Thursday, July 2, 2009

June 18 - July 1

Monday, June 22, 2009
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson beforehand by Negracha y Diego Lanau @ Slovenian Hall.
Maestros taught a simple pattern of Follower back ochos while the Leader walks forward somewhat narrowly (not John Wayne style), to a clockwise molinete of Follower's back right, side left, forward right, finishing the figure opposite the line of dance. To get back into the line of dance, another clockwise molinete is added. Leader does small left foot sacada on the Follower's right leg, directly into a Follower back ocho. The Leader should not lead a back ocho that is too wide, do it narrowly so that when the Leader leads the Follower into a wide back ocho, she knows a molinete is coming. The Leader's ocho should be with the left leg because he can go directly into a forward walk with the back ocho for Follower easily. We practiced this simple figure for the rest of the night, in close embrace, and to different rhythmic orchestras. The Leader's sacada is with his right leg such that it touches the Follower's left leg to lead her to do an outside boleo to the right side of her right leg. Follower should be relaxed and light. Both dancers should keep the embrace, and enjoy the music, enjoy the dance. The milonga, as usual, was fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Verdi Club Milonga with Tango Con*Fusion Boutique. I missed the lesson by Christy and Adolfo, but got there in time to get in a little bit of shopping beforehand at the boutique. I was not disappointed. I snagged a couple of really great deals, so was pleased as punch. The milonga was fun. The floor is great, and so is the ventilation and food. This was my first time back since the grand re-opening April 30, and I was happy to see the crowd quite respectful, and the floorcraft pretty good. Next week Verdi celebrates its 13th year.

Friday, June 26, 2009
Homer and Cristina Ladas Advanced Seminario & Practilonga @ The Allegro Ballroom, Emeryville, CA:
A Colgada Odyssey Exploring Form vs. Function.
See the video at

This is a reprint of the class Handout:

Overview: This tango seminar will present material of an advanced nature. It is assumed that you have a strong foundation of tango technique as well as intermediate social dance knowledge of Colgada applications. A partner is required. We will not rotate. Material, as outlined below, will be presented at an accelerated pace. You will have 1 or 2 songs to work on the material with your partner. There will be some time for group discussion & questions before moving on. Long delays and tangents will be avoided. Following the seminar, there will be a supervised practica where we will try to give everyone individual attention.

Special Note: If you would like or need detailed foundation work on the subject of Colgadas, please join us for Saturday’s Intermediate Intensivo (4-7 p.m.) at the Allegro. The place will be slow and thorough.

1 Two-Foot Colgada Warm-Up
a. With Mountain Climber
2 Circular Step-Over Colgadas
a. Side-Step Trap & Send
b. From Follower’s Back Step
i. Exit with Step-Thru, Spin, or Follower’s Boleo/Spin
c. With Leader’s Back Sacada
i. Demonstrate 34th Sacada, Enrosque, Colgada
3 Multiple Colgadas:
a. From Leader’s Forward Sacada & Back Sacada
b. Butterfly (shoe goes, he goes)
4 Mostly Functional Uses
a. Collapsible Volcadas
b. In-Line Boleos
c. Strictly Circular Boleo/Sacadas
d. Single Axis Spins
i. ex. Coriolis Spin
5 Change-of-Embrace Colgadas
a. Arm-Lock Step-Over
b. Promenade with Sweetheart Embrace & Spin Exit
c. Elbow Colgada

Additional 2009 Seminars:
September 25: The Embrace + Tangonero
December 25: Milonga + Trio Garufa


(These notes below are mostly from Friday, but also heavily augmented with technical comments from Saturday’s Intermediate Intensivo)

Two-Foot Colgada Warm-Up (Trainer)
This is where the dancers are face to face, with the Follower’s feet shoulder-width or a little wider apart, firmly planted on the floor, with Leader’s feet inside of them. The dancers go from opposite side to opposite side of each other, out and away in Colgada movement. Each dancer goes to their own corner, trying to round off the corners, and not have any change in body height as they do this (never really coming up). While they are at one corner, one leg is very straight and the other one is very bent. Chests and hips face each other. This exercise helps us get used to the colgada feeling of counterbalancing each other, sending the hips out, circularity, and understanding where the boundaries are.

Mountain Climber

Maestros demonstrated and we attempted to do the Mountain Climber, where we continue the use of the colgada energy, while the Leader walks around the Follower in a clockwise direction, alternating stepping on the inside of her foot and on the outside her foot until he does one full rotation around her.

Batman & Robin Experience

To the Two-Foot Colgada Trainer, we added the Batman & Robin Experience, whereby when the Follower reaches the maximum end of the arc, the Leader ejects Follower so that she steps around the Leader. The Follower steps around the Leader’s left leg with her left foot, and she steps around the Leader’s right leg with her right foot.

Follower’s Technique:

Be active in your embrace. It is important to use both the right hand and the left hand in the embrace when doing colgadas.

Do not come up when doing the step over. This is not climbing. The hope is to prolong or suspend the colgada feeling as long as possible. The Colgada ends when the Follower’s foot lands on the floor.

When doing a forward cross step over, Follower should make long reaching steps around the Leader, really going for it to get around the Leader.

For the Leaders, the weight shift goes to the right and they turn to the left.

Next, we continued on to Circular Step-Over Colgadas.

Side-Step Trap & Send

Here, we began with the Leader’s rock step, then a 90 degree pivot, then the Leader traps the Follower’s right foot by stepping outside of it with his left foot, puts her weight on it to send out the Follower’s hips, then she steps over counterclockwise with her left foot.

For the Follower, before this Colgada, there is a back step energy, then a front cross step in front of and around the Leader.

Next, we did Circular Step-Over Colgadas From Follower’s Back Step, where the Leader stops and traps the Follower’s back step of the molinete (using the same feet as the Follower). He traps her right foot on the back step of the clockwise molinete with his right foot, and she steps back through with her left foot. He traps her left foot on the back step of the counterclockwise molinete with his left foot, and she steps back through with her right foot.

Leader’s Technique:

Pay attention to how your articulate the posture. Do not collapse in your torso or curl in at the shoulders. Keep your sternum up, your chest strong, and your shoulders back. The Leader is the foundation of the Colgada, and his strong core and engaged left arm and strong left hand make up the wall from which the Follower hangs.

Do not jam the Follower’s foot.

Leader’s Technique: Left Arm. ***VERY IMPORTANT***

Keep your left hand very strong and solidly connected to your back muscles. Keep your left arm close to you, not out and forward. Do not extend out your left arm, as the closer it is, the more support you provide for the Follower when she is in colgada. If you extend the left arm/hand out, it blocks her and will slow her down or prevent her in completing the turn to get around you as she steps over. The Leader’s left arm/shoulder posture is the same as he would employ while leading the molinete. Let the left side open up as soon as you can, as much as you can. Support the Follower’s right hand embrace as much as possible, and use your whole body. Do not collapse the left arm from the back, and make the left arm reflect what your left shoulder blade is doing. Connect/engage the left arm to the left back muscles.

Follower’s Technique: Posture ***VERY IMPORTANT***

There is horizontal energy in the Follower’s posture of out and up. Do not plank back like a stiff board, and do not do a back dive, where shoulders are out farther beyond the hips in a curved out fashion. The Follower gives the weight of her back/core to the Leader in the Colgada, and she should be engaged and connected there, not just in your arms.

For colgadas, it is a move from close embrace, to open embrace during the colgada, back to close embrace.

To these Circular Step-Over Colgadas From Follower’s Back Step, we attempted to do various types of Endings:

Exit with Step-Thru
Follower’s Boleo/Spin

Here, maestros demonstrated each of the exits, and we all had 1-2 songs to attempt to replicate each ending.

Next, we did Circular Step-Over Colgadas From Leader’s Back Sacada, where the Leader does a back ocho / back sacada / back cross step on the Follower’s side step or back step of the molinete, to create a moment of Colgada for the Leader to get through. The Leader has to send the Follower out first in the Leader’s back sacada step, and he should keep his weight back, but have his extended leg a little weighted. This posture/weight distribution will automatically counterweight the Follower and is ideal for executing a colgada. It is easier to go to the left side for the back sacada.

Next, we were running a little short on time, so we accelerated the already-fast pace.

The next topic was Multiple Colgadas, and maestros demonstrated that you can do two or more sacadas in a row, such as From Leader’s Forward Sacada & Back Sacada or the Butterfly (she goes, he goes). In both of these, the first sacada is a small one, and the second one is a bigger one. In the Butterfly, there are two Colgadas for the Follower, the first one is where she hangs out with her right hip/leg, then comes back in with the second colgada one where the Leader and Follower are both hanging out with opposite energy to the left side as they face each other.

We concluded with a demonstration by maestros of the functional uses of colgadas, and also the different change of embrace colgadas, to illustrate all the difference ways and places where colgadas could occur, or how they could be concluded/linked.


The food, catered by Cristina, was glorious as usual. There were dressed garbanzo beans and cucumbers; an arranged chopped salad of lettuces, mushrooms, green beans, tomatoes, and pesto; an eggplant and sundried tomato dip with bread; cherries & watermelon; chili corn cake with mango salsa; and virgin mint juleps. The dessert was tiramisu, which I hear was sublime (though I didn’t stay around long enough to try it).

The live music was quite a treat, with Ryan Avery on Violin and Anna Maria Mendieta on Harp beginning their first set with Pablo Ziegler’s arrangement of Piazzolla’s Introduccion al Angel.

The Practilonga was quite fun overall. The Allegro is doing a very nice job building out the Garaje space, and it is interesting to see it evolve over time.

I got a chance to chat up the owner of the BsAs rental, He's local, so it would be easy to do the transaction here in US dollars, and it looks like it is in a convenient location. I will definitely keep it in mind for a future trip (though I love being able to do my own laundry at 467 Jean Juares -- I know, weird...go figure... there are just some things that I like to do personally which takes the edge off of travel).


Saturday, June 27, 2009
Homer and Cristina Ladas Intermediate Intensivo @ The Allegro Ballroom, Emeryville, CA:
A Colgada Odyssey Exploring Form vs. Function.

To cut down on repetition, the following notes below are just what was totally new and not covered the day prior. The colgadas we worked on yesterday and, most importantly, the additional relevant technical comments associated with those colgadas have been included in the Friday notes above (even though they might have came out Saturday at the Intermediate Intensivo).

We covered similar material as the day prior, but had a chance to delve more deeply into technique, and had more time to drill. In addition, we did more exercises to get our heads and bodies into understanding and feeling the colgada energy.

New Exercises we did:

(1) Where the dancers are face to face, and the Leader holds the Follower’s wrists, and then both hang away from each other, really focusing on the hips being under the chest, which gives the sensation that the butt is sticking out. Follower needed to be as straight as possible in the core with horizontal energy up and out, but not planking out like a straight stiff board at an angle, or arching back in the shoulder blades like a back dive.

(2) Follower stands with legs/feet a little narrower than shoulder-width apart. Leader walks forward and bumps Follower’s core off axis. Here, the Leader did not have to be sensitive or careful. It was supposed to have a surprise element to it, as in tango, “things happen.” The Follower should be ready for it with her body, so this was to get us used to being caught off guard. Also, this exercise was to help us to understand how to put energy into our movement.

New Colgadas we worked on:

(1) Very simplified colgada where the leader steps of the left side, puts his right foot like a wedge between the Follower’s two feet, then send her straight out behind, pushing her out and counterbalancing himself.

(2) Colgada from Promenade walk, where both dancers walk forward as they are side to side, then the Leader sends Follower out to the right side, and around back in front of him. The Leader’s right foot makes a “sneak attack” by detaching from his right hip socket, where he puts weight on his right foot, which sends the Follower out to the right side on her right foot. The Leader then turns to the left so that the Follower steps around back in front of him

Technical Notes:

Maestros also emphasized the use of breathing through the whole process, where and when to do it to give life, flow, and dynamics, to the colgada.

Often colgadas break down because the Follower doesn’t trust or doesn’t feel secure. Thus, the Leader should not hesitate, but must be committed to the movement.

We tried to do the same colgadas with extreme energy, really going for it, to help us get over our fears and build trust.

We concluded by coming together in a study circle to share what we learned:
(1) Be engaged physically, but relaxed mentally.
(2) Trust
(3) Consistency
(4) Knowing how to feel the communication
(5) The importance of the Leader’s left arm connection with his back to give her something to hang from.
(6) Follower hips go back first
(7) Follower’s posture: Do not plank, do not back dive, and do not be shy about sending the hips back/out.
(8) You can do small colgadas
(9) Coordinate posture with timing
(10) Leader: do not let out the left arm
(11) Both Leader and Follower share the responsibility for the balance
(12) When Leader sends the Follower out, he needs to keep his arms and chest back and sternum up. In life, when we learn to send things out, we usually accompany them when we push them back away from us. In colgadas that is not the case. The Leader must stay back in his chest and arms, and not cave in in his upper body.
(13) Follower should enjoy the colgada ride.
(14) Follower should get her leg up quickly but never reach out too soon – the reach out is slower, and the colgada ends when her foot lands on the floor.

Chacarera Blast @ The Late Shift, with Chacarera lesson by Marcelo Solis assisted by Randy Fisher.
As usual, Marcelo did an excellent job teaching Chacarera. It was an extremely large crowd, and so the lines were quite tight. This was definitely one of the most well attended pre-Late Shift milonga lessons I had ever experienced. And what a treat to also have Randy Fisher there. Randy taught the finer technical points of the Leader's Zapateo (done while the Followers do their diamond movement). Randy also added to the experience by calling out the different names of the movements (a la salsa rueda) so that we got a split second advance notice of what we were supposed to do next. Marcelo reiterated that in Chacarera, all movements begin with the left foot first. Marcelo also reiterated that there is no contrabody motion in chacarera, and that the Dancers always face the inside of the circle / each other. The milonga was good. It was not hugely crowded, likely because of the heat. The gender balance was reasonably good, so most dancers could dance as much as they wanted to with a good variety of partners, and floorcraft was pretty good as well.

Monday, June 29, 2009
The Orange Practica at The Beat with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas:
The Boleo-Sacada Connection (see the video at

The theme of the night focused on the transition, the zone between the boleo and sacada. Our focus was on the Follower’s boleo and the Follower’s sacada, and joining the two together like brother and sister, as the energy flows from one to the other, from boleo to sacada.

We focused on the topic by breaking it down, and really working on boleo technique and sacada technique.

The Follower’s forward boleo is led from the ocho, with the Leader doing a quick weight change (little sashay) to lead the Follower forward boleo. This was done in open embrace, with the Leader in teapot hold with his right forearm and hand behind his back. This was so he could really lead from his spine and chest, and not rely on his right hand/arm to steer the Follower, and for the Follower to maintain good spiral energy and not rely on the Leader to turn her body to help her pivot.

Follower’s Technique for Open Embrace Ocho:

Follower should keep her chest facing the Leader while her hips turn 90 degrees away. Follower should have an active left hand, and not let go of the Leader’s right bicep, and she should remain on axis with no lean forward. The embrace is the conduit where the Leader communicates the ocho and boleo. Follower should keep her hips close to the Leader.

Leader Technique for Open Embrace Ocho / Boleo:

The Leader should make really good size side steps, which give the Follower enough time to complete her pivot. If his step is short, he will not give her enough time to pivot, and she may not pivot enough to have enough space to do a forward boleo.

Follower’s Technique for Boleos:

For the boleo, what we are hoping for is a satisfying “thwack” against the outside side of the butt, as it is a whipping action, and the “thwack” occurs at the end of the whip. We can accomplish this by having good articulation in freeing the femur, so that the leg wraps around and the foot kind of spirals up the leg. The top of the thighs touch each other, are very squished close together, and in the boleo the leg crosses over the other leg very tightly. Don’t let the knee bend when there’s space between the thighs. The knee does not go up until there’s no space between the thighs. Keep the spiral in the upper body, with the shoulders and chest facing the Leader, even though the hips face away. Pivot a lot, be very active in your hips. Don’t rely on the Leader to help you pivot.

Leader’s Technique for Boleos:

Timing is key. At the middle of the Follower’s ocho is where the Leader’s weight change should occur. When the Follower’s hips are directly facing the Leader, that is the Point of No Return. If the Leader jumps the gun and changes weight too soon (before the Point of No Return), he will end up leading a rebote. If his timing is right (much later than the Point of No Return, when the Follower’s hips are well past facing the Leader), he will lead a boleo.

The Boleo-Sacada Connection

For the figure, the Follower’s boleoing foot does a side step sacada of the Leader’s trailing foot as he steps away from the Follower. It is important to employ good walking technique, and good reaching technique.

Follower right leg forward boleo directly into right leg side step sacada of Leader’s trailing left back foot as he steps forward (away and across from the Follower) with his right leg clockwise.

Follower left leg forward boleo directly into left leg side step sacada of Leader’s trailing right back foot as he steps forward (away and across from the Follower) with his left leg counterclockwise.

This Follower side step sacada is a side step facing away from each other, and then they pivot to face each other at the end, resolving into a molinete.

Technical comments on the figure:

The Leader’s right hand doesn’t hold on to the Follower’s back, but the Follower still holds on to the Leader’s right bicep with her left hand.

The Follower should really think “side step”, and really track where the Leader is the new center of the circle and where his axis is. Follower should not let the Leader pull her into the side step. The Follower should really stretch in the side step, trying to touch the Leader’s thigh.

We concluded with a study circle review of the things we learned:
(1) Timing is key.
(2) Keep your chest up.
(3) There can be a slight hanging away from each other.
(4) Follower should really stretch in the side step, trying to touch the Leader’s thigh.
(5) Hips are ocho factories.
(6) The Boleo-Sacada combination is like brother and sister.
(7) Have good, strong ochos.
(8) There is elasticity in the embrace.
(9) The Point of No Return is when the Follower’s hips directly face the Leader’s.

Maestros ended the class with a demo to Alma by Adolfo Carabelli that had many different types of boleos (linear, back, forward) and different types of sacadas (forward, side), and from different body positions (promenade).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Tango House @ Cellspace.
A packed house was at the premiere of Tango House, created by Debbie Goodwin, kicking off the International QueerTango Festival San Francisco. Done to the music of Trio Garufa, performances were by Tango Con*Fusion, Otro Tango, and the festival's expert teaching staff. It was a really awesome show! My favorite number was "Oblivion" by Christy & Chelsea, showing incredible precision, flow, and elegance in their dance. The one I could most relate to was "Nunca Tuvo Novio" by Lisette & Arona, and the one that made me smile was "Silueta Portena", an improvisational dance by Homer & Sean. I was most surprised in "Pacienca" by the appearnce of Brigitta Winkler, who later did the final number "Silk" with Fabienne Bongard. It was great fun seeing so many local tango teachers support the International Queer Tango Festival, either by teaching or performing in roles they are usually not known for (lead/follow). I did not stay very long for the milonga, but it looked like people had a good time, and floorcraft was generally respectful. The food was simple and ample (cookies, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cheese & crackers & strawberries, pretzels, chips, fruit salad).


Brigitta Winkler is in SF for the Queer Tango Festival and July 6-11, 2009. She is brilliant. A fantastic teacher.
Thursday, July 2, 2009 - La Pista lesson before milonga
You can attend the Queer Tango Festival on an a la carte basis -- and I have my eye on the Brigitta Winkler classes.
Monday, July 6 - Boleos In Exchange (int/adv) @ The Beat
Wednesday, July 8 - La Pista (I can't go to this since it's Chick Night)
Friday, July 10 - Four strategies to make your dance memorable (int/adv) @ ODC (I might not go to this since the ventilation @ ODC does not agree with me)
Saturday, July 11 Afternoon - La Pista; Possible and impossible rock steps (all levels) @ The Late Shift

No comments: