Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 16-22

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Milonga Roja @ La Pista with lesson beforehand by Daniel Trenner: Endless Salidas.
This was my first lesson with Daniel Trenner, and I had been curious about him since he's basically the granddaddy of the American AT scene (he started dancing tango when I was in high school), purported to have an encyclopedic knowledge of AT and be a fun teacher. So I was glad I was able to experience his teaching first hand and come to my own conclusions. He came up with some really good nuggets: The best Leader tango moves (like the back sacada) are derived from Follower's moves (in this case, the back ocho), so if you want to be a really good Leader, you need to know the Leader and Follower part. This is how the old milongueros learned -- by dancing with each other, both doing the Leader and Follower part. He also said the Follower does nearly all of the work, while the Leader takes nearly all of the credit. In the lesson, we were all encouraged to do both the Leader and Follower parts regardless of our sex. The lesson itself didn't bring any earth-shattering new tango insights for me. I tried to lead, but found the men who were trying to follow too big for me to see around and one had such poor body control and lack of physical sensitivity that I had to excuse myself out of frustration. The milonga itself got to be rather crowded, so floor craft difficult at times. It was an OK night -- not magic, not tragic. I could have done worse (or better).

Saturday, April 18, 2009
The Late Shift with lesson by Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt: Milonga.
In milonga, there is more marching and less sliding. We did maestros' version of the basic milonga box, then practiced walking on the inside and outside with it. In milonga, you should not take big steps, and you should not lunge (otherwise you will kill the ladies in high heels). It is OK to take open steps with legs apart, but DO NOT lunge. We did simple traspie steps with the Follower's left leg forward traspie (the lead is an up and up lift, with straight legs), and also the Follower right foot side traspie (where the lead is down and down, with bent legs). Follower should be on the balls of her feet during this quick-quick traspie step. Maestros reiterated that the Follower needs to keep her chichi back, and connect at the lower ribs so that the legs and feet have space. The step of the day was, from the basic milonga box, a traspie walk forward, diagonally in and out with crossed steps, while dancers chests are in a 110 degree angle, both dancers facing forward in the line of dance, like in the Americana position. Their arms are connected, but the bodies are open. They get in to this from the basic milonga box where the Leader does a side left foot weight change (quick quick), and the he steps forward diagonally across his body with his left foot (slow, down and down). Leader and Follower are both on the same foot, and their steps weave in and out diagonally forward in parallel with each other. So for the Leader and Follower, it's left foot forward traspie (down, toward 2 o'clock), right foot forward traspie (up) (toward 10 o'clock), left foot forward traspie (down), etc. The exit is on the left foot forward traspie (down) step, where the Leader moves the Follower so she is on her right foot and facing in front of Leader. The Leader steps forward with his right leg and Follower steps back with her left leg out to resolution. Maestros spoke about dancing milonga starting with the basic box as the base, and alternating between simple and fancy steps, then back to simple. To Dance is art, and we should play...respecting the structure of the song, it's opening, the build, the highlight, and the resolution (or finale), and also not trying to catch every single beat or creative element (like trying to catch every single butterfly you see when you are in an enclosed butterfly habitat). As usual, it was an excellent lesson, though I sat out a lot since there were so many extra Followers. I had a real blast at the milonga, entirely free to dance with many leaders, familiar and new.

Sunday, April 18, 2009
Cafe Cocomo milonga with lesson by Marcelo Solis on Chacarera.
This lesson was largely the same as what he taught at Alberto's recently, but a bit shorter (so we didn't get to go over some of the subtle nuances of Chacarera). Still, it was an excellent lesson, and I do believe Macelo is the best maestro from whom I've learned Chacarera thus far. After the lesson, I made my way over to Whole Foods for dinner, which was a good call (they were having a special at their hot meal table, so dinner did not cost a whole paycheck). The milonga was OK. I had trouble getting over the unbearable heat of the day, so ended up leaving early, after they played a chacarera.

Wednesday, April 21, 2009
CCSF classes with Chelsea Eng. Topic: Milonga.
In Follower's Technique, we began with two CITA 2008 videos of Mariangeles Caamano and Bruno Tombari, the first dancing to Saludos (similar YouTube video here: and "Al Galope" (there's a YouTube video of them dancing to that song, but the choreography is entirely different). Maestra also talked about an article in Dance newsletter about being able to manage the qualitative shifts in dance (i.e., from rapid to slow, big to small, staccato to flowing). In class, we did our usual warmup, floor, and foot strengthening/balance exercises, and then spent a lot of time on musicality games to milonga music, trying really hard to catch the end of the beat and not be early. In milonga music, there is the temptation to move faster than the music calls for, so we were trying to be almost late to punctuate the music with our movement, and have no bleed-through of our back legs, and not be mushy or smooth in our milonga dance. For embellishments, we practiced tapping with our trailing back foot as we walked forward, and heel taps of our trailing forward foot as we walked back. In Advanced, we worked on the same sequence that we learned last fall, which was with the Leader walking forward, doing the beginning of an ocho cortado, then a tango close with rotation to step out to resolution. The Follower does two forward steps starting with her left foot, then right foot, then a weight change to step forward with her left foot as the Leader steps back with his right foot and then she can take two more forward steps, then Leader brings her back in front of him to step out to resolution.


Jean said...

Lesson, lesson, lesson ...

El tango te espera!

But not in the classroom.

Ana de San Francisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ana de San Francisco said...


FYI, my "hope" occurs outside the tango classroom/milonga.

The point of my blog is not to convey to the world my "hopes" for connection/understanding/personal beauty/admiration/fantastic dances in tango. Those subjects are all very private for me, and quite frankly, not something I study tango for. The point of Scouting Tour is just a place for me to keep my notes, which several friends have asked me for, and to honor the wonderful, amazing teachers I have taken classes with, and who have made me the dancer I am today...every single one of them... They have given me understanding, compassion, physiokinetic understanding, control and capability, musicialty, sensuality, sizzle, and dirt...even the teachers I found to be lacking. They've all had a hand at sharpening my eye and my mind, even though they didn't know it. Hopefully, they have also staved off Alzheimer's...but time will tell on that front.

I wish you all that you hope for on the milonga dance floor, that nebulous thing, the brass ring, that you do not get in the classroom... (and I hope your dancing skills are such that you don't need to take any additional lessons or your intellect and muscle memory is so vastly superior that you don't need any additional help in fortifying your mind and body with anything as mundane as what was taught at any lessons you've taken).