Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

The Argentine Volcada

You’ve seen them at Milongas, and for most Leads that see them, most think they’re really cool and then want to do them because of their coolness factor. Most Followers when they see them for the first time are rightfully afraid of them for obvious reasons. The Follower is being led to a controlled fall. Controlled is a loose term here because 9 times out of 10, that control never happens, mostly because the Lead has not mastered several things, most notably how to support their Follower without the use of their arms! Typically you’ll see variations of an Argentine Volcada that range in size from large and egregious, taking up ginormous amounts of space, with the more common open side volcadas being the most common variety, all the way down to the more reasonable ‘Social’ Volcada which takes up no space in the line of dance. And then everything in between those two extremes. Today’s Tango Topic deals with 2 specific varieties of these ideas. The common Egregious variety, and the more desirable Social Volcada. That said, let’s dive into The Argentine Volcada.

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What is a Volcada ? First, the word ‘Volcada’ comes from the root Spanish verb ‘volcar’ which when translated into English means ‘To Fall’ or ‘To Tip Over’ or ‘To Overturn’. The ‘ada’ ending means, in English, ‘en’ or ‘ed’, or in this case FallEN, FellED, TippED Over, OverturnED. While the translation gives you a tiny idea of what a Volcada is from a Tango perspective, very small, it doesn’t even come close to what it actually is: A glorified Argentine Cross with a 20 to 30 degree forward tilt or bodily slant (for both roles) along the longitudinal axial line for both roles that ideally does not break at the waist. A Volcada itself can be supported or unsupported (not desirable) and is usually performed from Cross System or from a standing Mordida. When done properly….and ‘proper’ is a very loose word here because there a whole series of Volcadas that can be done (safely) that loosely qualify as a Volcada. These are what are considered shared-axis pieces of tango vocabulary that result in a series of crossed feet for the Follower to either Follower left or Follower right. 

From A Following Perspective, the Volcada is a one of the more scary pieces of vocabulary that you’ll ever run across, and it runs a close second behind every Colgada you’ll ever do in your life as the absolute scariest piece of vocabulary. The reason ? Because you’re FALLING! That’s why it’s scary! In reality (when done properly), you’re not falling, you’re being led to a controlled and very supported tilt. However, for a good number of leads that invoke one, they don’t support you and they don’t control the volcada, and as a result there’s more than a few injuries that can occur. Most notably having your back wrenched, in specific your spinal column and neck! Not a pleasant experience at all.

That said, there are 3 aspects to the Volcada for you that you must be aware of. 1.) ‘Planking’. 2.) The ‘Free’ Leg. and 3.) The ‘Dirty’ Cross.

1.) Planking refers to your bodily posture, as in it being piled up or making your body into a plank, as if it were a board or a piece of cut wood for flooring. In the case of the Colgada where we do not want to plank (one of the 2 major differences between a volcada and a colgada) in this case, we do. We actually want our bodies be straight, and not to break at the waist either by sending our hips away or letting them ‘collapse’ forward into the lead (the action, not the person).

2.) The ‘Free’ Leg. There has been so much talked about, written about, and shown to you as a viewer on this subject that I feel it’s almost like a broken record. However…the quick and dirty version of the ‘free’ leg idea is that it’s the one that is not weighted. It’s the one that is in motion, until it’s not. Like I said, the quick and dirty version. 🙂 In the case of the Volcada that ‘free’ leg performs 2 very important functions. a.) It can act as a safety mechanism. b.) it can and does act as a counter balance while in motion.

3.) The ‘Dirty’ Cross. This refers to what it sounds like, a position of the feet where they’re crossed, but not cleanly crossed. Where there is space between the feet. This is a ‘Dirty’ cross. From the perspective of the Volcada, you’re going to be led to do exactly this, to cross your feet in a ‘Dirty’ collection or where your feet do not come together.  While this is not necessarily desirable, it’s what happens. Ideally we do not want a ‘dirty’ cross, but rather a clean cross of our feet.

From a Leading Perspective, let’s get a few things out of the way immediately: 1.) The Volcada is a wholly supported move, and that support is NOT, I repeat, not done with your arms! Ever. Read that again. Several times. And repeat it out loud. And when you’re done doing that, repeat it again. The Volcada is NOT DONE with your arms, ever!  2.) The Volcada can be done big, and it can be done in a small way (social volcadas – see below). Ideally we want them done in a very, very small way so that not only do they fit within the line of dance, but rather the lane of dance (meaning the width of the line of dance that you’re in). And if we’re being precise (and we’re always working towards being precise), within half of the lane of dance. Taking up less space is better. Last but not least…3.) You are leading the Follower to cross their feet, nothing more than that. So really if you wanted them to cross their feet, lead them to an Argentine Cross and be done with it. In other words ? This is an overly dramatic move with no real purpose that should only be used once in a  blue moon (and sometimes not even that!), as in once every 6 months to a year and leave it at that. More volcadas are not cool, they’re fun one time, as spice. You can not and should not make an entire dance out of them. Just because you’ve seen certain tango instructors demonstrate a series of volcadas to a piece of music does not mean that this is indicative of what you should be doing as well. No! Far from it. The volcada should be used as if it were pure Capsaicin sauce (the hottest hot sauce in the world). Which is almost never.

That said. There are a few things that you want to be aware of going forward – 1.) Your Embrace. 2.) The Swinging Free Leg. 3.) Supporting The Follower.

1.) Your Embrace serves as a guide post. A non-directive guide. Meaning that it’s there as like a fence, but not to be used to direct the follower to do anything. Nothing more than that. It’s what keeps the Follower in place but not rigidly so. Truth be told they need to move their upper torso, and if you’re squeezing the living daylights out of them (even if you think that you’re not, trust me you are) they can not move at all thereby making the volcada almost impossible to perform!

2.) The Swinging Free Leg is the “Impossible” part to perform. If you’re squeezing the daylights out of them, which is really pulling the Follower towards you, their leg isn’t going to swing as far you need it to swing away from you, but actually towards you, thereby killing the natural desirable motion that we may want for some of the more extreme versions of the Volcada. Not desirable under any circumstances.

3.) Supporting The Follower. This move is all about support. Specifically the Follower’s ‘Planking’ body. This is not done with your arms, but rather with your entire body. Think ‘Apilado’, and that’s what you’re shooting for. Without that support then the Volcada is doomed to being done with muscled force, and someone’s going to be visiting the Chiropractor the next day and you know what ? It’s not going to be the Lead, it’s going to be the Follower! In short, support your follower.

From a Dancing Perspective, the Volcada looks intricate, difficult, and sophisticated. And that’s because it is all of that and more. And most people attempt to do them even with ‘proper’ instruction and end up hurting themselves and their partners. Mostly wrenching their backs and hurting their knees. It’s an undesirable experience for both parties all in an attempt to ‘look’ cool. That’s the dancing reality. Is this desirable ? No. Is it what happens ? Yes. Will it continue to happen even after this article has been wiped away ? Yes. Do you care ? No. Why ? Because again, you want to look cool and the Volcada is the definition of the cool move. Period. So my thinking is that if you’re going to go there, the least you can do is be well armed with lots of information so that at the very least you don’t hurt anyone, least of all yourself, and that goes for Leads as well as for Followers.

The 'Social' Volcada

What is a ‘Social’ Volcada ? There is a social version of the Argentine Volcada which is a far sexier and way more svelt version of the Volcada than what you’re seeing above. If you’d like to see that, register and then subscribe. Only a paid subscriber can see this version of the Volcada!

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

About The Video. This video comes in at 14m:27s in length in 11 Sections.

Introduction – 00:00:34
Carpa Technique – 00:02:59

Follower Cross Technique Reminder – 00:00:19
Follower Mordida Reminder – 00:00:24
Follower’s Kickstand – 00:01:16
Lead Right Arm/Forearm – 00:01:06
Lead Torso Rotation – 00:01:24
The Lead’s Free Leg – 00:00:31
Follower Posture & Free Leg – 00:03:37
Volcada Details – 00:00:34
Lead Footwork & Steps – 00:00:53
Volcada Demo – 00:00:53

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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.

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– The Last Word –

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