Archive for the ‘Salida’ Tag

The proof is in the pudding   Leave a comment

The proof is in the pudding

The concept of structure in tango sometimes is met with a certain skepticism, if not downright cynicism when it comes to assume responsibilities and conform to a fundamentals codes that go are rooted in the very essence of the Argentine tango culture and tradition. Generally the excuses fall under the umbrella of freedom of expression. In some cultures it is fashionable to show aversion to authority figures. Teachers and their concepts of structure may be framed as the works of the tango police. After all, the battle cry is “We are not in Buenos Aires.” You might find them everywhere, recklessly using empty geometry, crude acrobatics, and clueless attitudes that endanger those who are trying to mind their own business on the dance floor.

Their ignorance of a culture and values that are part of a rich tradition makes some people an eyesore on every dance floor they choose as their playground. It is only through education and proper learning that one can avoid becoming a clueless dancer, and instead set the standard of excellence for others to follow.

Tango dancing is a dance of people showing their pride in the way they dance by respecting each other, the music, the dance floor, and the rest of the dancers. The fact that the man is responsible for dancing around the floor makes him more accountable for the behavior of the couple on the dance floor.

The role of the woman includes elements that contribute to the safe circulation of the couple around the floor. One is the judicious use of the code of the tango; another is the correct way to let her legs follow her body as her body is carried in her partner’s embrace. We can’t put enough emphasis on the fact that dancing around the man is what produces the look of legs being crossed, as seen from the point of view of the man.

In reality, the woman legs are moving forward or backward on a circular trajectory around the center axis provided by the man. Her upper torso is always turned in the direction of her partner to maintain connection with his upper torso. The effect, from where the man stands, is that in between lateral openings, one of the woman’s legs is alternatively crossed inside the couple (between them) or crossed outside the couple (away from him).

However, the responsibility of circulating around the floor without causing harm falls directly into the man. Polite and civilized behavior on the dance floor is to be expected from everyone who claims to be a good tango dancer. It’s not how many steps you can do but how many you can do without infringing on the right of the rest of the dancers to enjoy their time without risking injuries and abuse. The purpose of learning to dance the tango is not to collect steps to impress the foolish but to learn the rules and codes of conduct that are faithfully followed by seasoned dancers around the world.

To that extent, in this session we decided to test the ability of our dancers to go around the floor respecting the line of dance while using three simple sequences we have worked on in weeks past.

Observe how the simple salida to cruzada is used to get onto the line of dance.

If you use the Pause button on the video at 0:44 you will be able to see why the woman finishes the salida with her left foot crossed in front of her right foot. As the man opens to his left in order to free his right leg to step forward on the right of the woman, their body positions change with the dancers being relatively to the right of each other. Were the man to stop, the woman would continue dancing around him to his left as this is her purpose during the dance, to dance around the man. When he steps with his right foot he doesn’t allow her to dance around him to his left, so she walks straight back with her outside leg, stepping with her left foot.

Again, were the man to stop, the woman would continue dancing around him to his left as this is her purpose during the dance, to dance around the man. But the man continues to advance so the woman can use her inside leg, the right, to step back on a diagonal continuing her intention to go to the left of the man to dance around him. If the man chooses to call for a “cruzada” he will match her diagonal by stepping forward with his left foot and stopping his forward motion. As the man stops, the woman for the first time has a clear path to the man’s left but since her body was going back the only way she can position herself on the left of the man is by crossing her left foot over her right foot without turning her hips. It’s important to understand that the trajectory of the man is a straight line while the woman’s trajectory is a diagonal in the following her shoulder line.

The illusion of walking back on a diagonal is what creates the need to cross. The man calls for a cruzada on his forward step with his left foot going opening forward to his left on a slight diagonal, stopping, and gentle bringing his right elbow straight in front of him. It is extremely important that the woman embrace properly so her body is guided in the embrace as the man’s elbow extends forward. As a corollary, if the man wishes not to call a “cruzada” he will step straight into her body with his left foot closing the space for her left foot and taking it to his right as in a resolution or base.

Changes of direction using the forward step for the woman (forward ochos) allow the couple to turn in place and end the combination with variations of the resolution. Using the shape of the dance floor, the ochos and the resolution allows the man to steer the couple so the repetition of the three sequences keeps them progressing along the line of dance.

References, Gotta Tango by Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart

Salida Cruzada with Lean and Planeo   Leave a comment

Salida Cruzada with Lean and Planeo

The use of visual effects when dancing seem to have the added attraction of focusing the audience’s attention to otherwise routine movements. Take for example the salida to cruzada, a staple of tango dancing universally recognized and a point of convergence for total strangers engaged in a dance for the first time. Side, back, back, cross for her, side, forward, forward, close for him, and there they go. Not necessarily an eye popper, but the dancing is on.

Have the man, double step after his side step, and he now moves forward matching the same foot she uses to go back. When she takes first back step with her left, he advances with his left; when she takes her back diagonal with her right, he advanced with his right. Suddenly there is something that may catch somebody’s eye. The harmony of parallel walking has been shaken by a motion of the legs that doesn’t look familiar to the brain. It is called crossed feet walking and the salida now receives the name of salida cruzada, or crossed feet salida.

On September 9, 2005, during the course of a semi private lesson, we added some visual elements to the salida cruzada in order to create a more dramatic look. As with all the elements of tango dancing, there is an element of illusion that is created by the interaction of the bodies. What people see is not what the dancers are creating. That is, if the dancers learn how to create the illusion instead of attempting to replicate it without understanding the technique behind it.

We started with a dramatic lean or tilt of the woman, taking her off her vertical axis after the opening side step. This is accomplished after both dancers have completed their first step of the salida. The man indicates to the woman that a lean will follow by gently tightening the embrace so she feels secure against his chest. The lean is produced by the man dropping quickly, first into his right foot crossing it behind to his left, and then to this right foot crossing it behind to his right, and then taking a side step with his right to stabilize their bodies now giving the look of leaning into each other.

The next two steps of the salida are taken keeping the illusion of a tilt. The woman keeps her weight on the leg closer to the man, so in order to move this leg, she must flex it to extend the other leg down and back, and allow the man, as he changes weight forward to lift her body to come up vertical on the back leg. Immediately she flexes the standing leg that now becomes the forward leg for the next step, and the process repeats.

The whole idea of this illusion is for the man to be his weight on his back leg so the woman keeps her weight on her forward leg. Although it appears that she is heavily leaning into him, if they were to drop their arms and moved slightly away from each other, they would both remain solidly balanced. Their leg extensions are the ones that create the illusion of a lean as the eye integrates motion and tricks the audience’s brain. When the man brings his weight forward, he literally picks her forward foot off the ground as he brings her up on her back leg. After the woman’s second back step, the motion of the man as he changes weight brings her left leg in front of her right. Coming completely vertical on his right axis, the man brings her down to cross her left foot and transfer her weight to the crossed foot.

Immediately he drops down crossing his leg leg behind and walking two steps around her. This invites her to let her right leg open laterally and glide on the ground without changing weight until the man steps to his right side. Her leg then is pushed into crossing over the left leg, they both complete a second salida simple taking two steps to her cruzada, and finally they recover their vertical as they end the sequence with a resolution.

In the following video clip, you’ll see a practical demonstration with additional tips to add more pizazz to your tango dancing, and look like you know what you’re doing. Your feedback and commentaries are always welcomed.

Video of the Salida cruzada with lean and planeo at the cruzada

Posted August 11, 2010 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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