Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 10-16

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Verdi Club Milonga with lesson beforehand by Jorge Torres.
I got there late because of the traffic. They were doing a figure: Side step Leader left, Follower right. Leader does weight change, then back cross with his left foot, leads Follower to do forward ocho with her left foot. Leader leads Follower so that she steps forward into him with her right foot, to meet his right foot. Leader pivots, moving his torso to the left, then paradas the Follower’s feet as she pivots and collects as if for another ocho. Then he moves his right foot from the front of her feet where it had just parada’d, to behind her feet out of the way. She pivots. Then they step out to resolution. This is a circular move, like a snake. Then we did another figure, beginning again with side step Leader left, Follower right. The Leader is the center of the circle. Follower steps side left, to do a clockwise molinete while Leader does an enrosque. So for the Follower’s molinete steps, B-S-F-S-B-Side, on this side step the Leader does a forward right leg sacada of her right leg, sending it to back cross behind her left leg, which pops forward out as if for a back volcada (in this step showed by Maestro there was no off-axis element, though there could be depending on how much energy or circular torsion the Leader employs). It was an OK lesson. Pablo and I went to it to try to figure out if he should make the rather substantial financial investment for us to attend Maestro’s other workshops. We had been to a “semi-private” workshop the last time he was here and I was feeling a bit lukewarm, since I didn’t get that much out of it as a Follower. Still, it’s a wonderful blessing for the Bay Area tango community when a skilled a leader as Jorge Torres teaches, and as Pablo’s coach I have always strongly emphasized that he needed to especially learn from male teachers (not just teaching couples or female teachers teaching men how to lead, which are also a blessing as well). We decided to give the workshops the next day a go, and play things by ear regarding the other workshops (Sunday, Monday). The ball was in Pablo's court since in my opinion, Jorge Torres's workshops are desiged to teach leaders How to Lead, more than they are to teach followers How to Follow (or be pretty). The milonga itself had a weird vibe to it. The floorcraft on this particular night was oddly aggressive. Maybe everyone was so excited to be the in presence of such a show tango dance legend that it brought out their inner wanna-be-show-tango stars, even if their technical skills didn’t match their inner visions. I left early, declining to dance with several good leaders who asked (apologies to you if you are reading this… it wasn’t you… I just didn’t want to get jostled and bumped any more).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jorge Torres Workshops: Theme: "Illusion & Magic"

Though the first class was all levels and the second class was intermediate, I found them both challenging because of Maestro’s teaching style for group classes, which has a very Socratic bent and obviously Leader orientation. I guess I am just too used to being spoon-fed and having every nuance of technique verbally spoken to me. I had to really pay attention visually since very little was said about the Follower’s side of things. Jorge’s focus is initially with the leader and so leading correctly becomes a ‘key element’. If the leaders don’t get it, then the Follower can only be expected to follow what the leaders in the workshop provide. If leaders and followers don’t use the opportunities to ask Jorge for assistance, or feedback, then they may not get the direct evaluation that would clarify whether they have achieved the objective.

6:00-7:30 pm "Deceiving Appearances" Illusions on the floor - parada, barrida, sacada (all)

Interestingly, Jorge Torres’s soles of his shoes are double rubber (not leather, not suede, not any other slick surface). He began with commenting that we shouldn’t take tango so seriously, otherwise it will kill you.

We began with dancing two songs with two different partners, trying to keep our feet on the floor as much as possible. Then, we went into the figure: Side step Leader left, Follower right. Leader steps forward with his right foot diagonally to catch her left foot as it steps back. He changes her torso so that she does a front cross of her right foot in front of her left foot, while the Leader does a back cross of his right foot behind his left foot, into a Follower counterclockwise molinete of B-S-F-S, where Leader does Left foot forward sacada of her left foot. In this figure there is a change of embrace, beginning in close embrace during the initial Leader and Follower cross steps, then opening up during the molinete, back into close embrace after the sacada. Next, we did the same figure, only going to the other side. The shape of the figure is circular, so turn the Follower INTO the circle. Bring her to you. The Leader should not go to her, otherwise he will push her out of the circle. Next, we built on the concept of having crossed steps, and did a figure with many Follower’s back cross steps with both her left foot and right foot, and Leader’s forward cross steps both with his left foot and right foot. It was an off night for Pablo, so he left early. I decided to sit out the rest of the lesson, and Chino came over to me and graciously emphasized that I was welcome to continue with the lesson even though it was now gender imbalanced with Pablo leaving. I thanked her, but sat out the rest of the lesson since I was OK with just watching.

7:30-9:00pm "Believe It or Not" Illusions on the fly - boleo, gancho, enganche (int)

Like the first lesson, we began with dancing two songs with two different partners, this time trying to keep things in the air as much as possible. First Illusion: Follower does forward ochos; when the Leader sends her forward and her weight is fully on the front leg so that her trailing leg is free, he lifts his right leg up in the air through her legs in between her steps, seemingly to flick her leaving foot, so it appears as though the Leader is causing her to do a circular boleo. During this, Leader needs to keep his thighs close together as if he has a secret. For the lift, the contact is at the bend of the foot (not at the shins or knees). For the Leader’s lift, his leg is making a type of reverse bicycle movement, or reverse horse movement. The key to this illusion is for the Leader to coordinate his feet with the torso lead for the ocho. Next Illusion: We began with an exercise of just the Follower walking forward counterclockwise, while the Leader does left leg back sacadas of her trailing leg. The Leader’s right hip touches the Follower’s left hip, though she should be a little behind the Leader so he does not have to torque so much (especially if he is not able to). The Leader moves his center. It’s important for his supporting right leg to be strong, stable, and a little bit bent, and his heel should not be weighted or stuck to the ground (weight should be on the ball of his foot) so that he can pivot around on it while his left leg is reaching to sacada. There is no transfer of weight and no shooting back with the heel as the Leader does not want to kick the Follower or do harm to her. The Leader can only do this (cause no harm) if his left sacada leg is unweighted, so he has the option to pull it back if he senses there is something wrong. The Leader also needs to have good posture and be upright, with head up. But for his head to be up, he needs to trust where his body is, and where her body is. Next, we combined these to a figure: Follower steps forward with her left foot, side with her right foot. Leader does right foot forward sacada of Follower’s left foot (almost like a slight colgada, sending out feeling while she is on her right foot), Follower steps left foot forward, side right, Leader does back sacada of Follower’s left foot. Follower steps forward, Follower steps side (outside, away oriented), Leader leads clockwise molinete while he is center of the circle and she moves from the left side of him to the right side of him, so Follower steps back, side, forward, to pivot to a forward ocho with her left foot. Here, the Leader leads the Follower to step forward in the forward ocho while he also steps forward; the Leader does a needle with his right foot reaching to point on the floor, which wraps his left leg into the needle as she continues to step forward in her ocho, and then he unwinds it out. As she continues to do her ochos, he can throw in an ocho leg flick with his right reverse bicycling/horse leg. It was a good class. I enjoyed the second class better than the first class.

The milonga afterwards was attended by all the attendees of the workshops, and by some more people who came just for the milonga. So it was full, but not overly crowded. In the beginning floorcraft was weird in that there would be bunches of couples dancing on one side of the dance floor while the other side was somewhat sparse. It evened out later on in the night. Though it started out slow for me, I had a good time at this milonga. I got to dance with the different leaders I rotated to during the workshop (several of whom are excellent dancers), and leaders who I have seen over the years, but who had never asked me to dance previously. I also danced with some visitors, so it was interesting to experience their particular styles. It was a very satisfying evening.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mat MaMoody and Shasha lessons @ Allegro.
This was advertised in as a beginner lesson from 4-5 pm, followed by a performance tango class from 5-6 pm, both classes for $12 total. Pablo and I arrived late, and they were heavy on followers, so I decided to sit out the beginner lesson. There was no official break between the beginner and performance tango lessons, they just flowed into each other. The first figure was a Leader right leg sandwich of the Follower’s left leg, after which the Leader brings his left foot around. The Follower steps over with her right leg, and then ganchos the Leader’s right leg, to pivot, out to tango close. Next figure was a sweep of the Leader’s right foot of the Follower’s right foot from the back ocho. Next figure was the Leader’s right foot sweep of the Follower’s left foot on the outside left side of her left foot. Here, the Leader can take steps around the Follower with his left leg and do continuous right leg sweeps of the Follower’s left leg around in a circle. He can also stop the sweep, change his foot placement to be on the inside of her left foot, to flick her left foot/leg back the other way into a boleo. This was a very cute step. Next, we did ocho cortados with three different types of interruptions/endings: the regular ending, the one where the Leader interrupts her cross by inserting his right leg between her two legs, causing her left leg to gancho the outside of his right leg (and he can send her leg back out in a boleo), and one with the Americana cross. I found Maestro to be a very clear, articulate teacher with an excellent communication style, and what he taught simple but interesting and fun. The lessons exceeded my expectations, and delivered an excellent bang for the buck. The lessons took place in the medium-sized room next to El Garaje, so there was good cross ventilation since it opened out to the back. Maestro also gets bonus points for having a handout of the 50 steps he will attempt to teach.

La Milonga de Nora @ Allegro ballroom. I did not attend the lesson since I had a dinner engagement. The milonga itself was really nice. I had the best time there than I had in a long time, and a lot of other people said the same thing. The nearly surreal energy was very calm and elegant, and the floorcraft was quite good and respectful. Overall, people just seemed really happy. Even the spectators had no air of desperation or impatience, but seemed extremely content to just sit back and watch the lovely dancers go by.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CCSF Classes with Chelsea Eng. In Follower’s Technique,
we began with a video clip of Florencia Taccetti on ochos. She said the technique was the same as for walking forward, you just add movement/turn of the hips. So, begin with feet together, knees relaxed (not locked), extend with toes, go forward with body, change weight to forward leg, collect with heel down and diaphragm up, rotate hips, repeat. Maestra noted that this video was different from what Rebecca Shulman said in last week’s video clip, and she also spoke about her own philosophy of ochos (collecting before pivoting is not always done depending on the dynamics and circular energy of how it is led). After our usual walking, floor, and barre exercises, we focused on ochos at the barre. We worked on the technique of the forward and back ochos, and then added the tuck embellishments (in front and behind), on the floor and off the floor (with knee down and foot up or with knee up and foot down). We also played with the back ocho back tuck off the floor, which looks like a rounded boleo. In Advanced, we worked on the change of direction from back to front. Here, we began with some footwork that both Leader and Follower does, only at different times. The step was left foot forward, pivot to open side step, back left, back right. When we did this in partnership, it was a linear step with the dancers circling/swirling counterclockwise around each other, so we’d both be on our left feet and right feet at the same time. To this we could add several Follower embellishments: the tuck on the floor or in the air of the left foot to the right side of the right foot after her back right step and before her forward left step, or the rulo embellishment on this same step before the forward left step around the Leader. Also, after the Follower two back steps and before the forward left foot step, the Leader can lead a carousel/calesita by not letter her transfer the weight (so she is still on her back leg, but her left leg is extended out in front). Here, she can also embellish with small rulos as he steps around counterclockwise while suspending her weight transfer. Next, we reviewed from last week the side volcada from the espejo/Americana, with Leader shift/pivot so that his left hip touches her left hip. Maestra reminded the Followers to not sickle their left volacada-ing foot. Then we put both steps together – first the change of direction, to the calesita, to the Leader hip pivot to lead the side volcada. It was a good class, as always.

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