One of the tango moves that impresses beginners most is the volcada. In it, the follower is taken off axis and her leg sweeps around to generally land in a cross. A large volcada is especially dramatic, but it takes quite a bit of skill to dance well.
Tango - Volcada Demo
- Maintain a stable axis. Though a volcada is an off-axis tango move, you need to have a stable axis in order to be taken off of it. Once you have complete control over your axis, you're ready for off-axis moves.
- Trust your tango leader and allow him to take you off axis. Trust is a skill developed with practice, and only with trust can a volcada work. If you have problems trusting a leader, do some trust exercises in which you lean on him and he supports your weight.
- Direct your energy down into the leader once you're off axis rather than pushing your weight forward onto him. Maintain your spine length as you do this, just as you do whenever you dance tango. A good image to have is of pulling yourself out of a swimming pool.
- Keep your core muscles engaged, but don't be stiff. Use your core muscles to ensure that your back doesn't sway or break at the waist, which can create a back problem.
- Allow your free leg to be loose and to reflect whatever energy the tango leader gives it. There isn't a specific way your leg should move in a volcada, except that it must reflect the lead. Keep your leg free until you are led to change weight. The led weight change is as clear in a volcada as it is in any tango dance step.
- Regain your axis once you are led back to it. You should return to your stable axis as soon as you are able to so you can continue the dance with full control and balance.
Syncopated Snake Walk + Sustained Volcada
Volcada from a side step
Volcar means to tip. Originally used to describe the bridge or carpa it is more commonly known as the move where a man takes his follower off her access and swings her free leg to create wide circles on the floor. This sequence is the most basic form of the volcada. For more information see How to do a Volcada
The Man steps to his left, lifting the woman so that she feels the pause, pulls the woman into the closed embrace on onto his chest taking a small step backwards with his right foot. At this point the weight of the woman should be fully on the man, completely balanced and she should be like a plank. This is known as a bridge, carpa (meaning tent) or puente (meaning bridge). The woman will strain her back unless she sucks her belly button in to the back of her spine and inhales deeply lifting her rib cage. Sometimes the woman might step with the man, to prevent that make sure she feels the lift and that she is facing you straight on and not tilted to the side.
The man collects his left foot brushing his right then steps to the side in an arc around the woman’s pivotable point. His body has turned slightly causing her left leg to swing freely. This moment is controlled by the woman. She will aim to draw an arc on the floor with the outside edge of her big toe. The arc will be as wide as possible to the left and to the front aiming to touch the right foot of the man. At the top of the arc the woman will bend her knee and bring her foot back to cross in front of her remaining right foot in a straight line. The man will lead the pace of the volcada (normally slowly) and as the woman reaches the top of her arc, he will move his right foot out of her way and step forward with his right allowing enough space for the woman’s left foot to cross over her right. The woman should be sensitive to the man and feel when he finally places his foot before she puts her weight on her right foot and allows herself to be led back. The figure could end with a tango close or just walking.
The woman’s hips are kept at the same place throughout the volcada; they do not collapse to the side nor move forward or backward. The centre of mass is shared in the centre of the man and the woman. This does not change during the volcada as the man keeps the leaning angle (he does not step into the woman's space causing her to stand up.)
Men: The movement you are creating has a swing feeling. Normally you would not be able to see the woman's foot move but you should be able to feel the subtle weight change. This is very important for timing and leading. Close your eyes if need be.
Ladies: Your back will get sore if it is not supported. Support your back using your tummy muscles. Feel them taking the strain. Think of sucking your belly button towards your spine. Your upper body should feel concave rather than convex. Also when the man pulls you on to his chest, take a deep breath and lift your ribs (not shoulders), stretching your spine and getting that elongated feeling. Think of pulling yourself out of a swimming pool. See How to protect your back in the tango Finally remember keep your hips in the same place throughout the volcada.
Volcada from a cross
The man leads the woman to the cross using the natural system crossing his RF in front of his LF but with no weight on it as the lady crosses. He then steps forward with his free RF and as he does so he sacadas the lady's LF as she steps back. The sacada is a displacement and thus doesn’t necessarily have to touch the lady’s foot. The man leads this sacada by lifting the lady slightly and leading and upward and forward movement as he pulls her onto his chest as his foot enters the space she occupied previously.
The lady may embellish this sacada by allowing her LF to swing wide and collect it behind her right foot. This is the same position that the man lead the volcada previously. With the woman’s weight comfortably on his chest and her feet locked behind each other, he steps back onto his LF, brings his feet together. Once again the woman is in the carpa or Puente position.
The man then takes a step to the left with his left foot creating a swing feeling for the woman and her free left foot draws an arc along the floor. As the lady LF reaches the man’s RF he steps forward and with this lead she bends her knee and brings her foot back to cross in front of her right foot. She puts weight on this foot and steps backward (RF) as the man steps forward (LF). Ending with the tango close , with a rock or with just walking straight out.
Finally we revised that the lifting feeling can be used to lead a carpa or bridge while the lowering lead can be used to lead a media luna or a planeo. We came across the planeo in the previous lesson. This week we practiced media lunas. When the man steps to the left LF, he applies a downward pressure on the lady. The lady may respond to this by bending her supporting RF leg and allowing her LF free leg to extend behind her. She should keep her left leg tucked behind that of her right knee to be neat and contained and to minimise the risk of being a hazard on the dance floor. The man leads a gentle back and forth turning movement with his upper body. This subtle movement will be magnified in the hips of the lady as her upper body follows the man's chest while her hips rotate further. This movement causes her free leg to draw a semi circle on the ground. This move is known as a media luna (half moon or croissant.
Ladies’ tips: Keep one knee behind the other while you pivot on your supporting leg. Keep your extended foot perpendicular to the floor for a crisp sharp movement.
The man over turns the woman to her right, lifting her a little and giving her space to move her left foot in front of the two to cross over her left foot almost in a tiny ocho but with her left foot right next to her right. Her hip should be twisted to face her right but her upper body should still be facing the man. The man places her with a gentle downward movement so she steps on her left foot and pivots to face the man. He can then lead the tango close or walk out of that position with his LF. This move doesn't seem to have a name but I would like to call it an ochito as it is a very small ocho.
This week we have learnt of the diversity of the side step. Too often the leaders rush from the side step into the cross however the side step is a great place to pause, let the lady decorate and either continue into the cross or apply upward or downward pressure to move into a volcada or a media luna. Let the music dictate. Allow it to infuse your movements and pause to listen to it when you can.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at Salsa TV, Singapore