Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scouting tour contines (very long this week)...

Happy Valentine's Day and Gung Hay Fat Choy to all those who celebrate it!

February 8 – Ferry Building Milonga. We were at the north end, by Out The Door & Taylor's. The large turnout was extremely diverse. The floor was honed concrete, in some places sticky. It seemed like the dancers and spectators had a great time (though some dancers complained the next day of sore knees/bodies from the concrete). There was a fundraiser at the Ferry Building that night, so it was packed with foodies from all over enjoying the wine and yummy eats.

February 8 – David Caditz & Lisette Perelle class on Embellishments for Leaders & Followers. Their email hooked me: "In tango, we step on the weighted leg and embellish with the free leg. If you are not embellishing, you are only doing half of the dance!" They began with a demonstration of Leader and Follower embellishments while dancing during a (1) rhythmic song (this was an older song from the earlier days of tango music); and (2) melodic song (a more smooth, modern song). They also stated that there were opportunities for embellishments both in milonguero (close) and salon (open embrace). There was discussion on tempo rubato, a space in the music where the beat changes, sometimes getting dropped altogether, only to be picked up later on. Exercise 1: In medio tiempo, both Leader and Follower embellish at every step of the 8CB. Exercise 2: Follower did all the embellishing (mostly lapices or rulos) while the Leader did all the stepping, in this example during the Calesita. Technical Points of Calesita: Follower needs to engage the stomach muscles, otherwise the body will collapse and feel heavy (you could also hurt your back). Follower should keep the pelvic floor oriented downward to stretch and lengthen the lower back. Both leader and follower need to be connected in the torso during this type of move. We also did this in open embrace, and Lisette demonstrated the strength/solidness/location in the left arm posture (85%) and right hand (15%), and had all the followers lead her so we could feel her example of what we should be doing. Exercise 3: Leader does all the embellishing (typically lapices/rulos), while follower does all the stepping, as in molinete. Technical tip for me specifically during molinete: I need to move my arm down during the Back – Side of molinete because my arm is short proportionally, and I need more room to torque and step back so that I don't pull the leader's right shoulder with my left hand. Sequence: One had a parada, then sandwich. Technical points: don't be afraid to separate at the top of the couple if the geometry of the footwork necessitates it. Adornments aren't led. Back boleos should only be led since Follower can't see what is behind her. Big high back boleos should not be done at milongas for that reason (do low floor boleo if led). If leader is dancing with big steps then that likely means there is more room for boleos/adornments. During social dancing, keep your adornments under you as much as possible, especially on a crowded milonga floor. Tango is a machismo dance, so be sensitive to what the Leader is leading. Follower technical points: always have clean footwork (fast does not mean sloppy); always know where your feet are and where they are going and need to end up. Make the embellishments smooth; leader should not feel them. If the footwork is wonky and abrupt, the leader will feel it and it will be jarring to him. Leader technical points: Give Follower time and space for adornments. In the music, there are pauses, as well as fast moments and slow moments. Dance to these variations to have texture in your dance to make it interesting for you and the follower. Overall, I liked the class. It was more conceptual and technical rather than "how to tap, how to rulo/lapice, how to beat, how to caracia, how to drag your heel, how to swivel, how to sass." Next week's lesson will be on Follower's technique since David will not be there. The two subsequent classes will focus on "–adas" of some sort (colgadas, volacadas, sacadas).

February 9 – Gustavo Benzecry Sabá & María Olivera workshops: Walking with Sacadas and Empujaditas; Volcadas for Tango de Salón. Gustavo is a Dinzelito. I liked them as teachers.

Walking with Sacadas and Empujaditas workshop: We began with a review of the 8CB, with a focus on the proper chest lead to get the Follower to cross (because Empujaditas are forced crosses). Los maestros taught the Empujaditas where the Leader's right thigh bumps the Follower's right thigh so that her right leg/foot gets bumped, and lands diagonally front left of her left foot. There is a full weight change here, which causes an extra step for Follower (so Follower takes 3 steps for Leader's two), then she takes two steps back to another regular front cross. We added to this the sacada (sacada for leader, which displaces follower's leg). For the sacada, the Leader walks directly into (invades) the Follower's space, then we do another forced cross, only Leader uses the inside of his thigh (instead of his outside thigh) to force her to cross. He then steps between her feet (that's the sacada), which displaces her leg/foot (sends it flying out a bit [low and controlled]). So it's a cross-displace-cross-displace footwork for Follower; Cross Lead – Sacada - Cross Lead – Sacada for Leader. Then we did sacada – step – sacada – step, where the Leader continually displaces Follower's leg (usually her right). Technical points: The emphasis is on elegance and smoothness. Collect your feet in the cross (they need to be together, not wide apart). Keep knees and feet together all the time.

Volcadas for Tango de Salón workshop: Sequence 1: We began with a regular volcada. Most knew how to do this, so we quickly built on it. Sequence 2: Sacada into Volcada. Leader sacada's follower to displace her right leg, flinging it out and away so that her right foot goes back and lands back cross against left foot, with all weight on it. Follower's left foot pops forward, then Leader leads it into a regular volcada (or big rounded volcada if he can/wants to). Sequence 3: We reversed the movement, like a series of back crosses, but Follower is off axis. Sequence 4: We played with the concept of volcada, like doing a regular volcada, but Leader doesn't let Follower complete the cross (have a complete weight change); do it backwards as if Leader changed his mind, then lead a series of back crosses. Follower technical points on Volcada: Hips should always be solid and forward. Free leg needs to be really free. You can do short and fast volcadas in small spaces. Chest connection is key, and abdominal strength is key to chest connection and posture. Always keep abdominals engaged. Volcadas must be done to music, not arbitrarily anywhere (a good time to do them is during the violin to match its long strokes with Follower's foot coming around). Maria made an interesting comment regarding Follower's left arm (right hand/arm also). She said that a lot of teachers teach that it should be strong and solid to "hook on" (push down) on the leader's right arm; she believes this is incorrect and that volcadas should not look stiff or difficult, but natural, fluid, and easy. She then did a volcada with chest connection only and no arms. Obviously, she is far more advanced than we are.

February 10 – Tango: A Romantic Ritual Stage Show, followed by Belrose Matinee Milonga. The show played to a packed house and was extremely well done; it was great fun to watch our local teachers perform. My favorite segment was "El Sol Sueño" – Tango Con*Fusion's nuevo tango segment. The Belrose Matinee Milonga was imbalanced by ~+12 followers, so Jamie and I left after the show by visiting maestros Jon and Judy.

February 11 – La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall. Gustavo Benzecry Sabá & María Olivera from BsAs taught an interesting but not difficult sequence: 8CB to 2, salida Americana, Leader turns and steps in front of Follower, forcing Follower to step forward with right foot, Leader meets her right foot with his right foot, then turns her clockwise so she steps and pivots around on left foot, she steps back with right foot, and then back with left foot, at which point Leader steps forward into her with his Right foot to sacada (invade her space) so that Follower right leg is displaced (technical point: contact point at the sacada is in the thighs, not knee, calf or foot). There was much discussion on technique and concepts, and Los Maestros reiterated that tango is about elegance and that chest connection and close embrace are key – that's tango. They also stressed musicality – you need to dance differently if the music is different (Canaro v Biagi v Pugliese, for example), you shouldn't embellish or move your leg/feet if the music doesn't dictate it. Slow down. Regarding social dance rules: no chatting while dancing. Gustavo wrote a book (which Maria translated into English); I bought it, think it's good, and believe it is worth the $25 (will also be available at Valentango in Portland). The milonga was fun. Roberto Riobo was there, as were a few people from our BsAs trip (Peter & Jerry Sue from Sacramento, Jorge, Jamie, Carolina of course). It was great fun seeing Carolina and Roberto dance – they really went all out, doing a Pugliese tanda toward the end of the night when there was enough space to do a lot of fantasia—they were much flashier than at the Romantic Ritual show.

February 13 – CCSF Classes (topic: Turns). In Followers' Technique, in addition to our usual core and foot strengthening exercises, we did a lot more disassociation exercises to increase our range of motion. We also practiced embellishing ochos at the barre. In Advanced, we did a sequence that started out 8CB to 5, counterclockwise molinete (side – back – side – forward), then we added overturned forward ochos for Follower with Leader sacadas during same. Then we added cadenas (which we learned in the first and second week of class -- I should review my CCSF notes before class). It was tricky! For some reason, I feel this semester is more difficult than last. A tanguero buddy of mine practiced what they learned in Intermediate with me: leader straight forward sacadas invading Follower space with displacements for Follower. He did them on both open and closed side (closed was harder), and using parallel and cross system feet.

February 17 – Maybe Gato & Andrea Vals workshop @ La Pista @ 5:15 p.m. if I can work it in schedulewise. It's relatively expensive ($30 for 1.25 hours), but I am thinking the class will be super small and maybe I'll get lucky and it will be like having a private.

February 18 – La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall. Diego Escobar & Angelina Staudinger (Bs As) teach the lesson.

February 20 – CCSF classes (topic: turns).

February 21 – I am getting a mole removed from the bottom of my foot (it appeared about a year or two ago and has steadily gotten more prominent—this change is why my dermatologist recommended removal), so that means no dancing for me for 3 days after that. Have your moles checked, folks. Do you have ones that have changed, are irregularly shaped, or are bigger than the size of a pencil eraser?


Sunday, February 24, 2008 is the CCSF Spring Milonga in our New Health & Wellness Center, 3rd Fl.

1:00-2:00 p.m. Intro Lesson to Argentine Tango for Absolute Beginners taught by Chelsea Eng
2:00-4:30 p.m. Argentine Tango Dance Party

$5, benfitting the CCSF dance program. Come check it out! (I won't be able to, I am ushering that day.)

To my tanguero foodie buddies (Jamie, LouAnn, Larry!!!!): Pena Pachamama Tango Night is March 7, with Christy & Darren, Chelsea & Count performing. There is a $12 cover. Food is Bolivian, with a lot of organic raw vegan items (in addition to the usual meat and hot cooked foods, which is what I would eat). Reservations required. There are 2 seatings: 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Verdi Club is closed until March 7 for installation of new floor. A lot of people seem to really like the La Pista 80/20 Thursday milonga.

The Late Night Metronome Milonga on Saturdays seem to be getting good reviews; I haven't made it there yet.


I got my DVDs from the Fandango de Tango. The Saturday night masters show is great (I'd buy it again). I was a little disappointed in the video notebooks (I would not buy them again); the only teachers who had any commentary/instruction review were Alex Krebs and Luciana Valle; the other teachers just danced to whatever they taught in class and had no discussion, commentary, or instruction review.

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