Thursday, March 5, 2009

February 25 - March 5

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
CCSF class on Turns.
I already wrote about this class last week, but I neglected to include my detailed notes on the the video clip of Florencia Taccetti on Giros/Turns. Maestra brought in alfajores by Havana. In the video, Florencia showing us the turn: forward cross, side, back cross, side. In the forward cross, the Follower moves with her toes first, then moves weight forward, brings foot in, turns hip, and extends to the side step, changing weight. Then she turns her hips to find the back cross, turns hip and then extends the leg, then weight change. The hips should be in front of Leader directly into the side step. Then change weight. Follower should always be close to the Leader, extend the foot, change weight, collect feet, turn hips, and look for the side step. So it's hips, extend, change weight, extend, change weight, hips. We can practice this alone: change weight forward to side step, move hips and extend leg. Regarding the moment after the forward step, the movement of the hip makes you ready to take a side step. It is important to practice pivoting on the metatarsal. So, doing the side step of the right leg to the right, pivot on right supporting standing leg, to find the back cross of the left leg. Turn your hips well to make the step well, be relaxed, and let there be a rapid movement of hips.

Saturday, February 28, 2009
Late Shift Milonga @ Cheryl Burke Dance Center with lesson by Natalia Hills assisted by Jeff Schneider.
The figure Maestra taught was a Leader parada of his left foot of Follower's right leg to pasada toward closed side of the embrace. The Follower pasada can have a fan embellishment before she steps over with her right foot. The figure was Follower steps side right, back left, back right to cross, then collect to clockwise molinete, with Follower stepping forward with her right foot, during which Leader sacadas with his right leg, Follower steps side left, during which Leader sacadas with his left leg, Follower steps back right, Leader "sacadas" or stops with his right leg of her left left leg into the Follower quick tucked cross embellishment out to resolution. Follower keeps her shoulders in front of the Leader, keeping her frame. For technique, Maestra recommends that the Follower's foot sweep, brush the floor. For the tuck, it is a fast, low-on-the-floor tuck cross, with a straight point from toe tip on floor. It is important for the Follower to be clean and precise in her foot work. For the Leader embellishment, he can do a lapice embellishment before his sacadas as he leads her molinete. This was all attempted in close embrace. They also did another sequence that involved sacadas, enrosques and simultaneous boleos of Follower's left leg and Leader's right leg in Americana position

Alicia Pons and Robert Hauk Workshops: Thanks to the enthusiastic support of Pablo, the following are my notes from the Alicia Pons & Robert Hauk workshops February 26-March 4, 2009. I decided to group them together since we covered a lot of similar and complimentary material. She is an awesome teacher, and I can see the influence of Graciela Gonzalez, tai chi and ballet. Robert Hauk is also world-renown as a teacher. Even though he had input, I wish he had a higher teaching profile in the workshops. Still, when you teach with Alicia Pons, I suppose that would be similar to sharing the stage with Madonna. They were both really wonderful, incredible teachers and super nice, warm, friendly people. Needless to say, I got a huge amount out of these workshops. What a blessing to the Bay Area that they came for a visit.

Thursday, February 26, 2009
La Pista Milonga with lesson: "What happened at the “Milongueando 2009 in Buenos Aires”. Tango secrets by Alicia Pons"
Robert's flight was delayed, so it was Alicia only. Alica speaks English quite well, although sometimes she searches for more detailed and precise words of what she wants to convey. We began with a discussion of why we dance tango. The answers in no particular order: (1) because it's an expressive dance, (2) it's the dance of romance, (3) it's something to learn, you never stop learning in tango, each day you have many things to discover, (4) so I can hold her tight, (5) because it's fun, (6) the music is beautiful, (7) it's challenging -- 2 bodies, 4 legs, (8) it's one possibility to express something inside with the music and our partner. The lesson itself was on feeling; how we embrace, and how we express with our partner. Alicia's style is milonguero style, which is close since in BsAs there is not much room and just small space to dance, and the focus is on the embrace.

The Embrace:
We began with the embrace and how we connect. We put our fronts together, with Follower trying to have a short chest and long legs. The embrace was a warm, two-armed one, like saying "Hello" and being welcoming. The point is to envelop each other, and the embrace starts at the back in between the sides of both the backs of our shoulders. The Follower's left arm drapes over the Leader. Our first exercise was to try to dance without moving our feet (to Di Sarli). Here, we would focus on our breath and use our knees, bending them to make different levels like when we speak-- different tones, while trying to keep the flow and express what is happening inside of us. The goal is to feel another heart close to ours, and to talk with our bodies together, enjoying the feeling.

The Column:
Next, Maestra taught us the concept of the columns. We were to try to feel our bodies, and put our bodies on one leg, over one leg. She considers the human body having two columns, goes up one leg up one side of the body, and the other column in the other leg and other side of the body. Like columns, our legs should go into the floor to support the building (our bodies).

The Axes:
She also conveyed the concept of there being two axes -- the vertical one going straight up and down our bodies and the one across our hips horizontally, like a table top, and the axis being in the middle; uneven hips break the axis. Our goal was to always keep the torso over the table. She also discussed the concept of our legs being like trees -- very grounded to the floor, and like a bird -- absolutely free. For the Leader, his weight is always over his axis (so there is no forward intention in his chest). He projects his leg, then moves his body to arrives to his axis, and then steps on the leg.

The Water and slow, precise weight changes:
We practiced walking forward and back, trying to really be careful and precise with our weight changes. To help us with this, we were to envision water, and the column in our weighted standing leg being full, and transferring the water to our free, weightless leg. This needs to be done slowly, because if you do it abruptly, like when you try to pour a lot of water from one glass to another, you will splash. The movement was quite slow and very tai chi.

Projecting our leg without pushing with our chest:
Next we worked on projection. With a focus on the size, direction and energy (speed) of our movements. We attempted to walk with projecting our leg first before transferring weight. Here, for the Follower's back step, she recommends reaching with the toes, then bending them to really connect to the floor, and then rolling through as the weight transfers, rather than reaching with the heel (which makes the movement flat) or kerplunking down (which is like splashing the water). We were to be on our column so that our projecting leg is free and weightless, and to push off with our weighted leg. The Leader doesn't need to go off his axis or lean forward; his body should be over hips hips, and his shoulders should be over his hips. Always be over your column, and be gentle in his forward lead. The Follower should not resist, push, or lean; she should just have contact. Our next exercise was to play over our column, where we could move our shoulders, but not our hips (no tilt).

Friday, February 27, 2009
St. Aiden's milonga with lesson: "Walking Technique: Slow and Fast Walks. Variations. Runs. Toe Pointings and Bouncing".
This lesson had many similar concepts to what was taught yesterday at La Pista. So we discussed starting with our bodies, putting them over to find the axis; the two axes (columns and table top). Next, we began with walking in an open circle, without going with our weight over the foot. We were to project first: movement first, then go and change the weight, so that the intention is before the action. We need to project the intention before the move. So we plan to go forward, or side, or back, and then we project the foot out, empty, without weight, and then transfer the weight after our foot has stepped and made contact with the floor. Again, she discussed the concept of pouring liquids, from a full vessel to an empty one. If you do this fast, you will splash and it will be impossible. So we tried to do it slowly and have more control. The visualization of water was so that we would understand the fluidity of movement, and not dance like we are cement.

To Canaro's Poema, we walked in circle, on (1) the beat, (2) the rhythm or pulse (which is faster and shorter than the beat, often having two steps inside one beat) and (3) the melody (which is longer and slower than the beat and is often accompanied by lyrics). So we walked to these three elements, sometimes fast, sometimes regular, and sometimes slow, but always trying not to lose the music. We did the same thing with Follower's hands on Leader's chest, with the plan to project the intention first, and then step. We were to try to find something different in our dance in dancing to these three elements of music (beat, rhythm, melody).

Embrace: We worked on the same concepts as at La Pista.

Milonga Etiquette: Respect the Line of Dance:
Dance with the same couple in front of you and behind you. If you have a lot of room in front of you, you must go. If you stop, you stop all couples behind you.

Sunday, March 1, 2009
1st workshop: "Body Language"
We began with foot exercises. Then she discussed the column concept, and we practiced with weight changes front to back, with our free leg and with our full leg. Maestra discussed breath, and we stretched up in our torsos (but not our shoulders) when we inhaled, and went down when we exhaled (very tai chi + ballet). Our goal was to express sensation. Each step starts in our column, and there is spring our our building, our column. We were to be elegant, and express each step in our body. You can use your breath, inhaling when we need to express something in the music, and then go. This is one way we play with music in our bodies, and work with the slow possibilities. Our goal in dancing slow is to concentrate on our posture, expressing, being over our columns, maintaining balance, and slow weight transfers (moving water from one column to the other, like filling water from one full, weighted glass to an empty, weightless glass). In going slow, each step is one trip, and you should enjoy the trip, not just arrive.

We danced without contact, using visual connection only, no arms, with Follower concentrating on the Leader's sternum.

Then we danced with the Follower leading with visual only, no arms, with the goal of really trying to express what is being felt in the music.

Then we danced with our eyes closed and no legs or steps for the Leader, but with weight changes.

The Leader leads, but sometimes the Follower can take time to respond to his lead. She can have a louder voice and more participation in how they dance together, rather than just following. When she does slow things down, with her body she must say "Please" and "Thank you". She can do this by stretching her body to ask for her time, starting slow. When she relinquishes the lead, through her body she says thank you.

One exercise we did was dance with the Follower backleading the walk to Pugliese to convey to the Leader what she feels in the music and how she hears it.

We went to the cross, stopping in the middle before the cross over on 5, where Follower rises up on her right leg to have a voice to say "Stop" to him, doing a slow, expressive collection, to sensual spiral cross.

2nd workshop: "Between step and step, Tango happens…" Here we practiced stretching up when we inhale, and going down in exhaling.

Milonga Etiquette:
Don't embrace without the music. Don't invite someone to dance during the cortina because the dancers need to know what the music is to decide who they want to dance with. Many people prefer different partners to different music (vals, Pugliese, di Sarli, etc.). Take the time to use the music to adjust the embrace. Say "hello" with your embrace, don't just grab each other.

Roots of the Ocho:
We practiced walking in three tracks, with changing between parallel and cross systems and weight changes. The Leader walked on one side, then crossed over to other side in cross system to change the direction of walking, but never stopping. This related to the roots of the ocho. In cross system, walking on one side, then crossing over to the other side. The Leader changes the direction of walking when he crosses over. Follower has same torsion in her body, so in parallel system both bodies are contra lateral. In cross system, both bodies cannot be contralateral, so Leader has to change his body to put shape into the Follower's body. So in the cross system, the Leader's walk is weird, without contrabody movement: thus, his left shoulder forward when his right leg is forward, and his right shoulder is forward when his right leg is forward.

The Milonga Necklace:
Each couple is like a pearl in a necklace, and between each couple (pearl) there is a link. The pearl couple typically does a circular, rounded movement (like a series of back ochos), and in between those movements, during the link, is walking.

Next, we practiced with weight changes, trying to make a pearl. In BsAs, it is said that at the milonga it is more about rotation (swirl) than transportation (going forward).

3rd workshop: "Tools for Creativity in Tango - 1 The ocho cortado" We reviewed much of what we did in other classes: We first danced to the Ricardo Maleva orchestra: we walked to the three elements of tango music (beat, rhythm/pulse, melody), taking care before going into rhythm to put energy into our column by rising a little. The way maestra teaches the ocho cortado, she adds extra steps. So instead of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, its more 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4-5, or 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 with a full collections on the side step to the left, on the side step to the right before the spiral cross. She can do this because she can slow down the leader through her body language. It's important for the Follower not to make the side step too big, and always to keep the movement of the foot underneath you.

Monday, March 2, 2009.
Workshop @ Cubberley Auditorium in Palo Alto: "Movement".
This was my first time in the Auditorium, though I've been to the Pavilion a bajillion times for ballroom parties. The Auditorium is about the same size, but was curtained off so that we danced in a smaller space (but there was still plenty of room), with overhead florescent lighting, and linoleum floor (just like BsAs). I got there early and caught the tail end of her beginners lesson, where the dancers worked on their floorcrafting, and maintaining the necklace, with no weaving in and out, being like a pearl and walking the links. Igor provides some fancy bottled water (fizzy from the California mountains and still named after a tropical island) and mints/candy.

Connection Exercises
For the workshop, we began with connection exercises, much like what we did in prior classes, with Follower beginning with her right forearm against the Leader's chest without pushing or resisting, but adjusting and feeling the Leader prepare her to walk and maintaining constant contact. If the weight/pressure changes, the Follower was supposed to stop him. This is because if the Leader pushes, the Follower will always step short and too soon, cutting the movement, since her weight will transfer. If he doesn't push, they will step at the same time. The goal was for the Leader to invite her, then move. As usual, the Follower needs to reach back with long legs and short chest.

Palm-to-Palm Circular Energy Exercises
Next, we danced with our hands, both Leader and Follower hands palm to palm. Here, our hands were to reflect the circular nature in the change in energy and weight as our leg projects and the column fills with water, mirroring the movement in our chest. The Leader drives energy without pushing and this energy is always circular, with the full glass going to empty glass during the weight transfers, like a slinky toy, really rolling through slowly. The Follower began the movement with full, front leg, to empty back leg. For walking technique, Maestra recommends that the weightless leg be really free, with no drag between the steps, to give this free leg the ability to be open to all of the possibilities of movement (even air embellishments). Then you have time to do things immediately (whereas if you drag the feet, you do not have that time). With dragged feet, the Follower loses connection to the leader, and loses time and hence possibilities.

Next, we tried the same palm-to-palm circular energy exercise adding the side steps (which would be a semicircle movement with our hands). Men and women switched off leading and following.

Next, we tried this same circular energy exercise using just chest connection and no hands and again switched off leading and following, and really attempting to communicate by stretching our columns up, like a fountain.

Tango is a dialog, not a monologue, so you can use your body as your voice saying "Hey, it's my moment" to dance, to express.

Timing Exercises
Next, in the embrace, we practiced walking really smoothly, walking in the cadence of the music, but very slowly using one beat to place the foot, and one beat to transfer the weight (basically dancing half time). Then we were to challenge ourselves to dance even slower, using 2 beats to place, 2 beats to transfer; then 4 beats to place, 4 beats to transfer. We were playing intentionally with the music, marking the beat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Workshop @ Cubberley Auditorium in Palo Alto: "Tools for Creativity in Tango - 2 Stops & Suspension"
Maestra taught this lesson by herself . Maestra began with asking what Followers want, and what Leaders want. We got together in a group and came up with the following Follower wants: (1) Smooth, clear lead with chest and passion; (2) Listen to us, and give us a chance/time to dance (embellish); do not rush us through a move -- pushing or pulling us through; (3) Don't keep us in his pocket (his right side underneath his arm pit on the closed side of the embrace), we want to be in front; (4) With respect to the embrace: Make us more comfortable with the body positioning before starting to dance (respect our build and respective body mechanics and adjust accordingly based on our differing heights and sizes); (5) Don't make us feel uncomfortable (incompetent) when we don't know how to do something (adapt to the level of our ability).

The following were Leader wants: (1) Followers, please do not anticipate. Have no assumptions and let the Leader lead; (2) Move in one direction that I ask of you, smoothly; keep your axis, and don't move to where I don't lead you to; (3) When the Leader pauses, the Follower should play with music and do something; (4) Follower be aware of your connection with the Leader; (5) relax and enjoy; (6) learn to wait for the Leader. Bottom line: be musical, don't anticipate, wait for the Leader, keep your axis.

Regarding the pulling or pushing through the move by the Leader, Maestra noted that as dancers we should step when we want to step, not when we need to. If we need to step, that means we are falling. We need to keep our axis, by making columns in our legwork, and to have intention without pushing the Follower.

To work on this concept, we did an exercise: Intention without forward intention in our chest. We did this with the Follower's hands on Leader's chest, just walking. We were to do this slowly and precisely, finishing each step by lifting up and leading each step with elegance. For the Leader, when he leads, every step is for the Follower, to place her and find her column each time. For the Follower, if she steps before the Leader arrives, you go shopping (instead of to the beach together).

Find Home
Next, we tried to go beyond walking, with going forward, side, and back, trying to go home (on our column) with each step. Follower should try to connect with a short chest and long legs, and the goal was to always find home (make columns and be strong in our supporting, standing leg, and really free and light like a bird with our weight less leg).

Leader Back Walk, Follower Forward Walk
Our next idea was to find home in the turn, changing the direction from walking backward to walking forward. Apparently, we didn't do so well, so we did more remedial exercises to this so that we could better execute the concept. Here, the Leader leads himself to walk backward and the Follower forward. Here, the Leader needs to really open the door for the Follower by maintaining connection with her and torquing his body with his left shoulder forward and sending his right leg (hip) back (diagonally cross) to give Follower room to step through. Maestra mentioned Robert's suggestion of thinking about having a light coming out from our chest, and trying to shine this light on the road in front of us, not straight down on the floor.

We attempted the Leader backstep in a circle, with three consecutive small runs. Maestra said that very good Leaders dance backwards. Followers should not be afraid of walking forward and not stop or tremble or resist when being led to walk forward.

Come join me!

Facundo Posadas is in there or be square....

Really cool workshop at Gustavo & Jesica's in Sausalito on BALANCE (6:00 p.m.).

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