Thursday, August 28, 2008

Scouting Tour (August 21-27)

Friday, August 22
Monte Cristo Milonga with Tete & Silvia lesson on "Making Friends with the Music." To a packed house, Maestros danced to each orchestra (DiSarli, Troilo & Pugliese), showing the types of dancing that would match the music (small steps for shorter, sharper beats, or long flowing steps with longer slower notes, single time or double time, or dancing with forceful, strong intention or more modest subdued elegance, depending on the music). The sequences Maestros taught were various turns and changes in direction, typical for them since Tete is known for his vals. Surprisingly, even though it was packed, there were not too many egregious floorcraft issues during the milonga.

Saturday, August 23
Tete & Silvia workshops. (1) Forgetting the Steps -- simple sequences, repetition and improvisation. Maestros basically taught us 4-6 interesting turning sequences that could be used in tango. (2) Vals. We worked on the same sequences from the first workshop, only in the vals rhythm, with much focus on musicality -- single versus double time, finding the pause in the music, and finding where to fit the turns, and putting it all together in the line of dance. (3) Finding Your Own Steps -- improvisation. We began with a dance to music, freestyle. Then we danced to various orchestras (DiSarli, Troilo, Pugliese). Then maestros went around to each couple and asked what their problems were. Then they attempted to correct them. It was a very full, exhausting day. There were a few extra leaders, and many people came with their own partners (who did not want to switch).

Sunday, August 24

Normally, my postings are more digital notebook from classes and workshops than digital diary regarding what I am feeling/humanly experiencing, but sometimes y'all have asked for juice, so here it goes... Believe it or not, Pablo and I were honored with the privilege of driving Tete & Silvia down to their workshops in Mountain View from San Francisco. What a treat it was to spend a whole hour in the car with Los Maestros! They are both incredibly warm, charming people and gave lots of tips regarding correct Castellano (Argentine) pronunciation of words. We chatted about the various tango communities in the U.S. and the world (and I won't spill the beans about which communities they said had the best dancers; my assessment is that their opinion is from the very porteno perspective of being based on the musicality of the dancers, and how well they dance at the milonga together as a group -- i.e., floorcraft -- meaning they didn't seem too impressed with the wanna-be show tango stars with big boleos, ganchos, triple back somersault name-that-"adas", who stop the flow of dancers, etc.), what it's like to be traveling on tour and teaching at festivals versus being teachers in BsAs, and just chatter about various maestros (like Negracha y Diego's trip being delayed, Jorge Dispari, Ricardo the milonguero) and milongas in Buenos Aires (Silvia DJs at Salon Canning on Monday nights), and their lives outside of tango (Silvia's art), and when they started dancing together (1996) and places they've been around the world. Really lovely, gracious people...

Tete & Silvia workshops
(1) Tete's Essentials: Secrets of a Real Milonguero. We learned a couple of interesting spins on some common "sequences" -- for the 8CB, for the Follower, the 3 is a small step, ending up just diagonal back of her right foot, and then a quick 4-5 to the cross. Then we did a change in direction sequence based on the ocho cortado (where the turn goes all the way around -- up one side of the leader and then down the other). Then there was the butt shake step (which lots of milongueros do in BsAs to show off the butt of their Followers to their buddies sitting around the dancefloor), going directly into a Follower front cross. Then there was the ocho flare.

(2) CADENCIA – "the lips don't speak, the body speaks" The effects of the music – movement and pauses. We worked on the same sequence taught at the Monte Cristo on Friday and Saturday (the one with the sacada and left leg displacement), only Maestros made us do it to tango, vals, and milonga music. Maestros pointed out various nuances regarding the music (Pugliese, the pauses/stops in vals, single time, double time).

There was a half-hour break before the milonga, so we decided to have dinner. Pablo invited Tete y Silvia, who responded that they were going to have dinner with Dorcas, but invited us to come along, too. So we went to a place a block and a half away on Castro Street. We had just been seated el fresco when we were joined by Omar Vega, who rode up very skillfully on a bicycle (are there laws against talking on a cellphone while riding a bicycle?! Any doubts about Omar's amazing balance and coordination should be thoroughly put to rest...). I was stunned that I was having dinner with three of the titans of the tango. I think I had to pinch myself several times to actually believe it was really happening. Gato y Andrea were also supposed to join us, but they sent their regrets via cellphone. Los Maestros chatted away in Castellano while Pablo, Dorcas and I chatted in English about the local tango scene, and how Dorcas came to host visiting Maestros. The Malbec washed down the Mediterranean fare quite nicely (Omar was disappointed he couldn't have mashed potatoes), and it was soon time to head back to the milonga...

The milonga was good. Alberto's has a new look -- an enlarged brand new oak hardwood floor with more efficient seating surrounding it. Tete & Silvia's performances were great (tango and vals), and so were Orlando Paiva, Jr.'s and Laura Tate's. Many local maestros showed up as well (Omar Vega, Lisette Perelle, Romina and Marcelo). The food was ample and delish I assume (it was snarffled up by the other dancers; I was full from dinner so didn't partake in any of the hummus and celery, cheese, bread, salami, and two cakes).

Monday, August 25
TangoVida Fundamentals Rhythmic Tango class. The class was very full, with the MeetUp AT group in attendance. I led. We began with Ney's usual musicality exercise with the chairs (clapping on the beats). Then we spent a little bit of time forward walking. For the Followers walking backward, he had them first put their arms up like the handlebars on shopping carts, with the Leaders first holding onto the bars, and then just leaning on the bars with their chests to lead them. We then moved on to the close embrace in our walk. The sequence was the two basic three-count steps (1) Leader steps left forward, right side, left side close and (2) Leader steps back right, left side open, right diagonal forward across his body. I did not stay for the practica (which usually lasts about an hour or so).

La Cumparsita Milonga (I missed the sacada lesson by Pier and Daniel because I was at TangoVida). The milonga was fun. It wasn't overly crowded, but the skill level of dancers was good. So we had a lot of space to dance without floorcraft being an issue. Though I've been to the hall many times, this was the first time I had noticed the nice acoustics of the space. There is a slate of excellent visiting maestros from BsAs who will teach here all of the Mondays in September.

Tuesday, August 26
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Fundamentals lesson.
In Ladies' Technique, we began with our usual foot strengthening, articulation, and muscle memory exercises. We did our usual walking forward and back. Then we worked on the molinete counterclockwise and clockwise -- first alone upright, then around the pillars. Maestra taught a more smooth, rounded, natural footwork for the molinete, rather than a more square, collect-at-every-pass-
opportunity, militaristic footwork. One dancer had issues on getting around enough on the back step, and Maestra showed us a technique whereby the feet pivot into a straight line first before the foot steps back, which makes it easier to get all the way around on the step back.

In Vals (I followed), we began with Maestro's usual musicality exercise and then we walked together. We learned a simple step: a change in direction which begins with the leader with his back to the line of dance and ends with the couple facing correctly in the line of dance. Follower steps right, then back with left, back with right, (optional small beat back in front of right leg before the) back ocho of left leg (during which Leader steps around Follower), to step out into cross. We were also shown an interrupted version, which was an opportunity to insert an ocho cortado into the step. Maestro emphasized the slow, gentle, melodic quality of the music we were dancing to (and even corrected some dancers for "overdancing" the music). He gave an interesting tip -- when the singer goes high, even if you don't understand Castellano, pretend he is singing "s-t-o------p!" (or slow down...). He emphasized that the beauty of the turn of the Follower's hips should be savored, and that the moment should be wrung out for maximum tango juice (not rushed through, and not truncated by not leading her to pivot enough or her not disassociating enough).

Wednesday, August 27

In CCSF Followers' Technique, we watched a video clip of Rebecca Shulman on the topic of heels on or off the floor. Bottom line: on the floor for stability, off the floor for mobility. Regardless of whether heels are on or off the floor, weight should always be forward on the balls of the feet (even if heels are on the floor). It was great to be doing the exercises again at our brand new barres and on the floor to strengthen our cores, legs, feet, and ankles and to get more expression and articulation out of them. We also worked on walking at the barre to smooth things out and work on weight transfer and embellishments and accenting beats. We concluded with some walking exercises (regular forward and back, and adding tucking embellishments).

In CCSF Advanced AT, we did a nice sequence (from Gustavo's workshop this past summer) that had three different endings. It began with the 8CB to 5 (cross), followed by three forward ochos for the Follower. On the second forward ocho, the Leader leads Follower to do a half boleo around. On the third forward ocho, the Leader sacadas Follower's back left leg. Optional ending 1: Into Americana, walk forward a few steps, then Leader turns Follower in toward him to resolve, Optional ending 2: to Follower counterlcockwise molinete, where Leader back sacadas his left leg into her right leg on her forward step, then Leader does another sacada on her side step. Optional ending 3: Clockwise molinete with two facing sacadas (on the Follower's forward and side steps), on Follower's back step of the molinete, Leader steps in to displace Follower's left leg (optional caracia embellishment), then he unwinds (pivots) her to walk out to the cross.

La Milonga De Vega @ 23 Club in Brisbane. Maestro was charming as usual, dancing with all of the followers in attendance. It was a lightly attended milonga, but I had a great time. DJ Emilio did a fine job, as usual. Gato y Andrea put in an appearance (it was great fun watching them dance), as did Adolfo Caszarry. I didn't attend the lesson because of my CCSF classes.

Come join me!

Thursday, August 29
La Mariposa Milonga with lessons by Orlando Paiva Jr. and Laura Tate.

Friday, August 30
St. Aiden's Milonga with lesson by Omar Vega.

Sunday, August 31
Studio Gracia Milonga

Monday, September 1
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson by visiting maestros Santiago y Amy

Tuesday, September 2
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Tango Lesson followed by El Valenciano milonga

Wednesday, September 3
CCSF classes (not too late to add if you want to join in on the fun!) followed by Omar Vega milonga.

A number of you have asked me how does someone who is unemployed go to all these events?! So...

A belated thanks to Pablo (a.k.a. "mi pareja" in classes/workshops), the person I am coaching (giving him tools so that he can learn how to find and develop his own tango voice) and introducing to the SF BA tango community (yes Virginia, I know milongas can be scary). Without Pablo's sponsorship of my attendance at many workshops, milongas, and April in Buenos Aires, my emails/blog would have had significantly less content in the last six months. My coaching/taxi dancing notes are private and just in my head at this point. But ya never know...maybe Pablo will start a blog of his own on his tango development... ;o)

And on the job front... I expect to hear something by the end of this week (keep your fingers crossed for me!). But I am also thankful that unemployment benefits were extended another 13 weeks.

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