Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 5-12

Friday, May 7, 2010

Palo Alto Milonga at All Saint’s Episcopal Church with lesson beforehand by Adolfo Caszarry on the Ocho Cortado. The lesson was basic but good. I sat it out since there were a few more Followers, and I was comfortable with where my Ocho Cortado was. They started with the regular ocho cortado. Then they added the Leader’s right foot stop of Follower’s right foot on her left foot side step before the cross. Then they did a variation which involved no return to a cross, but a paired Americana step, to a Follower pivot, to step forward cross step outside Leader with her right leg, back out to resolution. It was a good lesson. Before the lesson, we spent a few minutes on a Leader Technique thing: From the tight front cross, pivoting all the way around 360 degrees, to be crossed again, with our feet the other way. Maestro gave subtle tips about this: how the feet when they are crossed, should actually have the crossing foot slightly ahead of the straight foot, so that when you pivot around, you also transfer weight to the heel, and then back into crossed the other way, but in a far more elegant and tight manner than if your feet were equal and you had the weight on the balls of your feet the entire time. We all tried this, even though we were not all Leaders.

The milonga itself was surprisingly super fun. The Leader quality was very good (some were excellent, highly skilled), and they were social. So most people got to dance with a variety of people. It was a luxury to be able to dance so freely since there was ample space on the dance floor. Generally, floor craft was not a problem, with only a few light bumps followed by immediate acknowledgement/apologies. The food was paired down to just cheese and crackers and grapes. Interestingly, a hot pot of coffee was available all night. That was the first time I had seen coffee at a milonga on the west coast! There was a birthday vals with cheesecake. I stayed until the end, and had a very good time the entire time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gustavo Benzecry Sabá & María Olivera workshop: “Rhythm v. Musicality” We began with walking on a single beat, forward and backward to a Canaro song. We used Canaro because he was among the first composers to have the marked idea of the strong beat. Next, we added syncopation (QQ), forward and back. Music is like a poem with phrases. The phrases are repeated. You will recognize the phrases because they are repeated.

Pugliese is more dramatic. Here, we tried to step only on the 8th beat, our feet moving during the other seven beats, but not stepping until the 8th beat, trying to express what’s between every step. In Pugliese, there are strong and melodic moments, such as with the violin. We tried to move our leg for as long as the violin is playing, to slow down our movements more. An example of the simple strong beat is Canaro, the extreme of which is D’Arienzo. In the 1920’s Julio De Caro introduced the idea of strong melodies and harmonies, and the extreme of that is Pugliese. The extreme extreme of that is Piazzolla.

In our class, we changed the music, going from the beat, to feeling more harmonies and melodies and trying to express them in our dance. We were to listen. We were not just to follow the beat. We don’t need to step on the beat, but can let them go by. We danced to the same Pugliese song twice, and then a different Pugliese song once. In Pugliese, instead of regular beats (as in Canaro) the music goes in waves, and there are pauses. The length of the music/sounds are longer than in Canaro (which has shorter lengths). During these long lengths of music, we should stretch our legs to express the music.

Then we changed the music to Canaro’s Poema. First, we danced the way we wanted to dance to it. Then, we played with the different layers of music, isolating the different tracks: piano, violin, lyrics, etc. The music of Poema does not invite you to do ganchos because ganchos were invented later. The music of Poema is made for intimate, close embrace dancing. The violin is the woman. The bass is the step of the man/leader. The piano is the couple walking in the park. We were to dance to Poema, paying attention to the 5 possibilities of what we can emphasize: the rhythm, the harmony/melody, the singer, the accent/effect (piano/bandoneon), or the silence (pause). We then danced, with Leader paying attention to dance only during the violin. Then only during the singer. Then only on the beat. We were to adjust the step accordingly to the partners height, shorter or taller/longer. The Follower was to stay with the Leader and put attitude in her steps, and to add effects to express the music. To improve our musicality, we should listen to different songs, play different types of music all the time.

One web site that Maestros are excited about is Poesia De Gotan, a web site that has English translations of tango lyrics. It is important to know the lyrics of the songs so that we can express them more appropriately. Sometimes people dance to Poema with a look of absolute joy or impishness in their steps, when the lyrics are actually sad. Our feet are paintbrushes. The floor is the canvas. Don’t be worried about your feet. You will dance if the music is in your heart. All the rest will come.

This was a great lesson. Gustavo and Maria were one of my first visiting Maestros. They are friends of Roberto’s, and Roberto strongly recommended them, since Gustavo is a fellow Dinzelito. I had forgotten how beautifully poetic his use of language was, and I had forgotten how precise Maria’s translation was in her extreme fluency. They were a pleasure to learn from again. During the class I had the most amazing dance with Gerry to a Nuevo milonga. I was astounded that his milonga is so great, since he does not dance milonga much at milongas (at least I don’t notice that he does). I asked him who he is learning from right now since Ney and Jennifer are gone. He said no one; he just works from his notes (his notebooks are much bigger than mine). He remarked on what a magical time that was for us when Ney and Jennifer were here, and I agreed wistfully. The practica afterwards was fun.

El Russo de Portland was here in town, to be honored at his employer for being the rock star that he is. I was supposed to meet up with him so that we could burn the floor, but though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. I was too pooped, so I didn’t dance on Saturday or Sunday night. El Russo did manage to do an admirable job scouting out the local tango scene on his own. He ran into three fellow Intensivo graduates at Monte Cristo on Friday. On Saturday, the legendary Graciela Gonzalez popped into the Allegro for a visit. Sunday’s workshops with Gustavo and Maria were good, and he had a nice time at Studio Gracia Sunday night, where dancer quality was fine. He had an excellent time here overall, despite us missing each other.

Monday, May 10, 2010

La Cumparista Milonga

I skipped the lesson beforehand. The milonga was fun. I danced with several new people, who turned out to be excellent dancers.

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