Thursday, February 4, 2010

January 14 - February 3

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Late Shift Milonga with lesson beforehand by Chelsea Eng and Luis Carpi (of Dallas).
I like to support Maestra’s teaching gigs outside of CCSF, and I was curious as to who this “Luis” was since there was no elucidation on I got there late for the lesson, so missed the beginning. Luis seemed familiar, but I could not place him. The figure they taught included a Follower clockwise molinete of back, side, forward from the promenade position with a Leader’s right leg pivot, and left leg is extended back. This Leader’s left leg back trailing extension is a result of the torsion in his upper body. From here, we can link this figure twice to the same promenade to Follower’s clockwise molinete to a Follower forward step to the outside of the Leader on the close side, then into a side step that pivots a lot on the Follower’s left leg, into a promenade. The point of this figure was to add dynamics and energy with the promenade, instead of making it a regular molinete or two linked molinetes. During class as Luis made his rounds, he remembered me from Fandango de Tango in Austin. Though the step was relatively simple, we had a chance to really drill and work on the finer points of technique, and hopefully apply these foundational building blocks to our overall tango development. It was an excellent lesson (Maestra was fantastic as always).

Luis was in San Francisco just for a visit, as his curiosity about our tango reputation got the better of him. He would also like to visit Portland at some point. As a teacher, Luis shows great promise and potential. During class, he was very concerned that he answered/clarified an important point about Leader’s technique and the wherefores and whys of the lead, and paid individual attention to the specific leader student who had a particular question, making sure he had answered the question sufficiently. I got a chance to speak with him later after the lesson, and got a few salient points about his development: his main teachers/influences are the fantastic George and Jairelbhi Furlong and Phyllis Williams (translator at Fandango for Nito y Elba), all excellent Dallas teachers.

The milonga was fun, with dancer quality quite high, and though it was crowded, floor craft the best I’ve ever experienced (I never thought I’d ever write that!). Maestra’s and Luis’s performance was excellent-- very fun, very musical, very technically precise. I danced more than I had in a long time (and freely and joyfully), but bonked around midnight. Thankfully, Mariana put out some pinwheel/mini aram sandwiches that really hit the spot and kept me going for another 90 minutes. I also discovered the water fountain, which I had heard about but had never actually seen (after going here for years). What an eye-opener. There will be no more complaints from me about running out of water, though I will continue to bring my own water bottle. (Bargain tip of the week: Cost Plus has wide-mouth stainless steel water bottles in really nifty colors for a whopping $5). It was a really pleasant, fun night.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Café Cocomo Milonga with lesson beforehand by Chelsea Eng and Luis Carpi.
The Beginning lesson focused on Follower forward ochos with Leader matching her steps. She should reach with her toe, and the Leader should receive her step, but also determine how far the Follower goes. Follower should match Leader’s energy. They also added the Leader parada after the Follower’s pivot, to Follower pasada. I found the instruction very clear from both Maestra and Luis. Maestra made the distinction of the practica versus milonga, versus class, where we are always working toward the ideal. In the Intermediate lesson, Maestra and Luis taught the Leader back sacada of his left foot to Follower’s right foot from her left foot back ocho / back cross step to the open side of the embrace. The Leader rotates counter clockwise, then takes one back step, and then can do another Leader sacada. The Follower receives the sacada with her right leg, as her left leg is the supporting, standing one. To receive the sacada well, it is important that the Leader have enough room to do it. Here, the Follower needs to give him enough space by taking a big back cross step with her left leg so that it gives the Leader enough room. Her left leg also needs to be strong and stable, and her body upright on axis and balanced (it should not tilt or lean back). Her body needs to have strong abs, and soft supporting knees, with feet spread against the floor. The Leader’s right hand needs to be loose to let the Follower take a generous back cross step. The receipt of the sacada can be read off the floor, keeping it close to the body, and then down the left side of her left leg, in an out, up, in, down, forward sweeping movement. The Follower’s left leg is the standing, supporting leg, and its stability and strength are important with respect to how her right leg reads the receipt of the sacada. The Leader’s right arm should not be tense at the point of his back sacada. It needs to be relaxed so there is a change of embrace. The Follower’s left hand slides down the Leader’s arm toward his right elbow or mid arm at the point of his back sacada. After this Leader’s back sacada, the Leader grounds into the floor, lowering to be more grounded, then he steps back with his left leg while Follower simultaneously steps forward with her right leg. By grounding at this point, the Leader maintains the Follower’s weight in the split middle position, and he walks around her continuing with the back step he already took, to a side step, forward step, to a side step in a counterclockwise molinete, the next forward step of which turns into a parada of his left leg after the Follower pivots and the rest of her body comes around as a result of the torsion in her upper body as she maintains connection with the Leader’s chest as he goes around her in his molinete. Then we played with linking these moves, with the Follower pasada with her right leg over the Leader’s left foot, to pivot, then to do a back cross step with her left foot, into the Leader’s left leg back sacada of her right foot. For the Leader, he does a small step to the side to do a weight chance, then pivots, and then does his back sacada. The Follower can do a right foot boleo at the point of the parada/pasada if the energy is there and led by the Leader or with momentum. One beginner female student asked about the potential adornos that can be done during this figure. Maestra answered that our goal was in the beauty of the movement itself (my read: precision, fluidity, and grace, not tricking or blinging it out). Luis commented that this sequence required a lot of contra body movement, and included lots of dynamics to generate body fluidity. If we can master these concepts, other steps in tango become easier. It was an excellent lesson.

The milonga itself was OK. Unfortunately, Mimi was not there to keep us fueled for the evening, and I made the mistake of having an early dinner. So I found myself distracted by the lack of food more substantial than pretzels, veggie snaks, and cheese puffs. My bad. The dancing was good though; I had a very nice time. It wasn’t super crowded, but there were many reasonably or very skilled dancers, so I had a good time. Maestra’s and Luis’s performance was great.


Brigitta Winkler!!!
The Superbowl (GO Saints!!!)

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