It’s time to talk about the backsacada, a perfectly useless and presumptuous step if there ever was one, and my love-hate relationship with it. The leader twists his body, practically turning his back on the follower, positions his standing leg unnaturally at ninety degrees, and steps backward between her legs, creating the illusion of stepping through her while he leads her around him. Hyphenation used, to make some points. Does it offer any functional benefits, maneuvering in the milonga? No. Does it make the follower feel closer or more appreciated by the leader? Not at all, the couple must break the embrace and disrupt whatever dream they were sharing. To top it off: the risks to the ankles of the follower are unlikely to be covered by any insurance company.

I remember seeing my first backsacada. Chicho Frumboli’s of course. After all, there is no backsacada he didn’t do with Juana Sepulveda: on her left, right, front and back side. She, of course, received it as if nothing happened: oh really, you’re stepping through me, go right ahead. Then, she backsacadas – is it even a verb? – him from every imaginable angle. It quite mesmerized me. What a crazy step, and so coolly executed. This wasn’t dancing, this was art. He also did an avant-garde backsada jump, with two feet! Observing other performances, I realized quickly that the backsacada separates the pros from the amateurs, the artists from the social dancers. You may skip your volcada, colgada, pasada or gancho, but you will not see many performances without that damned backsada.

So, I had to try it myself. Competitiveness is one of my weaknesses and I saw amateurs like me have a go at the backsacada. Some of them, I arrogantly assessed to be lesser dancers than me. They seemed to do okay in their own, clumsy way. I studied some videos and quickly mastered my first backsacada. An easy one, on the followers’ open step, feeling quite the artist already. This could be an effective tool in distant milongas, where I would have to spark the curiosity of proficient followers. I produced the step regularly, becoming quite nonchalant about it, until one fateful day I hit a ladies’ ankle. She didn’t cry and said she was alright: no, this could happen, it wasn’t as if we had to call the ambulance. I offered to stop and got her a drink.  It was many months before we danced again.

The backsacada became my Angstgegner. I still studied all its varieties, coveting my secret desire to show off my increased repertoire, but in real life stuck to my comfort zone. I could be caught practicing behind the gas cooker though, back stepping on imaginary followers. Rationalization mechanisms helped me through this period. Steps go in and out of fashion. After all, where is the volcada now? It used to be very much en vogue but one day a follower commented in my ear ‘such a crude step, don’t you think?’ I reasoned that there are hundreds of steps and variations on them. Let’s stick to those that guarantee satisfaction. Nobody will miss the backsacada. But the attraction remained. The emergence of Encuentros and the marginalization of open, ‘neo-tango’ styles added the Forbidden Fruit allure to my fascination.

I can resist anything except temptation, as Oscar Wilde used to say. So, I suppose I’m going to take a private lesson soon, with some cool backsacada maestro like Frederico Naveira. It’s not too late. I’m going to practice every variation imaginable, and then I’m going underground with it, keeping it all for myself, like a private hidden stash of a hallucinogenic substance.

Story posted by: Martin van Kesteren

About the author: Organiser, Writer from Amsterdam

Published: 16 Feb 2023 @ 13:58

Last modified: 17 Feb 2023 @ 09:19

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