Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 16-22

Friday, July 17, 2009
Monte Cristo Milonga with lesson beforehand by Hsueh-tze Lee.
The topic of the night was Vals, and began with a discussion of the rhythm of vals being 3 beats per measure versus tango (4/4 time) and milonga (2/4 time). Because of the 3 beats per measure, they are not evenly split. The first beat is accented, and you can dance to either the second or third beat. We played a game stepping on the four rhythms: 1-1; 1-2-1; 1-3-1; 1-2-3-1. We tried to accent these beats doing corridas (little runs) on the syncopated beat, and then also by accenting a normally unaccented beat. In vals, this means the 1-3-1 beats because we usually focus on the 1-2-1. We worked on this 1-3-1 musicality by walking in couples, arm and arm in a circle, first with the outside Leader leading the 1-3-1 corrida, and then the inside Follower leading the 1-3-1 corrida. Energywise, we were to get ready, have a delayed pulling back, and then a surge forward. Next, we did the same 1-3-1 exercise going to the cross. First we went to the cross on the 1-1-1 beat, and then on the 1-3-1 beat. The Leader leads on the 1-3-1 by holding back the cross, and then coming out quickly. Next, we tried this same 1-3-1 on the rock step turn, focusing on coming out smoothly (not jumping out). We discussed the concept of suspension: Carrying through, but holding back the step (it is NOT a stop/start). It was an excellent workshop, and I found Maestra’s teaching to be superior in that it was logical, clearly delivered, and with a very nice tone and sensitivity to the skill level of the class. The milonga was OK, marred only by those folks who either stubbornly refuse to adhere to or who are completely clueless about milonga codigos.

Sunday, July 19, 2009. Workshops at Alberto's in Mountain View with Patricia Hilliges & Matteo Panero of Florence, Italy. I picked up Maestros at their hotel. Maestros chatted with Pablo while I maneuvered our way from downtown San Francisco to Alberto's. Patricia and Matteo met at a milonga in Torino, Italy, while they each had different partners, more than a dozen years ago. This was before they had cortinas and tandas at the milonga, so they ended up dancing 10 songs in a row the night they met. Patricia’s aunt lived in Torino, and was also a tango dancer, and also knew Matteo. Though Patricia lived hundreds of kilometers away, they would see each other very regularly at the Torino milonga. Fast forward a couple of years later, and they have gotten together, and began to teach together. Currently, in addition to teaching locally in Florence and traveling the world (they were on their way to Seattle Tango Magic), they organize the Firenze Tango Festival in Florence, now in its seventh year.

The workshops:
(1) Sacada Combinations.
In thinking about sacadas, it was noted that it came from the Spanish verb “sacar” – to take away. Don’t be confused with the sacada – it is a movement INTO the step of the Follower, but NOT GOING OVER the step of the Follower. It is soft, and delicate. Doing the most simple sacada, we began with really trying to focus on finding the position with the Leader’s right foot in between the Follower’s forward left foot and back right foot at 4 of the 8CB. Here, the Follower should be on two tracks, with the Leader trying to touch the Follower’s left foot. Then we tried this same thing with the Leader trying to touch the Follower’s right foot on 3 of the 8CB. Here, the Leader has a smaller step, and he goes with his hips straight. To this, we added the back ocho with Follower embellishment of her left foot wrapping around the right foot on the floor, and unwrapping around on the pivot. Leaders should really listen to the music and work the pauses; Followers should use their hips on the pivot, they can be more dynamic and are away from the Leader at the point of embellishment; Leaders should give Followers time to embellish. Next, we did the Leader’s right leg sacada of Follower’s left leg while dancers are 90 degrees to each other into a Follower’s left foot cross to the right side of her right foot. Next, we did exercises to help with feeling. The Leader really helps with his right arm, bringing it a little more forward. The Leader finds the Follower’s axis with his right arm, then leads her to do a calesita when they are 90 degrees to each other. The goal was to keep the Follower in balance while the Leader walks backward counterclockwise (it’s a normal back step on the inside, but the outside foot does a cross step so that the circumference of the circle around the Follower is maintained. We did Follower calesita rulo embellishments, and it was emphasized that these should be done slowly and elegantly to the music (pick an instrument), not just random, fast or perpetual rulos. Next, we did the Follower’s forward sacada of her left foot in between the Leader’s legs as he steps forward with his right leg and leads her to step in between his legs, touching his leaving back left leg. The Leader leads her direction of step with his chest. For the Follower, it is a normal forward step. The Leader must keep the relation to the Follower in his chest and not turn away. Don’t hurry leading the Follower sacada. The key takeaways were: (1) be gentle in the sacada displacements. (2) Know where the Follower’s axis is. (3) When leading the Follower’s forward sacada, the Leader tells with his chest where the Follower should step (forward into him). (4) Keep it slow.

(2) Patricia & Matteo teach some of their favorite steps. They noted that their favorite steps were milonga steps, and after a quick survey the class agreed to focus on milonga. The first of their favorites was the crab walk -- a grapevineish pattern starting with the Leader stepping side left (Follower side right). Next we did the same crab pattern with traspie rhythm. Follower’s embellishment was added: beat back of left foot across the right side of her right foot. Next of their favorite step is the linked side steps (left for Leader, right for Follower). During this step it is important to keep the relation in the chests. There is a slight lift in the lead, and the sensation is to stay a little up, and then down and go. Leader should contain the Follower. Do not push her sideways. Next, we did a series of in-place traspies of Follower’s left foot (right foot standing, weighted) and Leader’s right foot (left foot standing, weighted). Here it is OK to move the hips a little, but not too much (it’s not salsa). Don’t bend your knees, but don’t keep them locked either. Use your hips to get the movement. Leaders should have no flexion in the knees; otherwise there’s not enough time to do this; it’s quick so you can rebound. Milonga is done in close embrace, as you need to feel the lead in the chest, especially in traspie, which is fast and delicate. We concluded with a funny step to finish tango and milonga in a dramatic (dare I say campy?) way, with or without a jump. From the Americana of Follower’s left foot forward and Leader’s right foot forward, the Follower steps side right while the Leader steps side left, stepping to the outside of her right foot. Follower steps (or jumps) back cross with her left foot, and Leader steps (or jumps) back cross with his right foot. The knees are together, and for pretty feet keep the big toe on the ground.

The milonga was OK. Maestros' performances were excellent. Patricia has exquisitely stunning feet with the Holy Grail trifecta of precision, fluidity, and expressiveness.

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