Tuesday, 16 November 2010

practica continues, practica session pauses

Just to announce the free session within the monday practica is taking a little break, probably until after Christmas. The open practicas will continue as usual, 8-11pm at Povey's Dance Centre. Everyone welcome, please come along, do your own thing and enjoy some tango practice. Joe will be there to offer assistance to anyone who would like.

Monday, 15 November 2010

freedom and connection in the open embrace - practica session notes

This monday, 15th Nov, we'll look at some simple ways of getting more connection at the same time as less restriction or blocking of intended movement in the open embrace.

The focus will be on pivoting.

Some key ideas:
The frame as a circle. two connected circles that may rotate independently. this idea allows a lot of rotation and change of orientation between leader and follower to happen without strain. Leader and follower are not fixed in their relative positions within the frame.

Softness and structure. how do these two important qualities come into the embrace? we'll explore the idea of 'mirroring' in the quality of contact from leader to follower, with the result that different parts of the embrace can offer solidity and structure, while other parts offer softness and freedom of movement. using this idea, ochos (and everything else involving pivoting) feel more relaxed while allowing the possibility of being very dynamic.

Obviousl,y groundedness is key to connection and this was covered some weeks ago (see '3 elements to walking as one').

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

would you like a guest session with Paul Vossen?

There is the lucky chance to have a 2 hour group session with Paul Vossen on Monday Nov 29th. Paul is an outstanding teacher and inspiring dancer who runs the famous Taboe Tango camp in NL. The session will be on Tango Dynamic Release Technique for natural feeling boleos of numerous kinds. If you're interested let us know asap, as we need to know if it's viable soon. Thanks!

Also, if you could let me know briefly how comfortable you currently are with boleos that would be helpful in deciding the precise content of the workshop.

Here's some notes from Paul:
"Tango Dynamic Release Technique
This Tango techniques enables the couple to create simple and complex leg movements for the follower with out any effort. The technique is especially useful to create many different types of boleos (contra, con, linear, circular, hooked, frozen, phased, muted, etc) in all possible positions: standing walking, turning and even in colgada and volcada.
The Dynamic Release technique uses efficiently gravity of the hip and leg and makes it possible to create a great swing without effort and even from a standing position. Further more it is possible to mold and change the path of the leg during the swing and create all kinds of boleo variations.
The techniques is especially fit for the open and semi open embrace and is even fit for crowded milongas since the energy of the movement stays within the couple."

Basically we need a minimum of 5 couples (at £15 per head) to make it work. If more people attend, the cost can come down. The session will be at our normal venue in Southampton, the Povey's dance centre, 159 Shirely Road. See www.tangolingua.com/find-us for more details.

As usual, the practica is open, so you can come and do your own thing (or just watch) for the usual price of £4. Tea making facilities are available and you're welcome to bring snacks.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

pivoting technique and moving without strain - practica session notes

This coming monday, 8th Nov, the theme will be pivoting technique and moving without strain.

how can you pivot with minimal effort? how can you keep your balance more easily when turning, doing ochos and giros? There are some particular things you can do in the way you move and hold your chest, waist, hips and legs that really help. We'll be going over those in the session and also giving some practical tips to avoid strains in your body when dancing.

3 step forward turn kata:
  1. project free leg with out-turn of foot
  2. weight transfer with turn from waist and open hip, straight back leg with outward angle of foot
  3. bring back leg to close, keep shape of standing leg fixed as you rotate on ball of foot, allow waist to untwist, do not allow your trailing leg to cross the line of your standing leg
repeat above for forward ochos

flowing super relaxed forward ochos with front baleo - effortless rotation applying above principles

contrast with some stressful alternative ways of doing forward ochos, feel the difference in your body.

3 step back turn kata:
  1. project free leg back and staight with out-turn of foot
  2. weight transfer with turn from waist. do not rotate or 'close' hips.
  3. bring free leg to close, keep shape of standing leg fixed as you rotate on ball of foot, allow waist to untwist, do not allow your trailing leg to cross the line of your standing leg. visualize being pulled around and slightly into the floor from the middle side of your back, as if by a rope.
repeat above for back ochos

try 360 back rotation in relaxed fashion.

comes from compromising your core, pinching or over twisting back, stepping with hips out of alignment, etc. leaders and followers be mindful to allow your partner freedom to take their axis and to pivot freely. discuss elasticity and mirror quality of frame. applications, back ocho into back secarda. 

common trouble spots for strain: barridas, step overs, ganchos, boleos

brain teaser: leader does continual 270(ish) rotation back ocho secardas to the follower's 270 rotation forward ochos. This is practically impossible, unless you get the above principles and are able to relax in your pivoting.

further questions?

EDIT. here's a quick video I recorded to demo some of the above ideas:

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.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

fun with density and dynamics - practica session notes

27th Sept practica plan

fun with density and dymanics

Objective: share some ideas that may help you to maintain connection while changing speed, resistance and direction. to have fun with it.

sub-themes: patience, respect

1. density
what is it? level of resistence.
altering density adds an expressive dimension and allows greater connection at higher or lower speeds of movement and for changes in direction. changing density creates dynamics in a dance.
when changes in density are unintentional or incongruous with the music then connection is diminished.
how can you lead it? followers, how do you understand when it's being led, what do you feel?
compression to increase density. leader adds compression to frame. follower holds their frame and translates the tension into legs to create more resistence. keep shoulders back and down. channel resistence into floor, not shoulders.
relaxation to decrease density.
exercise: transition from normal to slow walk. try with and without change in density.
question: what does changing density (as an option that can be chosen sometimes) add to the experience?
talk about what happens with above idea with a lack of patience or respect. e.g. scenario: supposing follower doesn't understand about the frame, or leader or follower does not wait for the other?

2. dynamics
change in speed and force. change in density makes expressing dynamics in the music easier.
musical example: slow and fast passages. demonstrate clearer connection and expressiveness through changing density.
game: stop the leader. follower increases densisty quickly to mark a beat of pause, causing the leader to stop. it's a bold and playful movement that adds excitement and new sensitivity to a dance. it can also remind a leader that tango is a dialogue, not a monologue. some leaders can get confused or take offense. best used with good rapport and as an occational surprise. speaking of dynamics this action from the follower can really alter the emotional dynamics in a dance and spark fresh creativity from the leader. the stop the leader idea can be used sublty to great effect, it is also especially nice in close embrace.
talk about what happens without respect from leader or follower with above idea.
breaking the embrace is one example of reducing density to nill (show example). stopping the leader is an example of dialing it up to 11.

any questions?

what observations or discoveries have you made playing with these ideas?

3 elements to walking as one - practica session notes

This the first posting of my session notes for the guided practica I've started giving at Povey's dance studio in Southampton. (Essentially for the first hour I work around a theme and share related ideas, principles, examples and exercises to help people develop their tango.) They're fairly rough, as notes go, but I hope someone might get some use out of them. Eventually they may all get distilled into a new book on tango next year. This first session I over planned slightly and only ended up getting 2/3s of the way through.

'3 elements to walking as one.' given on 20th Sept:

Objective: share some ideas that may help you to connect more deeply and consistently in your tango, which will improve confidence and creative potential. The elements are: smoothness, opposition and density.

participation - question: what can you do with these principles that you couldn't without them?

sub-themes: patience, respect

1. smoothness
forget about the step. frame.
contrast with stepping as an autonomous action
"what do you need to do to make it smooth?"
tips: rolling weight from foot to foot. gripping the floor. quick movement of trailing leg. (straight back leg for style and avoiding leg clashes)

2. opposition (or resistence) in every direction
exercise: two forward steps followed by two back steps. play with level of oposition
ideas: mirroring, frame, innertia. (respond to push with push, pull with pull, like moving through water, it resists in all directions of movement)
application: secarda chain - try with and without opposition. (with, typically feels much nicer for everyone, no rush, more controlled and flowing)
question: how does it feel for leaders? how does it feel for followers?

3. density - level of opposition
intentional change in opposition or resistence. adds expressive dimension.
question: how can you lead it? followers, how do you understand when it's being led, what do you feel?
compression to increase density: leader adds compression to frame. follower holds their frame and translates the tension into legs to create more resistence. keep shoulders back and down. channel resistence into floor, not shoulders.
relaxation to decrease density.
game: stop the leader

any questions?

what observations or discoveries have you made playing with these ideas?