Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 12-18 (no notes, Studio TangoVida comments)

I haven't been dancing in the last week because I've had a cold and want to be 100% well before I dance.

In the meantime, I received an email announcing that Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt's Studio TangoVida is moving to Miami Beach, Florida.

The annoucement filled me with sadness, and got me to thinking about my own very positive experience with Studio TangoVida:

It was a huge, tremendous blessing for the San Francisco Bay Area to have them while they were here.

I consider Jennifer Bratt to be one of the best Ladies’ Technique teachers in the country, heck the world! My assertion doesn't come from a lack of exposure (my Ladies’ Technique teachers include Graciela Gonzalez [my first!], Chelsea Eng, Cristina Ladas, Carolina Rozenstroch, Alicia Pons, Luz Castineiras, Negracha Lanau, Arona Primalani, Rosa Corsico, Alejandra Gutty, Gachi Fernandez, Maria Eugenia De La Latta, Patricia Gomez, with special mention of Laura Tate, who only taught me two pre-milonga group lessons with Orlando Paiva, Jr., but who in one sentence, gave me a huge, profound nugget of wisdom regarding Ladies’ Technique).

When Studio TangoVida first opened, I felt exceedingly lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from Jennifer Bratt, whose BewitchingBlackLotus YouTube videos I had been captivated by. When the studio opened, they offered three Ladies’ Technique classes every week, and were running a special of an 8-class pass for $100 per month. So I pounced on that, and went to as many of their Ladies’ Technique classes as I could possibly fit into my schedule (which was easy at the time since I was unemployed). When the studio first opened, the very first Ladies’ Technique classes were topically focused: one day walking, one day ochos, one day molinetes, etc. How we drilled, and drilled and drilled, and left lots of fingerprints on the mirror! But oh how much we learned! Jennifer taught us many Ladies’ Technique exercises and things we could do to improve at home (or anywhere) without any equipment or another person to help us or hang on to. I swear, learning and practicing to do molinetes on my own (first in low shoes and then in high heels), without a partner or column to hang onto, and without a chair to do it around, but absolutely on my own as Jennifer taught us to, was one of the toughest, and yet one of the most profoundly effective exercises for molinete balance and weight transfer I had ever experienced.

From a student perspective, those first Ladies’ Technique classes were small enough so we got lots of individual attention. From a business standpoint, I speculate that it was not sustaintable to have less than a dozen students at these classes, so eventually the schedule switched to fewer Ladies’ Technique classes and more group classes (vals, milonga, dramatic tango, rhthymic tango), which had greater attendance. As TangoVida adjusted its schedule, they renamed the class simply "Ladies’ Technique" with no specific topic of ochos, molinetes, etc., and cut it back to only twice a week. I still went to those classes as well.

Those classes had very regular structure, beginning with foot strengtening, posture, weight transfer and disassociation exercises, followed by much time spent on walking (sometimes the whole class), and a small amount of time working on other aspects of Ladies’ Technique (ochos, molinetes, embellishments, things that would relate to the subsequent tango partnered dancing class). Pablo couldn't understand why I went to TangoVida so often for Ladies’ Technique. I told him what we worked on, and it always sounded the same to him. He thought Ladies’ Technique was all about adornos, and he believed that I already knew how to walk pretty. Ha! I came to realize I actually knew very little about walking until Jennifer taught me about weight transfer and the subtle nuances and variations of how to walk well, and we had the chance to drill them over, and over, and over, day in and day out, several times a week.

Every time I went to a TangoVida Ladies’ Technique class, I got an additional or deeper insight into some aspect of Ladies’ Technique. And yes, some things Jennifer said, I had heard her say many times before. But maybe it wasn't until the 20th time she said it, that I actually understood it or could do it physically. Muscle memory often takes a while to develop...and intellectual understanding...well, sometimes that takes even longer.

It always surprised me that more people weren't at the TangoVida Ladies’ Technique classes in San Francisco. Maybe that's the thing about Ladies’ Technique... I believe you really have to go, every week (several times a week if you are lucky), and drill the same things over and over, build your body slowly but strongly and surely... To some dancers, that might seem boring or pointless. They dislike having to be told the same things over and over, or doing the same things over and over, and think that to improve their tango they need to have a “dance partner” to practice fancy, showy moves with. Some of these dancers continue to walk or dance in the same (unbalanced, unconnected, unimproved) way... Some dancers are in such a rush to learn all the pretty/fancy things they can do, but long before their bodies and minds understand that the beauty of tango is in the subtlety of movement... A lot of it boils down to how you walk, and how your limbs move (not only as they are embellishing) with grace, elegance and sensuality, which comes from balance, strength, understanding and control of your body to get the type of freeness, fluidity, precision, and expression that is aesthetically appealing.

Ney Melo is great, awesome, and wonderful as a teacher and as a person as well. Fantastic maestro of musicality, fun sense of humor, and excellent with conveying respect about milonga codigos and floor crafting.

Ney and Jennifer were incredibly generous toward the San Francisco tango community. When the economy turned horrendously sour, they offered a recession special, only $25 for unlimited classes for new students or unemployed people. This act of generosity not only brought a lot of new people into the community and improved their dancing (a good thing), but it also caused those who were unemployed to be less depressed and less isolated (a very good thing).

Anyway, sorry to ramble on...But I just feel so strongly about what a great Ladies’ Technique teacher Jennifer Bratt is, and what a tremendous blessing it was for the SF Bay Area to have her and Ney Melo and Studio TangoVida.

To South Beach Miami: You are SOOOOO lucky!!!!

To San Francisco: Condolences to us. :o(

To Jennifer Bratt & Ney Melo: Thank you SOOOOOO much! I hope I never forget all that you’ve taught me. Thank you for the generosity you showed me and the SF tango community. You have my sincere appreciation for all that you’ve done tangowise, and all that you are as human beings. Good luck with everything in South Beach Miami and beyond! XO

Announcement email from Studio TangoVida:

We are pleased to announce that we are moving TangoVida to South Beach Miami!

As for farewell parties, there will be 2 parties, one on Sunday and
one on Tuesday:

1) We are teaching our last class at Cafe Cocomo on Sunday Nov. 29,
7:30pm - 9pm, followed by a milonga

2) Ney will be the DJ at El Valenciano on Tuesday Nov. 24th, 9pm - ????

All the info is on the website or you become a fan of our Facebook

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