The 'Dark Side' Salida

The Salida. The Spanish word ‘Salida’ translates in English to ‘Exit’ or ‘Left’ as in the past tense of the verb to ‘Leave’. However when we apply this to Argentine Tango it means something else entirely different. It is a process that includes Cabeceo/Mirada, and the Entrada in the line of dance, as well as the Exit (Salida) from the dance, and walking your partner back to where you found them. In BsAs, or more formal Milongas in the world (including Encuentros), this means walking them back to their table. This is the process known as ‘Salida’. However with regards to the dance we typically only equate the word Salida with Entrada phase of the dance, and this is known as a ‘Salida’ Step. An entry (or exit) into (or from) the line and/or lane of dance. There is typically only one that gets talked about and or shown, and that’s the very typical couple side step into the lane of dance. There are, as you might imagine, loads of others. Today’s Tango Topic talks about a very specific and special one referred as the Dark Side Salida.

What is a Dark Side Salida ? It is a Salida step that is entered into from the ‘Closed’ side of the embrace. Typically any piece of vocabulary that is referred to as such is a Dark Side ‘X’,  where ‘X’ is the vocabulary is the mirror copy of the Open side of the embrace. This has nothing to do with walking systems, or embrace formats. It only refers to the bi-lateral bisection of the body or in this case the couple’s embrace.

A Dark Side Salida on the other hand is a whole different ball of wax. It’s not your typical side step into the lane of dance, because … because doing so would step you out of the lane of dance and off the floor.  🙁 That would be bad. No. A Dark Side Salida step uses very simple, or basic, tango vocabulary put together to form figure in order to accentuate the ‘Closed’ side of the embrace AS the opening step of the dance! To be fair, while you can use this piece of vocabulary at nearly any point in the dance, employing as the Salida step has certain benefits, one of which is that it has incredible musical properties (not shown in the video).

That said, let’s take a look at one particular variant of a Dark Side Salida, and some issues that surround it.

From A Following Perspective for you this is employing three of your seven foundational elements. Foundational elements ? Forward, Side, Back, Embrace/Posture, Disassociation (including Ochos), Turns, and Crosses. The three you’ll be using ? Back, Forward, and walking to the Cross. However, for you, there is a tiny little trick that we want to be aware of. But before we get there we have to talk about the dreaded “Armpit Dancer”. Eeeeek! In this instance, you as the Follower are going to be specifically placed in the lead’s armpit.  And you actually want to be there, strange as that may sound. This is one of the few times (there are only 4), where this is completely desirable, because you’ve been led to do so. Every other time (aside from the 4) you want to be buttons-to-buttons, or in front of the lead. In this instance you don’t. There is an instance of transition where for just an instant (as you can see in the splash shot above), where the Follower ends up in the lead’s armpit and this is desirable. But, and here’s the kicker, it only happens for an instant.

Now to the little caveat of this piece of vocabulary for you. In nearly every piece of Tango vocabulary there is an aspect of going ‘around’ the lead (the action, not the person - hence the lowercase ‘l’). The Dark Side Salida Step reinforces this idea, specifically on the Follower’s forward step (not shown in the video above unless you’re a subscriber).  It is absolutely necessary for you to take a long forward step around the lead. Far too often the Follower takes a smaller forward step (known as the Non-Forward Step) where they end up in front of the lead OR they step away from their lead in linear fashion. Neither of these two states are desirable. Instead we, was Follower’s want to step towards and around the lead! To be fair, stepping too close to the lead will create an instability, stepping too far away creates another kind of instability, but it’s an instability none the less. Ideally there is a ‘sweet’ spot for how far or close you can step towards or away from someone. This is slightly different for each person based on height and girth as mitigating factors. 😉

There’s one more thing about this particular Dark Side Salida Step, it’s going to throw you a bit, it’ll feel awkward in the moment. The reason is that you’re so used to doing the typical Salida step that it’ll be a bit of a surprise as in, “WTH is this guy doing ?”. You’re going to have that moment of fear that the lead is going to pull out some crazy, wild, strange piece of vocabulary that they just learned 10 minutes earlier and haven’t really practiced all that much except in their heads. And rightfully you should worry or concern yourself with this, be ever vigilant. However, that’s no reason not to ground yourself in your foundational elements (forward, side, back, etc). Doing so will help you to survive those moments of ‘WTH!!’.

From a Leading Perspective this is a pattern. No doubt about it. So let’s dive right into it. Like all patterns, it has some areas where it works, some areas where it doesn’t, where you should use it, where you shouldn’t and so on. The upside to a Dark Side Salida Step is that they’re insanely easy to do and create lots of space for variation instead of the same ol’ same ol’. Even the variation has variations on top of variations. Still one more, is that it does create a bit of a surprise for the Follower (as indicated above) from the standard ‘side step’ - let’s dance thing that happens. The down side is that it can get old very quickly, and rather repetitive. It is for this reason that we want to study Enganches (Wraps), Ganchos, Cross variations, and Walking Systems! That last one is insanely important especially in a Dark Side Salida Steps!

This particular Dark Side Salida Step has three components to it that does require some thought and some practice. What are they ? 1.) The opening weight change. 2.) Leading the Forward Step around. 3.) The Capture!

1.) The Opening Weight Change. Far too often we, as leads, force a weight change onto the Follower by either pushing (or pulling) them into weight shift, typically it’s done by Compression (read that as ‘squeezing the living daylights out of your Followers’…tsk, tsk, tsk). The more you compress, the more the Follower has to go with. It’s not desirable and yet it’s done all the time. This weight change has to be done a completely different way, and that’s why we reinforce learning 2 different kinds of weight changes. a.) the WITH Weight Change. and b.) the WITHOUT Weight Change. The ‘With’ weight change is exactly what it sounds like, you change weight WITH the Follower. Pretty simple, no ? However, the WITHOUT weight change is where all the fun is at. This where you change which foot the Follower is on, WITHOUT changing you at all. And here’s the kicker, you can not use force or compression to do it. It doesn’t work. It is for this reason that it’s insanely important to learn the secret of executing a WITHOUT weight transfer (clearly demonstrated and explained in this video on this site) without the use of force because it doesn’t work in all situations under all conditions. This is also another reason to learn to dance with ‘intention’ and not ‘resistance’. An intention based dancer has far more options and opportunities than a resistance based dancer does. And the only way that you’ll know that is by studying with an Intention Based Teacher (Hint, hint, hint).

2.) Leading The Forward Step Around. This is another place where most leads fail. Why ? Because they forget that they actually have to rotate their upper torso (along with their arms!) and not just push and pull with their arms. Most male Leads don’t necessarily understand or comprehend their own physiological pressure that they place on their Follower’s bodies with their arms and hands via physiological compression, force, tension, hand pressure, forearm pressures, and the like. It’s not exactly desirable or a pleasurable experience, and yet this is exactly what happens for most male Leads. The only way that they’ll feel this and really understand what’s going on is first by dancing with a Resistance Based Lead that uses pressure and compression to ‘move’ them. And then immediately afterwards, to see the sharp comparison, dancing with an Intention Based Lead. How does this relate to the Forward step around themselves ? Because most male leads don’t realize intention based leading exists, and almost never realize it, and end up pushing and pulling their Followers, not around themselves, but actually away from themselves in linear fashion (on a line away). When instead what they want to do is rotate their Torso (specifically employing T7, T8, T9 of their upper spinal column) around their spine by use of intention. Slowly going with the Follower not pushing them. Indicating but not pushing. The problem here is that most leads forget this stuff and rush through X, Y, and Z and just expect that they Follower will haphazardly just ‘follow’ the lead. When in fact the lead itself is unclear and doesn’t allow for the Follower to ‘just follow’ but instead rushes them through it. 🙁

3.) Capturing The Follower. This one is probably the trickiest of the bunch caveats above. Because your want is to stop the Followers motion and redirect it. And that means using your arms. However in this case, you do not want to use your arms. You actually want to use your motion, or in this case your not-motion! This is referred as a ‘Null-lead’ or a ‘No-lead’ where the arms (specifically the Lead’s right) acts as a structural element and nothing more than that. Far too often when learning this particular Dark Side Salida Step most Leads compress the hell out of their Followers with their right arm around their Followers, and this is a major no-no. The Capture in this case is very gentle and entirely non-compressive!We want fabric to skin contact and nothing more than that.

This particular Dark Side Salida Step employs a weight change, a cross system walk, then a capture (!!!), then leading a circular forward step, and then finally walking them to the cross! It can be used anywhere inside the dance not just as a Salida step, it’s great in place of an Alteration step, where you want to change the direction of the Follower. It’s also great musically because it has so many possibilities attached to it. It’s also a lot of fun to execute and has lots of variance to it. Lots and lots actually! With a small modification it could be turned into a ‘Gooey Gancho’, an Enganche (for either role), a force back cross on the Step around, or even a Soltada! Just to name a few. There are so many options here that it’s mind boggling. You could literally use this Dark Side Salida Step as the gateway to opening your dance to do a whole variety of things, not just the step itself.

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From a Dancing Perspective it’s cool. There’s no doubt about it. However, 98% will not dance it, mostly because they don’t know it exists. That and there is always the tried and true Simple Open Side Salida Step as their entrada. This is what you’ll see 98% of the time dancing. However, pay attention when you see a different Salida step, it means that that particular lead is thinking outside the box. It means that someone want to do something different not because it looks cool, but because they’ve been thinking about how to surprise their dance partners and make the dance that much more inviting and exciting than the run of the mill Salida step that permeates every single tanda. Side step, begin dancing, side step, end dancing. Over and over again. With a Dark Side Salida Step it’s anything but that! And the world is your oyster

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