Thursday, August 7, 2008

Scouting Tour (July 31-August 6)

Thursday, July 31
TangoVida women's technique. We worked on walking backward and forward, concentrating on rolling off our toes and heels, and posture/weight transfer. We worked on ocho movement -- talus extended, toes on the floor, fluid movement, especially at the point of collection (rather than a stiff militaristic look). One interesting technical point Maestra made was that on the step, the foot is angled outside a little (rather than straight). This makes the pivoting easier. We worked on ocho embellishments (taps, beat back), and then ochitos while walking. It was another great class, as usual.

CCSF ballroom and Latin dance party. The DJ and dancers were better than last night. The food was less healthy, and more abundant. I had a good time. It was fun seeing the same dancers, year after year...

Friday, August 1
Monte Cristo Milonga & Lesson with Claudio Asprea & Agustina Videla. Maestros have a very good, very technical, very complementary teaching style, in fluent English. We began with exercises: walking forward and backward, then adding counter torso rotation to work on getting used to the feel of disassociation in our bodies, then with a back floor boleo and forward floor boleo embellishment. The sequence was simple but pretty: Follower steps right (Leaders left), then back a couple of steps, into a Follower right foot overturned back ocho (almost like a reverse Americana), directly into two back floor boleos with Follower's left foot, into forward side step of left foot into Americana with Leader, then to normal resolution. Floorcraft was a bit of an issue at the milonga, likely due to packed conditions, but overall quite fun.

Saturday, August 2
Workshops with Claudio & Agustina
(1) "From the walk to the turn: techniques for elegance and musicality." We began the class with many of the same walking exercises as yesterday with a focus on contrabody movement in our forward and back walks. Then we practiced the molinete movement in grapevine formation -- forward, side, back, side, forward, with emphasis on collecting our feet at each pass and pivoting with lots of rotation. For the figure, it was a molinete (with a change in normal timing), into Follower right foot forward ocho. There was much discussion on Leader's technique in leading the molinete.

(2) "Sacadas for him and her." We began again with more walking exercises to help us with the sacada foot/leg movement. The sequence: Follower side step right (Leader side step left); Leader steps in to displace her right leg outside to boleo forward outside into Follower overturned back ocho, with Follower sacada between Leader's legs to displace Leader's right leg. Technical point: In Follower overturned back ocho to sacada Leader, his weight has to be on his back left leg so there is lots of space for Follower to step in between and so that there is no weight on the right displacement leg.

(3) "Musical volcadas for social dance" We began with exercises to help us with the volcada movement. Then maestros taught the reverse volcada footwork. Then, they taught us the regular volcada: Follower forward ocho to get her weight entirely on her right foot (forward), the leader walks around to do a big regular volcada. To be honest, this was a disappointing workshop. They could have taught it a lot better, with much more emphasis on Follower technique/posture, which I believe are essential in volcadas.

Sunday, August 3
Workshops with Claudio & Agustina
(1) "Special Colgadas (from normal to perpendicular, etc.)". We began with a counterclockwise sequence where Follower steps side right (Leader side left) to get all of her weight onto her right foot. Leader turns her out to a 90 degree angle from him, and then sends her out and away from him. (Follower's technical point: Her abs need to be fully engaged to sustain her back. Her right and left arms/hands need to be relaxed. Her posture needs to be slightly forward, she needs to be fully on the ball of her foot, and her hip needs to be straight [not out and not forward].). From here, leader can switch weight one foot to the other to get the feel of how her body feels, but he must always be sure that her weight is forward (not upright, and not back). Leader needs to be sure that he is really supporting her and secure in his hold of her back with his right arm and hand. When Leader rotates Follower around him to bring her around, the Follower must not change the angle of her back, it must be straight with slightly forward posture). Follower lefts leg leg up and then steps down around Leader when Leader bends his knee and opens his torso up to invite her to step over. Technical point: Follower has to bend her knee in the step over, and Leader must not push her through (don't change his arm angle relation). The Leader weight change is important -- all weight is on the Leader's left side step so he has a lot of room to work the movement, so he can have more swing when he rotates her around. It's a centrifugal force thing. We did another sequence which began with Follower side step right with Leader back sacada of his left leg to step and transfer his weight. Basically, the leader can get into colgadas in numerous ways, as long as he can send her out at a 90% angle when she is on her right foot (left foot too, but that is more difficult). Then we tried colgadas in the different direction (clockwise). From the forward ocho, Leader sends her out to her left in 90 degree angle while holding the front of Follower's body by the left side of her rib cage; her weight is on the ball of her left foot, and she steps over with her right foot.

Meastros emphasized that the Leader needs to know how the Follower dances and be sure that she is used to this type of vocabulary in her tango movement. Basically, he has to know that she knows how to do a colgada in the first place before attempting this with any follower. Both Leader and Follower need to know the technique and know how to do it for it to work. Leader must take care of the Follower, and not put in risks in their dancing.

(2) "Gancho techniques for him and her." We began with exercises walking to the mirror in front of us: three forward ochos, then a gancho with the leg facing the mirror. Then we did three back ochos, with a gancho of the leg facing the mirror, into a boleo of the same leg to the other side of the standing leg. The steps: Follower steps forward outside Leader's right side. Leader sacadas, meeting Follower's back left foot (he can correct his footwork if necessary to have contact with her foot); Follower does back gancho of Leader's left leg (Follower bends knee of opposite supporting leg on gancho movement). Follower does back ochos. When she is on her right foot, Leader sacadas (catching her right foot), Follower ganchos with her left foot/leg Leaders right leg. Basically, any forward step and any back step can create a gancho opportunity. Leader can sacada with his back foot, which offers a leg to gancho. Then we got to a more complicated move -- the simultaneous right leg ganchos of Leader's and Follower's leg sending Follower's right ganchoing leg into a front boleo on other side of her left supporting leg. Leader must feel (and wait for) contact of Follower's ganchoing leg (thigh).

(3) "Soltadas for social dancing." In case you didn't know (which a lot of people don't), soltadas are turns. Not molinetes, but small tight turns or spins a la ballroom or salsa. The step: From the Follower back ocho, leader turns follower when she is on her right leg. Technical point: Follower really collects her feet/ankles, to condense the energy in the axis and not spread it out. This can be finished with a back boleo. Another step: from the back ocho, a turn with Follower 3/4 molinete behind and around leader (forward, side, back), forward step into Americana with Leader forward step with his right foot (optional instead of Americana step, can finish into a front boleo). Then we linked two turns together: from the back ocho, a turn when Follower is on her right foot, and then when she steps out of it onto her left foot, another turn. These are all basically either full or half outside turns for Followers, using loop turn Leader arm work.

Overall, I thought the workshop series as a whole was excellent. Maestros have a very complementary teaching style, gave each couple individual attention and lots of time to work on the steps and began each lesson with physical exercises to help with the subject (I found their walking with disassociation particularly important/useful). The subjects were more nuevo in flavor, and it was good to have more exposure in that area. I was lucky to have a reasonably skilled leader to work with. If I had to rotate among newer partners I would probably not have gotten as much out of the workshops as I did. So I realize there is much to be said about taking workshops with a partner who is reasonably skilled (and I think it's an excellent idea to offer discounted "couple" pricing).

Studio Gracia Milonga. I skipped the lesson. The milonga was fun; DJ Emilio did a fine job rocking the house, as usual.

Tuesday, August 5
TangoVida Women's Technique. We began with exercises to increase our foot strength and improve our muscle memory with respect to embellishments -- point forward, point back, tap through, caracia. Much of the class was spent walking -- backwards and forward, with taps on the 1, 1-3-1, 1-2-4-1, 1-3-4-1, 1-2-3-4-1. For the embellishments, we worked on the rulo -- medium and small, combined (medium and two smalls), using the heels and using just the toes, and doing arcs.

TangoVida Fundamentals: Dramatic Tango. We began with two connection exercises: (1) just walking together face to face in practice hold; (2) a matching energy hand-to-hand push/pull. We did a walking exercise where the Leader stood in the same spot and just held out his hand and led Follower to walk around him. Then with Leader in the same spot, he leads Follower around him while all her weight is on her left leg, and her right leg is extended in a planeo. We practiced embellishing the planeo with small and medium rulos and arcs, which we learned in the women's technique class. We also did an exercise to get the Leaders used to sending the leg of the Follower out in planeo, and bringing it back in -- basically a raising and lowering of her rib cage to extend her leg in or out. We put it together in a simple sequence: Follower side step right, forward step across front of Leader with her left foot, into embellished planeo. Overall an excellent class with much discussion on the Leader's technique.

Wednesday, August 6
TangoVida Intermediate Class. We worked on a sequence -- Follower molinete while Leader does two ganchos on her side and then immediately on her back step. It was tough. The figure requires a lot of rotation in the Follower hips, posture needs to be straight up (no lean anywhere) and embrace gets broken at points (but connection in hands needs to be maintained).

TangoVida Beginning Vals Class. I tried my hand at leading; it was tough. We began with Ney's usual musicality exercise, and continued onto connection and walking to the vals rhythm. The figure was a turn. For the leader: footwork is an "L" figure: forward left, forward right, side left back, collect. Leading got my head into a different place musicalitywise. I really tried to insert the turn in the places in the song (Desde El Alma) where it made sense.

Come join me!

Thursday, August 7
TangoVida women's technique

Friday, August 8
Downtown Palo Alto Milonga with Lesson by Eric Lindgren
OR TangoVida followed by Monte Cristo

Saturday, August 9
La Milonga De Nora @ Allegro
OR Sausalito Milonga with Gustavo & Jesica
OR Late Night Milonga with Tango Con*Fusion funraiser boutique

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