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).


KnowTango said...

Hey Anne,

Thank you so much for posting your detailed feedback and thoughts on all aspects of your shopping, learning, and dancing. It's so helpful to have a resource like yours!

You should know that I've subscribed to your blog and eagerly await your next few reviews.

Cheers, and thanks for taking the time to share!

Ana de San Francisco said...

Thanks for your kind words. I hope you will thank me with a tanda at the next milonga if you ever make your way to the San Francisco Bay Area. I'll be the one with the notebook. :o)