Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scouting Tour (December 4-17

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tango & Tapas ~ Fusion Milonga @ La Pista with lesson beforehand by Homer Ladas (Cristina was ill): topic: "Capture the Moon." In this class, we played a series of games to improve how we connect and our musicality in tango. The Follower is luna, or the moon, as the Leader is la tierra, or Earth.

Game 1: Capture the Moon. Leader and Follower don't touch. Leader does weight changes left to right, and right to left, and Follower follows. Leader walks forward, Follower follows by walking back. Make it easy, do not move too quickly or with large steps. Leader sends Follower (the moon) into orbit by the intention and movement in his shoulders/upper body. Follower does continual molinetes around Leader as Leader continues to walk forward slowly but without hesitation and in small steps. At some point, Leader captures Follower again. There are two phases to this game: (1) the orbit phase, and (2) the capture phase. The Leader needs to make short steps because it's more difficult for Follower to do molinetes around him if he is taking long or fast steps. The Follower must pay attention to the Leader to be successfully captured after being sent into orbit. Leader captures Follower with a combination of eye contact and intention in his body.

Game 2: Tango Tag. We began with the idea of stepping on the strong beat only during the song. Then we picked two people who are "it". Rules were that you can go anywhere, any direction, any step (forward, back, side, diagonal), but you can only step on the strong beat, not any faster or slower. If you get tagged twice, you need to tag two people. The goal of the game was not to be "it" in the end. We played this game to DiSarli's Don Juan. Next, we made the game more challenging by stepping on every other strong beat. We practiced this to a vals (Biagi's Paloma), then played the game for real to Biagi's vals, Mañana por la Mañana. This game was to help us get to know the song so that we can predict the end, and adjust our timing and movements accordingly.

Game 3: Tango Serenade. Here, the Leader and Follower "seranade" each other by humming and dancing freestyle, with both having their eyes closed. We were to hum what we heard in the song, and express the music in our body to each other. We did this game to Donato's Triqui-tra. Afterward, we shared what we discovered: There were times when one partner picked up on things that the other partner didn't hear in the music and interpreted in the dance. Some couples had a true lead/follow exchange. Some couples had one partner who was dancing/humming entirely off on his or her own. For most people, this exercise made us appreciate the music a lot more. For some others, it showed that we need to be aware/considerate/respectful of our partner's hearing/interpretation of the music a lot more. For the couples that had a true lead/follow exchange, this represents the essence of Tango, to communicate with each other and the music, and gave a glimpse of what tango would be like if you are harmonious with each other, and also illustrated how we influence each other.

Game 4: Blind Tango Game. This one was an exercise in floorcraft and awareness of surroundings and communication. We were to dance tango and navigate around the line of dance with our eyes closed. We were not to dance too fast, and any forward or side steps were to be taken with care. If we feel that we've bumped into another couple, we were to adjust accordingly. The music played was a slow country western tune. Most of us did OK with that. Then, the dance floor was made half the size, which proved trickier and more problematic. We can use certain cues/physical sensations to help us navigate besides our eyes-- for example, we can hear and know where the speakers are; we can smell (like when we know we are coming close to the kitchen/snack area), or by the brightness of the lights as we get nearer or farther away from them, or by heaters or open doorways to feel heat/coldness/breezes. Dancing in the line of dance develops an ability to move in a more circular or square way. Maestro discussed the concept of the "tango train" -- or the art of floorcraft and navigation. Some people are space hogs (those who stop the line of dance) or space jammers (those dancers who are tail gaiters and dance right up behind you). You need to create a buffer so that the couple in front of and behind you have a couple of steps to dance. At a minimum, two couples are needed to form a tango train to create a buffer and bring order to the dance floor.

Game 5: Here, we were to look at each other in the eyes for 20 seconds, trying not to laugh. It can be a little uncomfortable and we don't do this in tango, but the exercise was to give us empathy with someone and to reconnect with them. So try looking at your partner once per song (you might have to start once per tanda; looking at your partner 2-3x per song might be a bit much).

Overall, it was a great lesson. As for the Tapas portion -- there was a spinach salad with pomegranate seeds; sushi with eel, avocado, and mango, grilled vegetables and stuffed mushrooms, and dates stuffed with blue cheese, pecans, and mint. The hosts were quite gracious, and the music was half traditional, half alternative.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Orange Practica @ The Beat in Berkeley, with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas: "Kiss Me Goodnight and Other Such Oddities". This was a musicality class, with the focus to hear the concept of Kiss Me Goodnight (syncopas, syncopations) in different orchestras. KMG syncopation is prevalent in many orchestras and you'd be surprised at what you can do with it. Our goal is to capture the interesting parts in the music, that are off the square of the music.

First, Maestro played D'Arienzo's La Payanca, and danced to it alone to demo the song. He captured the "Kiss Me" with emphasizing it in rock steps (somewhat similar to traspie) and other foot and body syncopations. The question came up, "how do you know Kiss Me Goodnight (KMG) is coming?" The answer: (1) When you know the song. (2) In many types of music, including tango, the melody repeats. So if you miss it the first time, you can get to it when it comes around the second or third time. Sometimes tango orchestras try to trick you, and they might put the KMG in a different place the next time around.

Next, we did a solo movement exercise, where dancers could go in any direction and do any step, with the emphasis on accenting the KMG (catching the beat), even if it's when they are walking in a straight line.

After this, we danced one dance together with Leaders and Followers partnered up. The challenges here were that sometimes we would hit the first KMG (syncopation), but miss the second or third set of KMG. Some Leaders had difficulty leading and hitting the rhythm without shaking the Follower. Solution: be gentle and have more control. Next, Maestro taught the subtleties of leading the double touch step (to the side, and forward) and emphasized that it was more like a whisper move. Follower should be able to feel how much the Leader's center is moving (it's really short), and how much he wants you to reach, so you can follow his lead appropriately.

Next, we played a game of He Goes, She Goes. First, the Leader emphasized KMG in the song (during which Follower does not move while Leader does his thing), then Follower emphasized KMG in the song (during which Leader does not move while Follower does her thing). We practiced different steps here -- the open straddle step out, the continual side step, the double touch to one side, the triple step to one side, or some combination of back/side steps. Basically, anything goes when you try to capture, emphasize, and play with the KMG to mark the syncopation.

After doing all this work to D'Arienzo's La Payanca, Maestro changed the song to Lucio Demare's Mañana Zarpa Un Barco. Maestro noted that it was interesting that the orchestra changed the place where you'd expect to hear the KMG section, illustrating that there was a complex rhythmic underbelly to the song. We danced solo to this song to just listen and to be in a safe place to express ourselves. This was to hone our listening skills, to focus on the KMG rhythm, and to be more aware of the song predictors (repeats, syncopas). We can accent just one beat of the KMG because at least it would show that we got some of it.

Next, Maestro played DiSarli's Shusheta, and pointed out that it had a KM KM KM KM rhythm at times.

Next, we listened to Donat's El Acomodo, where KMG is everywhere in the song.

We also listed to a bit of Pugliese's La Yumba, which had a derivative KMG syncopation in it.

Maestra noted that when dancers are aware of the nuances of the music, they have a different feel or distribution of energy in their dance, which adds an entirely different dimension to how they dance to different songs and orchestras.

Finally, we danced to the most challenging song of all, DeCaro's Derecho Viejo, which had a lot of nontraditional, abstract KMG. Maestro noted that it can be disturbing if there is a lot (too much?) KMG in one song/one tanda.


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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Scouting Tour (November 20-December 3) Fandango + CCSF

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Fandango de Tango notes (November 26-30)

Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Quality of Movement in Sacadas
We did simple sacadas of Leader's left foot of Follower's right foot to back cross pop of Follower's left foot forward to resolution (with Leader weight changes). We also did this on the other side. We did this to slow diSarli music, then to faster, rhythmic D'Arienzo music. The focus for Followers was quality of movement to make this look elegant. The focus for Leaders was to learn how to lead this.

Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Dance Utilizing Momentum
We did a change of direction with pivoted weight change for Leader so Follower steps perpendicular with left leg, and Leader's left leg, followed by Follower molinete (side, back, side, forward) to resolution. For the next figure, we did a reverse Americana with opening on the open side of the embrace, so Follower does something like a back boleo with her right leg (Leader with his left leg), side step, Leader sacada to other side (reverse). Change in dynamics: sometimes you go fast, and sometimes you hold (or go really slow). In tango, one person sends the information, and the other receives it. That's how we dance. We need connection and we need to wait to hear the information that is being conveyed.

Fabian Salas y Maria Paz Giorgi
Sacadas Technique & Combinations
We began with Follower forward ochos. Then we did Follower overturned forward ochos (note: Follower's arm slides/adjusts). To this, we added Leader sacadas (which are Leader regular forward ochos), which had the effect of making the dancers go in a diagonal zig zag direction down the line of dance, taking their ochos steps opposite to each other. Next figure: Leader back sacada. Leader does forward sacada with right leg to Follower's left leg on the open side of the embrace. Then Leader does left leg back sacada of Follower's right leg on the close side of the embrace. Here, the dancers are almost in a straight line, and the close side of the embrace adjusts. Maestro emphasized that the Leader's feet for the back sacada are in 90 degrees to each other. From here, we go into Follower clockwise molinete. On the side step, Leader does regular sacada out to salida to cross. Next Figure: Follower steps side right (Leader left); Leader lifts her, then changes his weight. She does back step, side step, forward step for molinete. On her forward step, Leader does sacada. Then we did a series of pivoted turns with changes in direction. Leader should use Follower momentum to get around.

Thursday, November 27, 2008
Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Synchronizing Turns & Combining Elements
In the molinete, Leader kicks on her back step, starting with back-side-forward-side. Change Leader kick to Leader sacada (which goes side, back [Leader sacada]). Leader steps back with right leg; Follower steps forward with right leg simultaneously to rotate completely around. Leader is slightly forward intended; Follower must not be back intended, but on the balls of her feet. Follower steps forward with her right leg.

Pablo Pugliese y Noel Strazza
Back Sacadas for Leaders & Followers
"sacada" comes from the verb "sacar" - to take out. In tango, we should consider it an "entrance" or a "back step to a certain location." There should be clean, easy contact with the feet (not abrupt, or that would cause a huge movement on Follower's part). In dancing tango, it is important to know who is the center of the rotation, and where the axis is. The Leader rotates so that center of turn is where Follower is. The most important concept is where the axis is of the turn when you do the sacada and how can we walk around this axis. Also important: timing. The figure: Leader back sacada when Follower goes forward. Follower back sacada of Leader's back left leg when Leader goes forward with his right leg, with Follower front contra boleo to pivot all the way into back sacada of her right leg, then she steps side, forward to resolution.

Nito y Elba
Different Caminadas & Resolutions
In walking, we did Follower back step, back step, cross, while Leader walks in and out, weaving (if Leader hooks behind with his feet, he will always step forward with his forward leg). Based on this step, we did variations: (1) A rock step for Follower whereby Leader gets around her clockwise and counterclockwise. (2) For Follower, Forward overturned front ocho steps, where Leader sandwiches her foot at each step. The resolution is Follower right leg back gancho of Leader's right leg, when she is outside him, on the closed side of the embrace, to optional boleo, to step. Leader stops her left foot, then does 2 barridas circularly around her to resolution. This was a fantastic workshop. In the past, I've always had varying levels of satisfaction when it came to the lessons I've taken with Nito y Elba, and it dawned on me that it entirely depended on how much I understood their Spanish. So I struggled in their class in BsAs since there was no translator, but I always do great in their classes in Austin because there is a top-notch translator. Tango is often spoken of in terms of "vocabulary" and it seems that Nito's vocabulary is of someone who has three Ph.Ds (in Physics, Sociology, and Classical Literature), so he knows lots of really interesting words and really interesting ways to string them together, while the rest of us are at grade-school level vocabularies. So we all have the same alphabet, but Nito's words and sentences are truly genius and so much more beyond...what most of us can think of creating improvisationally and musically.

Friday, November 28, 2008
Fabian Salas y Maria Paz Giorgi
Combining Colgadas & Volcadas
When Leader sends out Follower's back left leg, that's the colgada portion. We practiced sending out Follower's left leg to settle in back cross of right leg, which causes the right leg to pop forward. Then we tried the same thing in circular, suspended motion with Follower's left leg hanging back straight out. (Follower's technical point: keep left foot toe touching floor). Then we did a gancho of Follower's right leg of Leader's left leg, so her weight is on her left leg and right leg is free. Here, Leader sends her right leg back, then hooks it around behind her left leg to make her left leg pop forward. To get her to gancho, from the cross, Follower steps forward outside Leader with her right leg, then takes a side step with her left leg, whereby Leader sacadas to lead a gancho of her right leg of his left leg. Follower's technical point: Gancho goes high (not low). Then we attempted to make the post-gancho colgada circular and suspended with two steps for Leader.

Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Vals & the Giro
For some odd reason, I took no notes during this class.

Alex Krebs
Musicality: Hearing & Interpreting Different Rhythms
What does it mean to be musical? How do you interpret rhythm? We first practiced walking, backwards, forwards, double slow, single time, and double time. We then did one dance, dancing on just the slow beat. Then we did one dance, dancing on the slow beat or on 3. The Leader's lead comes from the impulse pushing his body forward, which comes from his standing leg. We then practiced walking with cadencia (up and down in our ribs), and with torsion (forward and back rotation in our chest), and with combining them both (which Maestro called "kayaking" and which results in a rolling motion in the upper body, as if you were rowing a kayak). When dancing to Pugliese, the Leader dances as if someone is pulling him from the chest. When dancing to D'Arienzo, the Leader dances as if someone is pushing him from his back. We did one dance to Pugliese's Gallo Ciego and one dance to D'Arienzo. Maestro made a comment about Leader's toe lead in the walk forward: A toe lead prevents forward movement of the body because of friction on the floor (so don't do it). He advocates more of a heel lead (like regular walking) or whole foot engagement for leader (with toes sweeping floor in motion, but landing on heel when stepping). Next, Maestro played D'Arienzo's Rawson, a song with a lot of syncopas in it. Syncopas are never predictable where it happens in the music, which is why you have to be familiar with every single tango song in existence. In dancing, the head and core should always be even (no bouncing, no step & go). Our homework: Listen to your tango collection and try to find the syncopas. Every orchestra has them.

Fabian Salas y Maria Paz Giorgi
Sacadas for Men & Women
Bottom line: it is better when dancers are farther apart than close to each other when doing sacadas. I skipped out of class early, and instead, went on over to:

Diego DiFalco y Carolina Zokalski
Variations in Rhythm & Examples
We danced to Pan y Agua, El Choclo, El Flores (Pugliese), and a Canaro during his movie period. Then we practiced dancing during different instruments (just violin, just bandoneon, just piano, etc.). This was a truly excellent class.

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Diego DiFalco y Carolina Zokalski
Milonga Lisa
Milonga Lisa is flat, plain milonga (like Tango salon-- elegant, proper, smooth), with not much traspie, and the most important aspect of which is walking. The steps are longer than traspie, faster, and there is more travel, and less syncopation. Try to find your personality when you dance. Milonga Lisa is flat, elegant, moving, long steps. Traspie does a lot of small, tight moves. There's always space to dance, you just have to manage the space.

Diego DiFalco y Carolina Zokalski
Enrosques & Planeos for Lead & Follow
We did simple planeos with Follower leg back, both clockwise and counterclockwise, and leg forward (left clockwise, right counterclockwise). Then we worked on enrosques. Enroseque comes from the verb "enroscar" - to coil, to wind, to screw. We did 8CB to 5 (cross), with Follower enrosque while leader walks around her. Then we did Follower molinete while Leaders feet is in enrosque. Many leaders realized it is hard to turn on one leg all the time. Then we practiced the Leader doing enrosques and lapices continuously while Follower does molinetes around him. Then we tried the Leader doing planeos and enrosques while Follower does molietes around him. For both, it is important to keep head level, and have knee flexion (not forcing ankle strength). The key is the control the movement.

Nito y Elba
Steps for Tango Show
These were basically steps from their tango show, Tango Porteno. We began with a series of embellished walking exercises: walking with back tucks, walking with back boleo into amague, walking with front enrosques to end in front tucks. Taking these steps, Follower does simple counterclockwise molinete while Leader does a series of fancy footwork: a lot of enrosques, lapice, into four back ocho tuck steps, into lapice, into sacada of his left foot of her back right leg on her forward step. Next, we did another sequence: Follower does counterclockwise molinete whereby Leader sacadas on her forward step, and another sacada on her side step, to displace her right leg with his right leg, to lead Follower to do back boleo into a forward kick in between leader's legs. Follower can do multiple boleos/kicks as Leader leads them as he walks around. Maestro says there are lots of possibilities in tango. We should think about them and figure them out. The goal is to be able to be spontaneous with them. That's improvisation.

Nito y Elba
Agujas (Needles)
We began with the same series of embellished walking exercises as the prior class. Maestro emphasized that it is important to have good technique for doing the molinete, and that you should do them around a chair five minutes a day, every day, so that you can do them yourself and not rely on your partner for support and so that you don't pull him off axis. We learned a couple of pretty figures with needles for the Leader (rulo into front cross amague), then spin pivot on one foot.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Milonga with Amagues (Provoking)
This was basically a traspie class. We began with exercises to get the traspie footwork (forward left, right; side left, right; back left, right). Then we did a turning figure using traspie, which was basically a series of crossed/diagonal steps to go around in a circle. The second figure was a "show tangoish" pose figure.

Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
What's Going On With The Music?
This was an excellent musicality workshop. We began with walking exercises, stepping only on the 1, and then on the 1 and 3. Next, doing on the 8CB and walking, we danced to diSarli's La Cumparsita, to understand when to step to recognize the beat. Then we did the 8CB and walking to diSarli's Don Juan, trying on the 1, on the 1 and 3, and the 1 and 4, and on the 1,2,3 and 4. Then we added ochos, forward and back, on the 1 and on the 1 and 3. Next, we did Follower clockwise molinete whereby Leader does series of sacadas with his right leg (doing weight shift and collections) to her forward, side, and back steps. He then pivots her around to resolution. We tried this figure of molinete + sacadas stepping only on 1 and 3 to diSarli. Then we tried dancing everything only on 1 (which made us all dance very slowly). Maestra noted that when you change the orchestra, there is different emphasis. As an example, they played Gallo Ciego -- first Salgan's version (which has a 1, 3 emphasis), and then Pugliese's version (which only has the 1 emphasis). We then danced these concepts (on the 1 or 1 and 3) to D'Arienzo's Pensalo Bien, a slow Piazzolla (Piazzolla is more challenging to dance to since the melody is so strong that it is hard to keep the rhythm). You can change the feeling between dancing on the 1 or 1 and 3 in the same song. This was an excellent class.

Diego DiFalco y Carolina Zokalski
Corridas & Variations in Speed.
Corrdias are fast running steps. We began with the Americana into fast ochitos facing each other. Here, we need to make sure both sides are even. Then we did a walking exercise, with walking with our feet in front corss (left and right, forward and back) and in back cross (left and right, forward and back). We revisited the ochitos, this time doing it forward to back to forward, so hips face all the way forward facing each other, then all the way away from each other, then all the way forward again, like tiny, fast molinetes. Next, we did Leader's corrida with crossed feet where he is center of the circle while Follower does molinete clockwise around him (Leader's feet are crossed with his left leg in front of his right leg in his corrida steps). Then we linked them all together: Linear forward ochitos to Follower's right, reversing to linear micro molinetes to Follower's left, to reverse jump to Follower back ocho with right leg to clockwise molinete around Leader doing crossed feet corrida when he is center. It was a great class.

Overall, this was a really fun, great conference. This year, Guillermo y Fernanda, Diego y Carolina, and Nito y Elba were my favorite maestros. The Thanksgiving Brunch was divine, and even though the food selection was smaller than last year, the item selection was superior. Fabian is looking good -- he's slimmed down, and seems really happy (joyful!) with Maria Paz (they shared smooches and smiles in class). The hotel staff was extremely attentive, and it's super convenient to charge everything to my room, even the $1.08 purchase from the snack shop. I love the South Austin Salad from the Lobby Bar, and the Southwestern Salad from the snack shop. My feet do not feel like raw, bloody stumps, since I had the sense this year to wear dance sneakers to every class, saving my heels and feet for the milongas. Sunday's milonga is always my favorite. It is less crowded overall, so basically everyone has a chance to dance with everyone else, and floorcraft is easier. The Masters show was more enjoyable than last year, since the time between the two portions was shortened (so flow was maintained). (Maria Paz wore Alanis shoes during the performance). Happily, two of my tango buddies joined me for this, and had a fun time as well. I even ventured to WalMart on Black Friday (don't hate me), just to see how to get there (it's tricky walking across the busy roadway, and if you take the wrong crosswalks, you might end up on a much lengthier route), and what they had (full grocery section). In the classes, there were slightly more women than men, which was a tiny bit of a bummer for me since I had to stand out more than last year. I took it all in stride though... It was marvelous fun dancing with so many of the great leaders that I met last year, and who have improved since then as well. The conference wasn't super huge, but wasn't super small. It felt very good in size, never too crowded or empty.

Random interesting things I heard at the conference:
The Leader dances with his upper body, the Follower dances with her lower body.
Tip for men: Use moleskin for converting the bottom of shoes to tango shoes.

Wednesday, December 3
CCSF Classes. Maestra was in BsAs to teach at the Queer Tango Festival and dance with Tango Con*Fusion. In Followers' Technique, we did dance conditioning with Annie Roake. Then, by popular request, Jessica led some foot strengthening exercises and forward and back ocho review at the barre. In Advanced, David and Nancy Mendoza taught the lesson. The subject was molinetes (which means "windmill"). Maestros noted that molinetes are best done in open embrace as it works better that way. The Follower has to look at the Leader's left shoulder and follow it. There is lift in the arms for both Leader and Follower, as if they are picking up beach balls. Elbows are down; otherwise they put too much force on the partner. Maestros discussed the historical roots of open versus close embrace, as well as the spatial and cultural aspects. They noted that to be a well-rounded dancer, you should be able to dance in both open and close embrace, as in open embrace there are many interesting figures that can be done that can't be done in close embrace. We began with both Leader and Follower doing molinetes around each other, both clockwise and counterclockwise, back-side-forward-side. Then we did the simple molinete with Leader with teakettle arms (down behind his back) in the center just stepping while Follower does back-side-forward-side around him, imagining there is a golden hula hoop placed around him on the floor, and to step on the hula hoop. Then we added the open embrace, and Leader sacadas. 8CB to 5 (cross), with Leader right foot hooking behind his left foot into a "T". Follower does forward step with her right foot in clockwise molinete; Leader sacadas with his left foot. Follower does side step, Leader sacadas with his right foot. Here he can turn this into an ocho cortado by leading her back into the cross of left foot over right foot. OR, she can continue the molinete with her back step, then he pivots so that the inside of his left foot meets the inside of her forward left foot. Then she does her left foot side step to the left, and Leader does side step to the right. Both collect. It was nice brushing up on the molinete and hearing their technical refinements of it. Maestro noted that when the Leader's knees are too straight, it causes him to tip forward on top; so it's important for the Leader to have flexion in his knees. Maestros did a wonderful performance to DiSarli's Don Juan that included the figure they taught, and also much much more, with kicks, air lifts, suspended legs, ganchos, boleos, Follower and Leader embellishments, etc. It was quite a treat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scouting Tour (November 13-19)

Thursday, November 13, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson.
In Ladies' Technique we began with our usual foot strengthening, articulation and embellishment exercises. Then we worked on the posture and weight change of our feet, forward to back and back to forward. Then we did walking exercises, first with no shoes, then backwards with shoes, then forward with shoes. We worked on the molinete footwork around the pillars. Then we worked on simple boleos in front of the mirror. In Milonga, we began with the basic baldosa. Then we did the alternate baldosa (without the back step, outside partner). We did many different steps: The Follower forward walk outside Leader clockwise, the salsa-esque forward and back outside steps with optional Follower beat back against right leg and tap embellishments (and Leader butt-kick Follower embellishment using her left leg for the more advanced Follower), curtsy ending on open side of the embrace with Follower left foot back diagonal right across behind her body (Leader right foot back diagonal left across behind his body), both Leader and Follower feet ending in pointed toe resting on top of the floor (no sickle). It was a really great class. We went through a lot of different steps quickly.

Friday, November 14, 2008
Monte Cristo Club milonga.
I skipped the lesson taught by Luiza Paes and Sean Dockery, but watched the last bit of it. Maestros taught the ocho cortado, and did a few embellishments: the shoe show-off, the butt shake double step stutter. I was surprised the lesson wasn't packed. Maestra seems to radiate joy, fun and enthusiasm. The performance they did later on was very rhythmic, with Maestra doing lots of taps and shoe show-offs. The milonga was not overly crowded, which was a nice thing, and many of my favorite leaders were there, some of whom I haven't danced with in a long time, so I had a very good time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Luiza Paes & Sean Dockery Workshops and Milonga @ Alberto's in Mountain View.

(1) Thinking Outside the Walking Beat - Rhythmic Creativity in Tango. This was a musicality workshop. We began with the concept of skipping the beat, stepping on just the 1, every other beat. The goal was to get us to think more about the phrasing and flow of phrasing, recognizing that at times music is like a wave...and being OK with letting it pass. We practiced dancing the concept to the song "Mañana Sarpa Un Barco." Next, we took our slow steps and really exaggerated them, dancing them so slowly that they were outside of the meter (though foot needs to land on the strong beat (1) somewhere). It was noted that slow music does NOT necessarily correlate with large steps (which is what we would tend to do). We can use slow motion for long notes. Usually dancers don't dance slow enough. We danced this to a very slow song. Then we played with pauses-- when the music stops, we stop (Leader stops Follower on both feet). There is a predictable and unpredictable nature to tango music pauses, since many of the orchestras wanted to keep the dancers entertained and so they kept our attention. We danced this to "La Cumparsita" (one of the more silly ones that had lots of unusual pauses). Next, we worked on continuity of flow, adding to the pause to make it stand out. We can do this by "dropping" down a bit (posing). Again, we danced this to "La Cumparsita." Then we worked on syncope, holding on the 1. We also played with another accent, driving to the 1, as in 4-1. We danced this to DiSarli's Don Juan, building the tension (the DiSarli instrumentals and Biagi have a lot of this). Then we did a very fast (tango hop) move to emphasize the arrastre beat in tango music (the step reminded me of the Tango Orillero move taught by Omar Vega that involved a lot of hoping with leg changes forward and back). Follower steps side left, collects with her right foot, then left foot goes forward simultaneously while right leg goes back in a hop. For this move, it is important that the weight shift is from middle to middle (not all the way from one side to the other). Then we put everything together, pausing, dancing quick, dancing super quick, adding the hop, etc., dancing to Biagi (a song with a piano solo and which was very percussive). Maestra emphasized the concept of being tight in the core for the fast, small steps, and to look for the slows in the music. It was an excellent musicality class and I learned a huge amount. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), there was only one other couple who took the class. So it was like having a musicality private with Maestros since I got to dance with either of them most of the time.

(2) Improvising with Ganchos & Sacadas in Close Embrace.
Thankfully, many more people showed up for this workshop. Meastra noted that ganchos need to be with both partners close; Follower needs to be connected to Leader, and Leader needs to bring Follower to him. We did several gancho and sacada steps. (1) Follower steps side; Leader sacadas with his right leg forward, she ganchos with her right leg. This happens when dancers are perpendicular on the close side. (2) We added a second gancho on the other side, with Follower's left leg of Leader's right leg while she is straddling his leg. Leader rotates thighs for Follower and does pivot wit his feet. Follower does gancho deep and low (not high). (3) We did a clockwise chain of gancho steps, doing the same gancho as (1), of Follower's right leg of Leader's right leg. Here the gancho is exactly like the ocho cortado, but the leg is in the way. Send energy in legs for bounce out, after which she steps. Then he leads her to do another gancho with the same leg. We also did this to the other side in the other direction, first starting in parallel position, and then switching to cross system. This gancho chain is with Follower's left leg of Leader's right leg; turn is counterclockwise. The last gancho step we did was extra credit since it was so difficult: (4) Leader sacadas, Follower ganchos, Leader walks through to sacada inside of the gancho. This step basically flips the Follower's leg from one gancho inside across body to outside away from the couple, then back forward around to step across in front of herself. It was very tricky (our legs felt like pretzels in the making). It was a very Pulpo-esque move.

Milonga @ Alberto's.
The recently refinished floors have cured completely, so now it's a pleasure to dance on it. It wasn't overly crowded, so floor craft was decent. I was really exhausted, so I didn't stay to watch the performance, unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes.
In Followers' Technique we were read a quote from Sally Potter's book, The Tango Lesson, that remarked on the dual nature of Following -- being centered and balanced, yet responsive; being in control of your body, and yet submitting to the control of the leader; being grounded and yet totally free, being toned yet providing resistance; being relaxed, yet having no obstruction; being mindfully alert, yet totally mentally empty; having alert receptivity. She said she rarely felt this type of complete presentness, nowness, except in love making, meditation, and making art. We were also read a Rebecca Shulman quote, "Technique isn't everything." We warned up with our usual floor exercises, and did a review of our barre exercises -- walking and making sure we arrive and do the appropriate weight changes, and then adding embellishments on the three or "and three" count. Maestra taught a new ocho embellishment at the barre -- ochos with two small rulos ending in a tuck (forward tuck after two forward rulos, back tuck after two back rulos). We practiced this new embellishment on the floor and in partnership. In Advanced, we continued our work on Milonga, and maestra introduced the waggle step (Forward does right leg forward rock step while her left legs does back side diagonal right step alternating with a back side diagonal left step while her right foot continues to rock forward), with forward momentum so the figure travels. To this, we added the clockwise turn we learned last week (starts like ocho cortado, does collect against line of dance, then Follower walks forward on the close side of the Leader, then he rotates her around so they are then in the usual Leader walking forward and Follower walking back in the line of dance). To see the waggle step, see 0.40-0.48 of one of my favorite clips of all time (Oliver Kolker & Luna Palacios dancing to Canaro's Reliquias Portenas @ Tango Divas Festival in 2006):


Thursday, November 20, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique.
La Pista Milonga with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Step-Over Colgadas"

Friday, November 21, 2008
La Tangueria De Oakland Milonga @ Just Dance Ballroom, Oakland. Luiza Paes teaches the lesson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Late Shift Milonga with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Sideways Colgadas"

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Studio Gracia 5th Anniversary Milonga

Monday, November 24, 2008
Orange Practica @ The Beat with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Leader's Overturned Sacadas"

Wednesday, November 26-December 1, 2008
Fandango de Tango in Austin, TX.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scouting Tour (November 6-12)

Thursday, November 6, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson. In Ladies' Technique we began with our usual foot strengthening, articulation and embellishment exercises. Then we worked on the posture and weight change of our feet, forward to back and back to forward. Then we did walking exercises, first with no shoes, then backwards with shoes, then forward with shoes. In a linear fashion in front of the mirrors, we did the back, side, forward steps of the molinete. Finally, we worked on doing quick quick steps. In Milonga, we began with the basic baldosa. Then we did the alternate baldosa (without the back step). The step was a cute one in parallel system: Get Follower to cross, then Leader walks back counterclockwise in a circle, while Follower does forward ochitos counterclockwise. We did the Pepito alternative, which is in cross system, where Leader does kicks in front of the Follower ochitos as she goes around him. The tricky thing about both alternatives was the timing of getting out of it.

Friday, November 7, 2008
Forever Tango Workshop on Giros and Sacadas taught by Vanesa Villalba y David Leguizamon. Vanesa speaks English, David does not. We began with walking. Maestra emphasized the heel being close to the floor when walking, the continual centered weight shift (your chest not being behind your legs or in front of your legs, but centered over on top of your legs as you step), and counter rotation in the chest. With respect to the giro, the Follower's timing depends on the Leader's opening of the chest, as communicated through his arm pull. It can be regular normal timing, or fast. The Follower always has to be in front of the Leader. Follower needs to change her speed if the Leader changes his speed. In the fwd-side-back-side-fwd steps of the giro, the back-side steps are usually double time. It was a very small class, with one Leader and four Followers, so it was more like a private group lesson, with each Follower being being able to dance with Maestro and the other Leader (who was very good). They gave us a lot of individual instruction and group criticism. Of the group Follower criticisms, Maestro said our weight was too up -- that he couldn't feel us and that we kept by ourselves. He recommended we try to be more grounded, that the Leader needs to feel the Follower, and vice versa. Also, we all tended to have our arms too up -- like chickens. He emphasized we needed to be more down in our shoulders, but up in our centers (this reminded me of what Alejandro Biggo teaches). Regarding the giro, the back step is an overturned back ocho. The Leader makes space -- lots of it -- for her to keep close to him on her back step. Follower needs to wait for the pivot. When the Follower steps in the giro, it is helpful to imagine a line that goes down to the floor from the Leader's elbow, and to always try to step on that spot. We did the giros in close embrace, with no Follower counterbalance or weight with backward intention, and leading being straight up on his axis (though our leader had a tendency to tilt forward in the chest, which a lot of them do). Maestros emphasized that the counterbalance/centrifugal force thing happens only with faster (open) giros, but was not necessary in close embrace. Also, in case embrace, there is less pivot and hip swivel on the back step, and be more like a back cross step so that connection is maintained and not broken. Adding the Leader sacada, the Leader in the giro should always have his feet touching the floor as much as possible -- either heel or toe, it doesn't matter which (and Maestro showed us doing it both ways). Leader can have upward or downward intention. The step was a simple one, but we did a lot of work on quality of movement: 8CB to cross, Follower pivots (on the open side), collects her feet dramatically with downward intention and knees bent, does air tap embellishment to step over forward across Leader, Follower left side step during which Leader sacadas, then back into cross for resolution. It was great to see so many good dancers in this class -- Olivia, Andre, Bobbi -- and what a sport of Maestro to dance with us (I've been in classes where the Maestro refuses to dance with his students because he was performing that night and didn't want to mess up his form).

Monte Cristo Club milonga. I skipped the lesson (soltadas, with Gary and Lisette). The milonga was only lightly attended, but many of my favorite leaders were there, so I had a wonderful time. Floor craft was not an issue at all. Negracha y Diego were there, and danced with the locals. They are such awesome people. :o)

Saturday, November 8
Forever Tango Workshop on Boleos and Ganchos taught by Victoria Galoto y Juan Paulo Horvath. Both speak English and are warm, nice, friendly teachers. They started us right away on a sequence and gave us much individual feedback: Follower steps side right. Weight change. Left foot forward step. Weight change. Left foot back step. Right foot back step. Follower pivot cross back to close side. Forward ocho with left foot across front of Leader to open side of embrace (Leader opens up his shoulder to open space). 2nd forward overturned ocho to closed side. Leader back gancho of his right leg to Follower's forward right leg, then back to collect (At the gancho Leader and Follower hips need to be together at the point of the gancho. It's a relaxed kick in the gancho, not a forced one that makes the Follower jump up.) Follower steps side right. Low floor boleo of left foot (with Leader having down energy and lots of impulse in his knee flexion of his right knee). Sandwich stop. Follower outside enganche leg wrap of Leader's right leg with Follower's left leg, and then another back boleo snap of Follower's left leg. Follower steps forward with her left leg, then does outside leg wrap of Leader's left leg with her right leg, to collect and then directly into a forward ocho of right foot across, in and around Leader. Side step left. Outside leg wrap of Leader's sacadaing right leg with Follower's right leg. Technical points: (1) In boleo: knees together, one behind the other; (2) Follower should always follow the Leader's shoulders; (3) Follower weight changes need to be at the same time as Leaders. They can practice this at home alone, stepping with weight changes to be faster and more responsive. (4) Knees should be relaxed and not locked or overextended. (5) Leader and Follower should move together with their centers. You can practice this lead/follow exercise with Follower hands on Leader's shoulders. It was a great lesson, with the same number of folks as yesterday, so it was like having a group private. What a treat it was for us all to be able to dance with and get lots of individual instruction and pointers from los maestros.

La Milonga De Nora @ Allegro with Los Hermanos Macana teaching the lesson. The lessons were packed. In Beginner, we began with one tango. Then we reviewed the basics. We began with feet together, parallel (not turned out). In the Follower's cross, feet should be together (not widely crossed with feet not touching at all). The open side of the embrace is always to the center of the room, to respect the line of dance. At 2, there is contact with the legs. For Leader, the 3 step is on the inside. To get Follower into the cross, the Leader turns his chest. The sequence taught was an easy one: Follower side step right, Follower back ocho. Parada on open side of the embrace, Leader walks to other side, Follower pasadas to open side. In Milonga, maestros noted that "traspie" is "tras" = behind + "Pie" = foot. The did four steps: (1) Traspie to Follower's right (Leader's left); (2) Iupi (yupie) step, which is Follower back left, collect with right, side step left, collect with right (opposite footing for Leader); (3) "downtown" which is Follower left foot forward (with downward intention led by Leader) then two side steps of the right, collecting each time, and with upward intention, to step back with her left foot, collecting or doing a traspie step with right foot; (4) Follower forward traspie (Leader back traspie). This is basically a stutter step of two small forward steps for Follower in same time that she usually does one step (or two steps back for Leader). The performance was truly outstanding. Los Hermanos Macana are wonderful, fun, at times campy showmen. Their lead transfers were fast and witty. Their leg work -- oh my! The cast of Forever Tango showed up to enjoy the performance, as did many of the local maestros. The milonga had many extra followers, so I sat out a lot.

Sunday, November 9
Ushering at Forever Tango. It was a great show. I found it more accessible and understandable than when I saw the 2002(?) production, likely because my tango is a lot better now than it was then. Funny, I have taken lessons with half the cast (Jorge Torres, and the others mentioned in this Scouting Tour).

Studio Gracia Milonga with Lesson by Negracha y Diego Lanau. The lesson topic for this month is Milonga. We began with walking on the beat, both inside and outside partner. Then we walked with counter rotation and connection to each other in the chest. The step taught was a turn where follower is walking back two steps, then side, then forward two steps. We practiced this with chairs as obstacles. It was a great class. I had a great time at the milonga, even though it was lightly attended (likely because of the competing Cafe Cocomo milonga). I got a chance to dance with leaders I never danced with before, and with some that I hardly ever dance with.

Wednesday, November 12
CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes. The topic of the night was Milonga, and we began with a video clip of the CITA 2007 performance of Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse dancing to Canaro's Reliquias Portenas. This is not the exact clip, but one similar In Follower's Technique, we began with walking exercises, really trying to stay calm and catch the end of the beat with our steps, which gives us a little bit of time to play in our footwork. Maestra noted that, unlike tango, is no caress of the floor in milonga, there is no lick, and feet can ride a hair above the floor than normal, and that you can pick up your feet a slight bit more. We also worked on the toe tap embellishments, doing toe taps behind us as we walked forward, and doing heel taps in front of us as we walked back. While doing the grapevine, we practiced doing the beat back embellishment on the outside after our back step. Then we practiced doing ochitos. In Advanced, we worked on a turn sequence.


November 13 TangoVida Ladies' Technique & Milonga Lessons

November 16 Luiza Paes Workshops & Milonga @ Alberto's in Mountain View

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scouting Tour (NYC and SF, October 30-November 5)

Saturday, November 1, 2008
Buenos Aires Tango Milonga
at the 92nd Street Y, New York City (92nd Street & Lexington, $15). When I got there at 9:30, they were just finishing up the lesson, taught by Karina Romero, the organizer. When the milonga got underway, I was disappointed by the large number of beginners, many of them seniors. I was quickly put at ease since nonbeginner dancers arrived later on, which made for a scene not too unlike San Francisco. The dance floor is a large space, with lovely maple floor. It was very civilized, with floor craft being pretty good despite the large number of dancers, and lots of men dressed in coat and tie. At midnight, Graciela Gonzalez performed with Dardo Galletto (Karina's partner), followed by a performance by Natalia Hills and Gabriel Misse. They all danced beautifully. Food was of the processed average supermarket variety (not west coast gourmet healthy). One odd thing, at least in the beginning, was that many of the leaders I danced with did not know the etiquette of dancing an entire tanda with one person, and saying thank you to convey you are done dancing with that person (they said thank you after every song and conveyed they wished to continue dancing the rest of the tanda after they said thank you). The facility has a dressing room space just off of the ladies' room, and there is a coat check (oddly $1 at the start, $2 at the end of the evening). I spoke to local dancers who said that it was the largest milonga in NYC space wise, but only happens once a month. They also recommended the Lafayette Grill and Dance Manhattan milongas, and said that the local younger dancers (nuevo?) tend to go to the practicas.

Monday, November 3, 2008
La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall.
I got there late so I just watched the end of Pier's and Daniel's lesson on barridas. They did barridas at various points of the 8CB (like sweeping Follower's foot into the cross) and emphasized technical points like timing of the barrida, and quality of movement when you sweep the foot or receive the sweep. Tango Con*Fusion did a fine performance. Tangonero, a new Bay Area-based tango band, played well. They are good. The milonga was fun since it was well attended (and many local maestros were there, too). I was able to dance with many of my favorite leaders, but no one new asked me to dance.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
CCSF Classes.
In Follower's Technique we worked on Vals. The clip was from CITA 2006 of Eduardo Sauceda and Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra, no la famosa). It was noted that some milonga steps can be used in vals (the 1-2 ones), but must always respect the pulse of the music. There is also a fluidity, adjustable nature of the embrace, and a lighthearted lyricism to val music. We did our usual floor exercises, and balance and foot strengthening exercises (without the barres tonight), and then focused vals musicality, doing a lot on walking (regular and with embellishments), catching on the 2 or 3. We ended with a simple sequence that involved getting the Follower to the cross, then Follower doing two forward ochos (with optional embellishment of flip of left leg to pivot around the close side of the embrace, to do a shoe polish or tap of left foot up Leader's right leg). In Advanced, the clip was from CITA 2007 of Fabian Salas and Carolina Del Rivero. We changed the sequence in Follower's Technique, adding Leader sacadas to her forward ochos. To that we added a forward ocho of Follower left foot; she then collects with her right, pivots and changes weight; then we added Follower counterclockwise molinete with Leader kick through on her back left step, a Leader tap diagonal behind himself on her side right step, and a Leader sacada on her forward left step, and then an enganche of Follower left leg of Leader's right leg after her right side step around him. It was a good class. It felt great to be back.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Downtown Palo Alto Milonga
OR Forever Tango Workshop on Giros and Sacadas followed by Monte Cristo milonga.

Saturday, November 8

Maybe Forever Tango Workshop on Boleos and Ganchos
La Milonga De Nora @ Allegro with Los Hermanos Macana teaching the lesson.

Sunday, November 9

Ushering at Forever Tango, 2:00 p.m. show. You can't usher with me, but if you buy a ticket, I can show you where your seat is. :o)
Studio Gracia Milonga with Lesson by Negracha y Diego Lanau -- my absolute FAVORITE visiting maestros. Lucky for the bay area, Negracha y Diego are teaching at Studio Gracia all Sundays in November, December, and January. Woo hooo!!

Monday, November 10
La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall. Carolina will teach the lesson.
OR maybe Forever Tango Workshop (not too thrilled with the topic: Sequences and practica).

Wednesday, November 12

CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes.



Several of the cast of Forever Tango are holding workshops over the next two weeks:
11/7 5:00 p.m. Giros & Sacadas
11/8 4:30 p.m. Boleos & Ganchos
11/10: 8:30 p.m. Sequences & Practica
11/14 5:00 p.m. Sequences
11/15 4:30 p.m. Milonga
If you take all 5 workshops ($100), you get a free ticket to Forever Tango. That is a GREAT deal. I am trying to figure out how to fit the lessons in schedulewise and financewise, since I am only really keen on three of the lessons, and I will have already seen the production on 11/9 when I usher.

Quaduple Tango Night: November 22
-- so many fantastic milongas to choose from:
Luiza Paes @ All Night (she's Pulpo's former dance partner; I really want to take a lesson from her)
Negracha y Diego @ Danceasy (my favorite visiting maestros)
Gustavo & Giselle @ Allegro (no lesson, but sure to draw a crowd)
Homer & Cristina @ Late Shift (I write the tangostudent notes, this is closest to me in SF and no bridge toll)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 23-30)

Jueves, 23 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro. This was another great class, as usual. Highly recommended!!!

Viernes, 24 de Octubre
P.H. (Grito de Ascencio 3602) I picked up the last of my custom shoe orders, and they are gorgeous, if I do say so myself. On our way over, Pablo and I stopped at some leather stores on Boedo. We found a nice piece (actually, two small pieces), and being unsure of how much to get, bought them both for 50 pesos total. When we brought them to Lilliana, she said there was enough material for two pairs of shoes since I wanted contrasting shoes (different strap, bottom, and heel color from the upper color). Had I wanted a shoe of all that material (upper, soles, heels, straps), it would have been enough for one. So I ended up ordering two more custom shoes, the discount being about 25 pesos each pair since the leather was being provided to her. Financially, it was about the same price as if I had just chosen one of her specialty leathers. It dawned on me then that P.H. really does specialize in custom orders. The inventory of ready-made shoes is more limited and traditional in style. But the amount of specialty and patterned leathers is extensive, and you can put together some pretty creative (funky! or elegant!) combinations with whatever heel they stock (including stiletto). You can even pick the color of the paint for the bottom of the shoe (I am thinking Red for next time, a la Christian Louboutin).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 16-22)

Jueves, 16 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro.
This was another great class, as usual. We worked at the barres and on the floor, trying to move with elegance, better posture, balance and upward intention in our core, and looking strong and relaxed (especially in the shoulders) the whole time. I can see and feel my body's improvement from last week.

Canyengue Lesson with Cristina Bruno @ Confiteria Ideal. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me since the schedule and all the signage said otherwise, the class was cancelled. I don't know if it has been that way for a while, but I assume it was because of a lack of interest, a lack of tango tourists, and Confiteria Ideal not printing new schedules/signage to reflect the change. All the milongas/classes at Ideal are now held on the smaller ground floor level, not the larger upstairs, as has been the case in the past. Maybe because of construction?

Tango Porteno
show. (Gratis, because Pablo and I were guests of Nito y Elba. Prices normally range from 170 pesos for show only to 600 pesos for super deluxe seating with dinner.) This was a very nice show. Even though we were seated in the "show only" section, the incredibly attentive waiters served us bottomless San Felipe wine, water or gaseosa (soft drinks), coffee, and absolutely delicious empanadas (could these possibly be the best in all of Buenos Aires?! Outstanding filling to pastry ratio...). It was a very retro show, highlighting tango bands that were popular in the 1940s and 1950s -- Troilo, D'Arienzo, Piazzolla, etc. The newly remodeled theatre and everything about the dinner service exuded quality and luxury, which would appeal to the tourist from a first world country.

Viernes, 17 de Octubre
P.H. Shoe Fitting (Grito de Ascencio 3602)
Pablo went in for another fitting, and I tagged along. We've been taking the Subte to Boedo Station to save on taxi expenditures, and so took a stroll down Boedo since we had time. Boedo is the neighborhood for shoe manufacturing, so you can find everything you need to make a shoe: the tanned/colored/decorated leathers, different plastic or wooden heels (which you would have to paint/cover yourself) and leather soles, as well as the hardware/infrastructure (wooden/plastic foot molds, machines, metal drill bits, etc.). At P.H., Liliana mentioned that I could buy some of those gorgeous leathers, about 1/3 of a square meter, and she could make a shoe out of them for me. It's too late to go shopping for leathers this time around, but it is a very tantalizing idea for next time... Regarding my custom shoe orders, I decided that it would be best visually to chose the main highlighted leather and use black or red as the complementary color (for heels/straps); to pick two complementary colors/textures is tricky, perhaps best left to the professional shoe designers or those who are wild at heart.

Milonga Lesson with Jorge Firpo (
EAT Centro). Maestro taught several simple traspie steps, then the same sequences in crossed traspie footwork. The best part about the lesson was at the end, when maestro did a musicality exercises with body movements not related to tango, like salsa side steps, knee bends, clapping, playing the air guitar, which would help us feel free to move the way our bodies want to, and with rhythm.

Canyengue Lesson (EAT Galerias, taught by substitutes Laura y Adriana). We went over the basic canyengue step, and the back cross step (unpivoted ocho) for Followers, and the embrace. Maestra Laura really emphasized the disassociation in the torso for both Leaders and Followers. Interestingly, even though Maestras were subbing for Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo, they taught entirely differently from them. During their lesson, I found their instructions for the embrace quite difficult to perform (connection at the Follower belly/Leader hip; Follower complete lean on Leader; Follower being completely on the balls of her feet [versus no comment -- I assume whole foot dancing except on pivots for connection to the floor and groundedness for Follower]; variation in the Follower left arm drape over Leader if Leader is substantially taller than Follower [note that this is different from what Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo teach]). This lesson was taught in the new dance room facility, which has no air conditioning. I was disappointed that Martha and El Gallego didn't each the class.

Sin Rumbo Milonga (Tamborini 6157, 15 pesos).

Sabado, 18 de Octubre
Canyengue Lesson with Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo.
This was another great class, with many of the folks from last week. This week was more like a guided practica since we were all at different levels. Googling around revealed that Martha Anton is "THE" maestra in Canyengue, so it's a real treat to be learning from her. I worked on everything I learned last week, reviewing in open embrace, then trying it in close embrace: (1) Basic step of crossed forward steps on both sides for Follower, and alternating front and back crossed steps for Leader. Then we did this series of steps in a turning figure. (2) Rock steps back on the Follower's right (Leader's left) foot, collecting to center with a shift in weight, and then (3) rock steps back on the Follower's left (Leader's right) foot; (4) mirrored back ochos then immediately into the forward ochos.

Domingo, 19 de Octubre
Cementerio de la Chacarita. There isn't a whole lot to do on Sundays in Buenos Aires, except go to the Plaza Dorrego Market (which I've done twice already) and grocery shopping, so Pablo and I visited the cemetery to lay flowers at Omar Vega's grave site again (S16, M3, T10, 7), figuring the warm weather probably wilted the batch from last week. Chacarita is quite vast. Here's a YouTube of Carlos Gardel's grave site: They seem to be doing this weird exhumation thing where his grave site is (which I find bizarre since it's so new...the sign was in Spanish, and it seems to be effecting every other one; I wonder if plots are "leased" rather than "owned"), so he might be moved somewhere else the next time I get around to going.

Anoche - Un Baile De Tango (a show at Borges Cultural Center, 35 pesos). Because we completely missed the memo regarding the time change, Pablo and I were an hour late to this show and couldn't get in. Unfortunately, I had also invited Giovanni Garcia to attend it. With egg on my face, we showed up at the venue anyway; Giovanni was sitting outside as he arrived late and they wouldn't let him in either after the lights went down for this one-hour show. We had dinner back at the apartment since we stocked up at Coto earlier in the day. After snarffling our microwaved reheated Coto fare and washing it down with Latitude 33 Malbec and fizzy water, Giovanni and I had a chance to sneak in a few dances while Pablo fussed with the computer. It was a really nice time catching up. I had seen Giovanni earlier in the day, finally giving him the promotional La Milonga DVD he was in (in the segment on Salon Canning). He was thrilled to see himself dancing on the "big screen" -- (OK, small screen).

Lunes, 20 de Octubre
Improvisation Lesson with Juan Miguel Exposito y Daniela Peez Klein
(Peron 1785, 3rd Floor, 12 pesos for 1-hour lesson). Lured by their ad copy "Dare to create, explore, search, grow, communicate, express, learn, make, find, know, feel, be moved, ask, discover, improve, enjoy, have fun, connect and share on the way towards your tango," I HAD to go to this since there are few improvisation classes. From a couple of different poses, we were to figure out how to go to the side, and how to go forward, using all of the different possibilities in our tango repertoire, both linear and circular, simple and fancy. It was a good lesson; maestros are excellent teachers and fluent in English.

Brazos y Abrazos show at the Borges Cultural Center (Viamonte & San Martin, 35 pesos). This was a modern tango show, filled with 21 different dance sequences, mostly done to Piazzolla. The six dancers did a good job. There is not a bad seat in the house because it is so small.

Martes, 21 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro. This was another great class, as usual. It is my favorite class in BsAs so far this vacation. We did much the same as last week, though he did add some more challenging exercises, as he does every week. I can see my improvement.

Milonga with Alejandro Hermida y Silvana Anfossi @ EAT Centro (prices were raised last week, 4 class card = 86 pesos). These are the same excellent teachers as at La Esquina. We began with the same movement warm-ups and the same baldosa traspie footwork as they taught at La Esquina. The figure taught was forward and back diagonal steps for the Follower and Leader, into a one-step Americana to the open side of the embracet, then pivoted side steps of side front left leg for Follower, then collection with right foot, repeated, and then usual close. It was a good class, with only 2 leaders and 4 followers.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa lesson at Salon Canning (Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, 20 pesos). 80 enthusiastic students showed up for this lesson, which made for extremely difficult class floorcraft. I was tired of being jarred, and found the step (an accented walking step, then a molinete with sacada) impossible to perform without constantly bumping in to other dancers, so I left.

Miercoles, 22 de Octubre
Milonga Con Traspie Lesson with Gabriela Elias @ EAT Centro.
It was another great lesson. Interestingly, toward the latter part of the class, she instructed the Leaders to mix things up a bit, and not just lead the steps learned in class, to work on their leading technique and to see if the Followers were really following, not just doing the steps on autopilot.

Milonga Lesson with Alejandro Hermida and Silvana Anfossi @ Nuevo Estudio La Esquina
(722 Sarmiento, 4th floor; 18 pesos or 8-class pass for 115 pesos). This was similar to last night's lesson, but maestros added to it based on the skill level of the class. We began with the usual movement warm-ups and baldosa traspie footwork. The figure taught was forward and back diagonal steps for the Follower and Leader, into pivoted enrosque of Follower's left leg around her weighted right leg, setting up for a one-step Americana forward of left foot, into a grapevine of side-back-forward-side-into a boleo turn to other side to go left, into grapevine to the left of forward-side-back-side-into a boleo turn to right, then out to resolution. It was an excellent, very well attended class. My impression is that the class has teaching assistants present, which makes the class advance much faster than those at EAT and other schools.

Yira Yira Milonga. It was the four-year anniversary of this milonga, so it was packed with people who were treated to a full line-up of special performances -- tango, milonga, vals (by Negracha y Diego), chacarera, zamba, swing, salsa, birthday cake. Among the well wishers were Eduardo Capussi, and what a treat it was to see him social dancing with Negracha.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 9-15)

Jueves, 9 de Octubre
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro.
This was another great class, as usual. We worked at the barres and on the floor, trying to move with elegance, better posture, balance and upward intention in our core, and looking strong and relaxed (especially in the shoulders) the whole time.

I made my way over to Artesanal (Anchorena 537) lured by their big sale sign. I was not disappointed. They had some shoes on sale for the shockingly low price of 80 pesos, and others for 150-180 pesos, all cash only. Their regular non-sale shoes (which you can buy with Visa) are 220-350 pesos. I tried on many sale and nonsale shoes, and selected two pairs of sensible practice shoes for 80 and 150 pesos.

Viernes, 10 de Octubre
Sin Rumbo Milonga
(Tamborini 6157, 15 pesos). This is another milonga that is way the heck out there in Villa Urquiza. To save on the ~40 peso one-way trip, I took the Red Subte to Inca (90 centavos) and then a cab from there (12 pesos). This is a very traditional, porteno neighborhood milonga, but I felt very warmly welcomed. In my opinion, it has the ideal proportion of dance floor to tables, but you really need a reservation for decent seating. Otherwise they will seat you in an area that is not ideal for cabaceoing. That being said, most of the dancers came as couples, and dress was "elegante sport" -- sport coat and ties for men. The floor is black and white baldosa, amply sprinkled with powder. It was easy to get a cab home afterward by walking to the busy street corner.

Sabado, 11 de Octubre
Canyengue with Martha Anton & "El Gallego" Manolo.
This was a great class, filled with mostly beginners, including me. In practice hold, (1) We began with the basic step of crossed forward steps on both sides for Follower, and alternating front and back crossed steps for Leader. Then we did this series of steps in a turning figure. (2) Next we did a rock step back on the Follower's right (Leader's left) foot, collecting to center with a shift in weight, and then (3) a rock step back on the Follower's left (Leader's right) foot. To all of this, we added the close embrace, which was tricky. Since we were doing well at this, we added ochos -- mirrored ones, and then going from the back ocho immediately into the forward ocho.

Men's Technique with Francisco Forquera @ Mariposita
(950 Carlos Calvo, 18 pesos per class or 8-class card for 100 pesos). This was an excellent class, as usual, and began with the usual control/speed/intention/balance/opening of the chest exercises, such as: while everyone was in a line, arm in arm, doing boleos and then a step forward; ochitos - regular, in tea kettle posture with both arms behind back, and with arms lifted high in the air; walking with control and intention; walking with a turned rounded boleo ocho; walking with a lapice of right foot, and immediate back tuck of left foot behind right foot; a back cross into lapice, into back cross, turned into crossed feet; stepping, then back tap into planeo spin; doing a back boleo, then front boleo, then back boleo, then two back cross steps (ochitos); walking walking two steps, then doing three ochitos with intention; walking in alternating diagonals; doing two kicks, then one back diagonal tap; the baldosa. The most interesting exercise was a man-to-man pairing exercise with one doing the molinete mostly on the side and then changing direction to do molinete to the other side, while the other man did a rulo, boleo, boleo, gancho, parada (back sacada) of back foot, and then gancho, and another gancho. This exercise was reminiscent of the scene from The Tango Lesson of Fabian Salas and Gustavon Naveira dancing together in a small studio in Buenos Aires. The last thing the class did was, while the "Follower" does molinete, the Leader does a planeo to a parada barrida. This was a really great class. It seems like the Mariposita has really found its niche with these technique classes: 2 men's technique classes are offered, and three women's technique (total levels, intermediate, and advanced levels) during the week, and they all seem quite well attended.

Domingo, 12 de Octubre
Cementerio de la Chacarita. Pablo and I wanted to visit the cemetery to lay flowers (red gladiolas) at Omar Vega's grave site. So off on the Red Subte line we went (free today because it ran out of small bills and coin change), to the Frederico Lacroze stop, which is right outside the cemetery. The cemetery is laid out as logically as BsAs streets, so even though the office was closed, and we had no idea where the exact grave site was, we found it anyway since we knew the date of death (the cemetery is mostly laid out by date of death). Currently, since it is so new, Omar's is a simple plot with a wooden cross and flowers. There are numerous famous tango legends buried at Chacarita (like Carlos Gardel), but the place is massive, and we only had enough energy to visit Omar's grave site. I am surprised there isn't some type of tango tour map of Chacarita.

Club Gricel Lesson with Nito y Elba and Milonga
(Rioja 1180, 15 pesos). The lesson was great. Nito y Elba are gifted maestros, and warm and inviting people. Elba recognized Pablo and invited him to their show, Tango Porteno, gratis. Unfortunately, I did not have a good time at the milonga. The table service was lacking, and the floorcraft was aggressive (which I also remembered from August 2007). Maybe they are a victim of their own popularity, with the locals and the internationals. Seating was random, with Leaders and Followers all dispersed throughout the entire space, some strangers seated next to each other, so it was difficult to tell who came as a couple and who was open to cabaceoing from another solo dancer. The table to dance floor space ratio practically guarantees crowded dance conditions. I knew it was time to go after I felt a stiletto heel graze the back of my knee (I could understand near the foot or ankle, but knee??!!), followed shortly thereafter by a different stiletto heel piercing my foot (and breaking skin). :o(

Lunes, 13 de Octubre
Advanced Lesson and Practica with Luciana Valle at Villa Malcolm
(5064 Cordoba, 25 pesos). This was an advanced nuevo lesson focused on Follower back sacadas. It was difficult. The floor is made of the usual stone composite baldosa. The dancers at the practica were very good nuevo dancers.

Martes, 14 de Octubre

Practica X with lesson by El Pajaro y Belen on Milonga Turns (Medrano 476, 20 pesos). We began with Belen leading us in feet exercises to get more expression, articulation, sassiness and life in our feet. Then El Pajaro led us in stepping/walking/musicality exercises, stepping in milonga, then adding rhythms of traspie and lise. He had us dance with just traspie steps on the forward, then with the back and side steps, too. The turn itself was where Follower does back-side-forward-rock step back-side-repeat. Maestros emphasized that when doing turns, it is important to use the centrifugal force of the dancers, so weight is slightly back (not forward). We did our turns first in practice embrace and then in close embrace. First counterclockwise, then clockwise. Our class next week will cover turns in tango including Leader enrosques and lapices. The practica was OK. It would be better if you attend with a partner.

Parakultural Milonga at Salon Canning (Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, 18 pesos). This was a great milonga. Canning has a nice hardwood floor, laid out in herringbone. Julio y Corina and Rodrigo y Agustina did several dance performances, and Color Tango played a 90-minute set that was fantastic. It didn't get overly crowded, partly because there seems to be fewer tango tourists in town, and also because they didn't set out as many tables to accommodate room for the band to play. The fewer tables made it more difficult to get a reservation, but Julio came to the rescue and helped out in that regard.

Miercoles, 15 de Octubre
Group Tango Lesson with Julio Balmeceda
(Independencia 2845, 20 pesos). We continued our work in improving our quality of movement/lead/follow in the context of stepping and turning. For the Leaders, maestro emphasized the foot/leg extension from the hip, like a cat.

I came across an excellent take-out parilla (grilled meat) place that is just a black and a half away from Julio's: Bandera Verde (Independencia 2702 @ Jujuy). My eyes and nose were tempted by it several times but it was closed, though they still were grilling meat. Tonight it was open. It was packed with portenos, waiting to order, pay for and bring home meat for their family dinners. Their asado (beef ribs) and chorizo were both excellent, particularly the chorizo. Next on the list to try: vacio.

Mi Milonga at Confiteria Ideal (Suipacha 385, a whopping 25 pesos!) I decided to give this milonga a go since it is walking distance from the apartment. The floor is the usual stone composite baldosa. Interestingly, the milonga is now held on the ground floor, not upstairs, I am guessing because the milongas have been more lightly attended. That was OK though. The dance floor never got super crowded, and the ground floor is a little less worn and tired looking than upstairs. Fewer tables were set out and the stage is larger for the band. The Good: They did not lose the reservation and the table was rockstar worthy. Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra, no la famosa) did a fun dance performance. The live band, Los Reyes Del Tango, were excellent. A folk dance couple performed zamba, chacarera, and zapeteo footwork. The Bad: only a few portenos (I could have counted them on one hand), mostly international folks, many of whom were just spectators, not dancers. The Ugly: the unruly floorcraft, the very beginner dancers who probably had their first group tango lesson that afternoon, the undisciplined, wannabe show tango couple who missed the train by a few decades. The admission price was sky high. Overall: I hope the milongas on other nights here, organized by other folks, are much better than this one was. Naively, I was hoping for an authentic tango experience along the lines of Sally Potter's in The Tango Lesson. Maybe I am a decade too late or should have gone on the weekend.

Here are some FREE Tango Guides online so you can plan your visit here:
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scouting Tour from Buenos Aires (October 2-8)

Thursday, October 2
Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango lesson by Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Centro.
This class was basically a ballet class targeted at tango dancers. The focus was not on getting the exact technique of the ballet figure, but on moving as ballet dancers do, with more elegance, better posture, equilibrium and upward intention and looking strong and relaxed the whole time. It was a great class, and I can see how it would really be helpful in improving molinete technique for both Leaders and Followers.

A trip to Buenos Aires would not really begin without a trip to P.H. (Grito de Ascencio 3602, en Pompeya), my favorite shoe store. Lilliana, Rodolfo, and son are fine, and there is a new addition to their brood -- Toto, a cute black poodle pup. This time around, I ordered some custom shoes, not for size but for design and color. They were 200-250 pesos. I bought one pair of shoes off the rack for 220 pesos (on the high side for P.H. because of the stiletto heel).

Nino Bien Milonga (Humberto Primo 1462, 15 pesos admission). I got there early since I had no reservation, and thankfully didn't have a problem getting a table. Apparently, the proper etiquette is to call the day of at about 5:00 p.m. to secure a reservation. Those with reservations have reserved seating, usually at a table on the perimeter of the dance floor. It was the usual crowd of 50% porteno, 50% international. The bar and kitchen now take Visa. Romina and Marcelo's tour group was there. I had a good time.

Friday, October 3
My day plans were derailed by my roommate's elbow bursitis ailment, which necessitated a trip to the doctor. Not knowing any local orthopedic surgeons (and not really sure if a sledgehammer was necessary to kill a fly), we decided to do the local thing since the information on the 'net and the yellow pages left us frustrated. So we took the Subte Green line to the Facultad de Medicina stop, thinking there would be medical clinics nearby. We hit the jackpot with the Hospital de Clinicas - Jose de San Martin. We were seen in the emergency room, and the triage doctor who spoke English was able to determine on the spot that it wasn't an emergency. After the initial consult, they took x-rays (for a whopping 14 pesos -- ~US $4.25)-- two different angles on one slide. Then we waited an hour for the doctor, who turned out to be the same one who saw us initially. He set the elbow so that it wouldn't move, and as a precaution wrote a prescription for antibiotics in case it was infected (he didn't think it was), and recommended the usual ice and anti-inflammatories. Then he said to come back in a week for followup. Total cost excluding x-rays: $0.00. Total time from emergency room entry to exit for non-emergency: 2.5 hours. Gotta love socialized medicine.

I had a few hours before my lesson later that night, so I made my way over to Comme Il Faut (Arenales 1239). Their inventory seemed to be leaner, but I did manage to walk out with a gorgeous pair safely tucked under my arm, and 400 pesos less in my pocket. I was shocked that the shoes are now the equivalent of more than US$100 -- US$127 to be exact! Back in August 2007, the last time I bought Comme Il Faut shoes, they were 290 pesos -- less than US$100.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa workshop on turns. Their brand new Zarasa studio (Independencia 2845) has several gyrotonic machines. The workshop was extremely pricey at 160 pesos (US$50!), but was a 2.5 that turned into 3-hour workshop. The floor is Pergo, one of the more textured ones, likely to offset the Pergo's inherent smoothness. (1) We began with the basics of stepping -- to the side, forward (with heel), and back. (2) Then Leaders and Followers did 3 of the 4 steps of the molinete -- back, side, forward -- paying attention to having lots of contra body rotation so that the torsos of Leader and Follower always face each other. This is important to look really connected during the molinete. This exercise was done without the embrace, and was Follower stepping in a U around Leader in three steps, and then Leader stepping in a U around Follower in three steps. (3) Then we did an exercise to prepare us for adding the embrace. First we held our arms out in a circular orientation, as if we were holding a beach ball. Then we turned it from side to side, and then shifting it from side to side (the difference is very subtle, but there is a distinct difference). Here, we were really trying to focus on the circularity of the arm, chest motion. (4) Next, we did a balance exercise, using the concept of the ball when we take the forward step, and then the side step, whereby because of the rotational momentum in our chests/torsos, we can get around a lot before actually stepping to land on the side step. (5) Then we practiced putting it all together, paying attention to keeping the torsos and ourselves facing each other for connection, and the circularity of the chest/torso movement and footwork (walking aRound each other). We began this with Leader and Follower being perpendicular to each other and did the forward, back, and side steps. Then we added Leader sacada on the forward and side steps (right foot on the right turn, left foot on the left turn). The sequence was a simple one: Follower does back ocho with left leg, then goes into clockwise molinete of back, side, forward steps. It was a great class. The only other Julio y Corina classes I took were at Fandango de Tango, and they were learn-a-pretty-sequence-with-
embellishments-in-an-hour workshop, so it was a fantastic treat to really delve deeply into a fundamental/conceptual/technique class. They pointed out a lot of subtle nuances of molinete technique. Maestros are fantastic teachers, with Corina doing most of the teaching, but Julio adding a lot of important color to the instruction.

La Baldosa Milonga (R.L. Falcon 2750; 15 pesos). I was awfully proud of myself for calling in advance for reservations. True to its name, the floor at La Baldosa is made of floor tiles, in this case made of stone/cement composite, which makes for a very hard surface to dance on. I had remembered the first time I danced on the dance floor in August 2007, I found it profoundly difficult -- because of the floor's hardness, and the unfamiliar slickness and slightly bumpy texture. Tonight was no different, especially for that first tanda. Still, I know that floors like these are quite common in BsAs, so I better get used to it quickly (or just stick to places that I know have wood floors). I decided to have dinner there (cheese pasta with stew, salad, empanadas). The food there is just OK, not great; next time I will just stick to the empanadas (a bargain at 2 pesos each). It was easier to get a cab home afterwards by walking the two blocks to Rivadavia rather than waiting out in front.

Saturday, October 3
I made my way over to my second-favorite shoe store in BsAs, Lolo Gerard (Anchorena 607), and was not disappointed with the selection. Their shoes are really incredibly beautiful and well made. And joy of joys, it is only a half a block away from a gi-normous Coto -- my favorite supermercado, complete with Banelco ATM in the lobby. I was so excited by the prospect of going to Coto that I forgot to stop in to Artesanal (Anchorena 537), completely walking past the big sale sign.

Julio Balmeceda y Corina de la Rosa workshop on turns.
We did more turning sequences, building on what we learned yesterday. The first one began with the Follower doing a counterclockwise forward step, then pivoted into amague facing the other direction so right leg is free. During the pivoted amague step, it is important for the Leader's and Follower's hips to be close to each other. We did this on the other side as well so left leg is free. When Follower's left leg is free, she steps around the leader counterclockwise. She can do this step big and out, which would make it into a colgada. Before this step, it is important that the Leader's right foot needs to really stop and settle into the floor to block behind the Follower's amagued crossed feet. We did the same on the other side. It was a very good workshop; maestros are warm, funny, and caring teachers.

Sunderland Milonga (Lugones 3161, 18 pesos). Trying to get a cab directly from Julio y Corina's proved to be difficult (turned down by two, before Julio intervened and gave one specific driving instructions). Everything at Sunderland is 2 pesos more than when I was last here in March 2008. But the dancing is still good, and the crowd more traditional porteno. It seems like all of the milongas I've attended so far have been lighter attended than when I've been there in the past. There are fewer American tourists here right now but still lots of Europeans and Japanese. In the case of Sunderland, they didn't set out as many tables, and you could get in easily without a reservation (I called for one, but they lost it. Still, I was comfortably and immediately seated.) El Parajo y Belen did a fantastic demo. El Pajaro has amazing footwork. See for yourself: and .

Monday, October 6
Tecnica - Naturaleza del Movimiento Lesson
by Maria Eugenia De La Latta @ EAT Galerias. We worked on posture and walking with different orchestras/music/intention.

Milonga Con Traspie lesson by Gabriela Elias
@ EAT Galerias. Maestra taught an interesting sequence with side traspie on the Follower right (Leader left), and then directly into another traspie step on the Follower right back (Leader left forward). She taught another sequence of continual Follower ochitos while Leader walks around her, and included Follower embellishments: the beat back of left leg to right side of right leg, and the rounded air step of the back ochoing right leg. She also taught a couple of embellishments for both Leader and Follower: the air tap on the back step, and a raised step on the forward step in the context of Follower being outside right of leader, but both side by side. Maestra is an excellent teacher, but the class was very crowded with lots of couples bumping into each other, which was a real bummer.

Tuesday, October 7

Tecnicas de Danza Clasica para Ballarines de Tango with Alejandro Biggo @ EAT Galerias. This was a great class as usual, where we focused on ballet techniques related to posture, balance and increasing our strength.

Tecnica para la Mujer with Patricia Gomez @ EAT Galerias. We first worked on getting limbered up and moving to the music. Then we did some some forward and back adornos (walking with tucks, sequential crosses), and caracia variations (regular, with exaggerated kick out, up one side only, up the other side only). Then we did these adornos in the context of forward ochos and back ochos and included the rounded back boleo-like ocho. We ended the class with giving each other a standing massage.

Practica X Lesson with El Pajaro y Belen
(Medrano 476, 20 pesos for lesson & practica) (topic: turns in vals). It was a great lesson, taught by the couple I saw dance at Sunderland. We began with walking to the vals rhythm, first as a group in a circle, then in partnership. Then we did molinetes to one side then the other, first as a group then in partnership, in regular single time. Then we added the double time, Q-Q timing to the back and side steps. The sequence taught was a simple one: from the Follower back ocho, she is led into the molinete (we tried both clockwise and counterclockwise). Then we did a more complicated sequence, again from the back ocho, into the Follower doing two clockwise molinetes, the first of which is in the parallel system, and the second of which is in the cross system with Leader sacada on Follower's forward step, concluding in an ocho cortado. Maestros emphasized the lean forward for chest connection in walking, but in the molinete, emphasized a more vertical posture with weight back to use centrifugal force to keep leader upright and balanced so he can do lapices, enrosques, etc., as Follower does molinete around him. The floor was made of the usual stone composite, but surprisingly, I found it quite comfortable to dance on. Maybe all baldosas are not made the same.

I went shoe shopping at NeoTango (Sarmiento 1938) earlier in the day to get a San Francisco tanguero buddy a pair of shoes. As I was waiting for the shoes to emerge from the storage room, I chatted with another shopper in the store. I noticed the self-confidence with which he choose his shoes, and his overall intention in behavior. So I couldn't resist asking if he was someone famous. He thought about it for a nonosecond, and said, "yes." Then he proceeded to dig out an advertising postcard from his bag, which he handed to me. It said, "Tango Oblivion -- Angeles Chanah/Michael Nadtochi" -- my eyes grew wide (and nearly fell out of my head). He was indeed famous. I think he was surprised I had actually heard of him since I don't hail from his parts. Supernice guy. He was there with a tour group he and Angeles organized from the NYC/NJ area. As for the NeoTango shoes, they are beautiful, and still comparably priced to March 2008 and August 2007, and like many vendors who take visa, will give you a discount (discuenta) if you pay in cash (en efectivo) or buy multiple pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, October 8
Milonga Con Traspie lesson by Gabriela Elias @ EAT Galerias. Amazingly, it was the opposite of yesterday in terms of numbers: 4 Leaders and me. So it was almost like having a group private/men's technique lesson. I didn't mind since I got to dance with Maestra and all except one leader were very skilled. So there were no floorcraft issues. It was a good lesson.

Milonga Lesson with Alejandro Hermida & Silvana Anfossi @ Nuevo Studio La Esquina (Sarmiento 722, 4th Floor, 18 pesos). This is a new school, and an excellent one. We began with a warm up of just doing a pivoted forward diagonal cross step in front of our bodies, and then a pivoted back diagonal cross step behind our bodies, first one side and then the other, to milonga music, and with some embellishments (floor taps, air taps, high and low beats back, shoe shoe off). Then we did the basic baldosa. Then we did traspie footwork on each step of the baldosa, trying to match to the milonga music. Then we did traspie, pauses, and stops on different steps of the baldosa depending on the music. The sequence taught was a good one that strung all these elements together: baldosa, then a change in direction with Leader going forward (Follower back) traspie and then back (Follower forward) traspie, then two Follower right side (Leader left side) steps into an exaggerated circular outside front cross of Follower's left leg in front of her right and Leader doing exaggerated circular outside back cross with his right heel embellishment at the same time, which pops his left knee/leg forward. This lesson was excellent and heavy on technique and musicality. They sell discounted multiclass cards.

I visited Alanis Tango Shoes (Diagonal Norte 936, right by the Obelisk) because I was intrigued by their ads, which state: "Original and Comfortable" "You can Dance or Fly" . Most of the shoes were 320 pesos, and some on sale for 270. Alanis was there herself, and I found her warm and welcoming. So, how do her shoes feel? Really good. They had a lot of padding to them, more so than P.H.'s, and the shoes felt squishier and more cushioned all around (not just under the metatarsal); they are available in normal and wide widths. Stylewise they were more fashion forward than P.H., but not as much as the no-padded shoes of Comme Il Faut or NeoTango. Would I buy her shoes? Sure. I am a HUGE fan of padded tango shoes (I love my P.H.'s), and wonder why more vendors don't include padding. Did I buy her shoes? No. Why? I've already exceeded my shoe budget, and it's only week 2 of a 4-week vacation. The store only carries women's shoes. There was another customer/friend in the shop while I was there; Alanis said she was the new partner of Fabian Salas (she looked awfully similar to Carolina del Rivero).

Julio Balmeceda lesson @ Zarasa studio (Independencia 2845, 20 pesos). Julio taught the lesson on his own, without Corina, and it was an unstructured, unplanned lesson. A student said he wanted to do more work on the male disassociation, so Julio came up with continuing our work on molinetes, with the leader doing lots of disassociation in his chest and lots of embellishments with his feet (enrosques, lapices) while the Follower steps around him. It was a good, somewhat advanced lesson (more like a guided practica), and the students were strong dancers. The sequence was a simple one: Follower does two back ochos into clockwise molinete with Leader sacadas and embellishments during her molinete.

Yira Yira Milonga (Venezuela 2939, 10 pesos). This was only a few blocks away from Julio's studio, and started conveniently after the lesson. I didn't call for reservations, but that wasn't necessary since it didn't get too crowded. The floor was stone composite; the dancers ranged from soup to nuts with old and young people, skilled and unskilled dancers. It seemed like a local neighborhood milonga. They serve food (pizza, empanadas) and beer there. It was easy to get a cab to there and back home.