Thursday, May 21, 2009

April 30 - May20

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Verdi’s Back Champagne Celebration
– It seemed the entire SF Bay Area community came out to celebrate the grand reopening of the Verdi Club Thursday night milonga as Victor passes the organizing torch to Cristy and Adolfo. It was super crowded, and floorcraft was problematic. Still, it was nice to be among such a vibrant crowd, with a good showing by the CCSF tangueros. Pulpo and Stephanie and Luis Bianchi & Daniela Pucci did separate performances, which I suppose were fantastic, but I could only see the tops of their bodies from where I was standing (in the back along the wall on a chair). Though I didn’t partake in any, the food looked good. It’s nice to have another Thursday night milonga option, and at such a nice place (great floor, good ventilation, excellent DJ).

Saturday, May 2, 2009
Colgada Boot/Heel Camp with Luis Bianchi & Daniela Pucci
1:45-3:15pm Making Colgadas Effortless: All Secrets of Colgada Technique
3:30-5:00pm Linear, Circular and Continuous Colgadas in Open and Close Embrace
5:15-6:45pm Challenging Combinations! Mixing Colgadas with Sacadas, Ganchos and More

First workshop: We began with basic technique, and maestros noted that our real work would begin after the workshop (when we practiced doing colgadas 10,000 times). The basic idea is that you find the colgada from the walk; it is an interruption of a step. Thus, we began with walking exercises with emphasis on Follower’s technique. We first focused on our hip movement. When we reach back in our walking back step, our hip movement should be more like riding a bicycle, pushing from our hip. Also, we were not to fall backward on the step (no kerplunking). The standing leg moves forward into the ball of the foot as the other leg reaches back. For the Leader, he should have forward intention on the balls of his feet, and be very grounded and anchored into the floor. The Leader needs to work with his axis too, creating a wave, crossing the axis when the weight transfers. His movements should be controlled, with less impulse. We did some walking exercises, with our hands palm to palm, dancers facing each other. As Follower crosses the axis, the Leader feels Follower’s weight and moves forward to counterbalance her up. The Leader’s energy is maintained up, like over the hill, and then down. When the Follower is at axis, this is the apex of the hill. Follower should not go down or sink in her steps. From this walking exercise, we started with very simple, basic colgada. Here, the Leader and Follower walk; then he lets her out straight back in a little colgada, then he brings her back to axis and they walk. This is similar to a linear boleo, but in the linear boleo he keeps her axis closer and keeps her body up (whereas it goes down in the colgada after cresting the hill). Next, we worked on suspending this, with the Leader walk around as Follower’s leg remains straight back in colgada. Here, the Leader needs to respect the Follower’s axis and not pull her off. The Follower doesn’t need to change anything, but she does need to hold on to the Leader with her left hand on his right arm. The Leader is straight on his axis, but a little backwardly intended. He needs to let her out, but his body must not cross her forward leg as this will destroy any counterbalance.

Second workshop: We started with the Follower doing a back ocho. When she is on her right leg, her left leg goes over and back into colgada. Leader does sandwich with his left leg of her right leg. Follower maintains colgada. Here, there is a circular sensation, doing a circular colgada from the back ocho. Next, we tried to set it up so that there’s already circular movement. So, from the clockwise molinete, the Follower back step is an overturned back ocho; the Leader does a sandwich immediately, letting Follower do a colgada pivot for a while, taking a long time before the Leader’s left leg lands. Technical Point for both: In colgadas, the Movement is not the most important part; BALANCE is the most important part. The Follower steps side right (Leader steps side left); dancers’ upper bodies are in 90% angle to each other. The Follower’s body should be straight and she should be on the balls of her foot near the big toe on her right foot; she needs to be off her heel. Her body should be straight (like a board). The Follower’s hand should be on the Leader’s back or arm. Follower needs to really stretch her body; her left leg comes out in the forward step. In doing a close embrace colgada, we went from forward ocho, to side, to step forward with her right leg, left leg steps over Leader’s right leg; Follower’s left hips go back first, then forward. We can also do this from a counterclockwise molinete on the Follower’s side step with her right foot.

Third workshop: From the forward ocho, we did overturned forward ocho on her left leg forward step; her right leg wraps around the Leader’s left hip. Follower’s right leg goes out circularly as Leader sends her out as they step forward outside in the forward ocho Follower left leg step. We did a counterclockwise molinete; with Follower’s forward left leg with weight on her right leg, her hip goes down, the leg flies out, then gancho of Leader’s right leg. We did some Leader and Follower exercises with the right leg standing and weighted and the left leg free, forward and back. The Leader’s right leg is forward, and Follower back ganchos it and goes forward out. In 90% angle to each other, the Follower is on her right leg while her left leg goes forward, then Leader leads it back to gancho his right leg, paying attention to maintain counterbalance with each other in the chest. Next, we played with sacadas. The Leader does left leg sacada on Follower’s forward step of her left leg in the overturned forward ocho, out to chests in Americana position, to the other leg colgada. Here, there can be continuous colgadas as the Leader keeps going around the Follower. There are also different resolutions: (1) plain; (2) then she steps on her right leg into colgada with her left leg outside, (3) outside colgada with her left leg going up and over with her left leg around. Bottom line about colgadas: It is a regular Follower step that the Leader interrupts.

Sunday, May 3, 2009
Workshops at Alberto’s with Luis Bianchi & Daniela Pucci
3:00 - 4:30 p.m. Explosion & Expression: Spicing up your dance with Rebotes (Rebounds) and Counter Movements
5:00 - 6:30 p.m. Colgada/Volcada Combinations

First workshop: We did some exercises to play with movement. First, the Leader goes to the opposite side of Follower while she does ochos. The goal was for Follower to keep her chest toward the Leader at all times to really feel the contrabody movement and really work her spine. Exercise 2: Connection. With Follower’s right hand against Leader’s left hand, we were to feel compression, counter balance using our bodies, our knees, and our own weight to feel it in our elbow and wrist, and have our shoulder give a little. Exercise 3: We worked on the sensation in the Americana position of stopping and being face to face with each other, and to return back when Follower is on her right leg and Leader on his left leg, really using our hips. Exercise 4: Boleo. Leader extends from shoulder blades. Leader returns with Follower at the same time. Leader plays with different degrees of motion. Leader steps side left; Follower does forward left foot cross step, pivot, right leg boleo, pivot, right leg back step. Here we played with the counter movement around partner after the boleo. The Leader uses his shoulder blades to control where his hips go. Next, we returned back to the closed side, with both dancers facing forward in the Americana (Follower left foot forward, Leader right foot forward). Next, we added a boleo of the Follower’s right leg out to return (back Follower right leg, back Leader’s left leg. Next, we played with rebotes (rebounds). The Follower does forward cross body boleo with her right leg, Follower does back boleo with her right leg; Follower does forward cross body boleo with her right leg. Leader steps in the Americana, does weight change, then does American back step with his left leg. Next, we worked on sacadas. Leader left leg sacada of Follower’s right leg, causing Follower right leg back boleo (while he does quick weight change); Leader steps forward with his right leg, Follower does forward Boleo, transfers weight, then Follower steps back right leg, Leader steps forward left leg out to resolution. We were to be free and relaxed in our shoulders, and really use and stretch the muscles in our back to keep our chests and torsos up, stretching especially on the boleo-ing side.

Second workshop: Colgada and Volcada combinations: Exercise 1: in hand to hand hold while dancers are face to face, Follower’s right leg goes back, then Follower’s right leg goes forward. Here, we were to imagine two chairs, and try to sit, working back and forth on compression and resistance, and moving the axis back and moving the axis forward. The Follower needs to control her center with her supporting, standing leg. The Follower’s leg goes back, but not down, and the leg goes forward, but not down. If the Leader releases, the Follower walks back. This exercise was to help us understand the concept of how we balance our partner. The step: Follower left leg volcada into 90-degree right leg colgada. From the regular Follower left leg volcada, the Leader adds extra impulse at the end front cross of her left leg over her right leg, the strength of which sends the Follower’s right leg straight back out into colgada because of the strong tuck of the left leg. Here, if dancers are in 90% angle to each other, Leader can lead a colgada to the side, and then return her to axis. Next, we played with pivot around the Follower. While Follower is on her left leg, the Leader steps around her; as he steps back with his left leg, then forward with his right leg. For these steps, the Follower’s posture is key with strong core engagement and staying as upright as possible. Her hips should be relaxed as her left leg goes into the volcada and right hip is free as right leg goes into colgada. Next, we did a combo: The Leader’s right leg sacada of Follower’s right leg to an outside side right leg colgada, back into to front cross (during which Leader goes back with his left foot), into a left leg volcada (during which Leader steps forward with his right leg). We were to try mixing all three types of movements, twirling around each other.

I found Luis and Daniela to be excellent teachers, with a clear, thoughtful and organized instructional style, and fun, entertaining delivery. This series of colgada workshops was an excellent way to learn and drill the material, and it began at a very basic level, bit also had material that would be interesting and beneficial for those who are more familiar with colgadas.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
CCSF Classes with Chelsea Eng.
Since we were close to the end of the semester, this was review day. In Follower’s Technique, we reviewed our musicality and adornment walking exercises, along with our core strengthening, balance, and flexibility floor exercises, and our tango technique barre exercises. In Advanced, we focused on milonga, and she taught us “the waggle”, which we learned last semester. It’s a crouching step of the Follower’s left leg going back cross right, and then back out to the left side, and the Leader doing mirror image with his right leg forward. Here’s the step done by Luna Palacios and Oliver Kolker at 0:37-0:43 As usual, it was an excellent class.

Saturday, May 9, 2009
Ernest Williams workshop: Super Connection & Communication Tango -Learn to evoke a truly sublime experience within the closed embrace (Int).
We began with a discussion of “tango moments” – those really great dances we have with people where there feels like there is a profound sense of oneness/connection. These tango moments can happen to just one person of the couple, or two people. We are to try to find our own “tango moment” through the embrace. We begin with working on internal stuff, as it is an introspective journey. This was a close embrace, apilado class, so we focused on dancing slower, with slower movements. We started with standing and closing our eyes, and just being in me. Next, we started a connection exercise with the Follower’s hand on Leader’s chest, working on weight transfers, specifically lifting our front foot before settling back on our back foot. This causes the Follower to lean much more on the Leader than she normally does. The goal was to not let the Leader fall, but to keep the pressure on his chest consistent, as well as the usual fluidity of weight transfer and our free leg having to be really free. Next, we attempted this pressure/connection in close embrace. The Follower really needed to stay forward in her chest, pressing against the leader, as her leg reached back to step back. Next, we did another connection exercise with the Leader and Follower in close embrace, with leader moving his upper body every which way, but with the dancers trying to stay connected as much as possible from sternum to belly and with pressure like in the other exercises. The goal here was for the Follower to melt into the Leader. Maestro mentioned that Mariana Flores once mentioned that in getting into the embrace, the Follower should try to get right into all the cracks and crevices of the Leader. For all this to work, the Follower needs to trust, and the Leader needs to provide support (but not be too stiff). We concluded by dancing with each other, trying to maintain connection and pressure from sternum to belly. Afterwards, we discussed whether or not any of us felt any “tango moments” by dancing this way. I didn’t, though I did give the sensation to other people. Maestro said that I need to give more to myself when I dance, not just give to my partner.

Saturday, May 9, 2009 Luiza Paes & Adam Hoopengardner workshops
2:00-3:30 p.m. Contact & propose
4:00:-5:30 p.m. Cortes y quebradas - expression phrasing, pauses

Crazily enough, when I was waiting for maestros’ workshops to start, I was (figuratively and literally) called upon to drive maestros down to Sunday’s workshops in Alberto’s in Mountain View from their apartment in San Francisco. (Imagine seeing maestra talking on the phone, asking for Anne’s number, writing it down, then dialing it….a cell phone rings in my purse which is three chairs away from maestra…I go answer it… Then heaving a conversation in stereo since we are talking to each other three feet away from each other… “Anne?” “Yes…” “It’s Luiza…” and we look over to each other… and laugh…).

First workshop: The idea was for the Follower to generate ideas to the Leader. Here, the Follower needs to be aware of where the weight is. That way, her free leg can play with his free legs. She touches his leg, and he may or may not accept the proposition/idea. The Leader needs to be stable, with extreme density in his lower half. The point of this workshop was to free ourselves from playing with the same box of toys, to give us a new toy to play with. We began with an exercise to work on stability, and reaching or covering up mistakes. The first exercise was an awareness exercise where the Follower goes from back ocho into cross system mistakenly, as if she is a clueless beginner, and see if Leader can feel it and what he does in response. Next, we did an exercise where the Leader walks forward and the Follower dances doing whatever she wants around/in front of him. His goal is to keep moving forward, and her goal is to be independently strong. Next exercise: Leader walks forward very slowly using four beats per step and maintaining smoothness. The Follower moves however she wants, but she plays with the steps and makes contact with his feet. The Follower strongly influences things, and suggests things. She needs to be aware of her axis, her free foot needs to be present, and the goal is like trying to have eyes in your feet (NOT ON your feet), always seeing/knowing where his feet is and playing with them. Next exercise: The Leader walks, steps sides, or leads ochos, but changes the tempo; Follower plays with his feet. Next exercise: In the embrace, every step we take, the dancers feet touch each other’s. Here, everything is happening on the floor, and our chests/upper bodies move as a consequence of what is going on in the floor (this is the exact opposite of what we are taught when first learning how to tango). Next, we discussed posture, attitude and musicality, and the concept of dancing airy versus dense. Followers can transmit the intention of how we want to be led (airy or dense). We tried this while doing the ocho cortado, really slowing things down at the point of pivot, by keeping our left leg back out and extended as it sweeps around. Of course any type of slowing down needs to make sense musically – which means the Follower has to know the music.

Between workshops, maestros were hungry, so Adam, Pablo and I went over to Susie’s café, where the retro charm and friendly service surpassed the food. But we were starving and Mars was closed, so we made due with Susie’s hamburgers and tuna melts. Adam mentioned that they took public transit over to La Pista, which was surprising to me, though I suppose most folks in NYC and Buenos Aires do use public transit. We also spoke a little bit about his life in NYC, and time spent teaching tango (workshops versus festivals).

Second workshop: A “cortes” is an interruption of the music re-emphasizing the music by REALLY stopping. A “quebrada” is really twisting the Follower, with dancers intertwined around each other, touching seemingly from knee to neck. There is a lot of spinal torque, and our pivot needed to be very sharp and snappy. We worked nearly the entire class to Donato’s “Carnival de mi Barrio” so that we could really know the song, and could punctuate appropriately since knowing where to do the quebrada and cortes are just as or more important than how to do it. In doing the quebrada, the Leader’s slight left tells the Follower that the quebrada is coming.

After the workshop, Pablo and I drove maestros back to their apartment since they needed to be at the Late Shift later on and if they took public transit, they basically would have been on buses the entire time back to the apartment and back to Cheryl Burke. This way they at least had a little bit of time to kick back and relax without the SF Bay Area tangueros being all in their face. I asked Maestra where she first learned to tango, and surprisingly, she said in Portland, from Clay. She came to the area to study singing and got hooked on tango. Maestro came to tango when he saw it being done in Paris at a private room in a fancy restaurant.

Sunday, May 10, 2009 Luiza Paes & Adam Hoopengardner workshops
2:00-3:30pm Musical adornments for leaders and followers
4:00-5:30pm Musical ganchos and boleos

Bright and early, Pablo and I made our way over to maestros’ apartment. During the drive to Alberto’s we chatted amicably. Maestra travels 8-9 months out of the year, and considers BsAs home. Maestro is based out of NYC, and typically teaches with Ciko. I asked what the best way for a new dancer to learn tango was. Maestra said to study study study (take lessons, practice what you learned). Maestro said you need to dance at least two hours ever day for at least six months. The most exotic place Maestra taught was Japan; Maestro the US Virgin Islands during a beauty pageant. They both knew immediately that they wanted to teach (not just dance well or perform).

First workshop: The best adornments are the ones that the Leader doesn’t feel, so they do not interrupt what the Leader is doing. When a Follower does adornos, she must know the music. First exercise: We listened to Di Sarli’s Organito de la Tarde, really trying to organize the information. The phrase is introduced in the beginning, and is repeated throughout the song, but reproduced using different musical instruments. Our recognition of the repetition helps us understand the space in which we dance. In the quarter beat, we can find the Leader’s pattern/flow. Exercise: Leader walks on the beat, collecting on the half beat; Follower can collect faster, but still step on the beat. The goal here in collecting faster is so that from walking, we can add the adornos of the tap, tuck (beat back), beat, drag. Next exercise: One person dances as the piano, and the other person dances as the violin, both dancers in no embrace. Here, we tried to express in our dance the variation of the instruments in the first phrase, and the mood of the instrument (sharp, soft). Next exercise: Leader steps side left, Follower steps side right, Leader walks around her, dancing with adornos and musical emphasis, while Follower is the center and doesn’t do anything. To be in charge, you need to know more. Listen to the music and make the music a part of you. Next exercise: Leader and Follower do embellishments, with one the center of the circle, and the other going around. The center does not move from the spot until it is necessary from a body spinal torque perspective. Next exercise: The Follower is in the center and dances like/to the violin; the Leader dances around her in a circle and dances the rhythmic part of the music. Concluding remarks from Maestro: Take what you learn in workshops and focus on that at the milonga. You might piss some people off for a few weeks, but eventually, you will get it, but you have to do it for 1,000 hours on the dance floor.

Second workshop: Musical Ganchos and Boleos. Maestros demonstrated what musical ganchos versus non-musical ganchos where. The Follower helps the Leader understand what the song’s musicality should be. For ganchos on the melodic part, the lead and follow is slow. Done on the rhythmic part, it is fast. To lead ganchos, the leader has to place the Follower next to him. The timing is “rah” – “ting” – “boom” – “jhoom”
Rah =
Ting = twist; where the Leader’s toe wraps around the Follower’s heel
Boom = gancho; Leader’s heel is up during the gancho
Jhoom = step forward for Leader, back for Follower, out to resolution

Exercise 1: Leader places Follower in different places around him without moving his feet (just move his chest, arms). The Follower should always keep her hips with the Leader. Exercise 2: The Leader pushes from his left leg with purpose behind himself to take the step and change with onto that leg. Ganchos are interrupted steps of the Follower when she is trying to collect. In ganchos and sacadas, the positions are almost the same, but the feeling is different (away versus together). Next, in 90 degree to each other, Follower’s right leg ganchos Leader’s right leg. Here, the Follower can’t float away, she needs to step near the Leader. Next, we did the same gancho, only the Leader catches the Follower’s right leg between his knees, then sends it back out after catching it. The Leader should use his hips, bringing his left hip and whole body into the movement. Leader closes his hips/thighs. The Leader’s right leg flows around with the Follower’s right leg out to resolution, swooping around and down (“jhoom”). Here, the Leader must follow the Follower’s hips and legs on his exit. Then we tried to get musical with it, doing it from the walk, and from the ocho cortado (whereby it is complimented with counter energy). We were really trying to match the music with the boom (gancho). To do the boom (gancho) on “1”, the preparation has to be earlier (on “3”).

The last two days’ workshops with Luiza and Adam were excellent, and were more like group privates since turnout was not high (likely because of the Mother’s day holiday and several other maestros being in town at the same time). They are both enthusiastic teachers, and there was plenty of individual attention to each couple, and feedback for every Leader and Follower.

Café Cocomo Milonga with lesson beforehand by Luiza Paes & Adam Hoopengardner.
Here, we did a series of combinations in parallel system, that mostly focused on back crosses of the left and right legs. We began with rock steps, and trying to create a back cross from there, whereby the Follower’s right leg hooks behind her left leg, immediately into the left foot hooking behind the right foot in a diagonal line. During this time, the Leader does a forward cross. Leader uses the bounce of the rock step to go forward in the forward cross. Follower tries to step through, away from Leader, and Leader tries to hang on. The energy is similar to colgadas, only the Leader moves her swinging out and then the leg back in to settle into a back cross. The milonga itself was good; I had more fun that night than I had ever had there. Maestra celebrated her birthday with chocolate cake, and a vals to die for – it seemed that every local maestro and maestra in attendance gave her a whirl around the dance floor. I got to dance with maestro.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
CCSF classes with Chelsea Eng.
In Follower’s Technique, we did a review of our floor exercises before our practicalonga for Advanced. It was a good class.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
CCSF classes with Chelsea Eng.
It was the last day of the semester, so we had 2 hours of practica time, followed by a Feldenkrais class co-taught by another CCSF faculty member, followed by a half hour of body awareness / lead-follow exchange exercises that built on that Feldenkrais class.

So maybe some of you have been curious why I’ve fallen so far behind on my weekly writing. Well, like all artists, sometimes I run into experiences in my life that kill my inspiration (or drastically derail it). I recently had such a series of experiences. Am I over it? Time will tell. And on a practical level, I was also studying for a professional licensing exam…and yay for me… I passed!!!! So congratulate me, because now I am Anne, NCG (soon to be CLPF, as soon as I fork over the huge licensing fee).

Join me tonight… Verdi club milonga with lesson beforehand by Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas.

Then after that Scouting Tour continues in Buenos Aires for two weeks covering Luciana Valle’s Intensivo (if I have any strength at the end of the day), with supplemental blurbs from Luna Palacios’s milonga class at EAT (I am TOTALLY stoked about that!!!!), visits to P.H. and Galauno, and milongas at Sunderland, Sin Rumbo, Maipu 444 on Sunday/Monday, etc.

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