Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scouting Tour (September 4-10)

Thursday, September 4
Studio TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga Lesson. We began with our usual foot ankle strengthening/articulation exercises. We spent the entire class walking, and included taps. We also learned a simple turning sequence (back, side, forward). In Milonga, we began with the basic baldosa. Then we added a three-step forward walk sequence for the Leader (follower goes back three steps), then into a simple turning sequence (back, side, forward).

Friday, September 5

Private Lesson with Santiago Croce (for the bargain price of $40 + $10 floor fee for 40 minutes). Pablo wanted to take privates in preparation for his Birthday vals at Oscar & Georgina's Milonga. Since finances were a major factor, we considered Sean & Charity, but decided to go with Santiago Croce & Amy Lincoln since he is porteno, the price was about the same, and location was easy and convenient (La Pista). We began with discussing Vals musicality (it's 1-2-3), and Maestro's opinion is that a lot of people believe Vals has a lot of circularity and turns to it; he says this doesn't have to always be the case (would look a lot more ballroomy). We worked on a simple Vals sequence: Follower steps right, then into 2 back ochos, then left foot steps side out, whereby Leader sacadas. He leads her side into cross, then Follower's right foot steps side right, whereby Leader sacadas. It is important that her left foot at this point is turned out. Then he rotates his body to open up enough room on his right side to lead her to step forward to his outside right, and when she does, he catches her right foot, and sweeps it back, and then switches the catch to her left foot. It was a very pretty sequence and we just repeated it over and over to get the timing right so it was exactly on the beat.

Monte Cristo Milonga with lesson by Ruben Terbalca. Mr. Milonga taught a very basic milonga lesson, first doing the basic baldosa, then a three step to the Leader's right (Follower's left) step. The final step was basically a Leader's right foot meeting Follower's right foot, then into a ocho cortado-like step where her left foot steps forward outside right of Leader, then back into cross over her right foot. The lesson had many beginners in it, which is why the step taught was simple. It was a hot night, so even though the Monte Cristo had good ventilation, it was still sweltering. I don't think the heat agreed with Maestro either, as he was very subdued during the lesson, and left the milonga before doing a demo.

Saturday, September 6
Private lesson with Santiago Croce. We continued fine tuning the sequence he taught yesterday. I need to work on my right arm not collapsing in the embrace, and yet keeping it free of tension. He says it's more of a lat engagement thing. I found it very tricky to do (and quite frankly, suck at it). (Now that I think about this, this is likely what Alison Hurwitz meant when she said our frames should be like holding tennis balls in our armpits.) He is more of the no lean, be completely vertical on your axis school. He gave some simple exercises to do to improve the embrace/sensitivity of lead-follower technique.

The Late Shift Milonga with lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas.
Cristina was sick, so Andrea Fuchilieri subbed in for her. The topic of the night was connection and compression. The point in the idea in compression is to communicate better, and from (sending) the center of
our bodies (which is especially important for moves like colgadas). As long as we balance each other, we are stronger (more balanced) than any one on our own.

We began with an exercise to experience the concept of ankle flexion and compression -- basically pushing toward each other and letting our bodies tilt forward and pulling away from each other and letting our bodies tilt back, matching the energy/intention both ways. (So we
went from / \ as we pushed toward each other, to \ / in away). For Followers, it is important that there is core strength and stability (but don't clench/grip) so that the body doesn't break; this concept is very important in nuevo, where the dancers use their centers more. For both Leader and Follower the chin should be down, and back of the head up and straight.

Then we did a walking exercise, walking back and forth in open embrace, stopping at each step, and then compressing (squeezing the air out of the embrace) before taking the next step. Next, we did another exercise compressing the embrace, with the Leader using the
compression concept to lead Follower to reach back with her foot/leg three times before taking the actual step. For Followers, it is important to get to your own center (axis) before taking the next step.

Our last set of exercises were the trickiest -- Leaders walk back, while Followers walk forward. Here we played with the energy intention/compression, which was the same as in the first exercise we did: / \ when Leaders walked forward (Followers walked back), and \ / when Leaders walked back (Followers walked forward), trying to smoothly transition forward to back. We began this in open hands (like the first exercise), and then in the embrace. In the embrace, when Leader invites Follower to step forward (while he walks back), he
can open up the embrace a little. It is important in the transition, forward to back, that the Leader gives Follower time to connect and understand the intention and not barrel into her in the walk. For the Follower, don't be afraid to step forward if the Leader leads it --
just GO. If Follower hesitates, Leader can take her outside to his right; it's a more forgiving space than walking straight on.

These were exercises to help us communicate better, in an eternal flow, to get to a more rounded, three dimensional plane in our dance with higher quality of movement. For many tango steps, you can practice them on your own (like when you are brushing your teeth).

Monday, September 8
La Cumparsita Milonga with Lesson by Ruben Terbalca.
We began with the basic baldosa, and then he taught a cute step that was basically a forward diagonal front cross step of Follower's right foot over her left foot (and Leader's corresponding left foot over his right foot), then back into a forward cross of Follower's left foot over right foot. He then also taught the same three-step side step to the left for Followers (right for the Leaders). Again, he left before doing a performance. The milonga was fun, with cake and a birthday tango (not vals) for Carolina. The tango boutique was fun. I donated four of my shoes; 2 of them sold before the night was over. I picked up VHS tapes of the CITA 2000, 2001, and 2002 for a whopping $3 each.

Tuesday, September 9
Studio TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Dramatic Tango Lesson.
In Ladies' Technique, since Jennifer wasn't around, Maestro decided we would work on ganchos, which we've never done. We began with exercises to increase our range of motion and disassociation of our rib cages and hips, as well as ones to develop our muscle memory for gancho leg/footwork. We focused on two different types of ganchos -- the straddling kind where the leader holds out his leg in a crooked position with thigh up and foot pointed down with toes to the floor, and the follower ganchos it, alternating with her left and right legs, inside front and inside back. We also worked on the straight back gancho where the Follower stands perpendicular to Leader, then pivots away from Leader to back gancho behind her between the Leader's triangulated legs. We worked on the whipping motion in our legs, and also in our hips (for the straddling gancho) to make the gancho look as legitimate as possible. In Dramatic Tango, we worked on the basic baldosa, and then the cross system cross (double time step).

Wednesday, September 10
CellSpace Alt Milonga with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on the Funny Volcada (also called the Armpit Volcada).
It's called Funny because it's at a funny 90 degree angle of Leader and Follower. It's a very nice transitional step to go from open embrace to a closer embrace, capturing the partner in the end. The Funny Volcada is similar to the calesita, the main difference being the Follower taken off axis in the Funny Volcada. Typical Follower volcada posture rules apply: core strength is key so that hips and back do not break/collapse; the left arm digs down and pushes down to get upward lift as if getting out of a swimming pool, and to make a lengthening strong core, with support right down to the supporting (right) leg.

We began with a trust/support exercise: Follower falls forward, and lets her left leg go forward and back at the same time while keeping her right leg strong and straight. Leader has his hands on the tops/fronts her shoulders and prevents her from falling too far or stepping completely onto the floor with her foot. The purpose of this exercise is to practice supporting her weight on his part, and trust on her part. What kills the Volcada is (1) if the Leader goes down or (2) goes straight back over his axis. These actions have the effect of bending her back. We then did open embrace Follower back ochos while Leader had the teapot arm positioning (leading with his left hand only, his right hand behind his back; Follower has her left hand on his bicep with thumb in front at the indentation).

For the Funny Volcada, Leader leads back ochos, then catches her at the closed side of the embrace to step to right to transition closer to Follower so that they are at a right angle (perpendicular) to each other. Here Follower needs to change her embrace too to be closer. The Leader, beginning with his left foot, takes three steps backward while Follower, being taken off axis sideways, does a fanning action with her left foot going forward and out counterclockwise. For resolution, leader takes a side step to make her pivot out (unwind) of the volcada. Technical points: it is important for the Follower not to to unwind too quickly and straighten up too soon/early. It is important for both to consider how to use the embrace to give maximum support, and provide continuous support until Follower unwinds to resolution (with no air bubbles or hiccups in the embrace). Follower footwork on the fan: foot can be pointed, like for ballet, or with heel down and foot flexed, which is more sassy. To practice this at home, Follower can push against the wall with her left arm supporting her while she leans on it, with weight on her right foot, and practice the movement of her left foot fanning out.

For the demo, the song played was Fumando Espero by Carlos diSarli.

This alt milonga was fun. I danced with Maestro. It was nerve wracking since I don't dance a lot of nuevo; I think I did OK though (of course, he's such a strong leader, who wouldn't do OK?). Dani Tuero and Shorey Myers did a nice dance demo. The yummy finger food was dignified and elegant, consisting of a lot of bite-size veggies and fruit, cheese, crackers, chips, and bite-size desserts.

If you've read this far, you might be wondering why my Homer notes are so long... The answer is because I am part of an experiment. Many of you know about TangoStudent's YouTube videos of Homer's lessons... well, we will be adding my notes to them at some point, and start a separate blog with video link. It is our hope that we put other teachers' lessons on there too, but there's only one of me, and only one TangoStudent. Of course that doesn't prevent any of you budding videographers from joining in on the fun, particularly if I am at the same lesson (which means I am taking notes). And hey, I know there are other note-takers too out there (Jerry B, Joe, Pablo...).

Come join me!

Thursday, September 11
Studio TangoVida Ladies' Technique & Milonga Lesson.

Friday, September 12
Private lesson with Santiago Croce
Palo Alto Milonga with lesson by Humberto Decima & Elizabeth Olivera.

Saturday, September 13
Oscar & Georgina workshops, followed by **special** Milonga with Performance and Pablo's Birthday Vals.

Sunday, September 14
Oscar & Georgina workshops.

Monday, September 15
Orange Practica @ The Beat in Berkeley with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas.

Tuesday, September 16
Studio TangoVida Ladies' Technique with Dramatic Tango Lesson.

Wednesday, September 17
CCSF Classes

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