Thursday, December 18, 2008

Scouting Tour (December 4-17

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tango & Tapas ~ Fusion Milonga @ La Pista with lesson beforehand by Homer Ladas (Cristina was ill): topic: "Capture the Moon." In this class, we played a series of games to improve how we connect and our musicality in tango. The Follower is luna, or the moon, as the Leader is la tierra, or Earth.

Game 1: Capture the Moon. Leader and Follower don't touch. Leader does weight changes left to right, and right to left, and Follower follows. Leader walks forward, Follower follows by walking back. Make it easy, do not move too quickly or with large steps. Leader sends Follower (the moon) into orbit by the intention and movement in his shoulders/upper body. Follower does continual molinetes around Leader as Leader continues to walk forward slowly but without hesitation and in small steps. At some point, Leader captures Follower again. There are two phases to this game: (1) the orbit phase, and (2) the capture phase. The Leader needs to make short steps because it's more difficult for Follower to do molinetes around him if he is taking long or fast steps. The Follower must pay attention to the Leader to be successfully captured after being sent into orbit. Leader captures Follower with a combination of eye contact and intention in his body.

Game 2: Tango Tag. We began with the idea of stepping on the strong beat only during the song. Then we picked two people who are "it". Rules were that you can go anywhere, any direction, any step (forward, back, side, diagonal), but you can only step on the strong beat, not any faster or slower. If you get tagged twice, you need to tag two people. The goal of the game was not to be "it" in the end. We played this game to DiSarli's Don Juan. Next, we made the game more challenging by stepping on every other strong beat. We practiced this to a vals (Biagi's Paloma), then played the game for real to Biagi's vals, Mañana por la Mañana. This game was to help us get to know the song so that we can predict the end, and adjust our timing and movements accordingly.

Game 3: Tango Serenade. Here, the Leader and Follower "seranade" each other by humming and dancing freestyle, with both having their eyes closed. We were to hum what we heard in the song, and express the music in our body to each other. We did this game to Donato's Triqui-tra. Afterward, we shared what we discovered: There were times when one partner picked up on things that the other partner didn't hear in the music and interpreted in the dance. Some couples had a true lead/follow exchange. Some couples had one partner who was dancing/humming entirely off on his or her own. For most people, this exercise made us appreciate the music a lot more. For some others, it showed that we need to be aware/considerate/respectful of our partner's hearing/interpretation of the music a lot more. For the couples that had a true lead/follow exchange, this represents the essence of Tango, to communicate with each other and the music, and gave a glimpse of what tango would be like if you are harmonious with each other, and also illustrated how we influence each other.

Game 4: Blind Tango Game. This one was an exercise in floorcraft and awareness of surroundings and communication. We were to dance tango and navigate around the line of dance with our eyes closed. We were not to dance too fast, and any forward or side steps were to be taken with care. If we feel that we've bumped into another couple, we were to adjust accordingly. The music played was a slow country western tune. Most of us did OK with that. Then, the dance floor was made half the size, which proved trickier and more problematic. We can use certain cues/physical sensations to help us navigate besides our eyes-- for example, we can hear and know where the speakers are; we can smell (like when we know we are coming close to the kitchen/snack area), or by the brightness of the lights as we get nearer or farther away from them, or by heaters or open doorways to feel heat/coldness/breezes. Dancing in the line of dance develops an ability to move in a more circular or square way. Maestro discussed the concept of the "tango train" -- or the art of floorcraft and navigation. Some people are space hogs (those who stop the line of dance) or space jammers (those dancers who are tail gaiters and dance right up behind you). You need to create a buffer so that the couple in front of and behind you have a couple of steps to dance. At a minimum, two couples are needed to form a tango train to create a buffer and bring order to the dance floor.

Game 5: Here, we were to look at each other in the eyes for 20 seconds, trying not to laugh. It can be a little uncomfortable and we don't do this in tango, but the exercise was to give us empathy with someone and to reconnect with them. So try looking at your partner once per song (you might have to start once per tanda; looking at your partner 2-3x per song might be a bit much).

Overall, it was a great lesson. As for the Tapas portion -- there was a spinach salad with pomegranate seeds; sushi with eel, avocado, and mango, grilled vegetables and stuffed mushrooms, and dates stuffed with blue cheese, pecans, and mint. The hosts were quite gracious, and the music was half traditional, half alternative.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Orange Practica @ The Beat in Berkeley, with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas: "Kiss Me Goodnight and Other Such Oddities". This was a musicality class, with the focus to hear the concept of Kiss Me Goodnight (syncopas, syncopations) in different orchestras. KMG syncopation is prevalent in many orchestras and you'd be surprised at what you can do with it. Our goal is to capture the interesting parts in the music, that are off the square of the music.

First, Maestro played D'Arienzo's La Payanca, and danced to it alone to demo the song. He captured the "Kiss Me" with emphasizing it in rock steps (somewhat similar to traspie) and other foot and body syncopations. The question came up, "how do you know Kiss Me Goodnight (KMG) is coming?" The answer: (1) When you know the song. (2) In many types of music, including tango, the melody repeats. So if you miss it the first time, you can get to it when it comes around the second or third time. Sometimes tango orchestras try to trick you, and they might put the KMG in a different place the next time around.

Next, we did a solo movement exercise, where dancers could go in any direction and do any step, with the emphasis on accenting the KMG (catching the beat), even if it's when they are walking in a straight line.

After this, we danced one dance together with Leaders and Followers partnered up. The challenges here were that sometimes we would hit the first KMG (syncopation), but miss the second or third set of KMG. Some Leaders had difficulty leading and hitting the rhythm without shaking the Follower. Solution: be gentle and have more control. Next, Maestro taught the subtleties of leading the double touch step (to the side, and forward) and emphasized that it was more like a whisper move. Follower should be able to feel how much the Leader's center is moving (it's really short), and how much he wants you to reach, so you can follow his lead appropriately.

Next, we played a game of He Goes, She Goes. First, the Leader emphasized KMG in the song (during which Follower does not move while Leader does his thing), then Follower emphasized KMG in the song (during which Leader does not move while Follower does her thing). We practiced different steps here -- the open straddle step out, the continual side step, the double touch to one side, the triple step to one side, or some combination of back/side steps. Basically, anything goes when you try to capture, emphasize, and play with the KMG to mark the syncopation.

After doing all this work to D'Arienzo's La Payanca, Maestro changed the song to Lucio Demare's Mañana Zarpa Un Barco. Maestro noted that it was interesting that the orchestra changed the place where you'd expect to hear the KMG section, illustrating that there was a complex rhythmic underbelly to the song. We danced solo to this song to just listen and to be in a safe place to express ourselves. This was to hone our listening skills, to focus on the KMG rhythm, and to be more aware of the song predictors (repeats, syncopas). We can accent just one beat of the KMG because at least it would show that we got some of it.

Next, Maestro played DiSarli's Shusheta, and pointed out that it had a KM KM KM KM rhythm at times.

Next, we listened to Donat's El Acomodo, where KMG is everywhere in the song.

We also listed to a bit of Pugliese's La Yumba, which had a derivative KMG syncopation in it.

Maestra noted that when dancers are aware of the nuances of the music, they have a different feel or distribution of energy in their dance, which adds an entirely different dimension to how they dance to different songs and orchestras.

Finally, we danced to the most challenging song of all, DeCaro's Derecho Viejo, which had a lot of nontraditional, abstract KMG. Maestro noted that it can be disturbing if there is a lot (too much?) KMG in one song/one tanda.


TangoVida is starting a recession special for new students and people
who are unemployed, only $25 for unlimited class for the month. This
is a GREAT deal. I have taken all of their classes, and they are
WONDERFUL teachers. I cannot say enough good things about them!
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ney Melo
Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 5:27 PM
Subject: The last Monday thru Thursday until 2009!
To: Jennifer Bratt

We will close for the Holidays starting this Friday December 19th
until Sunday January 4th. We will reopen with the Monday night classes
on Monday January 5th, 2008

News! In January 2009, we will start the Recession Special! For new
students or for people who are unemployed, $25 unlimited classes for
the month!

Studio TangoVida
1120 Pacific Avenue (@ Taylor St.)
San Francisco, CA 94133

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