Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Boleo Secrets for Men and Women

First, a great boleo secret for my Tangueros:  When leading boleos, keep yourself laser-focused on your partner’s axis!  I'm recommending a focus that's much more than a general awareness.

I'll give you a preliminary exercise for leading boleos that will help.  It’s from my lesson on "Mastering the Woman's Axis", which is also my preparation for the molinete.  In essence you’ll be playing with the woman's walk and pivot. (This exercise is part of Section 4 “Intimate Dynamic Dialog” in "Tango Improvisation Mastery™" online home study program.)

Here's the exercise:

Stand facing your partner with your feet at shoulder width, and she can start with her feet together. With your arms stretched toward her, elbows facing down, and palms of your hands facing up, hold both your partner’s hands. Using just the rotation of your upper body and the connection through our hands, lead her slowly and carefully to pivot, then to take one step on the circumference of an imaginary circle around you. When she arrives in her balance, lead her to pivot again, and play with her pivot a few times, being aware of the verticality of her axis at all times.  Experiment with the concept of “winding up her spiral”. Do the same in the opposite direction, always leading her to walk in a partial circle around you.

Make sure to keep your feet in the original position. Don’t take any steps; only your partner walks in this exercise.  Use only the torsion of your upper body to lead her partially around you and to return in front of you, as well as to “wind up her spiral” to invite her to pivot.

Be extra careful not to pull her or push her with your arms.  For this reason it is essential that you keep a keen awareness of her axis.  Your partner should tell you if you are pushing or pulling her off her axis.

You can let your partner know if you find her anticipating your lead, or you can just be quiet and lead the movement again. She should be aware of when she is in balance and when she is not (a question of her both her own stability and of your skill at leading her while respecting her axis).

That was the preliminary exercise.

Now, for the boleo exercise, just lead a side step to your left, change weight (go into crossed system), “wind up her spiral” with your upper body moving around her axis to your right to lead her pivot, and then calmly lead a return-pivot.  If your partner is in axis with her free leg relaxed, and with energy down the invisible line that runs down the inside of her leg (see woman’s tips below), she will do a small boleo on the floor.  Leading her to flex the knee of her standing leg is one way to widen the arc of her boleo on the floor.

When you can do this basic exercise slowly and calmly, protecting her axis on the first pivot and on the return, then start experimenting with different degrees of energy and different timing in leading the return.  This is a very organic way of learning to master leading a boleo.  When you have both mastered the preliminary walk-and-pivot exercise and the slow boleo exercise, you may be surprised when it comes time to experiment with the timing and energy levels on your leading the return pivot, that all of a sudden, your partner’s foot will fly off the floor and draw a beautiful arc in the air.  By experimenting, using the correct dynamics that you will have developed in the preparatory exercises, you will both master the high boleo in an organic way.

When you've gotten some competence going to the your left side, try doing the same to your right.  Work on becoming equally competent on both sides.

(Later you can experiment with sending her free foot away from her into a projection at the farthest point of the pivot, before leading the return. Think of a paddle with a ball on an elastic string.  Her foot on the floor is the ball, her free leg is the elastic string. But the basics are enough for now!)
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And here’s a critical boleo tip for my Tangueras:

Our thighs in tango have no brains!  Send your thighs’ brains on a vacation to Club Med.  :)

The thigh of our free leg has only two simple jobs:  1) to hang, 2) to swing.  (We learn to feel this deeply in Advanced Tango Fundamentals Module #1!)  The thigh of our supporting leg does work; it supports us, but as effortlessly as a cherry tree produces cherries.  These are the thigh’s only natural jobs, requiring no brainwork!

Remember that "a boleo is something that HAPPENS TO US" when the man leads it, and our free leg is relaxed and hanging "from the hook" that connects it to our pelvis.   We do not make our leg work in most boleos.  We do not use our thigh to lift any part of our leg!!  Keep your foot on the floor at the beginning, drawing an arc on the floor when you receive the lead to pivot and return.

Later, the your foot will rise by itself (while your thigh and knee still hang down), when your partner puts more energy into leading your return pivot.  It's a question of 1) his energy and timing plus his awareness of your axis, and 2) YOUR awareness of your own Infinite Axis, and the complete relaxation of your free leg, starting from the muscles around your hip joint - while still maintaining a sense of energy in a line down the inside of your leg, that goes from your groin to the tip of your big toe (ankle included!).

For both of you:   Together you’ll find the “sweet spot” of your boleo energy, and you’ll both find that once you've mastered it with one partner, it will easily work with most other partners.

It could take a whole session or two to start to get this, but when you do, you'll have this strong skill forever!  And, high or low, if feels soooo good to do a great boleo!

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Natacha's Boleos 
Natacha Poberaj and Jesus Velasquez

Watch for Natacha's boleos at 0:07, 0:20, 0:53, 1:05, 1:21, 2:21, 1:47, 2:43, and 2:52. Notice the great diversity that is possible with the same kind of movement one tango. (Did I miss any? Natacha's boleo at 0:26 is really an adorno; it's not led!) Remember that Jesus is leading these boleos all differently, and that Natacha responds with sensitivity to the lead each time.  Notice also that in every one, the thigh of her boleo leg does nothing but hang or swing, and so the knee of that leg is always pointing toward the floor.

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