Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 11-17

P.S. From last week:

The rap song that Homer played at CellSpace was by Momo Smitt, called “Tango World.” You can see it on YouTube

Momo Smitt also has another song, “Dance with Pro”, inspired by a dance with Jennifer Olsen:

Personally, I am extremely impressed by his talent. His lyrics are hip and modern, and imminently relatable. It’s truly exciting to witness the evolution a new subgenre of tango music with U.S. roots. Apparently, plans are in the works for a CD release later this year, though a demo CD is available if you can beg, borrow, or steal one. Momo Smitt is relatively new to tango, so it will be interesting to hear his lyrics develop as his dance develops.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Palo Alto Milonga at All Saints Church with lesson beforehand by Valeria Carmel and Daniel Rodriguez.
I missed most of the lesson since I was having way too good of a time at Mango Caribbean, the restaurant next door, sucking down a ginger beer cocktail and snarffling up a beef patty (the Jamaican equivalent of an empanada). In watching the tail end of the lesson, I noticed it was a sequence similar to the one taught Monday at La Cumparsita, only with Maestro doing more Leader embellishments. Maestros have a very balanced presentation of Leader and Follower technique, had lots of good tango nuggets of wisdom, and showed lots of individual attention the couples.

The milonga was fine. It wasn’t hugely attended, but that was OK, since it made floorcraft nearly a non-issue. The Leader quality was good, and everyone danced with everyone else. Maestros were such good sports, dancing socially with us at the milonga. Their performance of two tangos was very nice, with Maestro having especially fast, precise feet, and excellent balance. It had been a while since I had gone to a milonga here, and I had forgotten how nice the floor was to dance on.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Café Cocomo milonga with lesson beforehand by Gato Valdéz y Andrea Monti on technique and a sequence.
We began with some fundamental exercises to work on our technique. For walking. For ochos and disassociation/balance. For speed and embellishments. This was an all levels class, and there were students for whom this was their very first tango lesson, and several regular students of Maestros who came up all the way from San Jose and beyond. It was a very good class. The first sequence taught included back and forward ochos (back and forward cross steps), a change of direction, a Leader sacada, and a Follower front cross boleo response to the sacada, and walking. The second sequence included the 8CB to 4, followed by a rock step, then a step back, so that the Leader’s right leg wrapped or displaced the Followers’ right leg, to send it into a tight back cross of her left leg. Here, she can either do a beat back with her left foot against her right foot, or have the left foot pop forward out or reverse spiral cross out and around the left side of her right foot. Maestros speak English, though their style of teaching was more Argentine in style: They showed the pattern, spoke about it briefly with respect to the lead and follow, and then let us drill it for quite a bit, going around providing lots of individual attention. At the end, each student couple demonstrated the sequence to show that they had learned it. Because there were a few extra followers in class, I got a chance to be an assistant, just following as Gato led me, while Andrea led other followers. It was nerve wracking, but I guess I did OK (I didn’t fall or step on him). I found Andrea to be an excellent teacher of Followers’ Technique, and would recommend her to anyone in the South Bay wanting to develop their dance in that area (which should be all Followers, in my opinion).

The milonga itself was OK. It wasn’t super crowded nor super empty. It had a reasonable number of people so that floor craft was generally not an issue. Actually, it had a very nice, relaxed, mellow feeling overall, certainly without the frenzied speed and aggressiveness that can sometimes be found at more crowded milongas. Maestros demo’d to two songs. Their dancing had a more performance-oriented bent, which I am sure inspires a lot of people to dream about the possibilities in their dance development. Later on, several visiting maestros popped in to social dance; what a pleasure they were to watch. There was no food at this milonga, just like last time, save for the pretzels and veggie stix. :o( I wonder if that is a new thing. I hope not...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Orange Practica at the Beat with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on “The Leader’s Back Enrosque”

The video can be seen at (with 42,000+ hits and climbing!!!)

We went immediately into exercises.

Exercise 1:
Crossing behind while walking forward. With all of us together in one big circle, we were to try to get to the center of the circle by walking forward with tight back crosses.

Exercise 2:
Crossing forward while walking backward. From the center of the circle, we were to try to get to the perimeter by walking backward with tight forward crosses.

On both these exercises, our feet should be in tight crosses, with our two feet coming together to point in an arrow /\. We were to have no bounce, and we should lift our heels so that we can get in and move forward or back as we cross in the opposite manner. We were to try to get to the middle of the room (or the perimeter of the room) as quickly as possible, but with control, elegance, and grace.

Exercise 3:
In partnership, hand in hand, we were to do forward ochos together and back ochos together, stepping around each other so that we remain relatively close. Timing wise, we were to go together simultaneously. The Followers need to create spiral in their bodies, and the Leaders should try to be as elegant as the Followers in their ochos as well. Good ocho technique applied in this exercise: caress the floor with our feet, keep our knees, thighs, and ankles together at the point of collection/pivot.

Exercise 4:
Next, we were to compete with each other to see who could get the most energy in our forward pivot, pivoting as much as we could to see who has more hip energy. Here, it is very important to connect to the floor with our standing, supporting leg, so that we can pivot strongly and a lot. The energy in our hips depends on how we connect to the floor. We were to compete with each other, but have speed as well as control, but with grace and without falling. This exercise is important because most of the back enrosque is derived from the forward pivot.

Exercise 5: A drill of the Leader Enrosque footwork. The Leader walks in a line, starting with a forward step (forward ocho / front cross step) with his left foot, with his right foot hooking behind, then pivoting counterclockwise, then changing weight to be on his right foot, to a pivoted back step (back ocho/ back cross step) with his left foot. The Leader faces the same direction at the start on his first step forward, and at the finish with his last step back. His goal is to stay in a straight line for this drill.

We also did this exercise with the right foot, stepping out with our right foot first, tight back crossing with our left foot, to pivot clockwise, to change weight to our left foot, and then to pivoted back step with our right foot.

Exercise 6:
The ocho exercise transformed into the back enrosque exercise. Again, in partnership, both dancers did the same footwork as in Exercise 4, of forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), to tight back cross of other foot, to pivot, change weight, and then back step (back ocho / back cross step). If starting with the left foot, it also ends with the left foot. If starting with the right foot, it also ends with the right foot. Both dancers need to be responsible for their body, to be aligned and have good spiral, and hang a little back (do not lean forward). The dancers can lift the heel a little by bending the knee, to help them pivot. The idea to focus on in this exercise is to be very grounded over ourselves as we did this enrosque footwork. We need to be on the balls of our foot, and be solid. Our whole body works, not just our foot. There was less pivot in this exercise, so the dancers danced in a straight linear direction with the pivot in between steps, to arc around each other in a half circle.

Exercise 7: Leader back enrosque footwork during Follower molinete / turn. While the Leader does his forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), tight back cross, pivot, weight change, and back step (back ocho / back cross step), he simultaneously leads the Follower to do a molinete / turn of forward/front cross step, side step, back cross step. We did this with the Leader’s left foot first and last (during Follower counterclockwise molinete / turn), and then Leader’s right foot first and last (during Follower clockwise molinete / turn).

Follower should have long, consistent steps during their molinete, and she should not transfer the weight too fast, especially on the side step. She should have complete control of her reaching leg, and take equal size steps. She should also have a smooth transfer of weight. Even if the Follower feels the Leader changing weight, nothing in his upper body should do anything other than keep leading the Follower in her molinete. The point of this exercise is for the Leader to figure out when to transfer weight to maximize the energy in the turn.

Exercise 8: The introduction of a cheat: The Forward Sacada. The forward sacada can be used so that the Leader is around the Follower’s center more, in a tighter relationship. The forward sacada helps the Leader do his enrosque. The Leader’s forward sacada is a forward ocho step, on the Follower’s forward step at her trailing foot.

Note that the Leader’s back step afterwards is optional. He can do it continuously, link it with rulos, etc.

Finally, Maestros showed us conceptually that entering (doing the sacada) on the Follower’s side step is easier than entering (doing the sacada) on her forward / front cross step because it synchronizes the pivots of the Leader and Follower, thus adding power to the Leader’s pivot.

Note that the sacada can be done on any step of the Follower’s molinete: back step, side step, forward step. There are many possibilities.

Sometimes the Leader might inadvertently get confused with his feet, and then end up in the wrong crossed feet position. To get out of it, he can do another tight back cross to be on the correct foot again to get out of it.

Summary Comments:

Leader’s back cross / cross behind technique is key. So is his forward ocho and back ocho technique.

Follower’s molinete / turn technique is key. Take long steps. Have smooth weight transitions. Keep close. Be on axis with nose over hips.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Pugliese’s Cascabelito.

Polo mentioned that he is hosting a new milonga this Saturday at the Beat.

So what am I excited about these days?

Alicia Pons in town. One of the best teachers EVER.

Jorge Nel in town. Hopefully he will take our milonga dancing up a notch. His shoes are great, by the way.

Negracha and Diego Lanau back in town. One of my favorite dance teaching couples EVER.

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