Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 11-17

Saturday, June 13, 2009
Humberto Décima Workshops with Carolina Rozensztroch:
2:00 to 3:30pm Linear and Circular Boleos, Dynamic and Frozen Boleos
3:45 to 5:15pm Atypical Ganchos. Ganchos with Enganches and Colgadas

First Workshop (Boleos): We began with an exercise to release the Follower's hip joint, where while the dancers are 90 degrees to each other, with the Leader just providing support for the Follower as she swings her leg straight forward and straight back in a linear fashion. The standing supporting leg should be a little bit bent, and the foot a little out turned, as if normally dancing; thighs and knees can be a bit apart as they pass each other, and it is OK to counterbalance in the torso. Next exercise was the linear back boleo, where the Leader would lead by pushing with his standing leg, taking energy from the floor, but not extending his arms, with the Leader walking forward and the Follower walking back. It is important for the Follower to maintain good arm connection of the Follower's left hand on the Leader's back. Leader does not move arms/torso, and does not lean forward into Follower. The Leader pushes forward, but pulls back to stop his body from going forward. The Leader's hips and legs have forward energy, but goes "up" as he stops a little, so it is a push, go up, go back flow of energy. Next, we worked on the side linear boleos, with dancers at 90 degrees to each other. The Follower's leg goes straight forward across the front of the Leader's body. The Follower needs good support/resistance in the embrace, and her arms should not absorb the lead. The Leader should not be forceful with his arms. The Follower needs to keep the connection, embrace, and consistency so that the Leader can stop her with his left arm, and the Follower's body resists going forward, but her free leg keeps going forward and up into the air in a boleo. To this side linear boleo, we added the hip pivot, similar to the forward ocho (air rulo), where the Leader leads the Follower to pivot when her leg is at the apex of the boleo, to go back down and forward to the other side, as if leading an ocho, so that her hips turn and she goes from one direction to the other. Follower should be sure not be pigeon toed during this, and be sure to step with the same turnout in the foot to have a good pivot. The Leader's feet come together in his step. Follower collects legs. The previous was pretty much the same as what Luciana Valle taught in her Intensivo. However, the next part was different and new to me. We did the Follower leg pendulum swing diagonally as Leader walks forward and back diagonally. So dancers are oriented like this: \\ The Leader's footwork is right foot forward diagonal, collect, right leg back diagonal, collect, right leg forward diagonal, collect, etc. During this, the Follower is on her standing weighted left leg and her right leg goes forward as Leader steps forward, and then back as Leader steps back, so the energy is opposite to each other since dancers are facing each other. The Follower resists with her left hand thumb as the Leader goes forward, and with the back of her fingers as the Leader goes back. One variation on this is that the Leader leads it, and then when the Follower's leg is in the air, he stops her and walks around her and catches her foot. This is how we transitioned to the Frozen Boleos (so NOT Luciana!). So for these frozen boleos, there is a block/push, stop, up kind of flow to the energy, where the Leader literally stops the moment, energy, and movement. It is important to be really connected. To work on Frozen Boleos, we began with a Follower back circular boleo where the Leader stops her right leg at the apex of the boleo (on the close side of the embrace), catches her foot, raises his left arm to lead her to do a soltada clockwise, which then causes her right leg to be forward, then he sends her right leg back out counterclockwise to an outside boleo against her standing, supporting left leg. Obviously, her left leg needs to be very strong and stable, and her ankle strong so that she can pivot well and have good balance and be on axis for all this to work together and look good. For the freezing boleo to the left, the Leader freezes the Follower's left back boleo at the apex (on the open side of the embrace), catches her left foot, steps in with his left foot a little behind her right standing supporting leg, then throws her left foot out clockwise around to forward wrap his outside right hip as dancers face each other.

Second workshop (Ganchos): We began with simple ganchos, attempting to really clean up technique. We began with the Follower's right leg back gancho of the Leader's left leg on the open side of the embrace, and of the Follower's left leg back gancho of the Leader's right leg on the close side of the embrace. Someone asked about the difference in leading a back gancho versus a figure 4. Maestro said the Leader is from the Leader's chest, so that it is more sideways for a gancho, but more forward and circular for a figure 4. The Leader's left foot when he goes in to meet her back left foot is really to the other side of it (9 o'clock toe tip, heel off ground). She ganchos with her right leg. Leader needs to be very precise with his footwork, and his left leg needs to be weightless and free, and he needs to be close to her. For the Follower, she needs to hook and find the thigh, then go back (do not lift the knee in expectation of ganchoing). Next, we added more dynamic to the ganchos, where the Leader catches the gancho and sends the Follower's leg out the other way. We did various gancho combinations on the close side and open. Next, we moved on to atypical ganchos, which occur when we are in unusual embraces, like when both dancers are alternating doing forward and side steps (Leader forward steps while Follower side steps, Leader side steps while Follower forward steps) while they are in 90 degrees to each other, then Leader leads Follower to back gancho the Leader's right leg with her left leg. Here, there has to be lots of contact and connection for this to work. If they are far away, it will not work. Next, we did an outside hip gancho of the Leader's left hip/thigh with Follower's left leg, like a baby piernazo. Next, added a gancho of his right leg immediately after this for two simultaneous ganchos with her left leg, and we practiced this as he walks around her, alternating it continuously in a circle of ganchos of his right leg then outside his left hip. Our last atypical gancho was a weird one that required extreme overturned body positioning and release of the embrace: the Follower's back gancho of her right leg of Leader's right leg in between Leader's legs toward the close side of the embrace. She faces forward and he gets his legs in position for her to gancho by walking around her, and stepping onto his right leg around and behind her as she faces forward. The Follower needs to release the embrace and do an extreme overturned step, so dancers are both facing forward. For her, there is a little bit of colgada energy in her torso for her to be able to have enough room in the legs to do the gancho. This step can be concluded by getting back into a clockwise molinete.

Sunday, June 14, 2009
Julian Ramil's Intermediate Tango Class & Practilonga @ The Allegro.
The subject of the day was sacadas, and it was a very basic lesson. It was the small room, between the main ballroom and the nicely built out garage ballroom. I found it difficult to concentrate and dance because the room was very hot and stuffy, so much so that I didn't even want to stay to practice anything. One interesting thing Maestro mentioned was his upcoming Tuesday milonga at El V with Pablo Motta, who was going to do a talk beforehand. It sounded really exciting...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Tango Lecture by Pablo Motta (Contrabass) & Seth Asarnow (Bandoneon) "A la Parrilla": History and Process.
Actually, I did not attend this, even though I wanted to. However, Junior Scout Extraordinaire has kindly agreed to let me reprint her fantastic Tango Report From the Field:

The lecture was interesting, without it the evening would have been far less rich.
Pablo Motta spoke and led the lecture. Seth and Pablo demonstrated how they communicate with each other and play off each other. Sometimes in a duo, the bass picks up the melody - which doesn't work in an orchestra because the bass usually has to follow everybody else and the melody would typically get lost if played by the bass in a full orchestra. "Seth is a monster. He has about 5,000 pieces of music, studies them all the time, and is also a jazz pianist." They demonstrated styles of orchestras, played sections of La Cumparsita in varying styles, played a long section of it with the bassist switching styles and Seth having to guess which orchestra Pablo was emulating for Seth to pick it up and play that way. They even did a D'Arienzo version (Pablo didn't know of such a recording), which was wild, stunning, with fast fingers on the bandoneon. Pablo commented that D'Arienzo had some examples of recordings with out of tune bass, so sometimes Pablo plays D'Arienzo out of tune on purpose as a sort of homage until Seth notices and glares at him. They demonstrated this, Pablo played more and more out of tune until we could all hear it (even the non musicians in the audience) and suffered.
They did the same type of demo with El Choclo, playing some sections from Pablo's laptop, demonstrating what worked and what didn't for tango music (playing "square" vs. syncopa), and a ballroom orchestra accordion version that was held up as what not to do. I don't need to hear La Cumparsita again for awhile, but all in all good!

Thanks, JSE, for your report from the field.

Oh my God!! I don't know how I could have lived without this product. This thing is THE BOMB!!!

Whitmor 36 Pair Over the Door Shoe Rack

It's perfect for my tango shoes! And work shoes! And day shoes! And play shoes! (yes, I have a lot of shoes...)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 4-10

Jueves, 4 Junio 2009
Day 4 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off axis): Volcadas and Ganchos.
We began, as we always do, with the first hour of reviewing all that we learned yesterday, and revisiting the finer points of Leader and Follower technique. We reviewed the forward volcada on the left and right sides, and Maestra emphasized that the Follower should have even connection with the Leader in her arms, should not bend at the tummy or break at the back, and do not touch in the torso, but keep support in her left arm when doing the volcada in open embrace. Maestra´s dynamic quality of the volcada comes from the spiral beginning in the torso of the Follower and her leg coming around as a consequence, and in the walking around 90 degrees for the Leader. We attempted to manage both the left and right sides in the same way. Follower needs to pivot at the end so that the feet are in an /\ position (otherwise they will be pigeon toed). One Leader assistant pointed out that the Follower is back on axis at the end of the volcada when the Leader drives her left leg back into the cross. After our review of doing volcadas from any open Follower step (boleo, sacada, molinete, etc.), we went on to Back Volcada. Maestra noted that for the back volcada, it was more of a suspension than an inclination (as for the forward volcada). The difference is in how the leg is swinging. First, we did an exercise where the Leader led back ochos with no Follower hip rotation or travel (just side ochos), the goal of which was to really relax the standing leg to the let the free leg enter in back crosses where the force of the leg crossing behind the other leg caused it to pop forward as a consequence. This was all done on axis. Next, we did a trust exercise, where the Follower takes one step toward the Leader, and the Leader pushes her back at the shoulders, to let her free leg go forward as she tries to step, but make it go back as he pushes her back. Next, we did this same exercise, only catching and pushing back hand to hand. Then we combined all these exercises and worked on doing simple back volcadas. Maestra noted that the back volcada can be led from any Follower back cross step / back swinging step, and the Leaders played with this concept by coming up with their own sequences, for example: Follower colgada with left leg planeo out back counterclockwise, to step, to a back volcada, to a Follower right leg forward sacada of Leader´s trailing right leg to front volcada of Follower left leg. Next, we went on to the other topic of the day: Ganchos - circular. Maestra´s platform is that of "dynamics" and "circularity" in tango. This, she noted that for these ganchos, we were to do circular ones with the Leader as the center and the Follower as the circle. We began with a sequence of Follower back ocho of right leg in clockwise molinete, where Leader does right leg back sacada of Follower´s back right leg step, and she ganchos his right leg with her left leg. Next we tried it on the other side (counterclockwise molinete): Leader left leg sacada of Follower´s left leg back cross step. Next, we did a back gancho to back gancho, where the Leader´s right leg ganchos Follower´s right leg on Leader´s close side and Follower´s open side. For gancho technique, the Leader can absorb the Follower´s leg, and send it back out to the other side of her supporting, standing leg. Next, we did front ganchos of Leader´s right leg using Follower´s right leg as an interruption of her back cross step, then we tried it on the other side, Leader´s left leg with Follower´s left leg. It was a good class, albeit an exhausting day.

Leather shopping on Murillo 500-800
(x Scalabrini Ortiz). There were shops galore, with many leather jackets in the 250-800 peso range (US$75-200) range, handbags in the 150-400 peso range (US$40-120), belts, coin purses in the 7-20 peso range (US$2-7). I didn´t buy anything as I was tired and my feet were sore.

Viernes, 5 Junio 2009
Return trip to Artesanal (on Anchorena).
I admit I have a conflicted relationship with Artesanal. I blew out of several pairs of their shoes in a shockingly short amount of time (6 hours). But two of my very favorite shoes were purchased from Artesanal, and are practically bulletproof with ~100 hours on them and still going strong with just minor repairs (heel tap and inner lining replacement) which balances any negative experiences I have had. This time around, they replaced the inner lining, gratis, even though I was willing to pay. I thought that was super nice of them.

Day 5 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off-axis): Ganchos and Changes of Directions (Alerations).
We began with a review of all the ganchos we learned yesterday, but our day was delayed because one of the assistant Leaders was in an accident (a bus hit him while he was riding his bike to the Intensivo). He is OK, thank God, but as a result, we were down two Leaders (another Leader went/stayed with him at the hospital), which irritated some Follower students. After the review, we did Leader´s linear ganchos, where he leads the Follower to step forward into him as he steps back, but stops her forward step with his back cross step (effectively blocking her foot and body from going any more forward) and then he ganchos her forward leg with his forward leg as they are face to face. This can be done on both sides/legs. After that, we went on to changes of direction. This is where the Follower does a back cross and then a forward cross step, and Leader leads her to do this by overstepping her back cross so she can´t pivot to do an ocho instead. Follower's technique: It is a full arrival, change of weight for the Follower, where she really arrives to her back cross step and forward cross step, not leaving her weight in between the two steps as if for a quick rock step. She needs to stay connected to the leader the whole time, with her bra line facing him and not out and away from him. Both Pablo and I found this segment of the Intensivo very easy since we had learned it so well from Maestra Chelsea Eng and had drilled it so much in our CCSF class and at milongas. That made it easier to sneak away a little early to try to get to Luna Palacios´s classes at EAT Centro.

Luna Palacios´s tango and milonga classes at EAT Centro. Unfortunately, our sneaking out early from the Intensivo was for naught, as when we got there, we were told there was a substitute teacher for both her tango and milonga classes. I was sorely disappointed, but maybe it was just not in the cards for me to learn from this Maestra on this trip. :o(

Dinner was at Galauno. As usual, Carlos served us well.

I got the one tango CD that I really wanted (EMI´s Canaro con Maida on vocals, Volume 2) from the CD store a few doors down from Galauno, and the store clerk knew exactly why I bought that CD, which made me blush that we tango heads can be so transparent and obvious in our purchases. Still, I was happy that the store had the CD and I didn´t have to go hunting through all of BsAs to get it.

Sabado, 6 Junio 2009
Day 6 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off-axis): Changes of Directions (Alterations) and Review.
We learned some new material since we did not cover as much as Maestra wanted to the day prior. Basically, the Leader can lead changes of directions from any of the following three steps: open to open; back cross to front cross; front cross to back cross, to any of the Follower's following three steps: open to open; back cross to front cross; front cross to back cross, and on either side: left or right. So we reviewed all of these options to get our brains to think about and our bodies to perform where we can accompany every change in direction with every type of footwork. Then we reviewed the rest of the week's topics (freeing up the free leg of the Follower, linear boleos -- with and contra, colgadas -- moving the axis and doing it circularly, volcadas, ganchos).

Comme Il Faut (1239 Arenales) doesn't close until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, so we had just enough time to cab it over there to check out the new models that came in earlier in the week. We were not disappointed, as the new styles were beautiful and compelling. Later on, another classmate showed up to return/exchange some shoes she had bought for a friend. I was surprised that the store accepted exchanges. I had always assumed that all sales were final, and I couldn't imagine someone not being happy with the shoes they had taken the time to be shown and tried on.

Return trip to the airport by Dante
(95 pesos [US$25] because I had a coupon from Tango 8). Dante arrived 10 minutes early, and we made it to the airport in half an hour because there was no traffic, it being a Saturday during low season.

Overall thoughts on the Intensivo experience --

It was very good, and Intensivo A started at the basics (walking and ochos) and got progressively more difficult (to Follower´s back sacadas); Intensivo B followed much the same structure, but I felt was less fluid in terms of topic -- but that may be because I was better at some off-axis topics than others. To get the most out of the Intensivo, I would recommend taking 2-3 lessons/workshops in all subject areas BEFOREHAND (walking, ochos, boleos, ganchos, volcadas, colgadas, changes of direction/alterations, etc.), rather than going in completely brand new to these subjects or Maestra's teaching methodology/where she is coming from. Dancing/training on the floor at Villa Malcolm (stone composite similar to what they have at airports) for 5 hours a day is brutal to the body and exhausting. There is no energy at the end of the day to go to milongas at night (even the ones with wood floors). Also, if staying in an apartment far away, it does not make any sense to walk to Villa Malcolm from the subte or farther to save a few pesos. Taxis to and from the subte are the way to go to save our feet. The Intensivo was a very efficient way to study and improve the physiokinetics of my tango, much more so than festivals. It was a dream come true to be able to partner in class with Maestra´s hand-picked assistants, many of whom are teachers, performers, and champions of competitions in BsAs and internationally. But have no doubts, if you come here for the Intensivo, that is pretty much all you will be doing since you will have no energy or time to go to milongas at night or sight see during the day. You might be able to go to some shoe stores after class during the week, but your feet will be swollen and you will be tired, hungry, and perhaps grumpy (from being tired and hungry). Even on the half days, there is just a little bit of time to go shoe shopping (and a lot of tango shoe stores close early on Saturday). Do pick up a medical ice pack at any Farmacity and keep it in the freezer in the apartment, and always ice your feet at the end of the day. It really helps. And don´t forget to bring your yoga toes too. If you are coming in the Fall or tend to get really hot, bring one of those neck cool off thingies, as Villa Malcolm has fans, but no AC -- so it pretty much mimics the outside weather in terms of temperature and humidity. Weatherwise, late May-early June is perfect, in my opinion: the air is cool, crisp and relatively clean for BsAs (though some who run cold might say it is too cold). It is the low season for tango dancing, so it is easy to get a table at milongas if you still have the strength to go out at night.

Now that I´ve given you the low down on Villa Malcolm, you might want to think about going to the festival "Leaders Tango Week" August 10-16:

What would I have done differently?

I would have planned our accommodations more in advance, possibly to get a closer, cheaper place, though I loved the apartment at Jean Juares 467.
I would have signed up for First Republic Bank's ATM Rebate Checking account, which gives free access to virtually all ATM's worldwide and they rebate access fees charged by other banks. I am not affiliated with First Republic, though I used to work for the firm that recently bought them.
I would have packed less milonga clothes.
I would have brought a better/additional pair of dance sneakers.

Sunday, June 7, 2009
Studio Gracia Milonga.
I did not get there early enough, so missed Negracha and Diego Lanau's lesson. I danced terribly that night. My feet still hurt. I was pushing it. What a dork. I left after 90 minutes. I was an idiot for going dancing that night after such a grueling two weeks of lessons on stone floor and then much of the day sitting on an airplane.


I highly recommend Humberto's teaching, he is very creative and has a wonderful teaching method. He works with Luciana Valle in BA and has a similar style and knowledge. Humberto is teaching interesting workshops this Sat at the Slovenian Hall. I hope you can come!

I especially recommend these workshops to any of you who have taken Luciana Valle's Intensivo programs in BsAs (and want to brush up), or who are thinking of taking them in the future (to see what it is all about).

Humberto Décima (Argentina)

Workshops in SF on Saturday 6/13

2:00 to 3:30pm Linear and Circular Boleos, Dynamic and Frozen Boleos

3:45 to 5:15pm Atypical Ganchos. Ganchos with Enganches and Colgadas

At the door: One wkshp $25. Two wkshps $40.

The Slovenian Hall, 2101 Mariposa St. (@ Vermont) SF 94107

Humberto Decima is presently on a teaching tour in the United States. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has been dancing tango since the late 90s and for the past five years, he has been a professional teacher and dancer in Buenos Aires as well as in cities across Europe and the Americas. Humberto studied from the most influential and prestigious tango masters of various styles. He has an educational background in music and has studied in various disciplines related to body awareness and movement analysis. He considers that the most important sum of elements to dance tango is connection through embrace, musicality and improvisation.

Humberto will also teach the pre-milonga classes:

Fri 12 @ Montecristo.

Sat 13 @ The Late Shift.

Mon 15 @ La Cumparsita.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

May 28 - June 3 en Buenos Aires

Jueves, 28 Mayo 2009
Day Four - Luciana Valle Intensivo: Back sacadas.
We began with reviewing what we learned yesterday, along with Luciana´s terminology for open versus side steps. Next, we built on the regular sacadas, linking them (Leader and Follower, open step and cross step), Then we worked on back sacadas for both Leader and Follower. For Follower´s technique, she has to really pivot A LOT, keeping her legs together with no flying leg out. She needs to keep her bra line to the Leader as much as possible, and yet be responsive in how her arms are held since there is changeability in the embrace for back sacadas. Her right arm needs to be connected to her muscles in the right side of her back because that is the arm where she will feel the Leader leading the pivot; if there is no connection to her back in this arm, her arms and upper body will absorb the lead and she will not pivot around enough. After the pivot, there is a small adjustment to get even more pivot. She sends her leg out first, and then her body follows (leg and body do not go out at the same time in one blocky piece). It was an exhausting day, especially for the leaders. But not too exhausting for shoe shopping... :o)

NeoTango (Sarmiento 1938). There was a shoe I wanted the last time I was here, but this time around they didn´t have my size in that particular model either. As usual, their shoes are quite lovely, though I have a better eye now to realize that some of their more delicate shoes may not offer enough coverage at the widest part of the foot to be solidly in the shoe, particularly during pivots.

Tango Leike (Sarmiento 1947) was still open, and was just across the street, so we made our way over. Though the shoes are all very pretty, there was nothing that screamed to me to take it home.

Next, we made our way over to the obelisk area, to Alanis (Diagonal Norte 936). The have expanded their line and now offer men shoes and sneaker models. They didn´t have as many width C (wide) shoes as they had last time. I tried a few pairs on, but didn´t buy any.

Darcos (Suipacha 259). They have more shoes with the quick release buckles. It seems like they are phasing out the regular buckles and switching to all quick release, which is a good thing (kind of makes you wonder why this wasn´t done years ago and by all manufacturers).

SAM (Suipacha 251). It was late, minutes away from closing, so we didn´t venture in but just admired from the window. I think this place is owned by the same people as Darcos, as they have a lot of similar models, even though their shoes are clearly marked SAM. So they also had a lot of shoes with the quick release buckles.

Since the shoe stores were all closed, it was time for dinner...

Lo De Las Chicas (1879 Guise). We love this place. The food, nearly home made and totally made with love, is super yummy, and it´s the same gal who always serves us. We walked out with a whopping 78 peso (US$21) bill, which is kind of hard to do from a take-out place, but we bought a shocking amount of food (mondongo, albondigas, pure de calabazas, cannelloni, milanesa, bocadillo de brocoli, tarta de champinones y polla, and a slice of porteno shepard´s pie).

Pampa Linda (Mansilla 3500 xGuise)
is a fiambres, quesos, y vinos place that has a lovely rustic charm to it. Fortunately, they had the same brand of wine that they had last time which I found quite yummy (Finca Gabriel). Unfortunately, they did not have the malbec, so I had to be content with the Tempranillio Roble and Cabernet Sauvignon instead. The Tempranillio (2006) was just OK. I haven´t tried the Cabernet yet. Both bottles were 17.80 pesos (US$5) each.

Viernes, 29 Mayo 2009
Day Five - Luciana Valle Intensivo: Shared axis turns.
We began the day reviewing yesterday´s sacada material. Next, we worked on shared axis turns, where Leader steps onto the spot of the Follower´s arriving weighted standing foot, instead of her trailing foot for sacadas. His circular momentum carries her around and they seemingly share the same spot, pivoting around, for her to step forward inside or outside to resolution (or if he controls her energy, to step back in resolution). For the Leader, the footwork is similar to the sacada, only instead of the trailing leg, he is stepping toward her forward, weighted, standing leg (NOT the leg she is leaving). We did these shared axis turns on the Leader´s open step, cross step, to the left and to the right, and on the Follower´s open step or cross step.

After class, we decided to go to Comme Il Faut (Arenales 1239). The shoes are, as usual, quite beautiful, with most of them 420 pesos (US$112), two special edition models at 520 pesos (US$139) each, and some sale models, quite plain in design and mostly in size 34 and 35 for 290 pesos (US$78). The showroom is as chic as it always is in a Sex And The City way, and the shop gals are dressed in all black a la Sephora. They had more shoes with the 7 cm (2.75 inch) stiletto heel, along with their usual 8 cm (3.1 inch) and 9 cm (3.5 inch) heel offerings.

Afterwards, my shopping buddies still wanted more, so we made our way back to the 200 block of Suipacha to hit Darcos et al.

El Palacio De Las Papas Fritas (Lavalle 735). Yes, you read it right. Dinner was at the palace of the french fries. Actually, the restaurant is famous for their papas souffle -- which are sliced puffed potatoes. I had often wondered how they could get the potatoes to puff, and I figured out that they must coat them in egg white before frying (hence the name souffle -- duh!!!), and likely use an extremely hot oil temperature (hotter than normal). I speculate that the science behind the papas puff is similar to that of popovers. Funny how much enlightenment can be found at the bottom of a glass of malbec.

Sabado, 30 Mayo 2009
Day Six - Luciana Valle Intensivo: Review.
It was just a half day, and we spent it reviewing all that we did during the week: ochos, molinetes, boleos, planeos, sacadas, and shared axis turns. We really tried to focus on the concept of propelling from the standing leg and being very committed in our steps in our molinetes, not rushing, not anticipating, quality of movement, and working the pivots with the down to up energy starting with our feet and the spiral with the top to down energy starting with our torso. It was a great day, and it seemed we all improved from when we started.

The afternoon was spent doing errands -- taking the towel and sheet laundry to the lavadero down the street (8 pesos per load for wash and dry, next day pickup), and on the way to pick up shoes and groceries, we passed by a gal with a cooler and a sign at a storefront (actually, peeking inside, it looked like someone´s house) that said "tamales peruano" and "chicacharones de calamar" located at 438 Jean Juares. Since these are my two favorite foods, I had to pick some up. The chicharrones de calamar (15 pesos) (roughly translated to deep fried calamari) was actually pulpo (octopus). That was OK though, since octopus has a naturally more salty flavor. It came out freshly cooked, piping hot, and was divine even several hours later when I finally got to eating it. The tamales were also delicious, having ample flavoring throughout the masa. This particular tamale was chicken flavor, with chicken, egg, and olive. She also had cebiche (ceviche) on the menu, but since it was cold and rainy, she told us that it would be better to eat on a hot day. Also, I had a been warned by a previous travel companion to stay away from the tuna here, which I generally expand to fish (but not calamari or octopus...which are my weakness).

I picked up my shopping buddy´s shoes from Lolo Gerard, and they did a beautiful job on the arch supports. The materials they used totally matched the rest of the shoe. If they had this model in my size, I would have bought it. But alas, it was just not in the cards for me to buy any shoes here this trip. They were out of my size in all the models I wanted, and I just couldn´t buy the next size up.

The day was rounded out with more grocery shopping at the Hiper COTO.

I wanted to go to Sunderland, but it was cold and rainy and I was just too tired.

Domingo, 31 Mayo 2009
I wasn´t feeling well, so spent the day inside. Pablo made another visit to 438 Jean Juares because the cebiche piqued his curiosity and since he wasn´t able to partake in any of the chicharrones de calamar since I ate it all. The cebiche was a bit on the rubbery side, likely due to the high acidity (which I suppose is a good thing given the biology of local fishing waters).

Lunes, 1 Junio 2009
Day 1 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off axis).
We began with warm up dances for the first half hour. Then we went on to the subject of the day, "Dynamics of the Free Leg". The goal was to free the free leg of the Follower, and the key is in the standing leg, pushing on it, then releasing it. We began with an exercise where Leader played with and controlled the free leg of the Follower by moving his axis (body\core, not arms), forward and back without moving his legs. The Follower moved her leg (NOT her axis or body) back and forward in response to the Leader´s axis moving forward and back. The axis is always on the front part of the feet, and we were playing with the motion before the motion, with Follower anchoring and releasing. We did this same exercise to the side, and then forward. Next, we played with intention, moving the foot, and then actually stepping. Followers were to let their legs get heavier and move down into the ground, and also react with the leg from the hip (not just below the knee). Next, we played with changing the dynamics of the Leader´s forward step, where he adds more energy, doing a normal step in size, but with lots of energy, stopping suddenly, to lead Follower´s leg to go straight back and really freeing her leg. Both Leader and Follower have to really anchor. Follower does not control and Leader does not lead the return. We were just to focus on the Leader sending the Follower´s leg out straight back. Next, we did the same forward intention in the Leader´s walk, only doing it into the Follower front cross of left foot over right foot. She was not to shape the return, but to have it have a natural, organic movement. Next, we did three different types of straight to the side free leg movements: (1) straight linear forward to the side (dancers are at 90 degrees though Follower maintains bra line to Leader), (2) Straight linear forward to the side in front of the Leader, then curving as she pivots, as if for an extremely rounded exaggerated ocho, and (3) straight linear forward to the side, with much more energy, and change the direction of her hips while her leg is at the highest point in the air (similar to doing an air rulo, only not shaped). This was to help us play with regular ochos and dynamic ochos. We did these as with boleos and contra boleos, with normal feet and crossed feet for the Leader.

Martes, 2 Junio 2009
Day 2 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off axis). Topic: Colgadas.
We began with an hour review of what we learned yesterday in terms of freeing up the free leg and doing linear boleos to the front and back facing the Leader and to the side where dancers are at 90 degrees (though Follower maintains her bra line to Leader). Off-axis moves always refer to the Follower´s axis, not the Leader (who is always on axis, or perhaps slightly backwardly intended, but still on axis). It is important in off-axis moves that the Follower maintain her connection of her left hand on the Leader´s right arm, with thumb pushing forward against him, or pulling toward her with the rest of her fingers, to respond adequately and correctly when Leader extends or compresses the embrace, expanding or contracting the space between the dancers. We began with an exercise where the Follower moves her center back (thus it is now off axis) so that it is off her feet. When Leader sends her out to do this, it is important that she take it with the lower half of her body (hips\legs) and that she not absorb it in the chest or torso and lean back with her head back. She should not be on her heels, but on the balls of her feet, and her legs should be straight (not bent at the knee). Shoulders should be on top of the hips (not butt). Follower should try to think about being out and UP, and the Leader must really anchor his toes, otherwise she will pull him forward. Next, we rotated this from side to side, one foot to the other. We got into a very simple colgada, which was basically an exaggerated, more dynamic parada to a Follower front cross step, while dancers face each other. We were to use our knees and really propel to exit the colgada. We tried this on either side. Follower´s technique\posture are key: Stay in front of each other. The movement is not huge, but dynamic. Distance the hips from the Leader, not the shoulders\torso\head. Colgadas are a motion of the centers, not of the arms. The Follower´s hips are back a little further than her shoulders, but not much. Legs\knees are straight, not bent. Keep torso posture the same throughout, even on the rotation, and do not lean back in the upper body\head. Next, we did another colgada facing each other, one that is very planeo-like in that the Follower´s axis and left leg or right leg are sent straight back out, and then Leader walks around her while her axis is still out. Next, still facing each other, we did a colgada that was reverse pasada like in that the Follower does a back ocho with her right leg, then Leader stops her right leg with his right leg, and Follower does a reverse pasada of her left leg either out as if for a planeo, then gets a rotation clockwise, or her hips out and then back in with rotation clockwise to resolution. Whether her leg goes out or her hips go out and then comes back in are a function of how the Leader leads it (with more downward intention for the leg going out). The Follower must not rush the legs to let Leader decide which one he wants to do, the leg extension\planeo colgada or just the regular hips out, then back in to axis. Next, we did side colgadas, starting with an exercise facing each other, and the Leader anchoring and being like a wall while Follower sent her left leg and left hip out to the side away from him, and then we did this to the right side as well. We turned this into the side colgada, which we did from the Follower left leg barrida of Leader´s right leg, to colgada on her left leg to pasada with her right leg out to clockwise resolution.

Mataderos Style Tango and Milonga Lesson at EAT Centro with Veronica Alegre y Jose Luis Ferrar. I tried to go to Luna Palacios´s milonga lesson, but it was substituted for this lesson instead. This style of tango is very unique to the region of BsAs it came from. We began with walking, trying to get the intense intention right, with a collecting at the knees and ankles when the legs met, and being very grounded and into the floor, like a cat stalking. Next, we did an exercise where the Follower walks back normally and the Leader weaves in and out from one side to the other. The Leader´s and Follower´s torsos always face each other, so when he weaves in and out there needs to be torsion in his chest. The sequence taught was a relatively simple one: 8CB to five (cross), two Follower forward ochos, to tango close. The next sequence taught was also quite simple where the Leader walks forward around the Follower clockwise while she does a series of back crosses with each leg (starting with left), the steps equal in size. For milonga, we began with walking the milonga rhythm, adding the QQS. The sequence was a linear one based on the molinete of back, side, forward, side, and they added the rhythmic variation of QQ to the B-S, and really stopping and pausing on the F step. (This particular step began with the (8CB to 2, then B-S-F-S-etc.) Next, we did traspie to the Follower´s right side and Leader´s left side. Pablo asked for an adorno para hombres, and maestro showed him the edge of heel forward step, while he led the Follower to do a series of not ochos, but more like cheating ochitos (linear pivot) steps. Though the lesson was good, I was sorely disappointed that it was not Luna Palacios´s class. However, I picked up a new June schedule, and was thrilled to see that she has a couple of Friday night classes on the schedule, which I am determined to go to. Hopefully this week at the Intensivo won´t be as taxing as last week since we won´t have as much propulsion along the dance floor since we are doing off axis moves (colgadas, volcadas, ganchos).

Miercoles, 3 Junio 2009
Day 3 - Luciana Valle Intensivo B (off axis). Topic: Volcadas.
We began the day with the first hour reviewing all of the Colgadas we learned yesterday, really trying to take the motion of the Leader´s top with the Follower´s bottom (hips, not shoulders). The new topic of the day was Volcadas, the opposite of colgadas in terms of off axis. We began with an exercise of the Leader just counterbalancing the Follower, moving opposite the Follower, not carrying her, but creating a vacuum and emptying the space in front of her, obligating her to step. The Leader takes an open step to his left side (Follower´s right side), then he steps around her 90 degrees (to 3 o´clock) in an open step. The Follower follows from the top of her body to the bottom, in a spiral. We also did this with the Leader stepping to the other side (9 o´clock). The Leader moving around follower in 90 degrees creates the pendulum motion. The Follower really tries to get torsion from the top down spiral. The Leader needs to have power in his step, pushing off, so that Follower feels the curve on the body and does not spiral and not move in a block. Next exercise: The Leader takes the 90 degree step, but does so a little farther away, so that Follower feels the invitation to step (and she steps). Next exercise: Adding to the prior exercise, the Leader moves toward Follower when the Follower wants to step. This is to help us understand the concept of counter motion and is done in the context of the open embrace. We did not add any off axis during this exercise. For Follower´s technique, she needs to have good spiral in her upper body with her hips coming around as a consequence and her feeling the need to take a step, and then the Leader waling toward you. We did this on the left side and right side. This exercise was to help the Leader understand the feeling of inviting her, then playing with the counter motion. From here, we added the close embrace, and did it for real, taking Follower off axis. Maestra noted that every Follower open step (from boleo, sacada, molinete, colgada, etc.) is an opportunity to do a volcada. The Leader just needs to step around her in 90 degrees. Maestra noted that Follower´s feet should always be in an upside down V shape at the end of the volcada (not parallel or pigeon toed). We spent most of the last half our of class dancing with each other, with the Leaders exploring the idea of the volcada coming from any Follower open step, and the Follower just trying to be ready and alert and able to do the volcada without anticipating it.

Chair and Foot Massage from Maossage ( at the Coto Abasto (Aguero 616). 50-minute chair and foot massage for 65 pesos (US$18). The chair massage was extremely firm (to the point of pain at times...or maybe it was because my back, neck, and shoulders were so filled with kinks). It was difficult to get relaxed among the bustle and noise of the hipermercado, though there was ´70´s top 40 vocal elevator music playing in the background to augment the whoosh of the shopping carts, squeal of children, and conversations of adults passing by. The foot massage was also extremely firm and began and ended with a foot bath. It was amazing how the masseur knew the exact points to work in the feet (often to the point of pain...or maybe that is because I am not in tip top health). Afterwards though, my feet felt really good. They say that you need to do it regularly to get the maximum health benefits of Asian Foot Massage. I think going forward a body massage first thing off the plane and additional foot massages throughout the trip would be great (of course that is assuming I don´t wake up tomorrow with bruises on my body).