Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 13-19

Friday, May 14, 2010

Private party with a dozen or so Chelsea CCSF students/alumni. We were celebrating la jubilación de Jorge y el bano nuevo de la casa. Newly engaged Miranda and Lars were there, as were the usual cast of characters (Cristobal, Wah, El Jefe, Milan, Irina, Jose, Darryl and Mrs. Darryl, la hermana de Jorge, Rosalinda of course, a new student who I don’t know since I didn’t take classes this semester). We had the legendary paella I had heard so much about, and it was as delicious as everyone raved. The rest of the food was also divine. There was a luscious white bean and sausage soup, a salad, and peach cobbler. Someone also brought the very trendy red velvet cake from Costco, which tasted fine, but whose color was more on the brown side than red. The most popular libation of the night (in addition to the usual wine and sangria, and beating out ron de Cuba) was a bottle of Absinthe from France, which most everyone got to taste, either straight or cut with some lemon water. After we had our fill of food and delicious conversation, the living room furniture was moved aside, the carpet rolled up, the stereo cranked up, and we danced the night away to some mighty fine tango tunes spun by El Jefe. It’s funny, he played the Amalie song that we use in Follower’s Technique, only he played the whole thing. Many of us had never heard the entire song, so we were a bit lost when the parts of the song that we weren’t accustomed to came on. It was a very pleasant night and a huge blessing to be in such a warm, supportive, drama-free, friendly, loving environment.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas workshops at La Pista.

1:00-2:30pm Molinetes, giros and enrosque: technique, connection and lead

3:00-4:30pm Complex Tango Figures

These workshops had a shocking amount of Leaders and substantially fewer Followers. Maybe that is because Oscar cuts such an exciting, passionate figure that captivates the imagination of so many aspiring tangueros. However, Georgina is an absolutely fantastic maestra of Followers’ Technique, with an eagle eye toward safety and physical deficiencies (and how to correct them), and a kind, supportive demeanor in her feedback, so it was a pity that more women weren’t in the class to appreciate her tutelage. They were strong advocates of taking classes in heels so that we can have the proper balance and rely on our whole foot for power and energy, not just the soles of our feet, which makes us much too focused on maintaining our balance if we dance on our soles while we wear sneakers, or if we wear sneakers, we might have too much sinking down to the floor as our heels anchor for balance during important lessons like the ones for ganchos, where you need to have weight on the whole foot, including the heel.

The underlying themes of what they taught include pushing into the floor, and using the floor for energy/power and push. Have lots of contra motion in the body. Keep the energy of the feet in the big toe or toward the inner ankle (do not roll out or supinate). Be really up, project up in our steps, have rise, and then be relaxed. Use the elasticity in your body and always maintain magnetism with your partner. Do not let the energy die or dampen when in neutral position. Keep the suspension and elasticity.

The Leader’s left hand is where his elegance is. Do not use it to push the Follower into a back ocho. Follower, do not use your right arm to get leverage from the Leader to pivot your hips around. The Leader should use his right arm’s hand and fingers to get the Follower around to do a back ocho. The Leaders hips creates his space. Feel the rebound in the floor. For a lot of the figures they teach, the secret to keeping them in the line of dance is to aim it away from the line of dance, and use lots of contra body rotation. This creates the illusion of the figure going straight forward, even though it is slightly curved.

For the second workshop, the figure included arrastres and barridas, and our focus was to work on our technique. What I really loved about maestros was that they are strong, strong advocates of working on technique. The figure included barridas and ganchos. For the Leader, there is no need to lead extra energy in the gancho. The gancho was created for the show/stage. At the point of the gancho, the Leader’s leg is turned out and his heel is off the ground. During this workshop, maestros recommended the Followers wear heels so that they remain up and in balance, rather than sinking down substantially or fighting for their balance if they were wearing low-heeled shoes or dance sneakers. There was also a part of the sequence that involved Leader embellishment of lapis, cross back, to enroseque, enrosque, enrosque during the Follower counterclockwise molinete.

These were both great workshops.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

1:00-2:15pm The Close Embrace: The Buenos Aires Style

2:45-4:00pm Sacadas: technique, connection, impulse and lead

The first workshop focused on the Close Embrace. We began with technique exercises, focusing on transferring our weight and having contra body rotation as we step (initiating before we step). We were to walk using all three tracks. The magnet, the energy to create, comes from the floor. As with magnets, we should resist it a little. We were to practice keeping the energy where it is comfortable to embrace our partner. We practiced just walking, having a nice embrace, nice contact, and use good technique for walking, all the while focusing on the magnetic energy. The Leader has connect in his chest, but his hips are inside. The Follower should keep the energy of the ankle inside (do not roll out). The Leader’s forearm should be flexible, as there is rotation, north and south, as he leads the changes in height, the changes in direction, and the chances in the line of dance. The Leader forearm rotation happens during the salida and the resolution. The Follower lifts the Leader’s shoulder blade.

Since it was a small class, almost like a group private, with twice as many Leaders as Followers, we worked the embrace part of the material quite quickly.

Then the class broke up into a technique class, with the Leaders spending time with Oscar while the Followers spent time with Georgina. This was an excellent technique class, and though it was listed as a “close embrace” class, I am thrilled that we spent so much time on technique.

For the technique side of the instruction, the Followers began with walking exercises, paying attention to getting good weight transfer (with movement in our hips), and contra body rotation, and the energy and power from the floor to keep the magnet, and to really push off with the whole foot including the heel (not just the sole) to get power and energy. We walked forward and back trying to get good power and energy, and also good turnout.

Then we went to onto ochos, with much focus on getting good pivot (but not too much pivot), while maintaining good connection in our upper body to our Leader. Maestra clarified that having the chest be in front of the Leader during the pivot does not mean just the absolute center of the chest, but also means the side of the chest. We also practiced having more flexibility in our left arm socket as we pivot from one side to another so that we do not block our own hip range of motion while we pivot. We should keep our upper arm socket disassociated so we don’t lock in the embrace, especially for forward and back ochos so that we can get the maximum range of motion. Maestra reiterated the importance of the Follower’s left arm/hand having flexibility to move up and down the Leader’s back and arm from open to close embrace, and from the close side to the open side of the embrace during pivots. Follower’s also need to really arrive on our full step, including heel, when doing our forward ochos. Followers should also really turn out their whole leg when taking the forward step (not just the foot). Again, we were to focus on keeping the energy on the inside of the ankle. For turnout, we should aim with our heels now with our toes. Heels!

Maestra also emphasized that we should not overpivot in our ochos, but use our whole foot to push onto the next step.

Next, joy of joys, we pulled out the chairs and practiced our molinetes. Maestra suggested that we practice the molinete in two distinct parts. The first part is the side step to the back step, paying attention to having complete weight transfer on the side step, to pivot a lot to the back step, and having good turnout in the foot during the back step, and be precise in the foot placement of the back step, all the while keeping our solar plexus up (substantially more up than you think it needs to be). We practiced these two steps on one side and the other, trying to get an even range of motion / torsion on both sides during the back step. The second part is the forward step, to pivot, and then the side step. This forward step should be made with a lot of turnout in our leg so that our foot can step around in toward the Leader. We should have good pivot so that we remain in front of the Leader, and a good side step with complete weight transfer. We should always collect in the middle, but immediately go into a pivot and then the side step for smoothness. There is always a pivot before the forward step. It could be small, but there is always a point of adjustment/pivot, so that we can maintain circularity in our step around the Leader. It was fun. I really like it when teachers pull out the chairs and insist that we do molinetes around them.

The Sacada workshop was a good one as well. For sacadas, we need to use the floor, not the leg, and push more into the floor. Both the Leader and Follower project into the floor. The figure began with a regular sacada of the Follower’s right leg by the Leader’s left leg. It was noted that the Sacada is a really a gentle move where the Leader displaces the Follower’s leg as her other leg is already stepping back and transferring weight to the back leg. It is not a violent knocking away of the Follower’s leg; it is just a touch. The Follower answers the sacada with a right foot back cross, which puts her left leg in perfect position to embellish with a beat back of her left foot against her right ankle. They step out, then he pivot’s her around and does another sacada of her left foot with his right foot while they are in Americanaish position, to pivot her around to step front cross with her right leg, to a side step with her left leg, whereby the Leader does a sacada of her right trailing foot with his left foot. It was an interesting figure with lots of different sacada and unexpected changes of direction, so it involved a lot of nimble thinking on the part of the Leader.

These were really great lessons from maestros, as usual. It is wonderful that they come every year, sometimes several times a year, so that we can all have the extraordinary blessing of learning regularly from them. Georgina strikes me as a profoundly polite lady-like portena. I also got the distinct impression that they both care passionately about their students understanding the concepts and feeling them in their bodies as they both personally danced with everyone in their workshops, on both the Leader and Follower side of the equation, on top of giving us all individual feedback and attention, despite the rather large number of students and crowded conditions on Saturday. To find that much care from teachers of their superstar stature is truly humbling.

Random thoughts about class imbalance.

As I think about some of the extremely imbalanced classes I’ve been to recently, I think that having a “combined technique class” of boleos (where there are always way too many followers) and sacadas (where there are always way too many leaders) makes sense. I wonder if people would be open to such a class, say of approximately 3 hours and double the price of a normal 75-90 minute workshop.

I feel the same way when I go to festivals and they have a Follower’s Technique class, which pretty much drains all the other classes during the same time period of Followers and causes a huge imbalance. Why not also have a Leader’s Technique class at the same time? Kudos to the Chicago Tango Festival organizers this year who have done exactly that. Actually, they went a bit further and are having all of the teaching couples teach at least one Followers’ or Leaders’ Technique class. Now THAT, in my opinion, is absolutely brilliant.

So what am I excited about these days?

Carolina Del Rivero and Donato Juarez coming to town. They are truly awesome teachers. I love especially learning colgadas and volcadas from Carolina. When I first started learning from them, they were both with other more famous partners. Now together, their dancing is joyful, inspired and fun.

Fabian Salas and Lola Diaz coming to town. Fabian is really a genius when it comes to volcadas and colgadas.

I’ve taken many colgada and volcada workshops from Carolina and Fabian, and their technical breakdown of both is superb. Now if I could only get the physiokinetics in my muscle memory, that would be awesome.

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