Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 1-7

Thursday, January 1, 2009
New Year's Day Milonga @ Lake Merritt Dance Center with lesson by Gigi and Warren Jensen: Simple Sacadas.
Maestros notes that the word "sacada" comes from the Spanish verb "sacar" - to take, and in terms of technique, is the way a chisel works, with the wood peeling away as a consequence of the chisel's action. We began with the 8CB, but on the 4: Leader's left foot meets Follower's left foot to sacada it as he twists her away and lifts her so she pivots. This prevents her from going to the cross. Then she does a back ocho, while Leader does a side step. Leader displaces with his right leg, stepping obliquely (toward and behind without knee cap) to sacada of Follower's right leg to send it out and to the left side of her left leg (in a quatro/boleo). Follower's technical point on this boleo/quatro: make sure foot points down to look prettiest. The resolution is to a back ocho, to the cross, to a forward ocho, and then another sacada with Leader's right leg of Follower's trailing left leg to Follower forward ocho to rock step resolution. This move originated from Pampa Cortez, who is known for sacadas, among other things. The secret about sacadas, and making sure they do not become amagues, is that the Leader needs to touch Follower's foot in the sacada. If you are in control of your legs, you will be in control of hers. Take your time. Make firm but gentle contact. The Leader's side step is toward the Follower, which is how he remains in balance and on axis (Leader moves closer to Follower). The milonga was not as well attended as last year, which suited me just fine. There was a nice amount of space to dance on the pergo-floored ballroom. The food was quite good -- sliced roast beef, sliced ham, rolls, several different vegetable and pasta salads, a hot pasta dish, desserts, wine, and punch. DJ Emilio did a fine job rockin' the house into the new year.

Friday, January 2, 2009
Beginning Senior Tango @ Emeryville Senior Center taught by Ivan Shvarts.
The lesson was good, but was pretty much the same as what maestro taught last week. Leader steps side left as Follower steps side right, Leader stops Follower's right foot with his right foot to cause her to sandwich his right foot with her left foot. Follower pasadas with left foot to right side. We repeated this four times to go around in a circle. Leader option: Play with Follower pasada to lead her over and back and over again. Other option: Leader sacada using his right leg after Follower pasada to force boleo (quatro) of her left leg diagonally across against her right leg. Other option after this boleo (quatro): Follower gancho of Leader's right leg with the her same left leg that just did the boleo. Leader's technical point: Leader turns her out a bit more so she knows to gancho (instead of boleo/quatro) This gives her hips room to do the back gancho and it also pivots her foot so that the toes are aimed in the correct angle to do a back gancho. Since I am now a member of the Emeryville Senior Center, I was welcome to partake in the unlimited soup and salad lunch beforehand for $3. It was good. The soup was homemade, hot and hearty, and the salad, while simple, had a decent variety of vegetables and dressings. There was also a huge amount of baked goods (bagels, breads, donuts) and snacks (gardettos, tortilla chips, guacamole), fruit, and drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, punch, apple juice). There were a few non-seniors at this lesson, members of the SF Bay Area tango community.

Saturday, January 3, 2009
Late Shift 1st Anniversary Milonga with lesson beforehand by David Orly-Thompson and Mariana Ancarola: Volcadas.
We began with exercises, similar to the ones on NYE, but including front and back crosses with feet in line with each other, getting used to the weight changes and having the toes in the same line. The forward knee bends a little but the back leg is straight. We also did the pivot, forward and back ocho, and step forward and back exercises. We added pivots with the forward and back steps which resulted in 1/4 turns. For the sequence: In close embrace, we are to maintain connection with weight over the balls of our feet. Follower steps back with her left foot (Leader forward with his right), does quick collect with her right foot (pivots 1/4 turn), steps forward with her left, steps forward with her right, steps side left with her left foot. Here, the leader does a sacada with his right foot to almost meet Follower's left foot (but is more in the middle, so they don't actually touch feet). This forward force of energy drives the Follower's right leg out and back and then in to back cross of left leg, sending left leg forward in a back volcada, while leader does weight change, stepping forward with his left leg to resolution. Then we changed the ending, where the leader steps forward with his right leg to close, then does 8CB to 2, then does a parada sandwich of Leader's right leg, then Leader turns to send out the energy of Follower's left leg as he steps back to lead a regular volcada of her left leg forward, and then drives it back diagonally to the right of her right leg. For those students who were already familiar with volcadas, we added the Leader option of the fake out, where the Leader can lead a back volcada, and then mid-energy, mid-motion as the Follower's left leg pops forward, he steps back to lead it into a regular forward volcada. For Follower's technique in the volcada, her head placement should be in the same plane as her body (so head turns to her right) so that dancers remain in a V (not chest to chest). The milonga was fun, well attended but not obnoxiously so. The food could have been more ample and festive for a 1st Anniversary. Maybe they were having us stick to our New Year's resolution to watch what we eat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Cellspace Alt Milonga with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas: Hurracaine Colgada.
See the video at For the technique of the colgada, it has a feel similar to a turn (molinete) in terms of outwards (centrifugal) force/intention. We began with a partnered exercise where Leader and Follower faced each other toe to toe; Leader gave Follower energy to push her out while still holding on to her; both Leader and Follower were to hang on to each other with equal balance. For the posture, dancers should have hips back but under rib cage so body and spine are fairly vertical, while Leader and Follower legs are more in a V line away from each other, with knees soft. This is a small movement, with just a little bit of hanging away (not a huge amount). The Leader and Follower counterbalance each other with their body mass, engaging their core muscles, not just arm strength. It is important that the shoulders do not roll forward, and you should not plank, or stick your belly in, and that you should send your hips out, but don't stick your butt out.

For the figure, we began with a rock step. Then Leader walks around to right, collecting each time he steps, or stepping continually. The goal here is to suspend the Follower on her axis as she is on her right leg. The Follower is in a colgada even though it doesn't look like it. This is a somewhat subtle, smaller colgada, without a lot of hang away from each other. The Follower bends her supporting right knee a little, and her hips go back to sit a little, and her back goes into Leader's right arm, while her free left leg goes back as a result of her hips being in alignment with each other and going back. The Leader gets outside of Follower's right foot with his left foot, then his right foot steps in the middle of her two feet. He steps around in a counterclockwise manner, going R - L - R- L , etc. As the Leader's right foot steps around, the left foot has to draw in; otherwise, the Follower's foot will tangle in his. So for the Leader, it is not a planting or jamming, but a true stepping around.

Because colgadas are a circular movement, in every moment your body needs to make adjustments to maintain the proper posture and connection. The Follower needs to use both arms in the embrace, and has to pull to make it feel equal in her arms and energywise with the Leader to maintain the hanging action. In tango music, the "Hurricane" Colgada can be done at the climax of the song or during the 1/8 note runs. It is called "Hurricane" because it is a very fast, spinning colgada. Our goal at the end of this and all colgadas is to slow it down, collect, and exit gracefully. For the Follower, she needs to focus on one spot on the leader and stay on it. For the Leader, the walk around the Follower is like penguin sashay as he spins around fast around the Follower.

For the more experienced students, we did a variation that was basically a backward one done in sweetheart embrace. Here, the relationship between dancers changes, and dancers do not face each other, but forward in the same direction, with the Leader behind and to the left of the Follower. The Follower is on her left leg, and her right leg is forward and out as the Leader walks around behind her.

For the less experienced students, we did an exercise to get us used to the colgada energy intention. Here, the Follower stood with her legs about 2 feet apart, and Leader stood with his feet inside and touching hers. Then the Leader sent Follower out and around while still hanging on to her. Here, we experienced the semicircular energy, playing in a half circular motion. This is also called the Batman & Robyn exercise. We were to go back and forth, side to side, with bodies slightly bent (upper bodies out and away from each other while we slightly sat as our legs were in a V with each other since our feet were touching), then step through. This exercise was to help us get used to hanging from each other in this position. To lead Follower to step through, Leader plants his weight on his right leg, and step left, which leads Follower to step left simultaneously as she feels the energy intention.

For both groups of students: We did a rock step of Leader rocking forward (Follower back), then step side left (Follower right), to do a regular colgada (like a step over pasada with more outward, centrifugal energy). Then, we did a colgada where the Leader's left foot steps outside of Follower's right foot, to send her left foot out and around Leader to step. Or, Leader can step around quickly so she remains suspended in the colgada (step over pasada).


Thursday, January 8, 2009
Milonga Roja @ La Pista with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas: The Organic Leader's Back Sacada.

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