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Social Boleos (with Social Contra Boleos)

The word Boleo comes the root Spanish word “Bolear” which roughly translates into English as “To Shine” or “To Throw”. The word ‘Boleo‘ is pronounced: “Boh-Lay-Oh” with the emphasis on the 2nd syllable. Boleo is the first person singular, meaning “I throw” or”I shine”. That’s about where the English and the Spanish meanings stop and take in a completely different meaning from a Tango perspective. From a Tango perspective we view this as a very specific piece of Tango Vocabulary which is nothing short of gob-stopping when executed properly, and in time to the music. Typically for most people when they hear the word Boleo they can only conceive of one type of Boleo, and that’s the flashy, but respectable, High Circular Boleo variety. To be clear, a Boleo, in its simplest definition, is one the four Tango Displacements, (GanchoWrap or Enganche, and Sacada being the other 3) that Tango Topics talks about. In the case of the Boleo, the Follower is led to “Throw” their leg behind them in any number of ways. However, that descriptive is a little misleading because the “throw” that is implied isn’t a ‘throw’, it’s a very controlled and contained action that shouldn’t be trifled with. Secondly, there’s a very specific reason why the Boleo occurs, which almost never get’s talked about or shown. There are lots and lots and lots of Boleo videos on YouTube for you to go watch. However, not one of them, not a single one, explains HOW you safely generate one, why a Boleo occurs, and more importantly the necessary skillsets that are required before you can or should attempt to even in engage in one. This video series does. Today’s Tango Topic looks at that set of circumstances and creates a very specific type of Boleo that could easily be called a “Low” Boleo but it is more apt to be called a Social Boleo. So without further adieu or yapping, Tango Topics presents The Social Boleo and Social Contra Boleo.

What is a Social Boleo ? We must make clear the first part of the Term “Social” of “Social Boleo”. Social in this context that Tango Topics typically defines that word as: 1.) The Ronda of the dance floor, pertaining to the line, lane, and Tango Floorcraft of the couple. 2.) The Milonga experience. Meaning how you enter the room, who you speak to, where you sit, how you sit, what you dance to, who you dance with, how you invite or deny a dance. 3.) Fitting any and all vocabulary choices, regardless of which role is initiating it, within the physical width of the “lane” of dance, and the physical distance of one singular step that goes with the line of dance.

The definition for a Boleo is as above, but in this context it would be where the Follower (or the Lead) is led (or self-led in the case of the Lead) to extend and then to lift their leg (that’s the throw part from above) behind them in a very controlled and contained fashion that can in certain cases be linear (in or on a line), or circular. Low (sometimes referred to as a ‘Social Boleo’), mid-range, or high (the common one). Quick, languid, and/or frozen. Which are either done “With” the Follower’s motion, or against the Follower’s motion (which would make it a ‘Contra’ Boleo).

Therefore a Social Boleo is a type of low (emphasis on the ‘low‘ part), circular, ‘With’ type Boleo that can be done quickly or languidly and can also have a frozen component. In this highly specific type of Boleo, the dancer’s foot would never, ever, leave the floor. Typically in High Boleos, the dancer’s foot would come off the floor. In this instance, because these are Social Boleos, the dancer’s foot stays on the floor, and extends in a circular fashion!

Typically the Social Boleo is ideal for Dancing In A Small Space, the Encuentro Environment, Dancing in confined spaces, and/or certain Milongas in Buenos Aires, like Salon Canning, El Beso, or Cachirulo, and most certainly the quiet, but well attended, Barrio Milongas. The Social Boleo is an easeful, and really, the easiest of Boleos to learn, and then to start dancing, from a Leading and Following perspective. And that’s because, for the most part, you’re already doing them without realizing that you’re doing them!

Difficulty Rating:   (3.5 / 5)

From A Following Perspective. Let’s get something out of the way before we dive deep into this stuff. From your perspective, these are NOT, so that we’re absolutely clear, HIGH Circular Boleos. These are low to the floor, and quite literally ON the floor. The Follower’s foot NEVER, EVER leaves the floor under any circumstances. Further still they Boleo action itself never exceeds the space that they would normally take for a backstep anyway. Clear ?

There are a few things that we, as Followers must do before we can delve into the wonders of Social Boleos. We have to address several things that are all pre-requisites before you can even begin to play with any Boleo, let alone the Social variety. Even though the Social Boleo is the ‘simplest’  (hahaha) of the Boleos that Tango Topics covers, the following items must be still be addressed in their entirety:

1.) Your walk must be stable and independently generated without a Lead. Put another way you must be able to walk forwards or backwards on your own without the assistance of a Lead, without a balance bar, without holding onto anyone or anything. You must be able to walk in 3in heels without the use of your arms forearms, wrists, fingers, or hands for stabilization against your Lead in any way, shape, or form. No wobbling. No wavering. Zero instability. No landing on the outside of your foot either.

2.) Yours steps, forward, side and back, must be consistent in the size and their execution.

3.) You must be able to walk on two separate, but equal walking paths that do not cross over your natural body meridian without holding on to anyone or anything for stabilization in your socks, and then low heels, and then finally your dancing heels.

4.) You must have mastered your Disassociation (see video for details) skills without allowing your hips to slip or move. This is rotating your torso around your spinal column at a minimum of 180 degrees from natural body meridian, to the left and the right. Not 90, but a 180 degree rotation at minimum. You’ll thank yourself later on this one, as it has lots and lots of applications, the Boleo is just one of them.

5.) You must be able to Apply that Disassociation (see video for details) without the use of your feet to push off of, or using your Lead to push or pull from with the embrace, in any way, shape, or form. Not even a little bit. This is like a release of a rubber band. The disassociation is the windup of that rubber band. The Applied Disassociation is the controlled “release” of that rubber band. 🙂 And if you’re thinking that if you watch a video on it for 10 minutes, or do it in a class for a few minutes…think again. This skill will quite honestly take you many months to build, then deconstruct, then rebuild…several times. Mostly to refine it, smooth out problems, and make it clean and easeful. Put simply this the heart of the all Boleos except for the linear variety, for the Follower, so it stands to reason that it’s going to take a while for it to work right.

6.) You must have mastered your ochos without needing a Lead to stabilize you, or to push or pull off of.

If that sounds like a lot of rules, and mastery, you’re absolutely correct it is and there’s a reason for that. Even though these are the simplest Boleos that we talk about these things still require these pre-requisites otherwise you are going to hurt yourself and others. So if you don’t feel that you have mastery over these things, then stop here. Honestly. This is your only warning.

Ok now that we’ve read you the riot act, and if you’re still here….

The Social Boleo for the Follower. For you, this is nothing more than a back step. Don’t get confused, don’t get lost, and don’t mishear the advice above that simply because it’s a back step that you don’t need to have all of that stuff above ‘handled’. You still do. However also be aware that the Social Boleo for you is smaller, less work, and much easier to do. It’s the easiest of the Boleos to do for the Follower. Truth be told you’ve been doing Social Boleos for a long time, you just haven’t realized it. The Social Boleo for you is nothing more than what Tango Topics refers to as an “interrupted backstep”. However, this particular type of backstep is built from a specific setup: Your back Linear, or Milonguero (Lazy) Ocho. If you don’t know what those things are, follow the links for each one, and you’ll see what we’re on about. The type of Ocho that closely resembles what you’ve been taught is the Traveling Ocho, where it goes down the line of dance. Below are examples of each:

The Linear or Milonguero (Lazy) Ocho is absolutely perfect for leading and following Social Boleos as their setup allows for the Boleo to occur. For you the Social Boleo is all you, this isn’t about the Lead and what they’re doing. This is all about you and what you’re doing. This is one of the very few places where the Follower can really show off their technique. It’s one of the few spots in the dance where the Follower gets to show their skills, their abilities, their execution of their technique. In specific: How they extend their leg, how they land their foot, how they detail or adorn their steps! The Social Boleo that we’re showing today is a ‘vanilla’ variety that leaves a lot of room for decoration for the Follower. ‘Vanilla’ in the sense that the Follower can add elements to it that make the Social Boleo even more attractive than it is. And while it may look like nothing, trust there’s an enormous amount of stuff going on. It should be noted, if it wasn’t clear, that these are small Boleos, quite literally touching the floor, your foot never leaves the floor. These Boleos should never impact anyone, or anything, they do not need to be big. In fact we want to make them very, very compact. The more compact we make them, the more elegant they become!

Your First Social Boleo. When you’re first led to a Social Boleo, you’re going to freak out that you did something wrong. You’re going to have this idea in the back of your head that something is missing. Nope. It’s just a little unusual. Mostly the thing that you have to watch out for is that the Lead will attempt to ‘Overlead’ these ideas, and thereby force the Boloe. Which is a using their arms and hands to grip you and then force the motion. When in fact they want to do the polar opposite. The part of this that you need to focus on which is also what you’re doing by default, is your backstep. It’s the interruption that you’re interested in. It’s the ‘how’ the back step is interrupted. Without going into too much detail because you’re not a paying customer yet, it has to do with the setup. There is a timing issue involved here. That if the sequence of events is off, even a little bit, you’ll misalign and think that you missed something. And that’s not your issue, that’s the Leads issue. It is for this reason that most Followers think or believe (erroneously) that they screwed up. They haven’t (assuming that the 6 things above are all true, and frequently they’re not, sadly). It’s just that the timing for the Boleo was executed poorly or in the wrong place. 🙁

The Next Part > Confusion. The part where you’re going to wonder – “Ummm….WTF was that ?” is what comes next, and that’s the rebound or Rebote. The rebote is what you do after the Boleo! It’s quite literally a response to you would normally do anyway. However you will have a question, and that’s where the confusion lives: What do you do with all that energy ? That’s what the video is for. 🙂 In the here and now, there are several things that you could do with it hence the video. One of which is probably the simplest thing you can do: Come back to facing your Lead! But it’s how you do that which is incredibly important. Which is another reason why it’s so important that you have mastered your Ochos, and more importantly your stability in those ochos!

The Follower’s ‘Gotcha’ with a Social Boleo! Probably the biggest ‘Gotcha’ with regards to almost all Boleos is understanding the cues for the Boleo to occur. This is not something you can learn in 5 minutes and it magically happens. No. There are different cues for different types of Boleos. In the case of the Social Boleo the Sending Cue is a small subscription fee for a paying customer. You see, if you were a subscriber, you’d see the actual lead cue right here, but alas you’re not. So, instead, you’re getting this really annoying message. Gosh, don’t you want to see everything ?

From a Leading Perspective, as these are Social Boleos that means that everything we do is small, so that it fits within the line and more importantly, the lane of dance. That’s why this is part of what Tango Topics refers to as “Social Vocabulary”, because it fits that definition. Social Boleos are an extension of that idea. They are small, but very useful Boleos that can be led slowly, and languidly in something like late Pugliese, or Calo, or later Di Sarli. They can also be done as accent notes, not to mention pretty much anywhere you want. And that’s because these are nothing more than back steps which are slightly modified.

For your part in this equation of Social Boleos, your part is 2 fold. You have three things that you absolutely must do: The first of which is really simple and this one you get for free, and that’s you can not use your arms. The second one is all about timing. You have to place these things in the right place. This doesn’t refer to where you would engage a Boleo musically but rather where specifically you would ask for the Boleo out of a Milonguero Ocho or Linear Ocho. It’s the transition point that we’re after. The third of which is a reminder that you’re not customer yet, and that you really should subscribe so that you can see this information.

Your job here is more of a guide more than anything else, don’t get confused, don’t get lost, don’t mishear this advice: The role of the Lead is basically executing your part of the equation where you don’t interfere with the Follower’s motion in any way, shape, or form. You must allow them the space to move, you must allow them the space to transition, and you must allow the space and the time to resolve what you’ve asked them to do. And most of all you must:  1.) Lead the Follower to clean series of Ochos, usually of the Linear, or Milonguero style of Ochos consistently. 2.) You must not use your arms, or to engage in resistance based dancing to do so. 3.) You must subscribe to Tango Topics to see item 3. 4.) You must not watch the Follower’s feet. Posture, posture, posture. 5.) There’s a 5th item here, but alas, you know the drill so far…. and it’s probably the single most important item that you want to do with regards to most Boleos but also in a Social Boleo. So here’s a hint that will help you going forward. Be easeful. 

The Social Boleo is all about ‘easefulness’. The more easeful it is led, the more sexy and elegant it becomes. This isn’t a quick or flashy Boleo. Its two best qualities are that a.) It’s small. and b.) It’s slow and elegant. It shows off the Follower’s lines, and further, it shows off the execution of their technique. Which, believe it or not, you actually want to do. Why ? Because the more that you allow the Follower to show off, the better you look as a Lead and ultimately as a couple! In the end this means creating space for the Follower to execute what you’ve asked and to leave a little room for the Follower to ‘play’.

The Primary Error of Social Boleos. Probably the biggest error of the Social Boleo is not in the Boleo itself but rather in its setup. How’s that ? It is in its preceding Ocho to either side. Meaning that if the Boleo happens on the Open side of the Embrace, the preceding Linear Ocho to the Closed side of the Embrace, and conversely its opposite. That’s the set up. The problem ? Is that most Leads, fail to actually Lead the closed side Ocho as shown below:

Space For The Follower. This is going to come as a shock to some of you but the Social Boleo, and really any Boleo, is not about the Lead, it’s all about the Follower! A Boleo shows off the skillset of the Follower. It’s one of the few opportunities where the Follower has an opportunity to display their skills. Not to mention, but we will anyway, they have complete and utter control over where the couple can go, and to display the inflection of interpreting the music. A Social Boleo for the Follower is no exception to this way of thinking about the dance. It’s just that the Social Boleo is smaller. So when you lead them, or want to lead them it’s important that you give the Follower space and time to execute what you’ve asked and to resolve them, and not rush through them. So many Leads rush through the Social Boleo from one piece of vocabulary to the next that they hardly recognize that they Follower is working really hard to execute what’s been asked of them. So it is important as Leads that we a.) Create the space for a Social Boleo (and really any Boleo) to occur, and b.) Allow the Follower to resolve back to facing their Lead. Believe it or not the creation of space for the Follower while not being obvious to the casual observer is felt by the Follower as they’re able to do what’s asked of them, and then because this is an easeful Boleo they’re more likely not to feel rushed and then to add either an Adornment (musically based), or an Embellishment (not musically based).

The Lead’s ‘Gotcha’ with a Social Boleo! Probably the biggest thing that we as Leads have to contend with as it pertains to the Social Boleo is learning when and where they can be executed. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in Lead/er Mindset that we forget that there are other things that we can do to a.) Express what’s happening in the music. b.) That there’s a Follower in front of us that we have to be mindful of. c.) That we have to generate some kind of cohesion or comprehension of what’s happening musically. Far too often we are stuck in just getting out of the jam that we placed ourselves in. Further still we get stuck in trying to impress the Follower, or impress our friends, or just to one-up ourselves at how amazing we are. Or how not to bore the living daylights out of our partners. So the execution of a Social Boleo seems almost…pedestrian by comparison. And yet it’s execution for you is one of those crucial elements that allows the Follower to feel elegant, while at the same time, creating a nice inflection point for them. The problem ? Is knowing where to fit it in! And that’s the Gotcha. Here’s the kicker, they fit nearly everywhere! And you’re already doing them, you just need to allow for them to conclude to their natural resolutions. The problem is the squeezing, pulling, pushing, and compression issues with the embrace that will plague most leads in generating them!

The Three Components of a Boleo. Every Boleo consists of 3 basic components that help to define, and really cue the dancer that said Boleo is happening. That if you were to line them up in a sequence of events would indicate to the dancer that this is a “Boleo”. Social Boleos have all 3 of these basic elements, they’re just smaller, much smaller. That’s why they’re called Social Boleos. The 3 common components are: 

1.) The Ocho or Back Step. Nearly every common Boleo that you will ever dance (either lead or follow), is built off of or uses a variant of the Follower’s Ocho to start with, with the exception of the Linear Boleo which uses the Follower’s interrupted backstep. This is why it is absolutely crucial for the Follower to have mastered Disassociative Ochos which is what Tango Topics teaches. The Disassociative Ocho a is far more elegant, and useful type of Ocho than the push/pull/resistance or “Pivot” based Ochos that are typically taught and danced. In the case of the Social Boleo, this type of Ocho is preferred as the precursor to the Social Boleo. However they can be done as set up with a Resistance based Ocho as well. However they’re typically not all that satisfying to do for the Follower.

2.) The Sending Cue. This is the reason why a particular type of Boleo occurs in the first place. Every Boleo has one. The Social Boleo is no exception to this characteristic. In the case of the Social Boleo that sending cue is a very specific motion that we’ll get into below and the video above (for paying customers).

3.) The Rebote. The word ‘Rebote’ is a Spanish that translates (roughly) to the word “Rebound” in English. It refers, in the case of Social Boleo, to the resolution of the Ocho or back step motion that can be used to either resolve the Ocho or back step or be used to generate another Boleo or more than likely a Contra Boleo.

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

About The Video. This video is 37m:34s in length in 15 sections. Both lead and follower vocabulary are combined and integrated into the video.

Introduction – 00:01:22
How to Start The Social Boleo – 00:01:05
The Follower’s Ocho – 00:03:09
Follower’s Specifics for Back Steps – 00:00:49
The Follower Stepping Away – 00:00:47
Leading & Following The Social Boleo – 00:01:54
The Engine of the Social Boleo – 00:04:33
Creating The Size of the Boleo – 00:01:24
The Open Embrace Version – 00:01:19
  — in Slow Motion – 00:01:13
The Close Embrace Version (and in slow motion) – 00:04:30
The ‘Rebote’ Idea – 00:01:39
The Social Contra Boleo – 00:03:09
A Social Boleo with A Social Contra Boleo – 00:02:56
Final Thoughts/Closure Items – 00:06:32

Related Videos Mentioned In This Article: 

Follower Technique Series – Definition/Download
The Six Ways of WalkingDownload

Disassociation – Definition/Download
Applied Disassociation – Definition/Download
Lazy OchosDefinition/Download
Traveling OchosDefinition/Download

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– The Last Word –

Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a subscriber today.


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