Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scouting Tour (January 8-14)

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

We began with one dance, trying to do lots of turns and Leader's back sacadas so maestros could see where we were skillwise. Apparently, it did not impress them. ;o)

For Leader's back sacadas, the molinete (turn) technique is very important. So we began with Followers doing counterclockwise molinetes, the goal of which was that the Follower take big smooth steps around the Leader, and employing good technique during her reach, collect, pivot, and weight transfers. Follower should always be behind Leader, and make steps as even and smooth as possible. For the Leader, there is a pull lead in his left hand (as opposed to a push lead). This Leader's left hand pull lead is important because for the organic back sacada, the lead is also from the pull of the Leader's left hand (as felt by Follower's right hand).

For the organic back sacada, we began with the Leader doing a linear grapevine pattern of FWD - SIDE - BACK (big pivot) (and here where it should be a SIDE step) BACK SACADA. The Follower takes big, equal steps, especially on her side step, where she receives the Leader's back sacada. For the Follower, her steps are BACK - SIDE - FORWARD - SIDE (on this side step is where the Leader does his back sacada through her legs). The Leader must really engage his left arm lead so that Follower feels his pull during his back sacada (this was emphasized repeatedly throughout the lesson). At the point of the Leader's back sacada, the Leader lets his right arm go to give Follower room to get around because he is coming into her space. The Leader's back sacada might not be directly on the line (but should be very close to being in line). You can also try this on the other side (pull would be from the opposite arm).

For Leader's technique, he can practice the grapevine pattern alone:
-Walking in a line.
-Practicing the pivot: for the pivot he should keep his spine very straight to keep his axis, and not tilt his head forward or back or in a strange way as it will throw his balance and posture off.
-Working on his upright posture and straight forward walking and solid foot placement by imagining he is on a balance beam in the Olympics.
-This grapevine pattern is more difficult to do alone because we give each other balance when we dance together.

For Follower's technique, she must keep her spine straight, chest up, have no forward lean in her posture to create space for each other, but not be too far away from each other.

Because we weren't getting enough torsion when we attempted to do the Leader's back sacada, we did some muscle memory EXERCISES to work on our pivots and hip rotation:
(1) The Turn Game: We were to do molinetes (turns) with each other, and on the BACK step (of FWD-SIDE-BACK-SIDE-REPEAT) we were to see who could pivot more (the goal was to get lots of pivot in our hips).
(2) The Walking Game: Followers did maximally overturned back ochos while Leaders did maximally overturned forward ochos; then we switched roles with Follower doing maximally overturned forward ochos and Leaders doing maximally overturned back ochos.

Then we went back to trying the original liner organic back sacada from the grapevine. We improved and went onto the next back sacada:


For the Leader:
(1) Leader steps side left (Follower steps side right) as if he is getting on the balance beam.
(2) Leader right foot steps straight forward
(and) Leader pivots, with hips coming around 70% of the way, and right hand needs to let go and drop. At this point the Leader's left hand compresses in to stop Follower from stepping, because any pressure will make her step to the side too early.
(3) Leader's does back sacada with his left leg as his hips pivot around the rest of the way (30%)
(4) Collect.

For the Follower:
(1) Follower steps side right
(2) Follower left foot steps straight back
(and) right foot collects
(3) Right foot steps side right, curving around Leader
(4) As Leader does his organic back sacada, her left leg peels away as a consequence to exit.

We can do this in close embrace, but Leader must let Follower go to her axis by letting go. Leader lets go with right hand, while left hand stays fixed.

For the exit when Follower receives the sacada, there are options for her free left leg:
(1) She can do a floor fan, which opens out and away, fanning with the arch on the floor, and fan out with either the toe or heel on the floor.
(2) She can receive the sacada and have her leg peel away with her knee up, raised but keeping her leg close to the Leader's body. Her toes should be pointed down to the floor, and she should not open up her hips, but keep them close.
With both of these options, the Follower needs to be strong and supportive in her standing leg so that the free leg can be articulate (and she has more control over the movement and aesthetics of what the free leg is doing).

For the Leader during the sacada, his heel should be where it normally is when walking backward. Since many leaders do not walk backward at all, as a reminder he would use the same technique as Followers use when walking backward: Stretch the leg back, don't lift heel too high, and don't bop up and down, but try to have body remain on one constant level.

Maestros concluded with a demo to DiSarli's Nada with vocals by Alberto Podesta. tangostudent was not there to film it, but another student did. Hopefully he will forward it so we can post for all to see... or hey, maybe if someone would underwrite the cost of a digital camera, I'd have incentive to learn how to take the footage as well. ;o)

I didn't stay for the milonga, as this new job and the commute has really wiped me out energywise. But my brain is more fully engaged than it's ever been, and I am thrilled and excited to be learning so much. It's only been 4 days, but things just feel really RIGHT, and it sure as heck beats waiting for yet another axe to fall on Wall Street.

Friday, January 9, 2009
Tango Magdalena Milonga in Oakland.
This was a milonga only, no lesson beforehand. I was curious about this place since it's relatively new (the studio has only been open since February 2008), and was recommended by Maestro Shvarts. The space is in a charming building where you have to walk up to the third floor. If you park on the side of the street where the building is, you need to move your car by midnight since there is street cleaning (it's better to park across the street). The ballroom is small, but cozy and comfortable. The hosts, Jean-Pierre Sighe and Bianca Blesching, are very warm and gracious people, and danced with everyone in attendance. Jean-Pierre is a tremendous dancer in terms of musicality, life in his feet, and solid embrace and connection. The milonga was not crowded (a pity), so the dancers could really go all out and not worry much about floorcraft (a plus). The floor is softwood, I believe (or at least a very soft hardwood). The food was simple, but elegant, ample, healthy and satisfying (blueberries, oranges, apples, persimmons, cheese, crackers, chocolate truffles, fruitcake, cookies). There was wine and water. This was an unpretentious, friendly milonga, and I am glad I went. I had a good time, despite the low number of dancers (who were thankfully reasonably skilled). Music was mostly traditional, with a nuevo and salsa tanda thrown in later in the evening. Check it out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009
Cafe Cocomo Milonga with lesson by Christy Cote and Adolfo.
I skipped the lesson, but heard the tail end. Maestros taught walking, the embrace, the 8CB, the molinete, the ocho cortado and an interesting turn variation based on the molinete. The milonga itself was quite fun and extremely well attended (including lots of local and visiting maestros and folks from the C&C CITA 2008 group). DJ Polo did a nice job as usual. The food was more ample than usual, with the addition of a brownie dessert and more nuts to the usual spread of salami, ham, saltines, cheese, olive dip and tomato dip, and pretzels.

Monday, January 12, 2009
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson by visiting maestros Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juarez: Boleos.
They went right into the step: Leader steps side left (Follower steps side right), Follower steps back left (Leader forward right), Follower back ocho, Follower back boleo with right leg, collect. For the boleo, the idea is to first let the Follower's body go, continue the movement with hips, and at the last moment the leg goes up. During the boleo, the Follower's supporting leg is bent. For the Leader, he goes longer on the side step. On the forward step, he turns a little so the intention to turn is already there. The Follower feels the transfer of weight. The Leader accompanies her in the steps, so she feels the turn. Basically, he walks around her to make the energy circular. Next, the Leader steps right foot forward, the intention is with stepping circularly. Then he does a side step in the same direction, then returns, then collects and walks out. This is a regular with boleo. Note here the embrace is suspended, but the Leader doesn't push. Next, we did a variation, changing the ending: Instead of the Leader stepping side left (and follower doing the back boleo after that), the Leader does a back cross step with his left leg to lead a contra boleo. Then Leader steps side right. Maestra noted that boleos should always be done to the outside of the dance floor to not hurt other dancers. It is important to take care of the other people around you and not hurt other dancers when you are doing boleos. Floorcraftwise, first you do the pivots, then the leg gets sent out so that you are taking the space you are leaving. Technical notes: the Leader should be sure to lead the pivot of the Follower. Follower's boleoing free leg needs to be relaxed; the most important leg is actually the bent free standing leg; the boleoing leg should be articulated from the hip (not just the knee); the boleoing free leg is behind the standing leg, and goes around the supporting leg. Leader should try to collect before he goes backward. Next, we did forward boleos: Follower does forward ochos. Then Leader and Follower steps right with right, with weight on the same leg, or left with left, with weight on the same leg. On the close side of the embrace, Leader turns follower clockwise, Follower does front boleo with her left leg. For Follower options: (1) The left leg goes down to the floor on right side of right foot to collect to other side (left) of right foot, or (2) just return (collect) to the left side of right foot. Next, we tried the other side: On the open side of the embrace, the Leader turns counterclockwise, the Follower's right leg does boleo as the left leg is supporting standing leg. Our homework is to try to be in front of each other and to practice these movements to the left and to the right. The Leader's hips face the Follower (don't overturn his torso); Torsos should mostly be facing each other; the Leader produces the boleo.

January 13, 2009
TangoVida: Beginner Technique.
The studio at TangoVida has been rearranged, so now there is even more dance space. Maestros decided to do a Beginner Technique class since the levels in their other classes started to spread out and they decided a return to the basics were in order. Maestros noted to be a good dancer, you need three things: Rhythm 50% (can be learned); Technique 25% (can be learned), and Elegance 25% (which can't be learned [ed. note: I disagree]). Elegance is the way you carry yourself. We began with maestro's usual musicality clapping exercise, working on strong beats (1), the syncopas (1-2, 4-1), tiempo, doble tiempo, contra tiempo. Next, we practiced walking on the beat. Maestra noted that the head and hips are the heaviest parts of the body, and that the goal in walking is to get the thighs behind the butt. Next, we walked in the shopping cart hold, then in the embrace. Then we did the 6-step box (from the Leader's perspective since I led): (1) side left outside, (2) Forward right outside, (3) forward left inside, (4) side right inside, (5) change weight, (6) back right inside. We also practiced adjusting the step doing side changes to the Leader's right side.

TangoVida: Dramatic Tango. We did a very basic Leader parada, Follower pasada step. I attempted to lead. Leader steps side left, does weight change, Leader does another side left step while he turns the right side of his body counterclockwise (to wind her up and free her back left leg), then he steps with his right foot in a curved in manner to stop her right foot. She sandwiches his right foot, then steps over with her left feet. She has options for embellishments in her pasada: the half moon on the floor before stepping over, the raise up of her knee as she steps over, the caracia on outside of her right leg. This was much trickier to lead than I realized. I had trouble cranking her up to free her left leg, and getting her to stay on her right supporting standing leg.

January 14, 2009
CCSF Classes: In Follower's Technique,
we didn't do any floor exercises since it was the first day of class and many students weren't dressed properly to get down on the floor. We did our walking exercises, worked at the barre, and did a new connection/sensitivity exercise with rubber bands. It's great to be back. In Advanced, we learned a new sequence, based on the topic of the night: bodies turning, swirling around each other. 8CB to 5 (cross), Leader's legs are crossed in the back (right leg behind left). Then Leader simultaneously unlocks himself and the Follower from her cross. Follower steps forward with her right leg, Leader does sacada of his right leg to Follower's trailing left leg. Then Leader pivots Follower around, so she steps forward with her right leg as Leader steps back with his right, then they pivot around again to resolution into line of dance. Follower optional embellishment: Tuck front after the cross but before stepping forward with right leg before Leader's sacada of her trailing left leg. Then, maestra changed this figure to incorporate more sacadas: In the Follower's forward step, she sacadas Leader's right leg as he goes to the left side (clockwise). Th Leader crosses behind (weight change), pivots as she steps forward with her right leg, and goes in to do a sacada with his left leg of her trailing left leg, pivots, and spirals back out to resolution (Follower steps back with her right leg). After this maestra changed the figure again, specifically the ending, and this is where my brain melted in terms of trying to write down and describe what I saw. No worries though, I am sure we will review it next week.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009
Monte Cristo Milonga with lesson by Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juarez

Saturday, January 17, 2009
Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juarez workshops (bring your own skilled partner).
The Late Shift with lesson by Ney Melo and Jennifer Brattt

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Cecilia Gonzalez and Donato Juarez workshops (bring your own skilled partner).

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