Vio's Blog: Argentine Tango


Posts by Email


All the Blog Posts Ever

The Berlin Interviews



More Guides...

Back Sacadas in Lesson 10: What I’m learning from teaching tango in 30 days

Today is day 11 of a stunt, to teach tango to a stuntman in 30 days. Stunt-work requires precision. Each day’s lesson is exactly 15 minutes (with a timer).
After every lesson, Daniel explains and demonstrates what he learned for our youtube and vimeo playlists “30 days“.
This stunt changes several familiar parameters of tango education. There is no way for me to blame the student. Daniel is one of the founders of Parkour. That means his body can do anything – properly instructed. And as a professional actor, he is fully committed to performance, so I also can’t blame lack of engagement or confidence. If he doesn’t do what I want, I can only fault my pedagogy. 

I am completely responsible for clarity of each lesson, the developmental process, and empowering him.
I find myself abandoning conventions and corrections that seem arbitrary or purely aesthetic in favor of empowerment and improvisation. Day 10 was back sacadas because I wa
nt him to think they are very normal and nothing to fear. Day 1 was colgada and volcada, because they are delicious.
Daniel has no dance experience. Everything I say, like back step or front step, is a mystery to him which must be defined. This is also interesting for me, because I realize how much I take for granted when I teach, some of which probably isn’t clear to all the students. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I’m teaching in French, which means that I have fewer words to work with for doing this clarification.
As I plan to the priority of speedy empowerment toward connected, creative dancing, I find that I abandon arbitrary conventions (all of which can be broken with creative license anyway) and most corrections, which I realize will work themselves out with experience and familiarity.
It’s clear that in some cases, it’s not necessary or helpful for Daniel to learn terminology in Spanish. For example, he doesn’t need to know what’s an ocho (he’s moving laterally on any foot he wants and I have to do some special pivot stuff because I’m not allowed to change my foot at will). He also doesn’t need to know the difference between volcada and colgada; he only needs to know how to give me permission for disbalance. He doesn’t need to know giro, double giro, or calecita, only “we both walk around”, “you walk around me”, “I walk around you”. Sacada, voleo, and gancho seem to benefit from having names, although it’s easier for him to use ‘displacement’ for sacada. And I suspect pro and contra will be necessary concepts, although we aren’t there yet.

I find myself questioning some of the conventions. If the Mark is free to change feet and step with any foot he wants, prioritizing comfort and stability, does he need to learn molinete lineal? (Maybe later, in order to make artistic decisions in the context of tango’s conventions, but certainly not to dance in 30 days.)

Likewise, if he likes to change feet between every step, this is not common but it’s also not wrong. Indeed it’s his right as a Mark. So I shut up on this point, also realizing that as he becomes more confident in the whole operation, he won’t need that gesture of resetting between each step.

In 15 minutes there isn’t time to make every correction, so I really have to prioritize. In Lesson 10, his back steps for back sacadas were far too short, so he didn’t cross the line between my feet, but I decided not to correct it. It’s close enough. I realized that this refinement is something that he may realize on his own as he becomes more familiar and confident. If he doesn’t, I can correct it later. The important thing about this session is to introduce the concept and sensation of back sacada from the very beginning.

And does he need to mark crosses? (He does sometimes, without intending it, which doesn’t seem to be a problem.) So long as he pays attention to real-time changes between pace and trot system and adjusts walking steps between 2 and 3 tracks to manage the space, he doesn’t really need to know about crosses and fake crosses that he might be marking.

I find it incredibly useful to have taught him how to stabilize and destabilize his shoulder joints to control whether we move together and or alone and exactly which muscles to contract to create intention/projection toward (psoas), away (gluts), and lateral (obliques) to him. His prompt mastery of these principles enables him to self-correct almost every miscommunication. My confidence is strengthened that these physical skills are a far better beginning point than walking.

In fact the very first lesson was disbalance (volcada/colgada). I always start beginners here because it gives them the most delicious sensations of connection (that advanced dancers know how to find in tango’s beautiful walk) and a bit of drama and excitement. And, small static volcadas and colgadas are easy and safe.

Log In