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 D├ęcima (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.

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