balanceWhat do off-balance, volcada and colgada mean?

Sooner or later all these will come up at tango lessons. Trying to understand and come to terms with these concepts might be difficult at first, especially as different teachers tend to explain them in completely different ways.

How much easier ballet is, with its clear-cut, precise definitions for each move! Perhaps one day tango-terms will be standardized too, but until then, we have to deal with the somewhat arbitrary definition of moves and terms.

The aim of this entry is to give you a general idea of off-balance situations, volcadas and colgadas. With this, you’ll be equipped to better understand these concepts at tango lessons, whether it be in Budapest or Buenos Aires.

When you are able to stand on your own two (or one) feet without holding on to or leaning on something or someone in a stable position,  you are in balance, you have your own axis.

If you are leaning on someone, you get into an off-balance position (also called off-axis). If he moves away then you lean more.  You are still in an off-balance position if the person stays in place allowing you to lean on them. If you were to let go, you’d fall.

To help visualize the situation, imagine a drunk person, supported by a friend. Let’s suppose the friend suddenly moves away – now our drunkie has to react and move not to fall down. (Which still proves to be useless in many cases for drunkies)


Volcada with Carlos Gavito

What is a Volcada?

Leaning towards the partner is a special kind of off-balance situation, called volcada. The top of the axis points towards the partner. Some call the position leaning towards the partner in itself a  volcada, others reserve it for the description of figures resulting in this other-oriented off-balance situation.

Volcadas became a trademark of Carlos Gavito (above) for he used them so frequently.

Nowadays the leading trend in tango is that everyone should be able to stand on their own two feet, connecting with the partner whilst maintaining their own axis.

Nonetheless, many people keep leaning on the partner. Often, this could be a personal preference or sometimes just the matter of music interpretation. The extent of the volcada depends on style and preferences too, for example the below-described calesita, in which we can play with the degree of the volcada.

The next video provides an excellent introduction to the concept:

Be sure to protect your back whenever you decide to do volcadas! The correct use of abdominal muscles helps!


What is a colgada?

This is the exact opposite of volcadas. You lean away from the partner, holding on to them and distancing the upper bodies.

I think this photo illustrates the concept perfectly :)

Definitions of colgada vary from instructor to intructor, some use it to describe such a position, others use it for moves and figures resulting in colgada-situations.

As now our focus is restricted on understanding the concept itself, take a look at the following video. Once we have grasped the essence of volcada, colgadas will become much easier to understand, including posture and technical details (such as the slight knee-bend and the position of hips).

I hope this has helped you to get a clear view on the concept of volcadas, colgadas and off-balance positions. Enjoy your practice & keep browsing our articles.