Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scouting tour notes (June 12-18)

Friday, June 13 Milonga and workshop with Gustavo & Jesica Hornos in San Rafael (topic: sacadas, boleos, and volcadas). The lesson was very similar to the June 4 lesson taught by David Cadiz at La Pista. The word volcada comes from the Spanish verb "Volcar" -- to tilt (to turn, to upset, to knock over, to empty out, to topple, to capsize). We began with a simple sacada of Follower's left leg whereby Leader walks into her space, and after which Follower does low floor boleo (foot needs to be on the ground, no flying out--it looks bad), followed by a normal volcada while Follower's entire weight is on her right leg (technical point: Leader can be sure he gets her there by lifting her slightly so all her weight is on her right leg and her left leg is completely free). For the Leader, in the volcada, he steps (smallish) back with his right leg, side with his left leg, and then forward slightly angled with his right leg, which drives her left volcadaing leg into the cross, and causes the couple to get into an upright position again. Maestra emphasized the importance of the Follower keeping her posture; her body must not break -- that is what will make the volcada difficult to execute. The milonga was extremely balanced and fun. It is wonderful to dance in a ballroom so large; there were few bumps and enough space to practice what we learned in the lesson though some people were not pleased with the couples weaving in and out. Starting June 27, lessons & milonga/practicas until midnight will be held here every Friday. Saturday lessons (with milonga on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays) at Stage Dor in Sausalito continue.

Saturday, June 14 Omar Vega workshops on Milonga (Figures & Floorcraft, Traspie). Maestro especially emphasized the rhythmic aspects of milonga music, and really spent a lot of time trying to help us train our ears and our bodies to move to the tango rhythm. Maestro taught us 5-6 small simple steps (like the two steps shown here -- a basic step, and a forward and reverse step for right and left foot --, that, at the end of the day, we all put together to dance milonga quite nicely. At first, I was bored, thinking that these were really basic steps he was teaching us. But when we were able to pull it all together in one dance, it was an amazing experience. He also made us work on our floorcraft -- which was a great experience in and of itself, and which made it blazingly clear that this is not really taught anywhere else. Basically, he made us all dance together, in the line of dance on one track -- no cutting in, no weaving in and out, and no dancing in the middle of the circle to do show tango. It made us all more aware of dancing in community, and the importance of waiting for the couple of in front of us if they were stopped, and also that we shouldn't hold up the couples behind us or step back hugely or much at all. Whenever a couple would drift or purposefully dance into the middle of the circle, he would make a buzzer noise, which would shock the offending couple sheepishly back into place (I know, sounds obnoxious, but it was really had to be there). Overall, it was an excellent experience.

Nora's milonga at Allegro. I had a much better time here than I typically have, perhaps because they did not turn on the strobe light (which gives me a headache).

Sunday, June 15 Omar Vega workshops on Tango (Figures & Floorcraft, Orillero). This lesson had twice as many followers than leaders, and some couples who didn't change partners, so it was a bummer day for single followers. Like yesterday, Maestro began the day with helping us train our ear to listen to tango music and to move our bodies to the music. He illustrated the three different types of candombe rhythms (one like a horse, one like a pampa, and the third like something else I forget). Interestingly, he taught a musicality concept of dancing not on the beat, but slightly ahead of the beat. We tried it, and most of us were confused by it and couldn't do it, so we ended up walking on the beat the same way we all always do. He noted the dancers with amazing musical sense are Pupy Castello, Julio Balmeceda, and Tete (who is coming to the Bay Area in August --- woo hoo!!!). I don't remember any specific step/sequence from the day's first workshop.

The second workshop was on tango Orillero, which is a very old style of tango dancing, and which doesn't really exist much anymore. Why? Because it is difficult and you need a lot of space to do it (traditionally this was done outside on patios, on the ground, on dirt, and you might see it at the outdoor milonga at the Plaza Dorego in Buenos Aires). The way the feet hit the ground has a historical reference point, it having been done originally by the gauchos -- who were not used to wearing proper shoes since they wore boots all day -- so they would step exaggeratedly and gingerly. Other aspects of Orillero: It is done in close embrace, and the follower is held very tight; there is a lot of flexion in the knees; the Leader's left hand is lifted high in the embrace, and he holds the Follower's finger tips so he doesn't twist her wrist; it's a very strong dance with lots of connection. We did a series of steps: (1) the low crouching forward step with a front and back step in the right foot for Follower (left foot for Leader), and then a jump switch to get Follower's extended forward right leg to back and her back extended left leg forward. (2) Forward walk leg entwined ochos. (3) Crouching linear jump flip from one side to the other, followed by crossing step forward facing diagonal ocho, done when Leader and Follower are side by side next to each other. Technical point during this is that both people have to be upright. (4) He then turns her so she is back in front of him, and they do a series of diagonal grapevines to the Follower's left, whereby their feet meet, and then to Follower's right, whereby their legs are in parallel. (5) A series of side steps with alternating forward and back grapevines. This was an extremely challenging class and unlike any other I have experienced. Maestro is very funny and a great teacher. I wished I were a man so I could have gone to his Men's technique class last Friday. He will teach different subjects at his other workshops in the Bay Area, so it would be worthwhile to attend them all.

Alberto's Milonga. I stopped in briefly since Dorcas as kind enough to comp me in since I had taken all of Omar Vega's workshops the last two days. I only stayed long enough to dance with one of my favorite leaders, who brought in his children to watch him dance, and when I was bold enough, with Omar Vega, whom I asked to dance. We danced to two songs, and I found him incredibly charming and obviously a great lead. I tried to quiet my screaming mind "Oh my gosh!!! I am dancing with Omar Vega!!!" but wasn't terribly successful.

Come join me!

Thursday, June 19-Sunday June 22. SFTX events. Check or to attend the events open to the public (especially the cellspace Space costume milonga Sunday night -- SEE YOU THERE!!! Think Star Wars cantina...).

Monday, June 23 La Cumparsita milonga and lesson with Nick Jones. Nick taught at the August 2007 Tangoed Up in the Blues; I thought he was great and super cool. Should be an awesome treat.

For anyone interested in joining the CCSF yahoo group (open to everyone, not just CCSF students): CCSF TANGO Mailing List and Yahoo Group

For anyone interested in signing up for Fall semester tango classes with maestra extraordinaire Chelsea Eng, visit to enroll and register. CCSF is just a stone's throw away from Balboa Park BART. I find her women's technique class particularly useful.

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