Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scouting tour (June 19-25)

Thursday, June 19.
Practica @ the Beat in Berkeley. The opening practica for SFTX was well attended, with regular Beat goers, local SFTX people, and folks from all around the country who came in for SFTX. At times the dance floor was quite crowded, and I didn't find it particularly "practica-like." If anything, it just seemed like a milonga with brighter lighting and no food.

Friday, June 20.
SFTX. I arrived in the middle of the Biomechanics of Pivoting seminar, basically a powerpoint presentation that covered (1) the physical anatomy of our bodies, with focus on the muscles and skeletal elements involved when we dance, and (2) the physics of body movement with respect to the springing action, frequency, energy intention, acceleration, rotational dynamics, wide movements versus narrow movements (there was an interesting film clip of a figure skater shown doing a slow twirl with his body, first with his legs and arms wide out, and then bringing them in during which the speed accelerated) etc., and (3) a discussion of these aspects related to ochos and boleos. During the "exchange" part of SFTX, we did random dances (one dance each with whoever was nearest us for 3-4 dances). Then we broke up into ~12 person groups to discuss what we found interesting about the biomechanics presentation, and what we'd like to explore (boleos, muscles, etc.). From there, we split off into smaller groups of 2-3 people to explore in more detail the subject we were interested in more-- practicing, figuring out, testing, and playing with the concepts. After that, we got back into our large group to share what we learned. Then we did another round of random dances (one dance each with whoever was nearest us for 3-4 dances) to "practice" what we learned in our study groups, and then we were given the opportunity to learn/discuss/share what we learned with whomever we wanted, which naturally segued into the open dance portion. It was nice being in the community and dancing with so many new-to-me leaders. I guess I should make more of an effort to go to Cellspace Wednesdays occasionally. I skipped the potluck dinner, and milonga afterwards as it was much too hot for me (yes, I am a wimp when it comes to hot weather).

Saturday, June 21
SFTX panel discussion "Many Authentic Brands of Argentine Tango" was essentially a discussion on how tango is danced differently in different parts of the world. There were five panel members from Holland, Spain, Canada, and the midwest U.S. It was noted that yes, tango is different in other parts of the world, as we all have different histories, context, influences, age of community. In Buenos Aires, different milongas on different days at the same venue can have entirely different dance populations (example: Salon Canning). The worldwide tango community is becoming more diverse because of YouTube. The topic of the embrace came up, comparing the U.S. (where it is a community/familiarity/"cozy" thing) versus in Europe (where it is a "sensual" thing), versus in Buenos Aires (where it is an "archetypal" thing). Different embraces facilitate different types of movements, and different countries have different spatial constraints (very crowded Buenos Aires versus lots of room U.S.). There was some discussion on the Villa Urquiza style of tango, and its elegance, cadence, and posture, and it being the root style of many of today's great maestros. A YouTube clip was shown of Tete's birthday party at Practica X. With respect to the embrace, there was discussion of the "stuck together" close embrace that is chest to chest, the more open V embrace, and the concept of the "rolling close embrace" was introduced, whereby the Leader limits the space, but doesn't constrain the Follower. It's more a sliding of the skin, arm-made-of-teflon thing, somewhat similar to hinging like opening and closing a book. To see how this feels, we can do all the steps we know in open embrace, then in close embrace, and then in rolling close embrace to see how they feel different and experience the different dance possibilities that arise from each embrace, especially in the context of ganchos, back sacadas, and volcadas. For the embrace, it's important to understand why a dancer chooses to do something in a certain way. There was some discussion on communities around the world, and if there were any teachers who had significant or strong effect on specific communities (example: Alex Krebs in Portland). Also, there are some communities more interested in the kinetic possibilities/priorities versus those that are more interested in the emotional possibilities/priorities. With respect to women, the subject of playful, feminine, flirtatious, sensual, expressiveness, and how women present themselves is different worldwide came up. Felipe noted that he has been in lessons in Buenos Aires where the question came up, and the followers were instructed to play with their hips, stick out their breasts, stick out your butt, and be more free in your legs, which basically all boiled down to gender relations (in Buenos Aires versus other places). We wrapped up with a short discussion of dance maturity and experience (i.e., beginners being more interested in executing steps versus being more interested in connection). We then did the exchange portion like yesterday (random dances, large group discussion, small group exploration, random dances, then open exchange/dancing).

I really enjoyed SFTX, especially random dances and learning and sharing via the study circle way, but missed many of the events, specifically the milongas. If I go next year, I'd sign up A La Carte for the presentations/exchanges, and add in the milongas separately (instead of signing up and paying for SFTX Completa like I did this year).

Los Zimmerman house party that night in Sunnyvale. The hosts were gracious and charming, and the home was lovely, with the dining room with tile floor doing double duty as milonga space (and at times just as crowded with tangueros as BsAs). There were tangueros galore, many students and several of our local maestros and milonga organizers. No empanadas or parilla, but plenty of malbec by Norton and La Boca to complement the American favorites like potato salad, deviled eggs, steamed veggies, bean salad, ham, hummus and edamame.

Monday, June 23.
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson by Nick Jones on circular sacadas, which are basically Leader sacadas during Follower molinetes. This was a very technical lesson, with much emphasis on posture being key for both Leader and Follower. For the Follower, she needs to step widely and evenly in order for Leader to have room to do sacadas (or kicks, or other moves in between her legs) and for the turn to be smooth. Also, her posture needs to be absolutely upright because if her head is tilted forward even a little, it will throw them off balance. Same goes for the Leader regarding posture. Nick made some interesting comments to Leaders when dancing in the social dance setting: You are supposed to make her feel wonderful. So just accept what she does; don't criticize or try to change what she's doing. The lesson and milonga were extremely balanced; I had a good time.

Come join me!

Friday, June 27 Diamond Heights Milonga @ St. Aiden's.

Saturday, June 28. Arona & Rosa's Tango Kinesis Women's Technique class, followed by grand re-opening free practica and shoe party @ TangoVida. Jesica and Gustavo Hornos lesson and milonga @ Stage Dor in Sausalito that evening.

Sunday, June 29. Michelle & Murat workshops @ Cheryl Burke.

Monday, June 30. La Cumparsita milonga & lesson (Hector Villar teaches) @ Slovenian Hall

Tuesday, July 1. Women's Technique class @ TangoVida.

Tango in the Square is starting up again, with the first date June 29. So put on your tango shoes and get your groove on in Union Square from 2 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the last Sundays of the month through September (6/29, 7/27, 8/31, 9/28). It's a great way to build community and heighten the visibility of Argentine Tango.

The free summer concerts at Stern Grove are underway, and Bajofondo, an Argentine tango band, plays there August 3. The concert starts at 2:00 p.m., but most people get there around 12:30 p.m. to stake out a good spot and picnic. Be sure to bring a picnic blanket, lawn chair, a big sunhat, plenty of sunscreen and money to donate to the cause. Parking can be found on the avenues south of Ocean Avenue.

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