Close Embrace Sacadas
When we’re first starting out with Tango, both roles see the idea of a sacada as cool, flashy, or impressive. And they are until you realize one simple, but immutable, fact: They’re illusions…of walking technique. The Sacada happens due to an intersection of the Follower's walk into the Lead's or vice versa. At the same time, the Sacada is usually relegated to something that is done in open embrace and/or thought of as ’nuevo tango’ vocabulary. You can thank Gustavo Naivera, Fabian Salas, and later on “Chicho” for that one. The Sacada was around long before those three came onto the scene. It just so happens that they made it very popular. One aspect of the Sacada is while they are typically done in open embrace because of the space needed for them and certain variations of them. There is a version of them that is purely for Close Embrace, hence today’s topic: The Close Embrace Sacada!
From A Following Perspective, this is one of those places where you don’t have a whole lot of control over when a Sacada is initiated, but you do have an inordinate amount of control over what happens after one is initiated. How you exit the Sacada regardless of whether or not it’s close or open embrace can literally define where, and in some cases, what the couple does next. Add rotation, and you’re quite literally forcing the Lead into any one of 8 Kinds of Turns. Don’t add rotation and come to collection, and you open options on top of options on top of options for yourself and the Lead. For instance, you could, just before you collect, engage an amague and then collect or cross! Mind you this borders on the role of the ‘Active’ Follower, because in this instance without the music playing for us right now, this suggestion is purely a ‘Willful’ Follower and not an ‘Active’ one. The difference ? The music is master to both roles, not just the L/lead (the action and the person). Meaning that without the music playing right now you’ll hear this suggestion as being ‘willful’ and taking over control of the dance. While that’s not the case at all IF there were music playing! The music should be interpreted by both roles, not just the Lead. However, realistically a good portion of your Leads (the person and not the action), get all frakkin’ persnickety when you try to do that. So pick your battles carefully, and your Leads!
One more thing that you need to be aware of is that you are more than likely in 3in heels with a rather pointy tip. In case you were unaware of this fact, those things are like lethal weapons on your feet. So it’s important to keep this thought in the back of your mind as you let that ‘free leg’ be ‘free’…e.g. ‘swinging’. Try to keep that foot on the ground, specifically the heel, lest you injure someone in the radial arc of your leg going god knows where!
Most of this advice is coming from the assumption that the Lead engages a Sacada on the Follower’s free leg from their Side Step. However, what happens in the case where the Follower Sacadas the Lead on a Back Step, or even a Forward Step ? In this instance, one piece of advice reigns: Step Into Your Lead! Specifically, the trailing foot, and very close to it. Regardless of either your being led to a Forward Step or a Back Step through your Lead, it doesn’t matter, you have to step through and quite literally beyond the lead’s (the action, not the person) step. About 6 inches worth actually. A good portion of the time, especially at the beginning, you do have a desire not to hit anyone or to step on anyone. However, the Sacada by its very nature, overrides this desire by having you step into your lead quite deliberately. Seemingly to step on their feet. Your innate desire is to step away from them to avoid hitting or stepping on them. And that’s the last thing you that you want to do. You actually want to step into them, and right straight through them! And because we’re talking about close embrace here, even more so! In other words, don't be dainty, polite, shy, or timid. You must, must, must, step into your lead!
From a Leading Perspective, we have talked about Sacadas before. So there’s nothing new here from a Leading perspective except maybe a few pieces of advice to serve as reminders. Let’s get to it shall we ? 1.) Remember that when you engage in a Sacada, that it’s as an accent to what’s happening in the music. Yes it’s flashy vocabulary, but like all flashy vocabulary what makes it flashy is that it isn’t used every 5 steps. Ideally we want to use this stuff sparingly, and even that’s too much. 2.) Safety first. Meaning that if you’re dancing with a beginner follower, we do not engage Sacadas, Volcadas, Colgadas, or anything of the like. Walk, Turn, Ocho, Cross. Got it ? Trust me that’s enough. Yes it may be ‘fun’ but you can hurt someone if you’re not too careful. And you can never be too careful. 3.) Not to mention a good portion of the time you’re going to make the Follower feel as though they’ve missed something when they don’t ‘get it’, and thereby inadequate. 4.) Sacadas, while you are doing them to the Follower, fall into the same category of flashy or difficult vocabulary for the beginner Follower because you can not anticipate just how the inexperienced Follower will react to them.
That said, adding Close Embrace Sacadas for the experienced Follower that we have to be very clear and careful about is our right arm…or more specifically the compression of your right forearm (and hand). Factually there is a desire that occurs, as the Sacada does, in close embrace, that we want to compress or pull the Follower into us. And that would be a major no-no. Why ? Because it stops their movement or possible rotation! You must allow for the Follower to move within the construct of the embrace. Failure to do that, and you’re going to end up with unintended consequences that create more problems than it’s worth.
Still another area that we have to think about is the initiation of the Sacada itself…specifically leading the Follower into you, and not the other way around. Again, this isn’t about pulling or compressing, but rather about body position and body placement. The whole reason the Follower steps into you is due to where you are placing your body. Take your body away from them, and they follow it, thereby stepping into you, viola! Sacada! Ok it’s a bit more tricky than that, there’s a desired weight transfer that must happen in certain variations of the Close Embrace Sacada. Again the desire is to pull them along with you and you can not under any circumstances do that! You must allow for them to freely move into and away from you.
From a Dancing Perspective, the Close Embrace Sacada looks intimate, intricate, and above all else, very hot. No doubt about it. Done right, it screams “WOW”. Done poorly, and well…not so much with that. And that’s exactly what happens most of the time. The intent is there but the execution is poor. So we end up missing the whole effect. Either the intersecting step (lead or follow) was too shallow, too deep, or missed entirely. All of which happen quite frequently. It is only with time and patience, and a lot of practice that we ‘learn’ through trial and error (more error than trial) to execute with precision the Close Embrace Sacada. To be clear, this variant of Sacadas require precision control, precise intent, and precision execution. To alleviate this problem of precision, you’ll see a lot of Leads (and some Followers) quite honestly watch the feet of themselves and their partners (I make this mistake myself from time to time especially on over-rotated back sacadas). This is a major no-no! It breaks the illusion! This is where we talk about one of my favorite topics that almost no teacher talks about - Proprioception from a Tango Perspective. What’s that ? It’s the ability to sense where your partner is in space and time WITHOUT looking! This is not something that you just learn and it happens. There is no class on this stuff. It is a skill that you build through time, with time, with lots and lots and lots of trial and error. Unfortunately that ‘error’ results in someone’s feet getting bruised sometimes. Trust me, you learn pretty damned quickly after that! Add in Close Embrace Sacadas and this skill is an absolutely necessity! Failure to build this skill and the Close Embrace Sacada is going to be the Close Embrace Bloody and Bruised Toe Extravaganza of Your Worst Nightmares! So how do we develop this skill ? Simple. Stop watching your partner’s feet. That’s the starting point.
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