Changing Tension in the Embrace

Lecture Notes

Point 0: The follower is responsible for connection

We have one point of contact: our hands. They are important even in close embrace.

The follower needs to use both of her hands feeling the leader’s body for 4 directions of movement. She should be connected with fingerpads of both hands.

The leader should not grip the follower (exercise: practice dancing with fingers just slightly away from her). On the open side of embrace, leader’s left hand should connect to hers with heel/blade of hand just under the pinky fingers. She is responsible for pull connection on both sides (leading her to step forward) and for push connection on the closed side of embrace.

If the leader leads by pushing with his hands or tugging on her with fingers, the follower will have to compensate excessively to make their footfall at the same time. If she doesn’t know how to do this (or gets tired of compensating) the partners will not step at the same time.

We need to minimize tension as a default so that we can use it for movements that require it. This class examines specifically the role of tension in these movements. We did not study how to create compression, spirals, powerful steps, variations, etc. which are also important for these movements, because we were focusing only on the aspect of tension.

Voleo v. Rebote Cadera

Voleo is a compression during the follower’s pivot with no tension in the embrace so that she moves freely to her maximum. (Her maximum is defined by the stretching of her oblique muscles.) At the maximum point she releases her to fly freely to it’s maximum extension (limited by whatever stylistic aesthetics she adheres to).

Rebote cadera is a compression applied during the follower’s pivot accompanied with a block (momentary freeze of the embrace). This causes the follower to reverse direction without freedom. Her hips continue in the pivot slightly past the moment of the block. Her legs stay together as there is no freedom to project during the compression.

Sacada v. Parada

Sacada is a displacement. One person steps into the space just vacated by the other. We project between the others’ foot, just inside the leg they are leaving. To execute this movement, we need a lot of space. We need to step perpendicular to one another (90 degrees or a little more). To go to these positions, we need to allow the maximum relaxation/elasticity in the embrace so that we can arrive without falling.

Paradas which stop the follower mid-step (with weight in both feet) involve the same geometry as sacada, but instead of accelerating, they decelerate. To do this the leader introduces a very small tension/freeze in the wrists only, aiming the power of his embrace at her heart. This imparts the sensation of receiving and gently holding her and it gives her confidence that he really does want her to stay in this mid-way position.

Calecita v. Volcada

I use the term calesita for any giro in which the leader walks around the follower. She could be standing in one foot or two, but she’s going to pivot and he’s going to walk. To do this he uses a bit more freezing than parada, but he needs to still keep elbows and shoulders free and soft to allow for his own movement as he walks around her.

Volcada is the out of axis move in which the partners lean toward one another. To execute volcada, the leader induces (and the follower mirrors) a maximum freeze, locking shoulders, wrists, and elbow joints to support her. Then he hinges his torso away from his embrace at the shoulder joint, stepping his legs away from her taking them both out of axis. To finish he steps back inside his embrace to bring them both to axis. He must relax the freeze when he is ready for her to take a normal step.

Back cross v. Back voleo lineal

Both of these movements begin with a normal back projection for the follower.

Back cross follows the back projection with a diagonal forward projection across her body. Back voleo lineal follows the back projection with a compression. It’s most common to use Contra compression with a back rebote but it’s possible to use With compression as well for a beautiful slow voleo lineal.

The voleo lineal requires that both parties completely elasticize their joints to keep the follower on her axis while delivering compression to her. In contrast the back cross requires neither elasticity nor tension. Crosses work with the normal connection of the embrace.

Practice sequence requiring constant changes of tension

F’=follower L’=leader

F’ Forward ocho to rebote cadera

L’ forward sacada to F’ back ocho (results in F’ passe)

F’ forward sacada to L’ forward cross

parada to F’ side step

calesita with follower in two feet



L’ step forward/F’ back

F’ back cross (can have another step here or not)

F’ voleo lineal

I want you to know that you are not alone…

… neither in your dreams for tango nor in your frustrations.

My deepest desire is the same as all my students and friends … those who have yet to start dancing and those who dance a lot.

It’s partnership.

One thing I’ve learned on this quest, we need to:

Stop Waiting for Partners, and start Building them.

I’ve written a 10-step Action Plan.

Are you ready to find the Partners you want?



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