Boleo in Tango

Published on by CMe




Boleo in Tango 


Bailas como sos

In Argentina the boleadora is used by the Argentinean cowboys the ganchos as a means of capturing running cattle. The boleadora was a long cord attached to two (or more) heavy balls on either end. The weight and momentum of the balls created a whip like action similar to that of a sling.

The boleo is performed by the woman normally lead but can be added as a decoration. The most important consideration in this moment is that the knees must always be together. A boleo with knees apart looks unlady-like messy. (There are some styles that teach open kneed boleos but this is not the classic style.) The free leg swings with the momentum of the moment as the lady pivots on her supporting leg. The working leg travels in a whiplike action. The lady should absorb the momemtum of the lead from the man to allow her free leg to fly out. However she must control it. Boleos are not performed on crowded milonga dance floors.

The step
The man begins with the man leading the woman to the cross while he changes weight on the second step so that he is in the cross system. As the woman crosses he brings his left foot in behind his right foot to cross. He then leads the woman to take a side step RF to his left. As she takes the step, he places his left foot into sacada her trailing LF by stepping on to his LF and turns his upper body to lead his lady into a back step. Before she steps into her backstep, he should remove his RF out her way and give her space to step but not stand on it. She steps back into the open space and he leads her once more into a back ocho to his right. As she puts her weight onto her RF, he traps her trailing foot LF with his right foot in a parada. She waits in this position while he steps over her outstretched left leg making sure to place his RF close to her right foot. Using his heel of his left foot he drags the ladies L foot up along the inside of his right thigh. At this point the lady should be leaning on the mans entire right side of his body. This should be a comfortable position. If she feels off balance, the man should adjust his position so that he is taking all her weight on the length of his right side. Her left leg is still hooked around the mans thigh. He dips her by stepping away to the side with his free left Leg.

He then leads her to release her foot into a boleo. This is done with a sharp movement of his upper body to his left as well as a step on to his RF moving it slightly wider and gaining some space which he will use later to allow the lady to do a front boleo. With the flick action of the boleo the natural momentum brings the lady's left leg around to the other side of her body often with a forward boleo.

The man leads the lady to step on to her LF turns her to face himself and then leads the tango close - he steps forward LF and then to the side RF and collects his feet LF. The width of the step the woman takes after she has done her boleo is determined by the man. The woman will aim to place herself in front of the man again so if the mans chest is twisted away from the woman she will take a big step whereas if the mans chest is almost pointing directly at the woman, she will hardly step at all.
The Boleo & The Embrace

Boleo tips for the lady in this move
As your leg is wrapped around the man before you begin the boleo, bring your LF down to brush past your supporting leg before you let it swing up. For more power, strike the floor with the ball of your foot as if it was a match and use the momentum to flick your foot up. The circular movement of the boleo is created by your pivot. As the man brings you back to face your right be sure to return your boleo foot to your supporting for before attempting the forward boleo or tap decoration to be neat and also to ensure that you don't knee him in the upper thigh as you pivot. 

Giving Good Boleo
Leading boleos well is not easy. So few women get to do boleos, or at least get to have fun doing them.

But if you DO lead boleos well, you can lead them even with a woman who has never done a boleo - often well enough that she amazes herself. (If you are dancing someplace where you are a stranger do not be surprised if your partner asks if you are a teacher!)

This is because a boleo is something that happens naturally when you lead your partner to reverse the direction of a pivoting action, such as an ocho.

You can see this if you practice ochos against a wall, bracing your hands on it as a partner substitute. Do backward ochos and reverse direction in the middle of one to begin doing forward ochos. Centrifugal force will make your free leg fly up in the air - a boleo.

Or do a forward ocho and reverse directions in the middle to begin doing backward ochos. Your free leg will fly into the air in front of you: a front boleo (similar to an amague, but rotating around your supporting leg rather than flicking straight back).

Of course an experienced follower will instantly realize what you are leading and will control the boleo to suit herself. If the dance floor is crowded she might keep her free foot low to the floor. Or if the floor is uncrowded and she is athletic, she may lift her foot much higher than her knee. She is likely to add force to the swing of her foot to make the boleo more whiplike. And she probably practices good tango style and keeps her knees together, which makes the boleo "wrap around" her supporting leg.

But even if a woman has never done boleos before - even if she has never heard of them - she will still do a boleo if you lead it right.

To get it right when you practice the lead for the boleo it is a good idea to understand a few facts.

Leading a boleo well is NOT a matter of using a lot of force. Instead you have to time the moment of the reverse just right. No one can tell you exactly at what point in the pivoting of her body you should do this. You simply have to try it and find the "sweet spot" for yourself. Then find it again and again until you no longer have to think about it.

On adding snap. Normally when you are leading ochos her speed of rotation should stay the same. But when leading a boleo from an ocho, just before you reverse the ocho accelerate it. And just after the reverse go faster than normal, then slow her rotation back to normal.

Her supporting foot and leg is the axis that she turns around. Chances are you are stepping side-to-side as part of the lead, so you may think you are doing a linear action. But you should also be twisting your upper body to lead her. Thus you are actually rotating your center of gravity around her axis. So be sure to keep your center the same distance from her center. (This may not sound easy, but with practice it becomes automatic.)

Another point. It is your upper body, where you embrace your partner, that gives the lead for everything in tango. As you reverse the direction of her pivot, lean away from her slightly to further give a feeling of inevitability to the boleo. This is a bit tricky, since you are also rotating your center of gravity around hers. But you can do it. (I have faith in you.)

Finally, despite the fact that it is your upper body that does the primary job of leading, your hand on her back can help. I usually keep a light touch on my partner's back - or even keep my hand an inch or two away from her back if I find myself falling back into the bad habit of over-using my right hand. But when leading a boleo I place it firmly behind her to give added confirmation of what my upper body is leading. Especially if I am leading a new-comer to tango this is no time to be politically correct about using hands to lead.
Forward Boleo into Follower Side Sacada

Contra Boleo

How to lead a Boleo
  1. Understand that a boleo is a natural reaction that occurs when you lead your partner to change directions in a pivot. A good follower will just intensify this natural reaction in her dance and will not do a boleo simply because she knows you are leading one.
  2. Feel the boleo in your own body. Practice stationary backward ochos while holding onto a dance bar or a wall. Change to forward ochos and, if it is relaxed, your free leg will come off the ground behind you into a boleo.
  3. Master the basics. Lead your partner in back ochos. Then, without pausing, switch the direction to lead a forward ocho. A boleo should result from this movement, and you can then refine the boleo.
  4. Focus on timing rather than force when you lead a boleo. It will happen if you reverse directions in the pivot at the right time. If you don't get a boleo from your lead, try reversing slightly earlier or slightly later.
  5. Accelerate the ocho immediately before and after you change direction, then return to normal speed. This will help indicate the boleo is coming and will also add "snap" to it.
  6. Practice rotating around her axis to lead the boleo. Your upper body should come around her rather than move sideways. Keep her on her axis by maintaining the same distance between your axis and hers, which is a method you can use in all tango steps.

Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at  Salsa TV, Singapore

The Tango Fundamentals - Volume 2: Basic Elements
Price: $29.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping. Details
This offer is available by clicking on the pictures above and may not be redeemable elsewhere


Comment on this post