[update: I've now developed a new and much improved version of the kata, please see new post for videos!]
I've been thinking for a while that a kata would be a very useful teaching and practising tool for tango. But I've not seen one anywhere yet. It's fairly common for teachers to use relatively short sequences that (hopefully) encapsulate some principles of tango. What I have in mind though is a more comprehensive sequence of movements specifically designed for retaining and passing on tango knowledge. (You may have guessed by this point that I have a background in martial arts.)
This first one is a solo kata. Obviously tango isn't so often a solo activity, and I intend to develop pair katas soon, but one of the prime uses of katas is to be able to practice when you don't have a partner, so I hope this will be useful for that.
I've called the kata 'Fuertes Raíces' meaning 'strong roots', reflecting the intention of the sequence. Performed uninterrupted it takes between 6 and 8 minutes, which includes a minute of improvisation. I guess with a class, and stopping to re-examine some steps and give instructions it would take closer to 15 minutes. I'll be posting an example performance video soon. I expect I'll break it up into 2 or 3 stages for teaching and assessment purposes.
Specifically this kata tests: balance, control of weight, basic technique of stepping, double time, crossing, pivoting, giros, enrosques, plus improvisation.
I expect to refine the kata over time, and your feedback is very welcome!
Fuertes Raíces Kata ('strong roots' kata)
Start standing straight, relaxed but with good posture. Heels together, toes slightly apart.
Change weight to left leg.
Right leg makes circles with toes pointed. Start with knee raised making circles in the air, slowly lowering leg to make circles with toes gliding over floor. Left leg slowly bends to allow right leg to make bigger circles. Core and chest should be still.
Repeat on other side, with left leg making circles.
Change weight to left leg, extend right leg to the front, side then back, without transferring weight, collecting between directions and extending leg so that it is straight.
Extend right leg as before to the front, side and back, but now with a weight transfer to make a forward, side and back step, coming back to the same point between each step. Look for level shoulders on all steps.
Repeat above two steps on other side, extending now the left leg.
Using the above stepping technique demonstrate two slow and continuous forward steps followed by two back steps, starting on the left leg.
Repeat above step, starting on the right leg.
Demonstrate with double time. Repeat the above two steps with a [* * _ * *] (double, rest, double) rhythm, where the second step of the double time is a weight change without extending the leg. This means the leg that extends is the same for both actual steps.
Demonstrate the above principle with side steps, starting on the left leg. Two steps in each direction.
Demonstration a continuous 'double time triangle'. Step to the left, change, step forward right diagonal, change, step back right diagonal change and repeat triangle 3 times. Then again but starting with stepping to the right.
Weight on left leg, heels together, take right foot and cross over the front of the left foot to bring toes together with roughly a 60 degree angle between heels. But do not transfer weight. Bring right foot back to normal standing position.
Repeat above step but now transfer weight back and forth four times but without uncrossing.
Repeat step before last, but now transfer weight and uncross to complete 'the cross'.
Repeat above three steps on the other side with the left foot crossing over the right.
Repeat the above three steps, but now with crossing behind. Look for the height staying the same as the back cross is made and the standing foot is raised to the ball to make space for the crossing foot. Crosses should be slow and controlled.
Now chain 4 front crosses together from standing and then 4 back crosses all at a faster speed.
Weight on left leg, extend right foot to begin a step, transfer weight completely while turning upper body to the right and keeping hips facing forward. Do not collect left leg, which should be straight and foot facing slightly outward. Return to standing on left leg.
Repeat above step but now collect left left and untwist, creating a smooth 180 degree turn.
From that position repeat above two steps with the left leg making the forward step.
Repeat the above three steps but with back steps.
Using the above pivoting technique, demonstrate 4 sets of 180 degree smooth forward and backward ochos.
Repeat the above step but now with moving 90 degree forward and backward ochos, keeping the chest facing forward throughout the movement.
Using the above pivoting technique demonstrate giros, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise. Perform three each way, starting with a side step. Keep regular pace with chest facing into the centre of the giro.
Combined pivoting with crosses (enrosques)
Forward step with the left foot, into a 180 degree turn with back cross enrosque, stepping out along the same line with a back step onto the left foot. Look for smoothness and control.
Repeat above step from current position stepping with the right root.
Repeat above two steps but with a forward cross enrosque. Look for the turn being generated from the enrosque movement.
30 - 60 seconds of improvisation, incorporating the elements of walking, weight changes with double time, crossing, pivoting, giros and enrosques. Personal expression encouraged, needn't be 'tango as we know it', so long as the aforementioned elements are shown, and some thought given to flow and good posture.