Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 5-11

Friday, November 6, 2009

Monte Cristo Milonga with lesson before by Cecilia Gonzalez and Somer Surgit: Playing with the Cross.
We began with shifting weight while the Follower is in the cross (8CB to 5). The goal here was for the Leader to be more sensitive to the Follower’s weight shift and how she responds. We were not to rush through the movement and just make her escape, we were to be slow and take our time to increase our sensitivity as both Leader and Follower. When we did this sufficiently, we could dance out to resolution. There are many ways to change the Follower’s weight. We can do this in parallel system or cross system (same or opposite feet), or with more rotation in the Leader’s chest/torso. Next, we worked on unwinding the cross, by getting the Follower’s left foot going ahead of the right foot toward the left side, while the Leader has a weight shift and rotation in his chest. This is a subtle move. Next, we did the cross “fake out” whereby the Follower has a front cross of the left foot, and then it comes immediately back out ahead of the right foot to the left, and then she steps back left. This is all one continuous move of going into the cross, and then back out. The key here is to not let the Follower change weight while the Leader takes two steps. In the cross, we were not to create distance, as these are all just weight shifts. The footwork for the Leader is right, back, change weight, forward step. The Leader arrives on the ball of his foot to make the step more responsive. If he arrives on his heel he will be to slow and sluggish. These we did all in cross system. We were not to be tense with our legs, but relax them so they go smoothly. We were to relax into the floor with our supporting leg. The idea is that the Leader makes the Follower do the fake out as if her leg were a piece of silk – light, fluid. This fake out is a little boleo, smooth and suspended (not sharp). To conclude our work on crosses, we were to dance doing all of these cross variations: with weight changes in normal and cross system, with the unwind, and with the fake out. Next, a small sequence: In the cross system, the Leader goes to the Follower’s left side. The Leader does front cross of his left leg to the right side, then rotates his torso to do a Leader’s enrosque. The Follower rotates on her right leg to change weight, and as the Leader rotates, she goes into a left leg ocho cortado front cross. Leader steps back with his right leg and Follower steps forward outside with her right foot. We were not to exaggerate the step, because nothing has changed. For the Follower, it is a complete weight change into the ocho cortado cross. It was a good lesson. I found the teaching to be much clearer than the last time (January 2009) I took a lesson with Cecilia Gonzalez (la famosa), perhaps because the maestro Somer was fluent in English. It seemed to me the teaching style was much more organized and methodical this time around. The milonga was fun, though I had to leave early and missed the performance.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cecilia Gonzales and Somer Surgit workshops:

1. Turns in Two Systems– Int

2. Changes of Direction – Int

3. Sacadas for Men & Women – Int/Adv

Turns: For this first workshop, we began with an exercise in parallel system. We began with the molinete counterclockwise to the Follower front cross step, to pivot to change direction, immediately into a clockwise molinete. For Follower’s technique, it should be a natural turning, to try to get into the energy of the turning, rather than just doing the step. There is twist in the upper body, so the release to the side step is natural. There should be no effort to make the pivot into the open step, it should just be a natural release. The back cross is a consequence of the front step and release of the side step. The Leader gives the direction, and the Follower needs to stay with him. The Leader should continue his chest rotation all the time. Follower should make the turn travel through her spine. For Leader’s technique, he needs to be clear from the beginning that after the side step, it is a forward step for the Follower. We attempted to do our molinetes on the strong beat, on beat (not double time), to practice this concept of the Leader making it more clear for the Follower and to rotate his torso and make the rotation continuous (there is no need to wait). The Follower should not feel any “cut” in the movement. For Follower’s technique, we were to adjust our body and embrace all the time, to take the shape that we need to be able to twist well and get around the Leader comfortably. Then we changed to doing the molinete in cross system, still using single time only (not double time). After that, we added the QQ double time Follower step on the back and subsequent side step, while Leader remains in double time. We did this counterclockwise and then immediately into clockwise. It was noted that here it changes system from cross system to normal system because the Follower takes an extra step in double time, while the Leader does not as he remains in single time as he is stepping on each beat. The Leader leads the Follower’s QQ double time step by stepping on her back step with his right foot, and then on her forward step with his left foot. Next, we did the cross system turn, starting with back ochos to molinete (B-S-F-S) while leader steps on his right foot on her back step, and on his left foot on her forward step. We did this doing counterclockwise molinete into clockwise molinete. Follower’s Technique: The back step of the molinete should be as close to the Leader as possible (it is an overturned back ocho step). To help her in this, she should try to get her leg to go to the opposite back shoulder blade. The idea is not in the hips, it’s in the whole spine, so she should open up that opposite shoulder blade as she does the back cross step. I thought this point was a huge nugget of wisdom. To lead the Follower step forward into the Leader after the molinete, he rotates his left shoulder back as he steps back with his right leg, so there is a lot of torsion and contra body rotation in his body. Then the Leader steps around her. Between the ochos, playing with one direction to the other, the Leader changes weight, moves his hips, the consequence is that he gets lots of power to turn her in the other direction without much effort on his part.

Changes of Directions (alterations):
Working from the idea of the molinete, the Leader meets the Follower’s back step, blocks her from pivoting, and turns to the other side. Leader and Follower are on the same leg. The open side is more difficult. The Leader should lead so that the Follower doesn’t take too large a step on the Leader’s left side. On the closed side, the Leader should be sure his right arm doesn’t block her. He needs to get behind her and change the embrace. We practiced the changes of direction from the Follower back cross step to a Follower front cross step while the Leader does regular open steps to the side. Here, we noticed that we were on the same legs (Leader and Follower on left leg or Leader and Follower on right leg). Next, we worked in parallel system, so the Leader receives the Follower’s back cross step with a front cross step of his own (not a side step). He needs torsion in his chest for this to work. There is a change of size of steps as Leader does small, shorter steps or longer steps as needed. For the Follower, she generally takes a small, short back cross step, and a longer front cross forward step to get around and in front of Leader. Finally, we linked them all: back to front, front to back, in parallel system and cross system, using an extra side step for the Follower to link them. There was ample time to drill during class. Pablo and I had an easier time at this workshop since our foundational knowledge from Chelsea was solid.

Sacadas: We began with a sequence of a side step (Leader’s left, Follower’s right), to Leader’s right leg forward sacada of Follower’s left foot side step, Leader changes weight, Follower does left leg forward sacada of Leader’s left foot, weight change to the right, to Leader’s left leg forward sacada of Follower’s left leg. Follower’s technique: Follower collects at every step/opportunity. Leader needs to control the axis at the point of the sacada (so there should not be any tilt forward or back, he needs to be on balance on axis). The Follower should go underneath the Leader at the point of the sacada, not fall into him or her legs. The energy is like an L shape (\_>). Next, we changed that third sacada of the sequence into the Leader’s back sacada of his left foot of Follower’s left foot. Leader’s technique: The idea of the back sacada works the same as for the forward sacada. The Leader has to reach the same point near the Follower’s left foot, stepping in the same place. His leg should be relaxed. It should not shoot out quickly like a bullet from a pistol to contact her left foot with force or deeply. It should be a gentle, little step. The Leader needs to relax his heel, but don’t let it go out, keep it in. He should reach his axis and arrive with his foot placement first, and then step back to complete the sacada, arriving on his foot with his entire weight as for a regular step, with no lean forward since he needs to maintain his axis. There is a change of embrace on the close side so that it is easier for the Leader to get in the correct position. The Leader can stop the Follower when her weight his on her right leg before he does is sacada. Do not run. The Follower should try to collect as naturally as possible after the sacada, not be fast and forced, but she shouldn’t leg her leg flail out wildly either. Next, we worked on the Follower’s back sacada of her right leg to Leader’s right leg open step to the side. Next, we did the Follower’s forward sacada of her left leg to Leader’s left leg. How the Leader leads the Follower Back Sacada: It is the same idea as the first class. The Leader uses forward and side steps as he gets around the Follower. There is rotation in his chest. The Leader leads it because he controls it. The Follower has to pivot first completely before entering with her back sacada. She has to wait for the Leader to lead her to step back. The Leader keeps no weight on his right foot (the one that will receive the sacada). The Leader opens his arm/chest to make her step back. Next, we did the Follower’s back sacada into the Follower left leg forward sacada into the Leader’s left leg. This was linked by a change of direction. Next, we did a Follower left back sacada to the back of the Leader’s right leg. This one was very tricky, and it is important that both dancers are not too close to each other. There is also Leader hip rotation out and away to present his right leg for the sacada. He also cannot try to look at her the entire time because then his body won’t be in the correct position. He could look at her as he sets it up, but after that, he has to turn his head away, otherwise his chest will be in a weird position and this won’t work. This last one was very challenging, too challenging for me and Pablo, so we just worked on the other sacadas, forward and back, Leader and Follower.

Sunday, 11/8: Monte Cristo Club, SF

4. Refreshingly New Combinations – Int

5. Musicality & Combinations– Int/Adv

6. Volcadas in Combinations – Int/Adv

New Combinations:
We began directly with a sequence of the Follower’s right leg gancho of the Leader’s outside left leg on the open side of the embrace. Here, we were to focus on becoming accustomed to the rebound energy. Next, we backed up a bit and just did the Follower’s forward ocho of the left leg, with no pivot to feel the freeness of movement of the Follower’s linear gancho. Then, the Leader turns his torso to lead the Follower to gancho her right leg to his outside left leg. The lead is with a little weight shift and a little rotation, but no push or pull. So the Follower does a forward ocho with her left foot, while the Leader steps to the side left with her. Leader moves closer and in front of her so she remains on axis as she ganchos his outside left leg with her right leg. Next, we worked on the Leader controlling the gancho, to unwind her. Leader should have soft hips. The question came up of sometimes the Follower kicking the Leader’s back of his right leg. This happens when the Leader brings his right leg too close to his left leg. The Leader should not change the position of his right leg. His weight is on his right leg to receive the gancho on his outside left leg. The Follower right leg gancho/rebound is led by the Leader being on his right leg, and having a little torso rotation. So it’s a shift, and come back movement. The Leader’s left foot does not have his heel down during her gancho. Follower should not fall into the Leader, as she should be remaining on her axis (and Leader should not pull or push her off axis either). Follower should let the leg be really free to understand the feeling. Next, we worked on trying to control the Follower’s right ganchoing leg, with the Leader keeping it, and then sending it out. Next, we built on that so that the gancho went directly into the Follower’s right leg front cross, into a left leg regular volcada. To get the Follower into the front cross, the Leader receives the gancho, and then he moves his left leg back and to the left side, out of the way of the Follower’s right leg, so that it automatically goes to a front cross as a consequence of the Leader moving a bit clockwise, and her leg being sent out and free. The Leader should remain close to the Follower’s axis. Next, we worked on challenging the Followers a bit by randomly alternating doing the gancho to the Leader’s outside left leg, or faking her out by going directly into a front cross to volcada (with no gancho before). Next, we worked on the gancho of the Follower’s right leg of the Leader’s right leg, while the dancers are more adjacent / parallel (but not quite) than facing each other. To this too, we added the Follower front cross into a volcada. Next combination: 8CB to 5, Leader does right foot forward unweighted step right next to the left foot of Follower’s crossed feet, to send Follower’s right leg out of the cross, and back into a Follower right leg gancho of the Leader’s right leg (his weight is on the back left leg). The tricky thing is for the Leader to get his right foot in forward next to the Follower’s crossed left foot WITHOUT weight. To unwind her cross, he sends both their weight forward. To get her right leg to gancho his right leg, he sends his weight back.

Musicality: We began with a simple sequence done to eight beats. We were to dance to a song (Di Sarli), trying to always start this sequence on the “1”. Then we were to do the sequence, alternating with our own improvisation on the next 8 beats, and then back to the sequence, always starting on “1”. The idea was to be able to recognize where the phrase starts and end. We also practiced this idea to a D’Arienzo song. Then we learned another simple 8-step sequence that included a Follower left foot back ocho to the open side and back boleo on the closed side. Again, we were to dance this phrase, always starting on the “1”. We did this to Di Sarli. Then we were to dance using the first sequence, the second sequence, and then improvise for the 3rd eight beats. Next, we danced to La Cumparsita, really trying to catch where the music stops and to make a pause there. Next, we worked on double time steps. We were to do only walking steps (forward, back, in place), but do it in double time when we heard it in the music.

Volcadas: We began with falling / trust exercises. The Follower shifts her weight slowly forward to the balls of her feet, and falls forward while maintaining good posture (core engagement, no breaking in back either forward or backward). The Leader catches her in the shoulders to sustain her, taking a step back, and returns her back to axis. The Follower keeps the same line as when she is standing. The Leader’s should not create a lot of distance and not lean back. The Leader uses his back foot to puss off to get Follower back to axis. Follower projects the spine up, and the sensation for the Follower is for her to go above and over Leader’s head. Next, we did the same exercise, only we used the frame in our arms. The Leader needs to receive the Follower with his torso, not his tummy. The contact is on the closed side, arms/ torso only, NO contact in the chest. Next, we went on to the Leader’s left leg sacada of Follower’s right leg to cause her right leg to do a back cross, to unwind her left foot into a front volcada. The Follower needs to let the leg go in the direction of where she is falling. The Leader takes a back step with his left leg, but keeps his body forward to lead the Follower’s left foot forward volcada. His goal is to make the movement round. Next, we added more turn/circularity to this same movement, which caused us to get the side volcada (or funny/armpit volcada). Here, after the Leader’s left leg sacada of the Follower’s right leg, the energy and circularity of movement causes the Follower’s right leg to do a fuller back cross step, and the Leader taking her off axis and his simultaneous rotation around her causes her to do the side (funny / armpit) volcada. The last thing we did was play with the free volcadaing leg of the Follower, with the Follower relaxing the leg and the Leader playing with it by faking it out, back and forth.

My overall impressions of the Cecilia Gonzalez (la famosa) y Somer Surgit workshops:
I found the instruction to be very clear and organized. Like in January, I especially like Maestra’s communication energy – she is very calm, her voice melodic and soothing, with a very patient and encouraging cadence, sprinkled with humor. Maestro is very clear and extremely methodical in his delivery, so they make an excellent teaching team. Both provided ample individual feedback to the couples, and could see right away why something wasn’t working, and what the fix was. And FYI, Maestra Cecilia Gonzalez (la famosa) is encouraging of note taking. :o) And so is Gary Weinberg, for that matter. :o)

Just some Random Thoughts:
I’ve taken many workshops from visiting maestros organized by Gary Weinberg and Nirmala or Deirdre, and I really like how these are structured. They are usually 6 workshops that build on each other, given over a weekend, with usually a partner/volume discount (so the price goes to $20 per person per workshop if you take all 12 instead of the full price of $25 per person per workshop if you take 1, which is still quite reasonable), which makes for more gender balanced classes. These workshop series are wonderful in that they give students time to really study quite deeply with a visiting maestro, in a very structured, organized manner. I get the impression that a lot of thought goes into the workshop topics, and sometimes we are blessed to have the same visiting maestros come twice in the same year, so they and we can tell if we’ve done our homework since the last time they visited. These workshop series are almost like mini tango festivals in and of themselves, and the teachers are always superb. And even when the maestros come twice in one year, the workshop topics are entirely different from each other, so it’s always fresh and challenging.


Word on the madera is that the events not to be missed are the Blas Rivera musicality classes. They are supposed to be knock-your-socks-off fantastic: funny, witty, able to get your brain to a different place when it comes to musicality. “Like nothing you’ve ever seen before” “You don’t want to miss it” were some comments I heard.

Thursday November 12 EL VALENCIANO

8:00-9:30pm Comparing the great orchestras: (Di Sarli, D’arienzo, Pugliese and Piazzolla)

$20 Workshop

Friday November 13 MONTE CRISTO

8:00-9:00 pm class w/Blas Rivera

9:00pm-midnight milonga w/live music

$20 milonga and class

Sunday, November 15, STUDIO GRACIA

7:30 pm- 8:30pm Musicality and Rhythm: Learn to distinguish their different rhythm, beats and phrases.

8:30 pm- 1:00am Milonga.

$20 milonga and class

And there is still time to join in on the Thanksgiving Weekend fun:

This will be my third year; I absolutely love it. :o)

What else am I excited about?? Well, lots…

Enriqueta Kleinman coming to town. November 18-24

Santiago and Amy Walking Classes

Outdoor Free milongas at Lands End

Registration begins for CCSF classes. Because of the state budget cuts, no printed class schedules will be mailed. So you will have to take a peek at for the dance class schedule

and registration info. Classes are $26 for all California residents. CCSF has a FANTASTIC dance program (including, ballroom Latin, swing, hip hop, modern, Afro-Haitian, ballet, etc., etc., etc., etc.). New to CCSF students need to apply NOW to be ready for the upcoming Spring 2010 registration period.

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