Argentine Barridas

The word ‘barrida’ translates into English as ‘swept’. And that’s exactly what it is. A sweep. From a Tango perspective this is a somewhat ‘worn’ piece of tango vocabulary that most people see sort of schlock tango schtick. Most people start out with doing it a few times, and then disregard it because they’ve moved on to something else that’s more ‘flashy’. The Barrida is, in common vernacular, a ‘drag’ of the foot (either role can initiate it). And does have a useful application in the dance which is purely musical if not entirely navigational. With that thought in mind, let’s talk “Barridas”, what they are and how they’re useful for both roles of the dance.

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From A Following Perspective, the Barrida for you is ‘foot’ play. If you don’t like people touching your feet, then this is gonna drive you absolutely batty. You’re not going to see much use in the Barrida at all. Why on earth do you need to learn this thing ? It’s dragging your foot, right ? Yup. Where’s the difficulty in that. You dragged your feet as a kid, you dragged your feet growing up, it’s not that hard. So what’s the point of this ? Going a step (no pun intended) further, what’s the point of having some L/lead possibly step on your foot, and then ruin your nice open toed shoes, and possibly chip that nice pedicure that you just had done so that your shoes would match! And then along comes some oaf who not only steps on your feet (OW!!!), but chips your pedi! Seriously ? How wrong is that ? What’s the point ?

The Barrida it’s not about the Lead really. It’s about you! The Barrida is a sweep of the foot, yes, but it’s also an expressional statement of the articulation of your leg, and really that pretty pedicure you just got to show off those amazing feet you have! As Followers we are constantly looking for every possible avenue to express our articulation in the shoe, everywhere, with every step. So the Barrida, for you, is all about presentation and an opportunity to shine visually, to present your technique, and really to show off your skills. So yeah, it has a use! And boy does it ever!

At the same time, you’re going to think from what you’ll see above that the Barrida, that it’s all about the Lead. And that’s not the case. The Barrida can be, assuming the Lead is open to it (and that’s the kicker, right there) about you taking the initiative and engaging one of your own. The problem with this is that it’s considered ’stealing the lead’. The real problem with it is the attitude that it’s stealing the lead. Not the fact that there’s any stealing going on but that’s the perception. Quite rightfully as Tango evolves for the modern age, there has been a fair amount of equalization of the roles. More and more vocabulary is being left in the hands of the Followers. This is one of those pieces of tango vocabulary where the expectation is that you’ll just go along with it. Well not only can you go along with it, but you can make it your own, and then go one step (no pun intended) further: Give as good as you’re getting! Which is to say that when the Lead initiates a Barrida, assuming there is a musical call and response lick that happens (and that’s a key to understanding when to do this), you can give it right back to the Lead, thereby engaging a Follower’s Barrida (this is covered in the video).

From a Leading Perspective, let’s get a few things out of the way. 1.) Do this ONCE maybe TWICE in a night and then for the LOVE OF GOD, let it go! 2.) I know you think you’re being cool, I know you think that the Follower is in love with this thing, and they just love the ‘expressiveness’ of multiple Barridas. But as you’ve just read a.) One word: PEDICURE! b.) Stepping on their feet. and c.) OW! 3.) The Barrida should be used as a musical expression of the long, stringy note, and only that, and then…follow #1 above. That said, the Barrida can be and often a schlocky move, or piece of tango vocabulary that is often seen as a flashy move that classifies you to the more experienced dancer screaming ’beginner’. So let’s dispense with the need to do this 10,000 times and move on from there. There are far more important thing to do.

The actual technique of the Barrida (which is covered in the video) is really quite simple, it’s a lite pressure tap on the outside of the foot (either the 1st or 5th metatarsal) of the follower’s shoe of the Follower’s free leg. There’s nothing special to it. No magic. It’s a drag. However, the key here is to (as was indicated above), not to step on the Follower’s feet while at the same time, not injure their pedi as you ‘drag’ or ‘sweep’ the foot to forward, side, or back. Truthfully while there are multiple ‘sweeps’ here there’s really only 2 that you’re going to end up playing with. Side (the more common), and Back (usually done from the side step as a 2nd or multiple Barrida (as shown in the video example).

As indicated above, there is another aspect that you, as a Lead, have to be aware of, it’s to allow for there to be space when the Follower decides to get ‘feisty’ and initiates a Follower’s Barrida. And instead of getting all persnickety about it (which a good number of Leads do because the Follower has interrupted ‘their’ artistic expression - ahem), allow for it to happen and then move on. The effect that this has on the Follower is two fold: 1.) It creates the reality that they have a voice in the dance and that you’re open to it. and 2.) It gives them license to play too! And that tiny little thing, especially #2 actually has more power than you can possibly imagine. Why ? Because every Lead that they’ve danced with until you come along doesn’t allow for there to be any form of deviation from what they’re being led to do. And then you come along and you want there to be play, you want there to be engagement, you want the ‘conversation’, and this is one way to express that conversation!

From a Dancing Perspective, the typical Argentine Barrida is nothing more than an illusion. Done properly it can and does look very flashy. The problem with them is that they're usually done carelessly, without a whole lot of thought or care to create the right illusion. The illusion in case you forgot is that you're dragging your partner's foot. When in fact it's far greater than that. There is a fair bit of technique involved to create that illusion as this video shows. It's not as simply as grabbing your partner's foot and sweeping it to the left or the right. No. Care must be taken that you don't injure them or break the illusion that you're not actually moving their leg/foot. The reality is that most people don't take that care and it ends up looking sloppy. There's another aspect here that tends to get overlooked and it has everything to do with 'default' behavior. Put simply 'default' behavior happens because we've done something over and over again that we think or believe that we're supposed to do something that it becomes rote behavior, therefore default. So that when something very similar is led/followed the expectation is X will happen, when in fact we end up with Y. Where Y in this case is the default behavior and X is what was intended. Barridas have this potential because the Follower has been taught so often to collect, collect, collect that they'll collect BEFORE the Barrida can occur, so it breaks the illusion of the Barrida happening. 🙁 

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About The Video. This video comes is 14m:21s in length in 8 sections.

Section 1 - Introduction/Technique - 00:03:01
Section 2 - Example Barridas - 00:00:16
Section 3 - Slowed Down Examples - 00:00:52
Section 4 - The Follower's Barridas - 00:02:20
Section 5 - Barrida Ideas - 00:01:27
Section 6 - Playing With Barridas - 00:00:37
Section 7 - Reversed Barrida - 00:01:07
Section 8 - Footwork in Detail/Closure - 00:04:09

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