Thursday, September 4, 2008

Scouting Tour (August 28-September 3)

Thursday, August 28
La Mariposa Milonga with lessons by Orlando Paiva Jr. and Laura Tate.
The Beginner lesson: The Basics...For those who know... strengthen
your knowledge of the basic step with correct footwork and posture.
The intermediate lesson: --The Connection--How to connect with your
partner. It was a kind of strange, but really great lesson. Pablo
couldn't understand why I wanted to go to the beginner lesson but I
was intrigued by the suggestion that the "Paiva style" was unique.

The lesson was very technical in nature, and focused on their version
of correct footwork and posture. Maestros taught it from the
perspective of maximizing their aesthetic of elegance. They taught
foot extension first, then body moves over to axis where there is a
rise to stand up straight and tall. For Follower footwork, they
recommend an angled out V shape (like Ariadna Naveira) for added
stability and elegance, and that when she takes a back step, she
should point with the heel (not the toe); for the forward steps, the
(future) bunion should be on the floor. For Follower posture in the
8CB, it is not straight up, but slightly to the side, disassociated in
the rib cage more toward the center of the Leader's chest (but still
offset). This gives him more room to walk. The class was very small
(just two couples), so we got lots of individual attention. In
addition, they are also proponents of the Follower automatic cross if
Leader does two steps to the outside right of Follower (rather than
him having to initiate it with his chest; I've had teachers teach it
both ways and have heard complaints about the "automatic crossers").
Basically, for the 8CB, they believe the Leader's chest should always
be absolutely forward (no movement).

We went on to molinetes. In their style, instead of any side steps,
they are replaced with another forward step. So it's
FWD-FWD-BACK-FWD-FWD as they believe the woman's open step doesn't
look pretty, and that a more closed, in-motion body looks more
elegant. They also said that the leader can initiate the molinete,
but once he does, the Follower has to GO (not wait for the Leader to
lead her all the way around to complete it-- this is also the opposite
of what many teachers teach).

The intermediate lesson was basically a continuation of the first
lesson, much like a continued group private lesson since the class was
so small. Maestra comment regarding the embrace -- for Follower in
close embrace, the left arm should be around the Leader's back; in
open embrace hand should be firmly grasped on the bicep with thumb in
front, and elbow connected to leaders arm for a solid frame. She also
talked about the concept of the ankles being the source of spring (and
taking the impact) in the dance, not the knees. She seemed to be more
of the school of heels off the floor (more than on).

Overall, I thought they were excellent teachers (both fluent in
English). It was such a pity that more people didn't show up for
their lesson. Maestros emphasized that every step you dance, try to
make it as perfect, as beautiful, and as elegant as possible. They
also said that to be a beautiful dancer, you only need to master the
technique for 5 things -- the 8CB, molinete, ocho, walk, and for the
Leader, the turn/swirl thing where he stays in place, but plays with
his free foot as he is turning on his axis as she is
walking/molinete-ing around him (see example at around 2:40-2:50 and
3:17-3:26, among others).

The milonga was lightly attended, but the dancers reasonably skilled,
so I had a good time. There were no floorcraft issues because we had
so much space. Their performance (a tango and a vals) was very nice
-- they specifically didn't do any show tango; they wanted to
illustrate their extreme elegance in the salon style danced at social

Monday, September 1
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson by visiting maestros Alex and Luz on
Ganchos and Piernazos (with many extra Followers). We began with two
gancho sequences: (1) Follower steps back right, then takes a step as
if for back ocho but then does gancho of Follower left leg to Leader's
right leg. Then she steps forward and side, into a gancho of
Follower's right leg to leaders left leg, then she steps back to
gancho Leader's leg. (2) This was three ganchos in a row, starting
from Follower taking a back step, then taking a step as if for back
ocho, setting her up for a gancho of Leader's right leg by Follower's
left leg, then immediately into a gancho of Leader's left leg by
Follower's right leg, immediately into back gancho of Leader's left
leg of Follower's right leg. Follower's technical tip for the first
gancho: it is important that she steps as close to the the leader as
possible in this back step (clockwise back step, as if for molinete),
which means she must rotate her hips a lot to make the back step in a
circle around leader and not more straight out and away.

Next, we did two piernazos. (1) From a back ocho in the closed side
of the embrace, leader steps in to send Follower's left leg into side
out front in "with" boleo (it can be floor or high; talus should be
fully extended), and then while her weight is still fully on her right
leg, he leads her directly into a Piernazo of her left leg to Leader's
Left hip. It is a very quick move. After the piernazo, Follower's
left leg pivots back in to resolution. Follower technical tip: Core
needs to be fully engaged for this to work well -- otherwise the body
flops around. Leader's technical tip: Leader cannot turn her in --
her body should remain turned out and away so that her leg has room to
go out and around. (2) Follower steps side right, then sets up for a
back ocho, but it turns immediately into a piernazo of Follower's
right leg to Leader's right hip. The lead is more of a planting down
and sending the impulse up and around in a piernazo (otherwise it will
just feel like a gancho). On his plant down, Follower's supporting
knee flexes, so she has lots of impulse energy to go up and around
with her piernazoing leg.

The milonga was fun, with many excellent leaders in attendance. Alex
and Luz did a nice demonstration that was more nuevo in flavor. Ruben
Terbalca showed up (he will be at Monte Cristo on Friday and La
Cumparsita next Monday -- where we will celebrate Carolina's

Tuesday, September 2
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Fundamentals Dramatic Lesson. In
Ladies' Technique, we spent the entire time practicing walking, only
this time Ney taught the class. He spent a lot of time on the foot
and rolling off of the foot and weight changing forward to back, with
an up emphasis in the middle. We walked on the beat with napkins
underneath the balls of our feet to emphasize the connection to the

In the Tango lesson we learned a simple sequence -- a Gavitoesque way
to get Followers to the small cross, then right into a Leader
Parada/Follower Pasada. The thing about this particular small cross
sequence was that it was linear, not rounded, and meant to be done in
small spaces and straight forward. Maestro taught several Follower
Pasada embellishments: (1) the floor boleo; (2) the contra tiempo
step -- kind of like the cha cha cha step where Follower, after she
catches the Leader's left foot with her right foot, takes a step
right, does a weight change to her left foot, then steps forward and
around Leader with her right foot. (3) various accented taps -- three
around in a semicircle. We also played with the timing, first
beginning the sequence on 5, then on 3, and then on 1, in order to
give the Follower more time to play with the embellishments and really
find the end of the musical phrase. It was an excellent class.

Wednesday, September 3
CCSF classes. In Follower's technique we worked on posture, core
strength, and walking. We began with a video clip of Florencia
Taccetti, who discussed walking technique (with much emphasis on core
strength). In class we did our usual floor and barre exercises and
walking across the floor, plainly and then with embellishments (single
tucks, double tucks, and front and back tucks). In Advanced, we
worked on the same sequences as last week, only adding the brain and
body exercise of doing it on the opposite sides. Good brain bender!

Come join me!

Thursday, September 4
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Fundamentals Milonga Lesson.

Friday, September 5
Monte Cristo Milonga and Lesson by Ruben Terbalca on Milonga.

Saturday, September 6
Musicality class with Guillermo Garcia followed by the Late Shift
milonga with lesson by Homer & Cristina

Sunday, September 7
Ruben Terbalca workshop in Palo Alto, followed by Alberto's milonga.

Monday, September 8
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson by Ruben Terbalca on Milonga,

Tuesday, September 9
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Tango Lesson followed by El Valenciano milonga

Wednesday, September 10
CCSF classes followed by Club 23 Milonga in Brisbane.

No comments: