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.

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