Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scouting Tour (July 24-30)

Friday, July 25
Diamond Heights milonga & lesson with David Cadiz & Lisette Perelle. The lesson was good, as usual. David & Lisette have a very complementary teaching style, with good instruction on technique. The sequence: 8CB to the cross, with Leader parada and Follower pasada (tech tip: Follower's hand needs to slide down Leader's arm to allow space) (embellishment: caracia up right side of left leg, then down left side of left leg, right foot traces around leader's left foot). Then Follower steps forward, side like for half molinete, during which Leader sacadas. When Follower's weight is entirely on the back left leg, Leader stops her right leg with his left leg, then brings her in for Follower right leg outside gancho of Leader's left leg. Optional end is right into contra boleo of Follower's left leg. For Leader's technique: in the gancho, the Leader brings Follower forward to axis, then pivots, then around (taking her slightly off axis), holding her and supporting her with the Leader's left arm. For Follower's technique: she needs to get used to sliding her left hand up and down leaders arm/back to allow space. In the gancho, Follower talus should be fully extended so foot is lively (not dead).

The milonga was a blast. I had the audacity to cabaceo Omar Vega for the first tanda. He looked away. :o( But then he looked back half a minute later and cabaceo'd me while I was sitting in a long tight line of other followers. Shocked, I mouthed to him "me?" and pointed to myself. He must have thought I looked very funny, because he laughed and nodded his head "yes" and pointed at me. I am sure my gasp was visible during my enthusiastic nod yes. We danced 1.5 tandas, and stayed on the floor during the cortina (violating one of the milonga codigos; this would never have happened in Buenos Aires). So, how was it? To be honest, it was nerve racking. I was painfully aware of every little mistake I made, every little spot where I should have been more free, every little spot where I should have been more disciplined. Plus it was hot, so I was sweaty. It reminded me of dancing with Roberto Riobo, where I could tell he was doing a lot of play with his own footwork, but I felt unsure, tentative, nervous, afraid in my own dancing, even though our embrace was secure (but there were moments where I was painfully aware of pulling away). What a sport he was for taking me out on a first spin around the dance floor. Omar Vega's Wednesday milonga at Cesar's 23 Club in Brisbane starts August 20, with lesson from 7:00-8:30 p.m. followed by milonga until midnight ($20 for both, $10 milonga only).

Saturday, July 26
5th Anniversary Sausalito milonga & lesson with Gustavo & Jesica Hornos @ Stage Dor. Lesson topic was improvisation, so maestros taught an easy sequence and showed us all the different places Followers could embellish and Leaders could change the ending. The sequence: Follower steps side right (Leader steps side left). Leader does parada of Follower's outside right foot (Follower embellishment options for free left foot: back rulo, then reverse direction to forward rulo as she pivots around, and/or back boleo [air tap]). Leader does parada of Follower's right foot (Follower embellishment: forward rulo and caracia. Follower technical point: her foot has to REALLY connect with the his paradaing right foot and come to a complete STOP before she steps over) to step over (in) toward Leader in a more circular manner in order to remain in front of Leader. Optional endings: (1) step out normally; (2) Follower steps forward (Leader steps backward); (3) Follower does step side, then forward (as if for half molinete), then pivot into forward ocho/amague. Leader then leads her to step forward with right foot, then left foot into a reverse volcada. The point of the lesson was to illustrate that are lots of opportunities to play and embellish. Maestra allowed us Followers to just play with the movement, freeing our bodies, and not be concerned with the look of the move yet since many of the embellishments were new to some. Technical points: Leader must give her time. Follower's hand and Leader's arm must both be able to slide to accommodate space for the move (like in the Follower's forward ocho/amague). The milonga was OK. It was sweltering hot in there, because the roof has no insulation and it was very hot in Sausalito that day. For the 5 year celebration, there was cake and wine, and the last dance of the night had 5 different versions of La Cumparsita. Maestros thanked everyone in the past 5 years who have helped make the Sausalito milonga a success.

Monday, July 28
La Cumparsita milonga @ Slovenian Hall. I had a blast, as usual. Jon & Judy taught the lesson, but I did not attend it (I have to watch the budget more closely now that severance has run out).

Wednesday, July 30
CCSF Latin Dance Party. They only played two tangos (a ballroom version of La Cumparsita, twice!), but I had a blast. It was potluck, and everyone was very generous.

Come join me!

Thursday, July 31
TangoVida women's technique and/or CCSF ballroom/Latin dance party & potluck 6-10 p.m. It's free, and friends & family are invited, so please come!

Friday, August 1
Monte Cristo Milonga & Lesson with Claudio & Agustina.

Saturday, August 2
Workshops with Claudio & Agustina
Danceasy Milonga & Lesson with my favorite visiting maestros Negracha y Diego Lanau :o)

Sunday, August 3
Workshops with Claudio & Agustina
Studio Gracia Milonga

Monday, August 4
La Cumparsita Milonga & Lesson with Claudio y Agustina.

Tuesday, August 5
TangoVida women's technique

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scouting Tour (July 17-23)

Sunday, July 20
Patricia Hilliges & Matteo Panero workshops ($25 ea, 2 for $45)
3:00-4:30 p.m. Tango - elegance & embellishments
Maestros taught a pretty sequence, with good embellishments: Follower does right side step, followed by left leg back boleo (floor) into Americana. Follower does forward ocho with right leg (embellishment: round and out, then collect @ ankles). Follower steps forward on right foot, steps forward on left, does pivot turn with optional embellishment of right shoe show-off, steps forward with left foot with optional embellishment of air tap into counterclockwise molinete into forward ocho (with optional embellishment of small rulo) before Leader parada/follower pasada. It was a small class with much technical discussion and individual attention with respect to Follower embellishments:
(1) Boleo should be floor boleo for social dance floor with big toe on the floor all the time.
(2) In the molinete, the Follower's left leg, as she goes around, can be out and smooth -- that's an embellishment
(3) Air tap in left leg step forward the foot should be alive and talus fully extended.
(4) For the rulo on ocho, be sure to collect feet when they pass each other.
On posture, maestro emphasized expansion in Follower rib cage, relaxation in the Follower's right arm, and connect with Leader in Follower's left arm. Maestro gave a lot of technical tips re: lead, when/where to lift her, when to put her down; concept of leader moving his right arm to accommodate her need for more space during certain moves (like ocho); step straight in the Americana so legs are not crossed or feet are in each others' space; block Follower with Leader's body in parada to slow her down and add drama to the move.

5:00-6:30 p.m. Turns in Tango Vals

We worked on a turn -- clockwise molinete from Follower's right side step. Leader steps back and then into a pivot turn back into the line of dance. This class was much more well attended, but nearly everyone went with their own partner and did not switch, which meant the 4 extra leaders who came solo would have been out of luck if Dorcas hadn't stepped in to at least alleviate some of the follower shortage.

Overall, the workshops and maestros teaching style were good.

I did not stay for Dorcas's milonga even though she offered to comp me in since I came all the way from SF and attended both workshops (and many others in the past). The floor that day was oddly tacky and extremely sticky and dangerous in some parts. Maybe someone spilled a sugary drink on the dance floor earlier in the week, or maybe they were doing some preliminary/stop gap "refinishing" to the floor.

Monday, July 21
Pulpo workshop @ La Pista ($20; 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.). The lesson focused more on tecnica del Pulpo (rather than Pulpeadas). We began with a connection exercise with Follower's left arm and Leader's right arm in light embrace, with the other hands not connected at all. We walked together with chest connection, and then walked together with pivots to change the weight to the Leader's axis, and then to the Follower's axis. We worked on molinete movement, with Leader leading with his right arm, and then following the Follower's momentum as she went around. For the sequence, the Leader parada's with his right leg to stop Follower. Holding her, he then sends her out a little sideways, like for a small colgada, with Follower's left leg suspended. He then takes one step around her clockwise, then releases her so that she is able to step forward with her left leg while he steps forward simultaneously with his right leg. We then worked on connecting in the forward ocho, whereby the Leader lifts Follower a little bit to suspend the movement and they connect, then he sets her down and they go. For the other part of the sequence, the Follower does a counterclockwise molinete, whereby after her back step, Leader does barrida of her right foot with his right foot, which can roll right into Follower's left leg gancho of Leader's right leg, which can then roll right into the mini-colgada suspended step. Overall, it was a great lesson, though the class was quite small (only 3 couples + 1 follower). Maestro was kind and generous to teach us past the appointed end time, eager beavers that we all were, and hold an impromptu practica until past 11:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 22
TangoVida ladies' technique workshop. We began with our usual exercises to increase strength (going up and down on our toes, both feet and then one feet, and suspending them for 10 seconds) and get our bodies used to performing certain moves (taps from back going all the way forward, beats back to the other side of our opposite legs [next to, then up and down], and increasing the space/motion in our ribs from our waist (part of how Jennifer & Ney teach cadencia), and disassociating our ribs from our hips and neck. We also practiced walking backwards with taps (with one leg, then the other, then both). And also walking backward to the cross, pivoting as if for Leader parada/Follower pasada, step over, step side left (collect), step side right (collect), continually. We worked on an embellishment, which was basically a straightened out molinete footwork move (forward, side, back, side, forward, etc.), whereby we began with a side step, then did a rulo to end on the back step, then did a very fast beat back embellishment to opposite side before side stepping in the correct direction, then step forward. We practiced this first going to the right, and then to the left (which was more difficult). Overall, it was a great class, as usual. One tricky thing I needed to wrap my mind around was where to be on the balls of my feet during which step or whatever we were practicing, which is the exact opposite of what I've previously been working on (dancing using my whole foot, rather than just always being on the balls of my feet

Come join me!

Thursday, July 24
Mechanics Institute Books Signing with Luis & Claudia

Friday, July 25
San Rafael practica & lesson with Gustavo & Jesica Hornos @ Masonic Auditorium
OR Diamond Heights milonga & lesson with David & Lisette

Saturday, July 26
Tangoed Up In the Blues @ La Pista
5th Anniversary Sausalito milonga & lesson with Gustavo & Jesica Hornos @ Stage Dor

Sunday, July 27
Ernest William milonga workshops @ Alberto's in Mountain View

Monday, July 28
La Cumparsita milonga & lesson @ Slovenian Hall.

Tuesday, July 29
TangoVida women's technique

Tasty tidbits ...

Word on the baldosa is that Omar Vega will be starting a milonga with one-hour lesson beforehand on Wednesday nights at the 23 Club in Brisbane. Being near my old 'hood, I can say that parking is easy, and Brick Oven Pizza up the street has some good eats.

Did one/some of y'all mention that you were going to BsAs in November? If so, you should think about attending Luciana Valle's Intensivo, where she teaches, and you have as your partner her hand-chosen assistants (so no more getting frustrated trying to learn with newbies who lack body control and/or knowledge). A new section just opened up, scheduled for November 6-12. It books up quickly, so if you are thinking of going, you should sign up ASAP.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Scouting Tour (July 10-16)

Thursday & Friday, July 10 and 11
Nora's Tango Week Milongas. I had an OK time. Friday was better. I discovered that sitting on the floor in the front affords a better view (thankfully I am still flexible enough to be comfortable sitting on the floor). Luis & Claudia were my favorite performers, head and shoulders above the rest.

My overall impression was just OK (not great). Nora, Ed & Company do their best to deliver bang-up milongas, but the crowds, difficult floorcraft moments, jockeying for seats for the performances, and frustrating parking situation on the weekends left me thinking, "Was it worth it?" Honestly, if I didn't get tickets next year, I wouldn't be too heartbroken.

Sunday, July 13
Queer Tango Cafe & Exchange of Lead and Follower lesson with Debbie & Pier. I got to the Queer cafe early, so got a chance to watch the Exchange lesson. It was good, with Debbie & Pier first doing connection exercises where both dancers led and followed, forward and back with one had on the other's chest, and one on their back. Maestras showed two different places where you could easily exchange the lead (like during a (1) rock back and forth, and (2) the parada/pasada), and the associated arm movements with the exchange. The Queer milonga was OK, a bit short (1.5 hours for $10), but the food was excellent (cookies, brie & crackers, strawberries, empanaditas, water). I asked someone about how the usual lesson is; they said it was typically taught by Amy Little, and at the beginner level. The attendees were friendly, welcoming, and inclusive.

Watched the movie The Tango Lesson for the second time. The first time I saw the full movie, about a year ago, I thought it was a self-aggrandizing love letter to Pablo Veron from Sally Potter. Watching it this second time around, my opinion improved. Maybe because I recognized the maestros (Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Omar Vega, Alicia Monti, Carlos Copello), and because I watched it with someone who later pointed out the various subtleties (and this despite it being a first viewing) -- such as the religious connotations (the Jewish thing and the baptismal renewal thing), and because I am now more advanced in my tango understanding (the discussion of performing versus social dancing, the emotional strains and frustration in learning tango with one dedicated person, layered with the complication of being in a relationship with that person, the profoundness of tango lyrics (Pensalo Bien), and the very human aspects of wanting to be a tango star (Carlos Copello trying to get more face/dance time with Sally Potter, and Pablo Veron being none too happy about it.)). The movie inspired me to look up the lyrics to Pensalo Bien (you can do a YouTube search to hear the song/see dancers dancing to it):

Think it well,
before taking that step,
that perhaps tomorrow maybe
you may not go back.

Think it well,
I have loved you so much
and you have sent me into the past
perhaps for another love.

Pretty deep stuff, eh?

Come join me!

Lots of great visiting maestros in town the next couple of weeks: Ernest Willliams (not to be missed if you want to deepen your milonga understanding and the Afrocentric aspects of tango); Patricia and Matteo; PULPO on Monday at La Pista!!!! (obviously, I am SO there); Santiago & Amy at the Los Altos Milonga; Agustina & Claudio at Monte Cristo.

Happy dancing!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scouting tour continues (July 3-9)

Thursday, July 3, 2008
Nora's Tango Weekend Opening Milonga. The ballroom was packed with many local tangueros and folks who flew in for Tango Weekend/Week. The dance floor buzzed with excitement, which in the beginning made floorcraft a bit of an issue. The dancers soon settled down, making it more pleasant. It was extremely generous of Nora to host this free milonga for all to attend, and many were blessed with the treat.

Friday, July 4.
Milonga @ Nora's Tango Weekend with performance by Luis Castro & Claudia Mendoza. The performance was fantastic -- this is how Pulgliese should be danced to! The milonga was less crowded than yesterday, which was a very good thing, but parking was problematic, and the solutions offered by the Clarion left much to be desired. (parking tip: Park at the In-N-Out across the freeway, but don't make a U turn into the front of the lot -- just make a regular left turn and enter from the back OR park around the corner from the Clarion/Westin on one of the side streets off of Bayshore).

Saturday, July 5
Milonga @ Nora's Tango Weekend with performances from Nito y Elba and Eduardo y Marissa. The performances were great. Parking was still frustratingly problematic, even upon arrival at 9:05 p.m.

Sunday, July 6
Watched the movie "Assassination Tango" by Robert Duvall, bought off of ebay for $0.01 (plus $3.75 shipping). The movie was OK, not great. Kinda long. But it did have its moments when tango philosophy was being discussed about halfway through. Probably the best tango dancing was at the end when credits were rolling (a sequence with Pablo Veron and Geraldine Rojas, which you can see on YouTube). Let me know if you want to borrow this from me; I am more than happy to share the love...

Milonga @ Nora's Tango Weekend. The grand weekend performance was great. The dancing was fun too. There was actually parking in the lot!

Monday, July 7
Milonga @ Nora's Tango Weekend. The milonga was not as well attended as the other nights, and I missed the performance by Eduardo and Claudia since I left early.

Wednesday, July 9
Milonga @ Nora's Tango Weekend. As usual, Eduardo Saucedo y Marisa Quiroga delivered two very fine, very theatrical/dramatic performances which were great (one where Eduardo was a werewolf and Marisa was Little Red Riding Hood, and their tango performance, which was extremely balletic in flavor). After their performances, they led a Chacarera for all to dance to. Their joy was infectious!

Word on the baldosa is that we could be seeing more of Omar Vega around these parts for a while (what a treat to have him social dancing at Nora's Tango Weekend/Week milongas!).

Come join me!

Thursday - Saturday. Nora's Tango Week Milongas

Saturday, July 12 - Maybe Gustavo & Jesica Hornos milonga and workshop @ Stage Dor in Sausalito (topic: Planeos, calesitas & vueltas).

Sunday, July 13 - Tango Kinesis workshop with Rosa y Arona on Sensual Hips.

Tuesday, July 15 - Women's Technique at TangoVida.

Mark your calendars:
Thursday, July 24
Louis Castro & Claudia Mendoza Book Signing, Author Program, Dance Demonstration, and Mini Milonga at the Mechanics Institute (57 Post Street, SF, 4th Floor, right by Montgomery BART). Cafe will be open at 6:00 p.m. (Argentine Cuisine available throughout the evening), 6:30 p.m. program.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Scouting Tour Notes (June 26-July 2)

Friday, June 27 Diamond Heights Milonga @ St. Aiden's with lesson by Dani Tuero from Buenos Aires. The lesson on boleos was good. The first part focused on body alignment, connection, and range of motion/disassociation in Follower hips. Maestro had the Leaders walk around the Followers as Followers maintained rock solid connection with the Leaders, in open salon embrace, not in close embrace (so chests weren't touching), while keeping Follower hips and feet solidly on the ground, to see how far the range of motion was. Then the Leaders continued the connection and walked all the way around one way and then the other (Follower's weight is on the sole of one foot so that she can pivot). Then Leaders did the walk around, and then alternated with forward ochos, then forward overturned ochos. Finally, we played with the boleo lead/change in energy impulse to get the timing right. We worked on regular back boleos, and front contra boloes. Maestro is an excellent teacher (he teaches at Tango Brujo in BsAs on Mondays and was one of the student assistants at Luciana Valle's Intensivo) -- very encouraging with lots of individual feedback and positive reinforcement, and he spoke fluent English. He might be back in September, schedule permitting. The milonga was not too crowded, perhaps because of all the other local tango events that night. I had a good time though, as usual.

Sunday, June 29. Michelle & Murat workshops @ Cheryl Burke.
12-1:30pm - Breaking Bad Habits - Intermediate.
We began with one dance with a stranger, focusing on our weaknesses and their weaknesses, and then discussed them with each other. Then we shared our partner's weaknesses with the next dancer. Then we got into a circle and shared all our weaknesses with everyone and discussed where these problems might come from and what the solutions to them are. The subjects that came up: posture, automatic crossing when not led, no intention in our dance, hesitation in our steps. We then worked on these concepts (as well as our own weaknesses), really thinking about them as we danced with different dancers. We worked on different ways of leading to the cross, which caused different crosses to be made: regular, none, side cross, big cross with left leg going significantly past the right leg so that right leg is straight and left leg is significantly bent. We also worked on ocho movement -- different types of ochos (big, small, circular and linear) and the movement itself: wide circular chest lead, which caused lots of Follower hip rotation; linear with nearly no hip rotation for Follower and movement in Leader chest. The wide circular ocho breaks the connection, whereas the linear one maintains it.

1:45-3:15pm - Precise Intentions, Better Turns - Inter/Adv.
We began with exercises to strengthen and increase the expressiveness in our feet: this entailed pivoting on one foot while the other foot did small rulos, big rulos, adding rotation to get ourselves around in a circle, then writing in cursive our names, our parents names, etc., with our feet. We also moved our feet in a yes motion (up and down), a no motion (sideways back and forth) and a maybe notion (around in a circle, clockwise and counterclockwise), and pretending we were stepping on a bug or stubbing out a cigarette. We did other exercises to get our minds in a different place, like pretending we were stirring soup with a spoon (small pot, then medium pot, then big pot). We then connected our spoon stirring hand with our circling foot. If that didn't help, we imagined a string being connected from our hand to our feet. To add intention to the molinete, the Leaders imagined they had a sack of seeds, and were reaching in, and then flinging them freely as if trying to scatter them widely. If the Follower is following his lead correctly, there will be an airiness to her completing the molinete. Then the Leaders imagined themselves stepping on something hot and step back quickly not to get burned; this caused a check step for the leader where the energy is very strong, focused, and quick. We then added sacadas to the molinete and a change of direction in the molinete with Follower sacada right before, then after, so he can step with, which sets him up for a back sacada.

3:30-5:00pm - Musicality in the Partnership -
We began with a group discussion of musicality (leader is not 100% responsible for the musical interpretation of the dance; Follower has input as well). Then we walked, trying to stop at each phrase with either the 8CB regular close or in the cross, and begin walking at the appropriate time. Then we could dance the way we wanted to, but trying to stop at the end of the phrase in either 8CB regular close or cross. To make things easier on us, he played the same Canaro tango so that we would become familiar with the music. Then he switched the music to a Canaro vals. The workshop was spent on finding the phrases (stops and starts) and also the pauses in the music.

Overall, I thought Murat & Michelle were great. I'd go again to their next workshops.

Cafe Cocomo milonga and lesson with Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt. We began with Ney's usual musicality exercise, clapping on the beats while he directed us visually with chairs. Then we practiced walking forward and back, really concentrating on the foot movement and when our toes and heels touched the ground. The figure taught was the 8CB to 5 (cross), then Leader paradas and Follower steps over, with resolution to forward ocho. Maestra taught some embellishments for the Follower pasada step -- the swivel from the knee down, sweeping the floor in a semicircle back once or twice before stepping over; and the addition of taps. I had an OK time at the milonga; I like the way the DJ announces the orchestra he is playing, and the time period of the songs.

Thursday, July 3. Women's Technique @ tangoVida.

Thursday, July 3-Saturday, July 12 -- Nora's Tango Week & Weekend milongas. Tickets will be available at the door, but you should try to get them early (like at tonight's FREE grand opening milonga 6 p.m. to midnight) as some days will likely sell out (like the 6th, 10th, 11th, and 12th).

Mark your calendars!

Homer & Christina Ladas are starting a new once-a-month Friday night advanced seminario + practilonga and Saturday afternoon intermediate intensivos + practicas beginning in August. Check out the flyer & dates:

August 18 - Omar Vega Leader's Technique @ Alberto's.

August 22-24 - Tete & Silvia workshops.