Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 1-7

October 2-4, 2009 Tomas Howlin Workshops, with Assistance by Shorey Myers.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tango Teasers – Share Tango Temptations with Your Partner.
The underlying theme of the workshops were to do the steps that we know, but give them a twist of unexpectedness or humor. In partnership, we began with side step (Leader’s right, Follower’s left), single beat or quick beat, and added a rebote for the Leader to lead her to his right (her left). She may or may not collect depending on what she feels. Leader can go somewhere else: as Follower goes to the Leader’s right, he can go to his left so dancers are going away from each other. Next, we worked on being funny or adding a twist. In the ocho cortado footwork for the Follower, where instead of the usual footwork into the cross, she does a left side step, then a right collect (weight change), to step forward cross with her left foot into front cross of her right foot. The Leader can also do a right leg parada of the Follower’s right foot at the open step before the cross as a form of play. Here, he can be even more playful by lifting his heel to stop the Follower, with his knee moving after his heel moves. The Follower keeps her feet on the floor before the cross (sweeping the floor with her toes). The Follower’s knees pass the Leader’s knees, then the Leader lifts up with ankle-to-ankle connection, then sets their feet down, and steps side right. During the lift, the Follower’s weight is on her right foot so that her left foot is completely free to be lifted; Leader should make sure they have connection before he attempts to lift. With this Leader parada with Leader and Follower ankle connection, he can do lots of things, like sweep to the other side to place her left foot to front cross of her right foot. It was an excellent workshop, very fun.

Saturday, October 3, 2009
1. Conscious Tango Connection (int) 1-2:30 pm Techniques necessary for all tango levels.
We began with posture exercises, in partnership, with one person placing their hands on their partner’s small of back and lower top of spine, putting pressure on it to feel/help with the alignment so that everything sits on top of each other, stacked upright. We also did this on the front of our bodies, with the partner’s hands on the chest bone and stomach. We were not to lean forward, but just work on posture and equalizing, keeping our knees soft and springy.

Our connection exercises involved walking together with a filled balloon in between us, using intention, projection, and sending the attention through the other person (do not be scattered), and having impetus.

Our next exercise involved transferring weight fully one foot at a time.

Our next exercise/game was a sequencing one that involved a 8- or 12-sided dice that had words on each side: left leg, right leg, chest, head, right hand, left hand, full body, stomach, etc. One person rolled the dice three times, and the other three people in the group had to do those body movements in that same order (i.e., right hand, chest, left leg).

Next, we worked on a graciousness/sequencing exercise where the Leader danced 4 steps, then paused, then did 4 more steps, then the Follower does 4 steps, and then the Leader does 4 steps, etc. For the pause, the Follower can squeeze the Leader’s hand or change hand positions. The purpose was to release and make adjustments, be equalizing, and very sensual.

Next, we worked on Leader’s torsion with a very simple step of him stepping forward with his left on the outside, and the right on the inside with a side step in between, trying to make the whole thing as square as possible and not turn it in.

Next, we worked on the Leader playing with shifting her weight differently, sometimes doing a complete weight shift for a step, or for an extension only with no step, or sometimes half weight.

2. Viboritas (int) 2:45-4:15 pm Rattlesnake moves.
We began with walking in partnership in a counterclockwise circle and then a clockwise circle. Then we tried to make these circles smaller by making the inside step shorter and the outside step longer. Then we did the clockwise circle with the Follower just walking forward, curving each step, especially the inside ones, while the Leader walks around backward with curved feet. The Follower has curved feet too, with her step in between his feet. My notes break down after this. :o(

3. Vertigo in Intimacy - (int/adv) 4:30-6 pm off-axis moves for close embrace.
This was basically a close embrace colgada class. Follower: keep left hand engaged; always hang on, keep the spine straight up and down.

Sunday, October 4, 2009
4. Deconstructing Turns (int) 1-2:30 pm - precision for sacadas.
We began with a discussion of what turns were, what we knew about them, and came up with questions that began with Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Next, we practiced the Leader not stepping while the Follower steps (let the step pass by). This was a difficult exercise. For the turns, we played with doing them with all forward steps, or all back steps, and found that it all works. To add these two concepts together, in partnership with did a front cross, open step, back cross, open step, with each dancer going one step at a time and waiting for the other person to finish before stepping. Then we changed the Leader’s footwork so that he can either pivot or do front crosses (right foot, then left foot, then right foot) into Leader sacada. Follower should bend knee at pivot for more stability, and not go up but maintain the same level. There were other Leader footwork options: right foot front cross, left foot front cross, right side step, left leg sacada. Or, left foot back cross, right foot back cross, left foot back cross, right foot sacada. Or Left back cross, right back cross, left forward cross.

5. Ghost Sacadas (int/adv) 2:45-4:15 pm - shadow placement/positioning in sacadas.
In this class, we did a lot of games to help us work on alternate timing (where one person steps and the other person waits for him to finish before she steps). This was a very hard concept so we spent a lot of time doing different games with respect to grounding, reaching, transferring weight, and collecting, all on alternate timing. For the sacada portion, we worked on stepping where the person leaves, or “chasing” their step. We also worked on the elasticity/changeability of the embrace with respect to sliding the arm/hand so you don’t pull or push each other. Here my notes break down too when we worked on ghost sacadas and overstepping the line of force.

6. Empujadas (adv) 4:30-6 pm - sacadas in vertigo, on-balance, off-axis.
The word “Empujadas” comes from the verb “Empujar”: to push. We began with several exercises that involved pushing: Dancers are perpendicular to each other. One person in football stance watches as the other person steps back and forth in front of him. When the person passes in front with weight in the middle, the football stance person pushes the other person’s hips. This will send the person’s foot to cross in front of his body. We did more of these types of “pushing” exercises, and eventually incorporated them into our dance in sacadas. I did not particularly care for this class.

My overall impressions of these workshops:

At the beginning of class, we began by introducing ourselves to the rest of the other students, which was a really nice community builder. They all ended with some sort of group massage or relaxation stretch.

The workshops included many exercises and games necessary for good tango dancing: connection, posture, intention, sequencing, patience and alternate timing. The workshops were very conceptual in nature with more exercises and games (including props) and a lot of discussions and Socratic questioning to help us understand the intermediate/advanced concepts taught. One of the toughest concepts we learned and practiced was one person dancing moving while the other one is still, since in tango we are first taught to move near simultaneously. Humor and being funny and doing unexpected things were the underlying themes of all workshops.

The steps/sequences taught to illustrate the concepts learned were very simple, which is good because the concepts themselves were new to most people. I noted that most of the Leaders in these workshops were very good to excellent dancers, so it was a treat to be able to learn with them. There were also several local tango teachers taking the lessons right alongside the other students. The information seemed fresh and innovative and in my opinion, would help dancers "get to the next level."

Maestros gave us ample time to drill the concepts using slow music and rhythmic music, and gave each couple and dancer individual attention and feedback.

These were excellent workshops, and it was a tremendous blessing for the Bay Area tango community, and especially the Leaders, to be able to learn from such a strong, innovative Maestro. Maestra Shorey was also great with excellent teaching and feedback for Leaders and Followers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CCSF Classes with Chelsea Eng. In Follower’s Technique,
we began with a discussion on foot care. After our usual essential walking, floor and barre exercises to improve our posture, core and foot strength, timing, and disassociation, our barre work focused on forward ochos (including embellishments). Then in partnership we worked on our molinete technique, really slowing it down in the beginning to be on Maestra's timing. She taught us the beat back embellishment on the side step after the back step as feet cross each other. In Advanced / Production we did our Midterm Review Part 1, going through what we learned so far: Follower’s Torsion technique during ochos; regular volcada; volcada with pulse (fakeout to walk out); volcada with Leader’s back, side, forward footwork; going to the cross, pivoting, Follower takes forward step with her right foot, then Leader leads volcada while he does back, side, forward footwork; Follower ocho cortado into volcada using QQS timing. It was a good class, and we got our midterm papers back.

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