Tango Argentino > Systems of leading voleos and colgadas

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by kieronneedscake, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    I've been having a discussion recently with a friend who had an interesting learning experience in the Netherlands over Christmas. I would like to share the key notions with you in search of other opinions. I apologise for lack of clarity, since I am getting the ideas second-hand.

    The idea introduced to him concerned active balance from followers.

    Firstly, force in embrace is matched with equal and opposite force, both pushing and pulling. All fine so far, although pulling on the open side of the embrace feels pretty alien to me. I've not had to do that at all in my dance up to now.

    Secondly, when a lead is applied that definitely isn't a step (not reflected in the leader's body as going anywhere), the response of the follower is to counterbalance (in direct opposition to the force) with a free leg. To clarify, this is artfully raising a leg into the air to retain balance, rather than as a release of momentum. Slow-motion Voleos.

    The reason I come to argue about this is because it seems to require a whole new set of reflexes to everything I have learned so far. I may not have the whole story and there is an hour of tuition missing, but I am trying to articulate why I feel there is something wrong with the ideas as they have been conveyed to me. It is not clear to me how the push/pull combination translates into regular leading and walking, so I'll leave that out.

    Apparently after an hour-long workshop, it was all going swimmingly with the Dutch ladies, so the idea is functional. My friend is adamant that this approach provides much more accuracy and clarity than the approach taken generally in the UK, which I describe as being momentum-based.

    For me, a leg only leaves the ground as a result of momentum carrying the relaxed leg upwards of its own accord or as a decoration. Similarly, colgadas are initiated by giving the follower momentum but quenching it through counterbalance.

    So we have two competing ideas:

    1a) Follower feels pulling in the open half of the embrace, but release around her ribcage. She pulls back with her open arm, and simultaneously sets her weight back into the opening embrace behind her, in order to mirror the leader's behaviour. Colgada ensues.

    1b) Follower maintains a constant contact with the lead's embrace (both through back of ribcage and outstretched arm) wherever it may go, including off balance. Colgada begins, and the leader accepts responsibility for counterbalancing it. In my personal attempts, I provide most of the strength to contain the move through the right hand, and the other 3 limbs (both of follower's and my left arm) are used for additional stability if needed. I operate on an initiate (or "sending) and containment approach.

    2a) The free leg is a counterbalance for whatever force may be applied by the leader (when clearly not stepping anywhere).

    2b) The free leg is an outlet for excess energy, going where the momentum leads when the rest of the body is contained.

    Before I put any more thoughts up, does any of this sound familiar to anyone? Has anyone encountered this difference of approach? Is one better than the other? Are they conducive to different kinds of tango? Is it actually no different at all, excepting the methods by which it is taught?

    Too many questions I know. Also lots of talk of arms and force, but assume the body is perfectly agreeing with the actions of the arms. I'll do what I can to explain anything that is unclear.
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I'm not convinced, at first glance it seems to go against so much of what I've been told. I'll have to muse on this a bit and get back to you. And discuss it with my teacher. Could be that it makes perfect sense if I think about it differently, or if it's explained more from the leader's perspective.
  3. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    push pull concept won't get you far.
  4. Me

    Me New Member

    I am wondering if we are having issues of language barrier here if the workshop was taught in Dutch and then translated into English. Push and pull? I think many here agree that some of the most uncomfortable dances we have at milongas are when our partners push and pull us.

    As for the colgadas, I never respond by pulling, lest I wish to create "tango surprise" (tangled heap of bodies on the floor.)
  5. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    I know that in Netherlands they like to experiment. Yet, pulling and expecting a counter-pull by the follower won't work IMHO.
  6. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I will have to ponder what you have written in order to understand it. My experience is that, although my ability to do colgadas is limited by my own weeight (or lack therof) I can colgadas in ceroc with people who have not done them; the requirements seem to be 1. trust 2. a signal that I am giving with my right arm that I am asking them to stay on one foot; ie my right arm is staying up while supporting/balancing the out of axis movement.
  7. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    Just realised, this may have quite a lot in common with Bordertangoman's earlier thread: http://www.dance-forums.com/showthread.php?t=25702

    The rotary boleos as a function of active counterbalance are exactly the sort of thing that appear in the video linked there.

    Indeed. I have nearly been toppled on several occasions where my partner has chosen the wrong way to try and remain in balance. This is why this other system requires mucho practice to match force for force. In principle, the leader's weight will already be headed outward, thus you must pull or he'll fall over... Chicken and egg arguments though.

    Broadly speaking, if I lead a colgada, and my partner sits into it, when I don't wish any more lean, I am pulling to stop her. However, it would be felt as a push from the back more than anything else.

    I don't much like the implications of push/pull either because of all the horrifying dancing it can encourage. Like as not though, our embraces are comprised of shared and equal pushing most of the time (or squeezing is perhaps a nicer way to describe it).

    The part I like least is the notion of responding through the open arm in a way that is exactly contrary to what my body must do to maintain balance, thus I need to do even more complex motions in order to balance. Pulling, but lengthening of the arm in order to move the body away as the other half of the embrace opens.

    I wish I had felt the teacher's lead first-hand in order to know if there are other things going on, and it is indeed a case of linguistic barriers rather than outright peculiar teaching methods.
  8. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Tension and compression techniques can work in some dances (WCS, for example).

    And colgadas obviously have to use some tension, as volcadas obviously have to use some compression. Or you both fall over :)

    Similarly, other moves can involve pure-arm leading; I did a workshop on soltadas a month or two back, and there was indeed a tension (pull) requiement, because the embrace was broken and you then have to lead with the arm, which does require you to strenthen that arm for that part of the exercise.

    So it's not inconceivable that in some non-standard circumstances, push / pull is useful.

    The trick is to know when to do it (almost never), and to know when to stop doing it (as soon as possible).
  9. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    I do this quite often and find that experienced modern tango follows respond appropriately. The less experienced, or those that only dance traditional, don't know quite what to do, so I don't do that with them. And to answer Me, this isn't the annoying push/pull that you may experience from a beginning lead. It is gentle, smooth, perhaps even slowly executed. Think counter-pressure rather than counter-force if it helps.

    Yes, we have two ideas, but they don't have to compete. If one thinks of the physics of the dance, the free leg responding to momentum is clear and seems not to be in question, so lets go on to the second idea. If I slowly take my follow off axis, and her free leg is truly free, it will hang straight down. So in a colgada that is slowly initiated, she ends up, say, with one foot connected to mine and she is tipped, say, backwards off axis. Where is the logical place for her free leg? If it hangs straight down, it will certainly have to bend. So her natural response to further extend it out from her body so that it can straighten, but perhaps still touching the floor.

    This is the response that I expect, but lifting it still further, if she is flexible enough, as an embellishment, works very well and allows a deeper off axis motion. This is because it allows her body to remain a little more upright since the leg is a counter balance, and is especially useful in helping keep the lateral forces on her standing foot down so that she does not slide and end up creating the "tango surprise" (I like that expression!)
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I've been lying in wait for this to come up again.
    Using the words "push" and "pull" are the dance pedagogy equivalent of using politically incorrect language.
    I've been looking at a bunch of dance books, and they almost all use some form of those words push and pull. Recently (I'm taking in terms of decades here) the trend has been been to increasingly qualify the terms, and finally look for replacements.
    I have no doubt that this has much to do with how the roles of men and women have evolved over during the 20th, and into the 21, centuries.
    However, good leading, and good following, and the physical forces that are involved in two people trying to move as one, haven't changed, and aren't likely to.
    A rose by any other name...
  11. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    or an apple by any other name is still subject to Newtonian physics
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Craig Hutchinson, who wrote a book "Swing Dancer's Manual" in 1998, defines "couple weight" as "A constant amount of push (compression) or pull (tension) weight used in a couple (the follower's coefficient of friction).
    Exactly right.
    But it's even a bit science nerdy for me!
    It should not surprise us to learn that Criag is/was an engineer.
  13. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Compression and tension are the terms I've most encountered.

    I think most Tango dancers in close embrace are in a constant state of compression - in fact I think they have to be, how can the leader apply a lead without some form of "push"? Telepathy?
  14. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Having read this and been quite unclear as to what is being decribed i will postulate a hypothesis:

    if a follower is given some motion from the leader that she is to take a step she will do this as a reflex to catch her own weight; if the leader then arrests this initial impulse with his right arm then her now moving free foot doesn't arrive on the floor and becomes a boleo
  15. Me

    Me New Member

    Well, let me preface my response by saying that if I were the follow, I would be maintaining balance during all points of my stride, and contact with the floor with the inside edges of my feet while walking backwards. ;)

    Assuming we are on the same page, that lead would indicate to me to simply stop walking, that he has changed his mind for some reason. He doesn't want me to complete my step. Perhaps there is a couple behind us, and a boleo would be really bad.
  16. Me

    Me New Member

    Well Steve, I guess I'm pretty nerdy myself. Compression and tension are, in my mind, terms of shared energy between bodies. When I think of pushing and pulling, I think of bursts of energy from one body intended to affect another body. Oftentimes I view compression and tension as consequence of where the couples have placed their bodies, and not as the focus of the movement. I see pushing and pulling as the purpose and focus of the movement. But, these are my own personal ramblings, and I might feel differently tomorrow. :)
  17. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    Since the subject is broad (boleos & colgadas) I would like to describe a little further the three ways that my partner and I commonly do rotational boleos:
    1. - I stop my partner's rotation. Her leg continues due to momentum and creates the boleo
    2. - I initiate the rotation somewhat energetically (But neither with a jerk nor abruptly). Her leg remains behind due to inertia and creates the boleo.
    3. - I initiate rotation very slowly and/or stop rotation very slowly. She executes a very slow boleo entirely as an embellishment. Perhaps even a VERY pronounced and very slow boleo. This especially creates the need for active counterbalance by ME, the lead, as determined by my follow's embellishment.

    And yes, 3. requires that I wait, listen and follow her. But that is a very fun part of the dance.
  18. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    A good summary, thank you. As you pointed out elsewhere, there is not necessarily competition between the two approaches (momentum and inspiration) to creating a boleo.

    The difference between your item 3 and the suggested other system is in the notion that in your case, she chooses to embellish whereas in the one I have described, the embellishment is a consequence of a lead. This differentiation is very blurred when actually dancing what with two minds creating the dance.
    Concerning Me's comment about boleo vs just stopping, that all comes down to initial energy and abruptness of stop. Some dancers respond very well to a downward component to a boleo lead liberating their leg.
    As I have suggested already, it's pretty hard to get your head round the differences and the consequences. Having tried to follow this Dutch lead, there was nothing in the lead itself that made me want to lift my legs off the floor, and I experienced a lopsidedness (pull one side, nothing on the other). The pull may be a sign for the follower to do artful things with her legs, but only as a conditioned reflexive response, or a sign that I am a crap follower.

    In theory, my understanding (matched by Bordertangoman's viewpoint) should not require a follower to know the "secret signs" in advance, and to be sure I have surprised a few people who haven't had the right lessons with unexpected colgadas. In practice, most dancers are conditioned in various ways to respond to leads, so I can't exactly claim the high ground.

    To reiterate, my friend's adopted system requires specific training for response, but he claims it will give him a more expressive dance and clearly defined method of communicating with his partners for any off-axis component.

    Part of me wonders whether my friend has been wowed by a room full of most excellent Dutch followers which has given him such a strong opinion. Nevertheless I wish to understand what happened. We both desire the simplest metaphors and principles to apply to as much of the dance as possible.
  19. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Hi Kieron

    Is this "tango from the (Dutch) woods" ? Maybe I should have stayed out there a bit longer - it sounds intriguing ... :cool:
  20. bafonso

    bafonso New Member

    I lead followers without pushing them around. In fact, if I *have* to push them around, I only do it for one dance and excuse myself.

    The beautiful part of tango is how you can *dance* by continuously inviting the follower to go where you want. You convey that not by pushing but by good dancing technique, that does not involve pushing. You can dance in open not pushing the person - hopefully! -, why do you assume you need to push them just because you're in contact? The worst thing I've heard followers complain about is how leaders pushed them around.

    Unless you are dancing off-axis - apilado - in close, there's no need for compression. In fact, compression while on-axis is the surest way to get you a back injury.

    Colgadas are off-axis moves/moments that of course involve tension since the leader has to hold the girl while hopefully she doesn't hold the man back (thus avoiding more injuries). Both are off-axis so there is a need to have a tensor - the arm - that "equilibrates" both bodies so they won't fall to their own side. You don't push to get the girl there and you don't need to pull to keep her from falling. All you need is to let your arm extend and hold her with your hand and forearm muscles, hence, the tension. This is different than trying to pull her towards you. It feels different and it IS different. These are subtle but important details.

    I personally feel that anyone trying colgadas with someone that has never taken a class and practiced them is insane and disrespectful of the follower's health. I've taken a short "private" workshop on colgadas and no one in the room had a clear idea of what the follower's body should look like. And no one following adopted that position on first try. Badly executed off-axis elements are the hallmark of careless/bad dancers and the best way to get injured. Protect your body, you only have one.


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