Sunday, 31 October 2010

fearless colgadas - practica session notes

This monday, 1st November, the theme is 'fearless colgadas'. How to do colgadas in the most effortless way possible and really explore the range of movements and expressions available with sharing axis in this way.

Colgada means to 'hang', that is, there is a shared axis and follower and leader are supporting each other while hanging outwards. There are broadly 2 things that make colgadas challenging for a lot of dancers: technique (posture, lead and follow) and trust. We'll work on both in this session.

Technical points and concepts:
connection through back and arms,
both sides of frame are important,
straight, vertical back (classic technique, but other options possible),
weight on ball of feet.
'sitting down at a tea party',

game: stop your partner from falling over. tests trust and if you're really sharing an axis.

exercises: back, side, circular colgadas. start small.

game: two foot colgada, swing from side to side. build momentum, distinquish from pretend 'squat colgadas'.

game: two foot colgada, stationary secada chain (challenging)

colgada (like boleos, ganchos and volcadas) can be seen as steps interrupted. slight emphasis of impulse for clarity. distinction between colgada (without boleo) and linear boleo (with colgada): 'up, over and back' vs. 'down and back'. can also use compression to control free leg.

variations: turning colgadas, sideways outer free leg colgadas.

applications: vals, general phrasing, endings, fun.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

guest slot by Sven and Elsa on Barridas - monday practica

This Monday our special guest teachers Sven and Elsa will be taking the guided practica.
Theme: Barridas (having contact with the feet between steps, otherwise known as a 'foot sweep').

That's all I've got for you this week, re the practica, other than to say that it will be great and you should come along. If you intend to do the guided part of this and future practicas, please arrive on time, 8pm. Cost, as usual, £4 per person.

All other details can be found here:

See you there!

Sven and Elsa are also available for private lessons, please speak to them to arrange this.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

free leg play with circles, boleos and ganchos - practica session notes

theme for monday 18th Oct: free let play.

What is the free leg? The leg which is free to move, because it has no weight on it. As we walk, each leg goes from free to fixed to free ... and so on.

While a leg is free it can move according to the energy of the lead, or the follower can move it in some expressive way often referred to as a decoration. We'll focus on leading the free leg.

Exercise: finding the free leg. hands on wall, make circles with leg using movement of centre. Contrast forced circles with free ones. Break down into four positions, let the leg hang. Get the circle going freely.

Exercise: walk with an occasional circle (as per exercise above). Try to fit to music. Watch for followers 'helping' leaders by faking the movement. Encourage dialogue between leader and follower.

Exercise: Linear boleos. Start from stationary, follower lets the leg hang. Leader experiments to find how to make the leg swing like a pendulum. Stress importance of trust between leader and follower to allow the true lead to be discovered. Go into walking boleo, backward and forward.

Game: Gancho pendulum. leader and follower face same direction, side to side. follower swings inside leg like a pendulum. Leader moves inside leg between follower sporadically, creating a gancho. Tests trust. Emphasize the difference in feeling from a hesitant gancho to a full leg wrapping one. Technique points: allow slight bend in standing leg for follower, have free leg foot making contact with only the ball of the foot on the ground.

Exercise: Put into pactice, backwards ocho into gancho. Try to get the same flavour as with the game. Gancho's should feel more 'delicious'.

Exercise: Gancho rebound into follower secarda. Emphasize difference in timing and direction of lead 'into the ground'.

Idea: Introduce the idea of the free leg freeze, from compression or tension in the embrace.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces - practica session notes

11th Oct practica plan

theme: Safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces

Question: How do you help each other relax in a busy milonga?

Shrinking dance floor. Continually reduce allowed floor area during practica.

Avoiding collisions: side steps and turns.
Dancing expressively in minature: small giros, favouring the open side. slow steps, fuller body communication, the richness in comunication is only between the two of you.

Game: take half a song without a single full step, projection and balance changes allowed. Try with different partners.

Game: use line of chairs to make a narrow corridor (could use people if enough) to practice following line of dance. Two couples going through at once. Do ochos and giros along line. Can you do your favourite figure?

Dancing within a circle of people (2 couples to make circle, 1 couple in the middle).

Blind folded tango within protective circle. Practice feeling for safe space.

Go from dancing in small circle back to a 'normal' small floor, compare level of relaxation.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Beginner/refresher tango course - session notes

After several years of pondering teaching tango professionally, now seems the time to do it. I've already dipped my toes in with the guided practicas I've started running, I have a lovely local venue and hopefully a lot of potential to grow the local scene. Also a little extra money would be very handy right now.

I put together some rough notes for a 4 week course of 4, 90 minute sessions. I'd be very interested to hear any feedback from people who have some experience teaching tango. What ideas or activities work well for you with a new group of beginners? Does the below seem too ambitious for only 4 sessions? Any advice welcome!

Session 1: What is tango? Spirit, origin, music, culture, addiction. Two people connecting through touch and music, a timeless human activity. The embrace (hugging, the frame circle, listening), walking back and forth with connection and rhythm. Walk like this animal game: prowling cat, nervous mouse. Demonstrate the musical richness of ‘just walking’.

Session 2: More on attitude, patience and respect. Getting more balance and comfort in the walk: head above shoulders, above hips, rolling weight, angle of foot, ‘finding the ground’. Role-play in walking: ‘impatient rusher’, ‘indecisive worrier’, ‘seducer’, ‘peaceful zen monk’. ‘There is no wrong foot’ concept. Getting around corners. Rock-step for musical expression and changing direction (also tests frame and connection). Obstacle course game, use rock-step or a simple pivot to ‘steer’.

Session 3: The axis and your core. Ochos, a walk with a zig-zag. Break it down into different shapes or ‘stances’ for leader and follower. Step through the stances and correct posture. Practice drills against a wall. Find your axis between each step. Practice in pairs. Milonga etiquette, line of dance, safe distance. The responsibilities of leading and following. Line of dance and collision avoidance game. Playing with step size. How small can you step?

Session 4: The free leg and following the direction of lead. The cross. ‘A move’ vs. ‘Free leg, following the lead’. Putting the cross into the dance. Show some variations. Refresh ochos, rock-step and pivoting. Introduce the giro: stepping around the corners of a square, disassociation. Balloon exercise. Couple has to keep the balloon between their chests as they do the giro.

I've also thought ahead to future courses. 'core skills 1' below is essentially what I've been teaching in the practicas so far. Had great feedback on it so far.

Tango core skills 1, 4 week course:

Session 1: 3 elements to walking as one (including work on double time and intro to close embrace)

Session 2: stepping with intent.

Session 3: density and dynamics.

Session 4: safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces (more on close embrace).

Tango core skills 2 (requires core skills 1) , 4 week course:

Session 1: free leg, leg wraps, planeos, linear boleos, circular boleos

Session 2: leg invasions, ganchos and secardas

Session 3: shared axis, volcardas and colgadas

Session 4: playing with symmetry and asymmetry in form and timing (including breaking the embrace)

Further tango skills, 4 week course:

Session 1: Enrosques, turning and spinning.

Session 2: Back secardas and over-turned secardas.

Session 3: Gancho and secarda chains.

Session 4: Aerial movements.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Stepping with intent - practica session notes

4th Oct practica plan

'Stepping with intent'

Sub-themes: trust (as comes from patience and respect)

How can leader and follower step with confidence and precision?
What makes steps: indecisive, disconnected with leader or follower, uncomfortable, rushed, etc.?

Lack of technique, respect, patience and trust. Other ideas?

A recipe for more confident and precise steps..

Always listen for direction.
Aim for smooth resistance while transferring weight.
Trust that the space is safe.

Be clear about direction but do not force it.
Aim for smooth lead energy while transferring weight.
Make sure the space is safe.

Walking exercise -
striding out, big smooth steps. how can you stay connected? (revise ideas from '3 elements to walking as one', e.g. grip floor, role weight)

Exercise with ochos -
Question: what angle are the steps of an ocho?
How long is a piece of string? It depends on the lead.
Try varying forward and backward ochos from a walk with a slight zigzag to large over-rotation going in the opposite direction to normal? Leaders and followers try to apply the above recipe.
For leaders, try leading a forward ocho, while you are in cross basic, so that the follower is stepping deep into your space, brushing your leg with each step. (Demonstrate)
(Typically some followers will be hesitant to follower the actual direction and strength of the lead, either increasing the angle of the step, or cutting it short. Both of which diminish the connection. Some leaders will respond to that by being ever more forceful, or giving up and dancing with less interest.)
Help everyone feel the difference the recipe makes for this stylish and sensual step. Strategy for leaders to encourage followers to make such steps: gentle confidence, and building up from very slow movements. Strategy for followers: trust, but with discretion.

Demonstrate a change of embrace that relies on giving clear direction and listening for it.


Give 5 minutes of play to find a new or unusual way of using the recipe.