival :-)

7 PM: Body Dynamics

This class focuses on learning stellar technique to add more ENERGY and feeling into your dance. My style is body-based, working towards efficient use of the core to reduce wear and tear on the rest of the body. In each session, we look at how the body is built to move, and then work on using it the right way in tango.

This session, we will be preparing the body to move off-axis for colgadas, volcadas, etc. We will focus on using the core, the stretch of the body and leg strength (protecting the back), and also on freeing up a leg to combine boleos, etc., with these moves.

Also, we will work on being able to dance beautifully in small spaces.  Dancing small is hard to do with power and energy, but it is possible!

Designed for intermediate and advanced dancers, or beginners with dance background.

8 PM: Advanced class

Come challenge yourself!  Make your dance flow better; add sensuousness, balance, connection, musicality, adornos--take it to the next level! 

This session, the advanced class will focus on appropriate-for-the-social-dance-floor colgadas, volcadas, single axis turns, and playing with the axis. Each week, we will do a new combination, concentrating on dynamics, musicality and connection.

For dancers with at least three years tango experience, or instructor's permission. No partner necessary. You may work with a partner you bring to class, or trade partners.

$60/6 week session for one class. Special: sign up for both for $90! Drop in is $12/class.

Single axis turns: the basics and some combos

I've been so busy studying anatomy that I've had little time to blog, BUT I realized that I haven't put any notes down for single axis turns for a LONG time. Here's the short version of what we did tonight in class.

The basics

Single axis turns are turns in which the leader and the follower are (as much as is possible) sharing an axis while spinning on one foot in place, and then exiting.

A single axis turn can be done:

  • in a right or left turn;
  • with either the leader's right or left foot;
  • and through any step of the follower's turn.

Of course, not all single axis turns are created equal, and some are harder to do than others. However, I've found that each leader finds different single axis turns to be easier. I myself mastered the one my teacher thought would be hardest for me before the "easy" one! I should say that my main teacher for these has been Luciana Valle (thanks, Luciana!), but that I also studied them with Chicho and with Gustavo. I was taught them in open embrace, but I do them and teach them in the V-shaped, close embrace that I usually use to dance.

The order we did so far:

  • left turn, step through follower's open step with left foot (or right).
  • left turn, step through follower's front cross step  with left foot (or right).
  • left turn, step through follower's back cross step with left foot (right is dangerous here).


Secrets to make single axis turns easy

The list I wrote on the board for leaders:

  • Step AROUND/BEHIND the follower's front foot (whichever concept puts you in the right place).
  • Step forward HEEL-TOE, allowing both people's feet to continuing rotating, in order to land better on balance and not catch feet.
  • "Pink Panther" timing: da-DUMP! The follower's foot hits the ground, and then you step around/behind a split second after they start the weight transfer. This allows you an escape hatch if the partner lands off balance, so that you can bail on the turn, OR help them regain balance. It also allows you to "ride" the momentum of the follower, instead of working harder ;-)
  • Don't go for 360o instead of technique: a 180o is fine (heck, a quarter turn is fine). When you and your partner are aligned correctly, you will find that you turn a lot more, even without much effort.
  • There should be a moment at the end of the turn where there is a feeling of suspension before the exit: don't fall into an exit, use that suspension and enjoy it! It's like a wave gathering and then breaking.
  • Exit with the follower's easiest exit (usually back or forward) and arrange yourself as needed. If you need to change feet for stability, then do it, but ONLY to exit. For example, on the follower's back cross step version of this turn, I sometimes lead this in parallel, then transfer weight to exit in crossed system.

The list is shorter for followers:

  • Don't panic.
  • Stay aligned (you were joking about "butt out" and all of you did better after that).
  • Did I mention don't panic?
  • Do the best turn you can do, with excellent technique on each step, and you will be on balance, ready for anything.

Combinations from single axis turns plus the boleos we've been doing

1. Left turn, back boleo in the turn, rebound to front cross step, and do the single axis turn in that step, to the left, with either foot stepping around/behind follower. Exit follower stepping back for easiest exit.

2. Right turn, pivot follower as if to ocho, and lead front boleo, unwind into left turn, and do the single axis turn in that back cross step with the left foot. Exit follower stepping forward for safest results.