Thursday, March 26, 2009

March 19-25

Saturday, March 21, 2009
Workshops with Adam Hoopengardner and Ciko Tanik from New York

(1) Sexy Syncopations.

We worked on pauses and catches, mostly working to diSarli's Don Juan. We began with a musicality exercise, much like Ney Melo's musicality exercise, only we analyzed each quarter beat in one whole beat, really trying to hear and emphasize in our clapping the 4-1. First we worked on hearing, then we worked on creating, and then we worked on leading. We walked. Then we added a rock step of Follower's forward step and Leader's back step -- like a rock corte, and we worked on how to lead this syncopation. The Leader takes a big dynamic step back, pushing with his left foot to arrive on the right foot. The lead is from his left leg, and there is a slight lift, inhaling, and then on the exhale a step back for the Leader and step forward for the Follower. Both dancers should always be on their respective axes. Follower needs to be dynamic in her forward lunge step. The idea is to dance, not just follow. We also worked on musicality and different ways of taking the step with respect to quality: (A) sumo style -- a drop, and then go, with big weights at the bottom of the foot, and a flat foot, or (B) molasses style -- slow and dense. We also worked on the embrace/communication, pausing in our dance to find it. We also worked on releasing the embrace, but maintaining connection with the eyes and attitude in Follower. We also worked on allowing time and space to exist in the dance; Follower should not rush out of the step because it feels uncomfortable to hold it, but wait for the Leader.

(2) The Flying Free Leg.
We began with foot exercises to strengthen our feet and free our legs -- forced arches and doing a football kick.
We did an exercise where our free leg was like a rebellious, crazy branch swaying wildly in the wind, but part of a very strong tree (strong standing leg pushing up, but connected to the floor).
Next game: A trust game. From two feet apart, we were to fall on each other, catching with our hands, and then go back.
Next we worked on forward ocho quality -- leaving the hip back so there is a delay of the trailing leg. We were to really engage the core so that the free leg can react. The Leader was to try to manipulate it out of the Follower bodily, not verbally. Follower was to push through her arch.
Next exercise: Focus on each other, not touching: Leader goes down - Follower goes down, Leader goes to the side - Follower goes to the side, or Leader goes up - Follower lifts up so that her free leg just goes up without collecting. This movement is like boleos, only instead of blocking, there is a lift.
Next exercise: From the Follower forward ocho, the Leader should block, and the Follower can back lead so that the Follower's outside right leg goes with a flying knee -- like a forward linear boleo.
Next exercise: Go from block to up lift her so that her right leg goes up.
The Follower sustains connection in her right hand in the Leader's left hand, then he can take that movement, sustain it, walk backward counterclockwise to pivot her, then set her down; legs go down but arms sustain her until he sets her down. The Follower uses the front muscle above her knee for the lift so that her calf and foot are free and dangling.
The Flying Free leg part is when he turns her counterclockwise fast, then sets her down, gently and slowly and not kerplunking. The Leader's right leg steps behind her and she comes back in front in the end to close up. Follower - keep your front with the Leader. Leader steps side and back diagonally with his left leg to set Follower down.

What they taught really wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but they were excellent teachers -- very clear communicators, and they went around to everyone giving individual instruction.

Tango Meets Jazz - Pablo Ziegler & Quartet with Nestor Torres on flute and dancing by Mariela Franganillo & Cesar Andres Coelho at the Herbst Theatre. The music was more modern/jazzy (Pablo Ziegler was the former pianist of Astor Piazzolla). The music was mostly Piazzolla and Ziegler's compositions/interpretations. Mariela and Cesar had 5 numbers, and all improvised, except the last number (the last number was choreographed for limited space [like when you share a stage with a band]). The dancing was excellent, with Mariela having fantastic speed and elegance, Cesar having amazing passion, and both of them having very interesting chemistry together.

Sunday, March 22, 2009
Workshops with Mariela Franganillo & Cesar Andres Coelho.

I had the amazing opportunity to drive maestros down to Mountain View from their hotel in San Francisco. Cesar just kicked back as I am sure he was tired from his performance. But maestra was happy to chat away with me. I asked about her dance development. She's been at it for 21 years; her first teacher was Gustavo Naveira. Right now, she does her Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. practica in NYC, where about 100 people show up. She also organizes the New York Tango Festival , so she talked about some of the challenges of organizing an event of that size and caliber. I asked her what the best way to learn tango was. She said that consistency was key, and that you can even learn from the not-so-good teachers. Basically, her opinion was that if a person really wants to learn tango, they will -- they will find a way, and they will keep at it. We spoke about how long she had been in the United States, and when she lived here in the Bay Area (in the mid 1990s). I got the impression that she really was very passionate about being a good teacher.

(1) Dynamic Movements with pauses… stop and flirt…We began with our forward ocho technique, moving by propelling ourselves forward with our back leg. We were to be on axis and do the move smoothly, and in terms of timing, starting before 1 to step on 1, and before 5 to step on 5, for a more elegant (not choppy) look. Follower should collect knees, and brush feet. The Leader proposes the quality of movement. The Follower should keep the same distance from the Leader. Both dancers should not be locked, but connected and completely free. The goal in this workshop was to be able to dance in every direction, and we can do this doing forward cross steps and back cross steps and side steps. The pause is the most strong thing in tango. Take your time; it's your own work. Nobody is rushing you. The actual step was a simple one: two back ochos, then two sides steps, for both Leader and Follower (while one dancer does the back ochos, the other dancer does the side steps). When the Leader does his back ochos, his back is to the line of dance and Follower takes side steps forward in the line of dance. This step was important so that we could manage the dance floor and dance in any direction in any way. The toes should face the same direction as our hips, not be outturned or pigeoned, according to maestro. Then we made this even more challenging by doing it with two forward ochos and two side steps for both Leader and Follower, to change the direction and orientation. The concept is the important part; the idea is to get exposed at the workshop, and then work on it some more on your own with respect to quality of movement, feeling of movement, value of movement (you do not want to have a large number of 5 cent movements, but a modest [slowly increasing] number of $1 movements) and the soul of tango.

(2) Balance, Boleos & Adornments, with musicality…We began with exercises to improve and manage our own axis, which related to weight changes and pivoting.
Next exercise: We took three steps forward, one leg in each track, then pivot, and then three steps forward in other direction, trying to do it with passion, intention, and control. We were to be calm and powerful, and relaxed but not weak.
Next exercise (an embellishment): Take 3 steps forward, on the 3rd step with the weight in the middle, pivot around, send leg weight forward so that the back leg is free, move it forward, then pivot around on the standing leg.
Next exercise (enrosque embellishment): Take 3 steps, one foot goes behind the other, 1/2 turn twisting, starting the movement from the upper body/rib cage first, twisting the hip to pivot, and then changing weight.
Next exercise (boleo embellishment): Ribcage torsion, collect at feet, air boleo, pivot, collect feet. We practiced this boleo of the Follower's left foot while she is standing on her right foot.
We practiced doing the Leader enrosque/lapice play while Follower does molinete.
Maestros spoke about the philosophy of embellishments: Maestro said (1) it is born between both of them when Leader gives her time to do it and Maestra said (2) Follower steals it and does them when she can fit them into the music even if Leader doesn't give her time to do them. Either way, the Follower must always be ready to embellish if Leader gives her the opportunity.
Next embellishment: Leader walks in a circle while Follower does boleo with her right leg, and beat back of left leg in front of her right leg. She can do the boleo/beat back combo continuously as he walks around her. Apparently, the Leaders had a hard time with this, so we backed it up and did exercises where he would just walk around her, and she would be on her right standing leg with her left leg collected next to her right leg, but not weighted at all. We did this so that Leader could get better at walking around her and understand what it was like to focus on walking around her axis.
The last thing, which maestros only showed and we did not attempt as students, was Leader's traspie footwork to his walk in the circle around Follower.

Maestros were both very talented teachers and excellent communicators. What was interesting about these workshops was that maestros each had different philosophies, but were respectful of each other and their ideas were complementary. They do not normally teach together; I believe this was their first time.

I stayed for the early part of the milonga, which was fun, and watched maestros' performance. Then it was time for me to drive maestra to SFO. She was excited to be going home since she had been on the road for a while, rehearsing in BsAs with Cesar, then in the Bay Area for the show. I asked about her stint with Forever Tango. She said she toured for a year, and then performed for a while on Broadway. She said it was very challenging mentally since the numbers are choreographed, and you do the same numbers week after week. I could see how difficult that would be for an artist and improvisational tango dancer. We talked about her life, and she said she has a lot of balance to it. I am glad. It made me smile. Maestra is a great gal, really passionate and caring about teaching. And of course her dancing is beautiful. She has this one truly wicked adorno which I am working on stealing -- super fast tiny air rulitos -- inserted in spots where I would have never thought (or had the instinct/inspiration) to do them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
CCSF classes with Chelsea Eng.
Since Maestra was in BsAs for CITA, Luana taught us Dance Conditioning in Follower's Technique. It was mostly a yoga/pilates class which was fun and challenging, improving our flexibility and core and foot/leg strength. She worked us hard, using up most of the 2 hours. In Advanced, we had the treat of George Garcia teaching us volcadas and colgadas, as instructed by Maestra. He taught the volcada with contact from waist to sternum, and we began with the Leader practicing leading the Follower to invite her leg to go to the side. She was to keep her standing leg strong and her free leg flowing and loose. We practiced doing the volcada with no open side connection, just close side. There was much discussion on Leader technique, but not much on the Follower technique. Then we worked on colgadas, and did a really simple one where we went from 8CB to 5 (cross), to unwind her, then lead her to forward cross step clockwise, then he blocks her and sends her weight back to her right foot, pivots her body so that it faces counterclockwise, he plants his foot in the middle of the arch of her right foot, then he leads her out and away from him like a sliding door, and her left leg goes up, then he steps back with his left foot and she steps down with her left foot around and near him circularly. It was a good class and maestro was very efficient about the time. Annie Roake, our official CCSF substitute teacher for the class, was awesome as always.

Come Join Me!

Friday, March 27, 2009
Homer & Cristina Ladas Advanced Seminario on Volcadas

Saturday & Sunday, March 28 and 29, 2009
Ruben Harymbat & Enriqueta Kleinman workshops.
I want to take any opportunity I can to learn from milongueros.

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