“Understanding the Structure
of Argentine Tango Dance”

The Sacada (Displacement)

Definition

  • A very bad definition would be: kicking your partner's free leg away. Although this kind of pushing against a free leg can be legally (albeit gently) done if you're very experienced, actually in a sacada your legs don't need to touch at all, and the energy source for this flare seemingly being the kicking or pushing is rather an optical illusion. The real energy source is the turning of the upper body.
  • The standard definition is: the free foot of one dancer crosses the line between the feet of his/her partner. We'll prefer to call this an entrada however. The farther the line is crossed, the deeper the entrada is. This will always be a movement along.
  • For a sacada, we'll use a slightly different but very broad definition: any simultaneous step where one dancer ends up about where the other one was standing. We'll say this dancer does the sacada, while his partner receives it, although they both step.

A Special Case: Stepping in Line

A problem with this definition is that “simply” stepping forward in a straight line with your partner stepping backward would also be sacadas, while most people wouldn't be labeling it so. In a sense however, they are. There is a reason why this is much harder than stepping sideways together. If we consider all stepping possibilities in couple, it's on the limits of what still is a sacada. It becomes more of a normal sacada, if we change the angle of “attack”, the angle between the two steps. It can be 90°, or even tighter.

The Trailing Foot

We will be conserving the amount of lean, connection and distance between the two of you, as usual. The dancer who does the sacada will need to step very close to where the now becoming free leg of his partner was standing. The sacada is really on the limit between moving along and opposite, depending on whether this step is on the outside or the inside of this trailing foot.

And the not so important differences between sacada and entrada according to these definitions would be:

  • stepping close to the trailing foot on the outside (moving a little bit opposite) is no entrada, but would still be a sacada (I'll call this a pseudo-sacada, makes sense because it feels the same);
  • stepping deeply between the legs of your partner is an entrada but would be less of a sacada.

This is not important tango-wisdom: it's just to keep the terminology on this site consistent.

Execution

In all cases, the sacada requires perfect balance (as always).

Because of subtle timing issues, for the leader leading his partner to “undergo” the sacada is really something else than leading her to do the sacada with him!

Sacadas are hard to master. The center of the couple's rotation does not lie in between the couple, but offset to one side of the embrace! The most common mistake is to focus on the legs instead of the turning together around an offset point. The flare of the “displaced” free leg is a result of the relative movement of the upper bodies and isn't even a goal, since it is dangerous in crowded places.

36 Different Sacadas

Let's suppose the sacada always happens towards the inside (inside means between the legs of the “receiver” here) of the trailing foot (for pseudo-sacadas on the outside, opens and crosses for the sacada “doer” as well as along and opposite get reversed, but really nothing else changes). Out of the previous analysis, one can discern 36 structurally different sacadas:

  • Leader moves to spot follower (leader does the sacada) versus other way round: 2 possibilities;

  • Leader can do front cross, open step or back cross: 3 possibilities;

  • Follower can do front cross, open step or back cross: 3 possibilities;

  • Leader starts on left foot or on right foot: 2 possibilities. After all previous choices have been made, this simply yields couples of mirror images of all these combinations. It is reasonable to consider these as structurally different though, since the embrace is asymmetrical, and therefore they'll feel quite different.

All these choices can be made completely independently of each other. That makes for 2x3x3x2 = 36 possibilities. Why not try them all? Give it a go!

  • Can't the leader decide whether to go left or right (seen from his upper body)? Not anymore. Say he's on right and does an open step, it'll have to be to the left of his torso, as described before.

  • Whether the follower starts on left or right determines whether our simultaneous step will be in parallel system or in crossed system. Oddly enough, this can't be chosen anymore after all the previous choices have been made. A sacada needs to be a movement where the couple rotates around a point somewhere in between them, though offset to one side. According to the previous table, the walking system can't be chosen anymore.

Aside from inside/outside and the angle of “attack”, there's nothing more to choose anymore to obtain a structurally different sacada, that is if we remain connected with the upper bodies.

There's a whole lot of other subtleties however that can be played with of course, not in the least the step length , the distance in the embrace and the amount of forward lean (apilado).

 

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