Monday, 1 March 2010

Walking 2

'Anonymous' left a comment asking where regular walking classes could be found in London, and I'm afraid I don't know. Walking can be a prelude to a main class: Adrian and Amanda Costa, and Los Ocampo work on it, as does Andreas Wichter, and others no doubt. It's not always a priority for dancers: Tango en el Cielo recalls classes disappearing to the bar during the walking part of a class.

I tried to describe Cacho Dante's walking exercise for a friend, and in some earlier posts I included what I remembered of his advice, so it occurred to me that I could put it all together here. Distance learning, especially at second-hand, isn't the best, but it might be useful, and perhaps better than nothing. It would also be interesting to hear from others with other experience.

Step forwards, right foot flat to the floor so the ball of the foot as much as the heel makes contact, foot pointing straight forwards, and keeping the right leg straight. If the foot points outwards, rather than forwards, it will make a slight change of balance, which might suggest a turn to a follower. If the leg isn't straight at the knee, the body tends to slouch forwards rather than be upright. & one foot should be in a line in front of the other.

Then rock the weight back onto the left foot, so the toes and ball of the right foot lift up, pivoting on the heel. Then transfer weight back to the right foot and do a back kick or two (depends on the music) with the left foot, up and down, and then a lapiz, drawing a quarter circle to the side and round to the back. Then bring the left foot alongside the right foot, ready to start again. As the left foot passes the right ankle there should be an impulse forwards, a push, a slight kick, which emphasises the beat.

(The lapiz is an ornate figure. I don't think Cacho would use it in dance, but it's excellent for balance and for stretching the upper leg, hip muscles and lower back. Useful for followers' back step, too.)

I find the slow weight transfer back and forwards, and the emphasis on the ball of the foot, makes it a good way to develop control and balance. It can be practised anywhere you can walk, really, but perhaps avoid crowded places...

Cacho Dante gets his classes to practice this walk for two or three tangos, and then dance a tango in couples to relax a bit. He treats it as a unisex exercise: I don't recall followers doing it backwards. It's something you can practice daily. As you do it with music (Tanturi is particularly good), it's a good way to learn to listen to the music: in a milonga your attention is divided. Remembering his classes, I like to practise it for two or three tangos, and then walk one freely, thinking how I could dance to it.

I've also been told that the torso should move first, before the feet. You lean forwards, back, or to the side and because this slightly upsets balance, a step will have more urgency. It also tells a follower what is going to happen.

We're lucky that we have tools for distance learning; we can watch Ricardo Vidort's posture, his way of stepping and walking on YouTube, for instance here . We can look at other dancers: Osvaldo and Coco, Tete Rusconi, Pedro Sanchez. They all move quite differently, but the basis of walking, the emphasis of the feet meeting the floor, and the posture, is much the same. Personally I don't see this as a 'style' to be learned. In dancing close embrace, improvised, on a crowded floor, walking in this way emphasises the beat and the leader's intention, so the follower can relax and enjoy dancing. I think it's functional and practical to walk like this. & it does look good.

& we can video ourselves walking, even solo, for comparison!

Mimí Santapá focuses even more closely on the walk and on how, if it's done properly, it leads naturally into figures such as saccadas. Her teaching is incredibly precise. She came to the UK last summer and taught in Sheffield: I'm still amazed that we didn't get to have workshops in London. She told me she has been invited to London this summer, and I very much hope that her visit will happen, and that we can all benefit from her knowledge and experience. Keep an eye open for that name!

PS. Someone else who's way of stepping is really worth looking at is Alberto Dassieu. Here he is with Paulina, his wife.

1 comment:

jantango said...

I remember when Miguel Angel Balbi told me that a lapiz (word for pencil in Spanish) was used by men when they wanted to find a woman's foot while dancing without looking down at her feet.

Later, it was then adopted as an ornamentation used by men and women in stage choreography.

Today it's is seen on the milonga floor as an "embellishment" or "adorno" in tango.

Just another item in the evolution of tango.