Thursday, September 3, 2009

August 27 - September 2

Friday, August 28, 2009
St. Aiden’s Milonga with lesson beforehand by David Cadiz.
Unfortunately, I missed the lesson, though it was probably great since he is an excellent teacher. It was a sweltering night, even in San Francisco, and only the die hards came out. I wanted to test out my Kool Tie and Cool Downz personal cooling bandanas. They worked beautifully, and I will be sure to use them when I am next at a sweltering lesson or milonga; I could pretend they are part of my gaucho costume. Though it was sparsely attended, I still had a good time at the milonga. The skill level was quite good, we were evenly matched in number, and so everyone got a chance to dance with everyone else. Oscar and Georgina made a visit, and what a treat it was to watch them social dance. I had been curious about the floor since it has been advertised as “FIXED.” My impression? It’s better, but there are still a few slick spots (which I suppose is better than having a lot of extremely slick spots interspersed with some sticky spots).

Saturday, August 29, 2009
Private house warming party for local tanguera.
Many local tangueros came out to celebrate the new digs of one of our favorite tangueras; our communality stemmed from being in Maestra Chelsea Eng’s classes at CCSF at some point in our tango education. The food was divine, and the company marvelous (and not just made up of tangueros, but family and friends, too). We danced the night away in her enclosed back porch, which has a new tile floor a la Buenos Aires.

Monday, August 31, 2009
Orange Practica at the Beat, with lesson by Homer and Cristina Ladas: Milonga basic rhythm and phrasing.
See the video at

In this lesson we had two concepts: (1) Focus on the two strong beats in milonga, and (2) work on sentence structure / phrasing.

We began with a simple pattern: Side step to Leader’s left (Follower’s right), rock step of Leader’s right foot forward (Follower’s left foot back cross), to come up with weight change, side step to Leader’s right (Follower’s left). Within this pattern, we were to work on the subtle use of the height change: with the Leader using height change to signal stepping (down) or weight change (up). For the Follower, her challenge is to be able to sense the subtle height changes and step appropriately. The quality of the height change directly affects the quality of movement.

Next, we did the same simple pattern, only really focusing on the quality of the rock step, as the quality of the rock step affects the quality of the movement. In the rock step, the weight is in between. The Follower’s upper thighs are closed, as are the Leader’s. The dancers should try to maintain contact in the outside thighs of the Follower’s right thigh to Leader’s right thigh. Also, in the rock step it is important for the dancers to keep the relation to each other in their chest, with contra rotation, which helps their thighs stay together.

In the rock step, the Leader can turn to his left, or turn to his right, or do a crab walk to the left, or a crab walk to his right. The Follower copies the Leader’s legs, so keep the weight in the middle.

Next, we played with the musical phrasing by having the Leader walk forward around the Follower clockwise, either after the rock step or directly following the pattern. While the Leader walks forward around the Follower, she walks backward, with her outside leg doing back cross steps as for ochos.

To improve our musical phrasing, we danced much of the night to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga, our goal of which was to hear the phrasing in the song and put our movement in it. Historically, milonga used to be danced on the strong beats: the 1 and the 2. To this song we were to dance, and pause on the really up, or the really down, but not in the middle with split weight. We drilled the dancing and pausing several times to this same song.

Then we changed the song to D’Arienzo’s Silueta Portena, and our goal was to identify which was the 1 beat and which was the 2 beat in milonga. First, we did an exercise where we just stepped on the 1 with our left foot (and on 2 with our right foot), and then switched it to step on the 1 with our right foot (and on 2 with our left foot). The 1 beat is the ultimate home base, ground zero. Rhythmically, the 2 is where you’d do traspie (assuming no melody in the milonga). To this song, we continued to dance, trying to work on the phrasing, breaks, and pauses.

Homework assignment: When not dancing (such as when we are in the car or in the kitchen washing dishes), play milongas, lots of them, and just try to figure out where the 1 is and where the 2 is. In milonga, we often don’t think about phrasing.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
CCSF classes with Chelsea Eng. In Follower’s Technique,
we focused on posture and core strength. She had a handout, “Health and Fitness for Life” and showed a video clip of Rebecca Shulman on posture. Rebecca emphasized the rib cage: breathing into it to expand the ribs in three directions: out to the side, forward, and up. Do not collapse when exhaling, but keep lifted and expanded in the rib cage. This helps keep the belly in. Rebecca also talked about the use of breath to increase the space between the rib cage and the hipbones, which will make the hips move with more freedom. The rib cage and arms are related. Let the elbows hang, the tips pointing toward the floor. Someone in class asked about head positioning. Maestra said to dance with the head in a way where it is comfortable (as opposed to turning it to the Follower’s right or having it touch the Leader’s head if it is uncomfortable). In Advanced, we reviewed Volcadas, both the one from the Follower forward step on her right foot into the volcada, and the one with the ocho cortado timing. Next, we reviewed the walking left turn (counterclockwise) of forward, forward, side (open), back, back, for Leader (opposite for Follower). Then we tried to fit the volcada into that directly after the open step, when Follower steps forward on her right foot, to volcada with her left foot/leg. We also tried a new volcada where the Leader walks outside partner in cross system (so dancers’ inside legs are moving together), to lead a Follower contra back boleo of her right foot, to pivot to step forward on her right foot, into a volcada with her left foot/leg. It was a very good class, and we looked better as a group.

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