Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 6-12

Thursday, August 6, 2009
Verdi Club milonga with lesson beforehand by Jon and Judy.
The class had too many Followers, so I sat it out. Mila, the hostess for the evening, was very gracious and wanted to know if I wanted to be in on the lesson. I told her no, since I didn’t pay for it. So I just watched and took notes. The lesson focused on weight changes, and the Leader leading them. It was a good lesson. Maestra said that Followers need to keep their thighs together when doing the amague and cruzada. Maestro said that the only time Followers make mistakes is when they do a weight change that is not led. Other than that, it’s always the Leader’s fault if things go wrong because that is where he puts her/changes her weight. Maestros also emphasized a milonga codigo: courtesy. That when a man asks a woman to dance, and she is sitting with another man, he asks the man’s permission to ask the woman to dance. Also, when dancing in the line of dance, it is the Leaders’ job to acknowledge other leaders with eye contact, so that everyone is more aware of each other and can navigate properly, since on the dance floor, we are all dancing together, with each other not just our partner. I thought their emphasis on the codigos was great. The milonga itself was fun. Perhaps because of maestro’s codigo emphasis, there were no floorcraft issues. Maestros did a nice demo later on in the evening, which was followed by a raffle (prize: admission to a future Verdi Club milonga).

Sunday, August 9, 2009
La Pista afternoon milonga.
I arrived later than the milonga start time, so I did not participate in the lesson. The new space is on the ground floor, and has sprung laminate flooring. There is a small kitchen area with fridge off to the side, outfitted in Ikea, just like the light fixtures. There is a mirror on one side of the room, which will be very handy for workshops and classes, but during the milonga were properly covered. The bathroom was thoughtfully put together, with full-length mirror in it so the dancers could make sure there was not a hair out of place. Food was fruit (watermelon, cherries, strawberries), bread, macaroons, champagne, wine, and juices. The milonga itself was OK. It never got overly crowded, but had enough people, many filtering in and out throughout the day. The highlight for me, personally, was when visiting maestros Judy and Jon came by. We spent a good bit of time discussing milonga codigos, life in Buenos Aires (where they’ve lived for six years), how they met (in Arizona), and one of their recent tours (which Pablo and I witnessed but didn’t join). Maestros are very friendly folks, and even danced with the locals (including me and Pablo). Maestro Ivan Schvarts of the Emeryville Senior Center Friday dance lesson was there as well, and he mentioned that they are going to have a graduation celebration on Friday, August 21, complete with competition and judges. It sounds like a blast, Pablo agreed to be one of the judges, but since I am working now, I won’t be able to make it. Every one is welcome to attend. Maestro also mentioned that on Fridays from 5-9 p.m. there is free wine and cheese dance party. I will be sure to check that out one of these days (perhaps before a Friday East Bay milonga).

Monday, August 10, 2009
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson beforehand by Jon and Judy
(topic: Artful placement of the feet for elegance, power, and stability and Giro combinations to different rhythms using sacadas and barridas). We began with some exercises to work on artful placement of the feet. Stepping forward, back, side, front cross, back cross, we were to place our foot to the floor with as little weight as possible, so it’s more of a pose than a natural step. When we point the toe, we should carry on the outside end of the foot to the floor (the third or forth toe), touch, then roll to the full ball of the foot as the weight transfers. The goal was to really work the floor, and not fall onto the foot, but place it beautifully and have weight over the foot. We were to be conscious of our centers, be tight, don’t lose it, and don’t kerplunk in our steps. We were to take quiet steps, transfer of weight, and our feet should go on the floor like velvet. So the foot touches the ground first, and then there is a weight transfer. On the back cross step, it is important to not sickle the foot. Next, we did some step pivots: step forward with left foot, transfer weight, turn upper body/torso 90 degrees (to 9 o’clock), then pivot in our lower body with our feet and hips. We did the same with the right foot, turning our torso/upper body 90 degrees (to 3 o’clock), pivot. Next, we practiced this step pivot by walking in a zigzag, then added to it, step, pivot, step, which had the effect of moving in a straight line, even though our bodies were not forward. We were to practice this daily as homework. The step taught was one that was a play on the Leader placing the Follower around his body on the open or close side, and the molinete (which is a step, pivot, step). Leader leads Follower to the cross, then does a clockwise molinete while he plants his right foot in a back cross with heel down. Leader does left leg sacada of the Follower’s trailing left foot on her right foot forward cross step, and another sacada on Follower’s left foot side step with his right foot. This is done in close embrace. The only time you need to open the embrace is to have the hips clear roomwise. Leader releases follower after the cross to allow her to find her balance. To this we added the Leader’s barrida of the Follower’s left foot with the Leader’s left foot. For the barrida, the Leader leads the Follower to do the molinete, and on her back – side step, the Follower moves her foot because the leader is leading the molinete with his chest. The Leader accompanies with his leg so that it looks like there is contact in the barrida, but it is an illusion. For her, it is a normal side step (led by the Leader’s chest), with Leader accompanying with his left foot sweep. The Leader needs to keep his shoulders open and rotating so that the Follower continues her side step of the molinete. The steps are nice, but it’s the embrace that counts. Maestro concluded the lesson with a reiteration of the milonga codigo of courtesy and respect for other people, and trying not to interfere with another’s pleasure on the dance floor. Our goal for the evening was to enter the dance floor in a way that doesn’t disturb other dancers. Followers should not walk onto the dance floor by themselves; let the Leader come to you; you must wait for the Leader.

August 11, 2009
Tango Tuesday @ Le Colonial.
I hadn’t been to Le Colonial since the mid-1990s when martinis were all the rage. The space hasn’t changed much since then, it is still very much upscale Vietnamese French. The food and drinks looked and smelled delicious, but I didn’t try any. I remembered them as being expensive, and that hasn’t changed either. Thankfully for Bay Area tangueros, this free milonga can be easy on the pocketbook if you can find parking nearby as there is no drink requirement. Still, it is proper to buy a drink or three (and leave the Nalgene/Starbucks at home) as a way of thanking Le Colonial for supporting the tango community. The small dance floor is hardwood, but the environment in general is that of a bar and restaurant, complete with thermal (read: warm) and audio atmosphere of the dinny buzz of people chattering away, and servers rushing back and forth with dishes and trays of cocktails. This event looks well on its way to being a success if this second occurrence is any indication, as it was a very full house. With many dancers who were unaccustomed to dancing in such small, crowded quarters, but extremely excited to try their real estate intensive moves for the bar patrons who felt compelled to clap after every DJd song, floorcraft was a problem. The bumps and jostling galore were enough to make me prefer to sit out most of the milonga. That was OK though, as I vastly preferred just listening to the live playing of Tangonero Duo, and the lovely voice of Mariana Mazzola (she did a wonderful rendition of Malena, among many other songs she sang) than competing for space on the crowded dance floor. See for a nice lineup of future bands/DJs at this event.

So what am I excited about these days?

All the Chacarera lessons coming up! And all the men's technique classes, too! It seems that the San Francisco Bay Area tango scene is maturing...for the better!

1 comment:

MS said...

Hi Anne,
That's a lot for your comments about Alex, Zac and I. Hopefully we can meet up any other time. Please, let me know who you are so that I can thank you personally.

Mariana Mazzola