Monday, 18 February 2013

Introduction to Aerial Technique in Tango - workshop notes

Content overview:
  • increasing and mirroring contact to set up good conditions for flight
  • lengthening, reaching and supporting – not jumping or throwing
  • using the hips and core for stability and balance
  • smooth, safe landings
  • putting it into practice with 3 aerial movements:
    • a suspended leap along the line of dance
    • leg wrap into knee lift, with and without turn
    • walking on invisible stairs

Workshop plan:

Aim and intro: to give a clear and accessible introduction to the techniques for flying and lifting in tango, with an emphasis on safety, smoothness and making it easy.

length: 4 hours, including break time.

Warm up:

include ankle, calf and thighs as well as back exercises.

Exercise: Lift off on parallel bars movement – lengthen legs and spine towards ceiling, while pushing shoulders and arms down (as if pushing up and suspending body on parallel bars).

Exercise: Squat exercise – as above, keeping shoulders down, but thinking about lifting from the hip. Knees stay slightly bent.

Go into above two movements from walking and from a change of direction.

Exercise: Stand side by side arms around waist of parnter. Slowly take their weight until you are entirely supporting them. Do slowly and keep the lift very low. Try both sides. The more surface area in contact, the easier it tends to be. Lifter lowers hips, draws and counterbalances.

Note: When you dance tango the aim is generally to stay together. This is especially crucial when one of you is in the air :) Doing this in a safe and comfortable way is a shared responsibility for both leader and follower. The approach we'll explore today is an application of the mirroring concept which one key to the Tango Lingua approach. This is where the quality and direction of intent from the leader is mirrored (i.e. reflected) by the follower through the points of contact. Now let's get a feel for that on the ground first.

Exercise: mirroring game, standing, fixed embrace, then with shifting embrace. Practice releasing and re-establishing contact points.

Exercise: use above concept to increase contact through a more wrapping embrace through a forward ocho on the closed side from side step. Take into a forward walk for follower and leader.

At this stage we're almost ready to approach our first flight. But first some important safety and technique points.

When flying do not jump I cannot emphasize that too much. If you jump then someone has to catch you. If they're not 100% ready to do that on your way down, and in the perfect position, their body will be subject to a large shock and possible injury. It will also look, let's call it un-smooth.

What's the alternative to jumping? Lengthening and stretching up, thus raising your centre of gravity, making you much easier to lift.

When lifting do not throw Similarly for leaders, do not throw your follower into the air, lift in a smooth, controlled fashion. Sudden acceleration into the air will lead to unpredictable results.

(Maybe for some really big lifts a jump can help, but we're doing small ones today and will focus on lengthening the body rather than jumping)

Question: what do the shoulders and arms do, and what would happen if they came up during attempted take off?

(should stay locked down, arms hold frame while airborne, else shoulders get lifted instead of you)
Repeat lift off on parallel bars and squat style movements.

Demonstrate first lift: suspended leap in line of dance.

Before you try it, you'll want to know about how to land :)

Just as the follower reaches and lengthens towards the ceiling when taking off, the follow reaches and lengthens towards the floor, the very instant they feel the leader is beginning to take them down. Do not delay.

For leaders, make sure the follower is well supported, all the way down. Do not drop at the last moment before they reach the ground. Hence the need to be really in tune with each other.

Question: Why might it be difficult for the leader if the follower doesn't reach for the ground, once the leader is indicating a decent?

(they have to carry the follower for longer, bend legs more and potentially have a greater strain on their back or risk of dropping the follower)

Leader tip: As with the warm up exercise, it's generally easier to lift with the hips slightly under your partner. When lifting make sure your spine is straight and not stooped over, align the shoulders back and down and engage the gluts and lower abs, to give extra stability to the spine.

Leader tip: step close to the follow on the step preceding the lift.

Leader tip: to make it easy for the follower to land on the other leg, making one big arching movement (the slow-motion leap), avoid pushing you hip through, which will tend to send their hips forward, making it more likely they'll land on the back leg again (the slow-motion hop...). To some degree you can also use the open side of the embrace to give a slight tilt toward the front leg.

Question: How can you get your hips slightly lower than the followers using the mirroring principle for contact?

(release, move, reconnect – in a smooth way)

Follower tip: Just as the leader is tensing their body when lifting you, if you do the same (mirroring the quality of contact) you'll feel lighter and easier to move in the air.

Follower tip: to land on the front leg, making one continuous slow-motion leap, picture you legs following the long arcing motion of the leader's frame as they lift you. Use your back muscles to balance the tension in your abs to avoid your hips tilting forward, and allow the back leg to bend slightly after take off – as you would naturally do if really making a leap.  

Follower tip: For added smoothness and style, let the arc of your hip and legs follow behind the arc of your chest. i.e. use contra-posture to give a beautiful cascading effect to the movement.

Movement 1: Practice 'suspended leap'.

Break time 20 mins for food and drink

Quick warm up

Introduce walking on invisible stairs movement. Cycling, stretching for floor on each cycle, staying in time with music. Secret to smooth take-off and landing is timing, and leader and follower posture. Each cycle could be a landing, reaching for floor.

Movement 2: Demo how to make more seamless take off (disguise adjustment of embrace during turn).

Practice movement.

Movement 3: Demo leg wrap into knee lift.

Counter balance, then lift.

Discuss role of compression is frame to 'freeze' followers free leg before lift.

Explore criticality of leading and following accurate step direction and length before the lift.

Show variations with turn and 'dip'.

General demo and Q & A.

practice time.

Feedback and questions welcome. Feel free to use these notes for your own purposes. If you'd like to go over any of the points or techniques with me in person, or have me come and teach this or similar to a group, just get in touch :)

[This was actually my first time presenting an aerial technique workshop, and it turned out everyone there was a woman. With a mixed group I would have been impressed with what everyone accomplished, but given it was all ladies this time (where were you men?), I'm doubly happy :) Just goes to show, with the proper technique lifting is no problem - even when they tried lifting me a few times (90kg+)!]

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