Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scouting Tour (November 13-19)

Thursday, November 13, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson.
In Ladies' Technique we began with our usual foot strengthening, articulation and embellishment exercises. Then we worked on the posture and weight change of our feet, forward to back and back to forward. Then we did walking exercises, first with no shoes, then backwards with shoes, then forward with shoes. We worked on the molinete footwork around the pillars. Then we worked on simple boleos in front of the mirror. In Milonga, we began with the basic baldosa. Then we did the alternate baldosa (without the back step, outside partner). We did many different steps: The Follower forward walk outside Leader clockwise, the salsa-esque forward and back outside steps with optional Follower beat back against right leg and tap embellishments (and Leader butt-kick Follower embellishment using her left leg for the more advanced Follower), curtsy ending on open side of the embrace with Follower left foot back diagonal right across behind her body (Leader right foot back diagonal left across behind his body), both Leader and Follower feet ending in pointed toe resting on top of the floor (no sickle). It was a really great class. We went through a lot of different steps quickly.

Friday, November 14, 2008
Monte Cristo Club milonga.
I skipped the lesson taught by Luiza Paes and Sean Dockery, but watched the last bit of it. Maestros taught the ocho cortado, and did a few embellishments: the shoe show-off, the butt shake double step stutter. I was surprised the lesson wasn't packed. Maestra seems to radiate joy, fun and enthusiasm. The performance they did later on was very rhythmic, with Maestra doing lots of taps and shoe show-offs. The milonga was not overly crowded, which was a nice thing, and many of my favorite leaders were there, some of whom I haven't danced with in a long time, so I had a very good time.

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Luiza Paes & Sean Dockery Workshops and Milonga @ Alberto's in Mountain View.

(1) Thinking Outside the Walking Beat - Rhythmic Creativity in Tango. This was a musicality workshop. We began with the concept of skipping the beat, stepping on just the 1, every other beat. The goal was to get us to think more about the phrasing and flow of phrasing, recognizing that at times music is like a wave...and being OK with letting it pass. We practiced dancing the concept to the song "MaƱana Sarpa Un Barco." Next, we took our slow steps and really exaggerated them, dancing them so slowly that they were outside of the meter (though foot needs to land on the strong beat (1) somewhere). It was noted that slow music does NOT necessarily correlate with large steps (which is what we would tend to do). We can use slow motion for long notes. Usually dancers don't dance slow enough. We danced this to a very slow song. Then we played with pauses-- when the music stops, we stop (Leader stops Follower on both feet). There is a predictable and unpredictable nature to tango music pauses, since many of the orchestras wanted to keep the dancers entertained and so they kept our attention. We danced this to "La Cumparsita" (one of the more silly ones that had lots of unusual pauses). Next, we worked on continuity of flow, adding to the pause to make it stand out. We can do this by "dropping" down a bit (posing). Again, we danced this to "La Cumparsita." Then we worked on syncope, holding on the 1. We also played with another accent, driving to the 1, as in 4-1. We danced this to DiSarli's Don Juan, building the tension (the DiSarli instrumentals and Biagi have a lot of this). Then we did a very fast (tango hop) move to emphasize the arrastre beat in tango music (the step reminded me of the Tango Orillero move taught by Omar Vega that involved a lot of hoping with leg changes forward and back). Follower steps side left, collects with her right foot, then left foot goes forward simultaneously while right leg goes back in a hop. For this move, it is important that the weight shift is from middle to middle (not all the way from one side to the other). Then we put everything together, pausing, dancing quick, dancing super quick, adding the hop, etc., dancing to Biagi (a song with a piano solo and which was very percussive). Maestra emphasized the concept of being tight in the core for the fast, small steps, and to look for the slows in the music. It was an excellent musicality class and I learned a huge amount. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), there was only one other couple who took the class. So it was like having a musicality private with Maestros since I got to dance with either of them most of the time.

(2) Improvising with Ganchos & Sacadas in Close Embrace.
Thankfully, many more people showed up for this workshop. Meastra noted that ganchos need to be with both partners close; Follower needs to be connected to Leader, and Leader needs to bring Follower to him. We did several gancho and sacada steps. (1) Follower steps side; Leader sacadas with his right leg forward, she ganchos with her right leg. This happens when dancers are perpendicular on the close side. (2) We added a second gancho on the other side, with Follower's left leg of Leader's right leg while she is straddling his leg. Leader rotates thighs for Follower and does pivot wit his feet. Follower does gancho deep and low (not high). (3) We did a clockwise chain of gancho steps, doing the same gancho as (1), of Follower's right leg of Leader's right leg. Here the gancho is exactly like the ocho cortado, but the leg is in the way. Send energy in legs for bounce out, after which she steps. Then he leads her to do another gancho with the same leg. We also did this to the other side in the other direction, first starting in parallel position, and then switching to cross system. This gancho chain is with Follower's left leg of Leader's right leg; turn is counterclockwise. The last gancho step we did was extra credit since it was so difficult: (4) Leader sacadas, Follower ganchos, Leader walks through to sacada inside of the gancho. This step basically flips the Follower's leg from one gancho inside across body to outside away from the couple, then back forward around to step across in front of herself. It was very tricky (our legs felt like pretzels in the making). It was a very Pulpo-esque move.

Milonga @ Alberto's.
The recently refinished floors have cured completely, so now it's a pleasure to dance on it. It wasn't overly crowded, so floor craft was decent. I was really exhausted, so I didn't stay to watch the performance, unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes.
In Followers' Technique we were read a quote from Sally Potter's book, The Tango Lesson, that remarked on the dual nature of Following -- being centered and balanced, yet responsive; being in control of your body, and yet submitting to the control of the leader; being grounded and yet totally free, being toned yet providing resistance; being relaxed, yet having no obstruction; being mindfully alert, yet totally mentally empty; having alert receptivity. She said she rarely felt this type of complete presentness, nowness, except in love making, meditation, and making art. We were also read a Rebecca Shulman quote, "Technique isn't everything." We warned up with our usual floor exercises, and did a review of our barre exercises -- walking and making sure we arrive and do the appropriate weight changes, and then adding embellishments on the three or "and three" count. Maestra taught a new ocho embellishment at the barre -- ochos with two small rulos ending in a tuck (forward tuck after two forward rulos, back tuck after two back rulos). We practiced this new embellishment on the floor and in partnership. In Advanced, we continued our work on Milonga, and maestra introduced the waggle step (Forward does right leg forward rock step while her left legs does back side diagonal right step alternating with a back side diagonal left step while her right foot continues to rock forward), with forward momentum so the figure travels. To this, we added the clockwise turn we learned last week (starts like ocho cortado, does collect against line of dance, then Follower walks forward on the close side of the Leader, then he rotates her around so they are then in the usual Leader walking forward and Follower walking back in the line of dance). To see the waggle step, see 0.40-0.48 of one of my favorite clips of all time (Oliver Kolker & Luna Palacios dancing to Canaro's Reliquias Portenas @ Tango Divas Festival in 2006):


Thursday, November 20, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique.
La Pista Milonga with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Step-Over Colgadas"

Friday, November 21, 2008
La Tangueria De Oakland Milonga @ Just Dance Ballroom, Oakland. Luiza Paes teaches the lesson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008
The Late Shift Milonga with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Sideways Colgadas"

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Studio Gracia 5th Anniversary Milonga

Monday, November 24, 2008
Orange Practica @ The Beat with Lesson by Homer & Cristina Ladas on "Leader's Overturned Sacadas"

Wednesday, November 26-December 1, 2008
Fandango de Tango in Austin, TX.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scouting Tour (November 6-12)

Thursday, November 6, 2008
TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson. In Ladies' Technique we began with our usual foot strengthening, articulation and embellishment exercises. Then we worked on the posture and weight change of our feet, forward to back and back to forward. Then we did walking exercises, first with no shoes, then backwards with shoes, then forward with shoes. In a linear fashion in front of the mirrors, we did the back, side, forward steps of the molinete. Finally, we worked on doing quick quick steps. In Milonga, we began with the basic baldosa. Then we did the alternate baldosa (without the back step). The step was a cute one in parallel system: Get Follower to cross, then Leader walks back counterclockwise in a circle, while Follower does forward ochitos counterclockwise. We did the Pepito alternative, which is in cross system, where Leader does kicks in front of the Follower ochitos as she goes around him. The tricky thing about both alternatives was the timing of getting out of it.

Friday, November 7, 2008
Forever Tango Workshop on Giros and Sacadas taught by Vanesa Villalba y David Leguizamon. Vanesa speaks English, David does not. We began with walking. Maestra emphasized the heel being close to the floor when walking, the continual centered weight shift (your chest not being behind your legs or in front of your legs, but centered over on top of your legs as you step), and counter rotation in the chest. With respect to the giro, the Follower's timing depends on the Leader's opening of the chest, as communicated through his arm pull. It can be regular normal timing, or fast. The Follower always has to be in front of the Leader. Follower needs to change her speed if the Leader changes his speed. In the fwd-side-back-side-fwd steps of the giro, the back-side steps are usually double time. It was a very small class, with one Leader and four Followers, so it was more like a private group lesson, with each Follower being being able to dance with Maestro and the other Leader (who was very good). They gave us a lot of individual instruction and group criticism. Of the group Follower criticisms, Maestro said our weight was too up -- that he couldn't feel us and that we kept by ourselves. He recommended we try to be more grounded, that the Leader needs to feel the Follower, and vice versa. Also, we all tended to have our arms too up -- like chickens. He emphasized we needed to be more down in our shoulders, but up in our centers (this reminded me of what Alejandro Biggo teaches). Regarding the giro, the back step is an overturned back ocho. The Leader makes space -- lots of it -- for her to keep close to him on her back step. Follower needs to wait for the pivot. When the Follower steps in the giro, it is helpful to imagine a line that goes down to the floor from the Leader's elbow, and to always try to step on that spot. We did the giros in close embrace, with no Follower counterbalance or weight with backward intention, and leading being straight up on his axis (though our leader had a tendency to tilt forward in the chest, which a lot of them do). Maestros emphasized that the counterbalance/centrifugal force thing happens only with faster (open) giros, but was not necessary in close embrace. Also, in case embrace, there is less pivot and hip swivel on the back step, and be more like a back cross step so that connection is maintained and not broken. Adding the Leader sacada, the Leader in the giro should always have his feet touching the floor as much as possible -- either heel or toe, it doesn't matter which (and Maestro showed us doing it both ways). Leader can have upward or downward intention. The step was a simple one, but we did a lot of work on quality of movement: 8CB to cross, Follower pivots (on the open side), collects her feet dramatically with downward intention and knees bent, does air tap embellishment to step over forward across Leader, Follower left side step during which Leader sacadas, then back into cross for resolution. It was great to see so many good dancers in this class -- Olivia, Andre, Bobbi -- and what a sport of Maestro to dance with us (I've been in classes where the Maestro refuses to dance with his students because he was performing that night and didn't want to mess up his form).

Monte Cristo Club milonga. I skipped the lesson (soltadas, with Gary and Lisette). The milonga was only lightly attended, but many of my favorite leaders were there, so I had a wonderful time. Floor craft was not an issue at all. Negracha y Diego were there, and danced with the locals. They are such awesome people. :o)

Saturday, November 8
Forever Tango Workshop on Boleos and Ganchos taught by Victoria Galoto y Juan Paulo Horvath. Both speak English and are warm, nice, friendly teachers. They started us right away on a sequence and gave us much individual feedback: Follower steps side right. Weight change. Left foot forward step. Weight change. Left foot back step. Right foot back step. Follower pivot cross back to close side. Forward ocho with left foot across front of Leader to open side of embrace (Leader opens up his shoulder to open space). 2nd forward overturned ocho to closed side. Leader back gancho of his right leg to Follower's forward right leg, then back to collect (At the gancho Leader and Follower hips need to be together at the point of the gancho. It's a relaxed kick in the gancho, not a forced one that makes the Follower jump up.) Follower steps side right. Low floor boleo of left foot (with Leader having down energy and lots of impulse in his knee flexion of his right knee). Sandwich stop. Follower outside enganche leg wrap of Leader's right leg with Follower's left leg, and then another back boleo snap of Follower's left leg. Follower steps forward with her left leg, then does outside leg wrap of Leader's left leg with her right leg, to collect and then directly into a forward ocho of right foot across, in and around Leader. Side step left. Outside leg wrap of Leader's sacadaing right leg with Follower's right leg. Technical points: (1) In boleo: knees together, one behind the other; (2) Follower should always follow the Leader's shoulders; (3) Follower weight changes need to be at the same time as Leaders. They can practice this at home alone, stepping with weight changes to be faster and more responsive. (4) Knees should be relaxed and not locked or overextended. (5) Leader and Follower should move together with their centers. You can practice this lead/follow exercise with Follower hands on Leader's shoulders. It was a great lesson, with the same number of folks as yesterday, so it was like having a group private. What a treat it was for us all to be able to dance with and get lots of individual instruction and pointers from los maestros.

La Milonga De Nora @ Allegro with Los Hermanos Macana teaching the lesson. The lessons were packed. In Beginner, we began with one tango. Then we reviewed the basics. We began with feet together, parallel (not turned out). In the Follower's cross, feet should be together (not widely crossed with feet not touching at all). The open side of the embrace is always to the center of the room, to respect the line of dance. At 2, there is contact with the legs. For Leader, the 3 step is on the inside. To get Follower into the cross, the Leader turns his chest. The sequence taught was an easy one: Follower side step right, Follower back ocho. Parada on open side of the embrace, Leader walks to other side, Follower pasadas to open side. In Milonga, maestros noted that "traspie" is "tras" = behind + "Pie" = foot. The did four steps: (1) Traspie to Follower's right (Leader's left); (2) Iupi (yupie) step, which is Follower back left, collect with right, side step left, collect with right (opposite footing for Leader); (3) "downtown" which is Follower left foot forward (with downward intention led by Leader) then two side steps of the right, collecting each time, and with upward intention, to step back with her left foot, collecting or doing a traspie step with right foot; (4) Follower forward traspie (Leader back traspie). This is basically a stutter step of two small forward steps for Follower in same time that she usually does one step (or two steps back for Leader). The performance was truly outstanding. Los Hermanos Macana are wonderful, fun, at times campy showmen. Their lead transfers were fast and witty. Their leg work -- oh my! The cast of Forever Tango showed up to enjoy the performance, as did many of the local maestros. The milonga had many extra followers, so I sat out a lot.

Sunday, November 9
Ushering at Forever Tango. It was a great show. I found it more accessible and understandable than when I saw the 2002(?) production, likely because my tango is a lot better now than it was then. Funny, I have taken lessons with half the cast (Jorge Torres, and the others mentioned in this Scouting Tour).

Studio Gracia Milonga with Lesson by Negracha y Diego Lanau. The lesson topic for this month is Milonga. We began with walking on the beat, both inside and outside partner. Then we walked with counter rotation and connection to each other in the chest. The step taught was a turn where follower is walking back two steps, then side, then forward two steps. We practiced this with chairs as obstacles. It was a great class. I had a great time at the milonga, even though it was lightly attended (likely because of the competing Cafe Cocomo milonga). I got a chance to dance with leaders I never danced with before, and with some that I hardly ever dance with.

Wednesday, November 12
CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes. The topic of the night was Milonga, and we began with a video clip of the CITA 2007 performance of Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse dancing to Canaro's Reliquias Portenas. This is not the exact clip, but one similar In Follower's Technique, we began with walking exercises, really trying to stay calm and catch the end of the beat with our steps, which gives us a little bit of time to play in our footwork. Maestra noted that, unlike tango, is no caress of the floor in milonga, there is no lick, and feet can ride a hair above the floor than normal, and that you can pick up your feet a slight bit more. We also worked on the toe tap embellishments, doing toe taps behind us as we walked forward, and doing heel taps in front of us as we walked back. While doing the grapevine, we practiced doing the beat back embellishment on the outside after our back step. Then we practiced doing ochitos. In Advanced, we worked on a turn sequence.


November 13 TangoVida Ladies' Technique & Milonga Lessons

November 16 Luiza Paes Workshops & Milonga @ Alberto's in Mountain View

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scouting Tour (NYC and SF, October 30-November 5)

Saturday, November 1, 2008
Buenos Aires Tango Milonga
at the 92nd Street Y, New York City (92nd Street & Lexington, $15). When I got there at 9:30, they were just finishing up the lesson, taught by Karina Romero, the organizer. When the milonga got underway, I was disappointed by the large number of beginners, many of them seniors. I was quickly put at ease since nonbeginner dancers arrived later on, which made for a scene not too unlike San Francisco. The dance floor is a large space, with lovely maple floor. It was very civilized, with floor craft being pretty good despite the large number of dancers, and lots of men dressed in coat and tie. At midnight, Graciela Gonzalez performed with Dardo Galletto (Karina's partner), followed by a performance by Natalia Hills and Gabriel Misse. They all danced beautifully. Food was of the processed average supermarket variety (not west coast gourmet healthy). One odd thing, at least in the beginning, was that many of the leaders I danced with did not know the etiquette of dancing an entire tanda with one person, and saying thank you to convey you are done dancing with that person (they said thank you after every song and conveyed they wished to continue dancing the rest of the tanda after they said thank you). The facility has a dressing room space just off of the ladies' room, and there is a coat check (oddly $1 at the start, $2 at the end of the evening). I spoke to local dancers who said that it was the largest milonga in NYC space wise, but only happens once a month. They also recommended the Lafayette Grill and Dance Manhattan milongas, and said that the local younger dancers (nuevo?) tend to go to the practicas.

Monday, November 3, 2008
La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall.
I got there late so I just watched the end of Pier's and Daniel's lesson on barridas. They did barridas at various points of the 8CB (like sweeping Follower's foot into the cross) and emphasized technical points like timing of the barrida, and quality of movement when you sweep the foot or receive the sweep. Tango Con*Fusion did a fine performance. Tangonero, a new Bay Area-based tango band, played well. They are good. The milonga was fun since it was well attended (and many local maestros were there, too). I was able to dance with many of my favorite leaders, but no one new asked me to dance.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
CCSF Classes.
In Follower's Technique we worked on Vals. The clip was from CITA 2006 of Eduardo Sauceda and Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra, no la famosa). It was noted that some milonga steps can be used in vals (the 1-2 ones), but must always respect the pulse of the music. There is also a fluidity, adjustable nature of the embrace, and a lighthearted lyricism to val music. We did our usual floor exercises, and balance and foot strengthening exercises (without the barres tonight), and then focused vals musicality, doing a lot on walking (regular and with embellishments), catching on the 2 or 3. We ended with a simple sequence that involved getting the Follower to the cross, then Follower doing two forward ochos (with optional embellishment of flip of left leg to pivot around the close side of the embrace, to do a shoe polish or tap of left foot up Leader's right leg). In Advanced, the clip was from CITA 2007 of Fabian Salas and Carolina Del Rivero. We changed the sequence in Follower's Technique, adding Leader sacadas to her forward ochos. To that we added a forward ocho of Follower left foot; she then collects with her right, pivots and changes weight; then we added Follower counterclockwise molinete with Leader kick through on her back left step, a Leader tap diagonal behind himself on her side right step, and a Leader sacada on her forward left step, and then an enganche of Follower left leg of Leader's right leg after her right side step around him. It was a good class. It felt great to be back.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

TangoVida Ladies' Technique and Milonga lesson.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Downtown Palo Alto Milonga
OR Forever Tango Workshop on Giros and Sacadas followed by Monte Cristo milonga.

Saturday, November 8

Maybe Forever Tango Workshop on Boleos and Ganchos
La Milonga De Nora @ Allegro with Los Hermanos Macana teaching the lesson.

Sunday, November 9

Ushering at Forever Tango, 2:00 p.m. show. You can't usher with me, but if you buy a ticket, I can show you where your seat is. :o)
Studio Gracia Milonga with Lesson by Negracha y Diego Lanau -- my absolute FAVORITE visiting maestros. Lucky for the bay area, Negracha y Diego are teaching at Studio Gracia all Sundays in November, December, and January. Woo hooo!!

Monday, November 10
La Cumparsita Milonga @ Slovenian Hall. Carolina will teach the lesson.
OR maybe Forever Tango Workshop (not too thrilled with the topic: Sequences and practica).

Wednesday, November 12

CCSF Followers' Technique and Advanced classes.



Several of the cast of Forever Tango are holding workshops over the next two weeks:
11/7 5:00 p.m. Giros & Sacadas
11/8 4:30 p.m. Boleos & Ganchos
11/10: 8:30 p.m. Sequences & Practica
11/14 5:00 p.m. Sequences
11/15 4:30 p.m. Milonga
If you take all 5 workshops ($100), you get a free ticket to Forever Tango. That is a GREAT deal. I am trying to figure out how to fit the lessons in schedulewise and financewise, since I am only really keen on three of the lessons, and I will have already seen the production on 11/9 when I usher.

Quaduple Tango Night: November 22
-- so many fantastic milongas to choose from:
Luiza Paes @ All Night (she's Pulpo's former dance partner; I really want to take a lesson from her)
Negracha y Diego @ Danceasy (my favorite visiting maestros)
Gustavo & Giselle @ Allegro (no lesson, but sure to draw a crowd)
Homer & Cristina @ Late Shift (I write the tangostudent notes, this is closest to me in SF and no bridge toll)