Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 3-9

Thursday, June 3, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga with lesson beforehand by Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas.
This too, as usual, was an excellent lesson. I find maestros' enthusiasm and love for tango positively infectious. The lesson began with some simple movement exercises. We were to have no tension in our shoulders, and then wiggle our hands. We stood with our feet turned out a little bit, with heels collected. We were to feel balance with our weight on one leg, and then shift it to the other leg completely. We were to try to feel like we were floating. Then we did some exercises to feel the contra motion in our bodies, along with weight changes and balance exercises. In dancing, we were to caress the floor, and work in slow motion. We were to stay on one leg, then move forward, side, and collect, change our balance, and then collect again with the other leg. We should listen to the music, turn out our feet, and move with energy.

The lesson was a simple one, and we were to play with adornos for the Leader and Follower. Maestros demo'd the figure, which was done in close embrace. It was a simple figure that began with a series of side steps, and then a Follower big back ocho to the close side of the embrace, with a calesita with adornos for the Follower while her right leg is the supporting, standing leg, as she is the center of the circle and as Leader goes counterclockwise around her. Her left leg is free to do adornos (amagues, rulos, etc.). While Follower does her adornos, she is basically at a 90 degree angle to the Leader. As he steps around her, he eventually pivots her so that she returns to be back in front of him in normal connection (not 90 degree).

Their first secret was that for the Leader's hips, he should keep his position. Keep your chest up. The chest is where the connection is with your partner. If you keep the chest connection solid, the hips of both dancers are free.

Their second secret was for the Leader to use the fingers on his right hand to lead/open the Follower up, so she can do a big back ocho. The Leader's right hand should be on the Follower's back shoulder blade underneath (not in the middle of her back). He should keep his right hand lifting her under her shoulder blades. In the figure, at the last moment, he can return her to be in front of him after she's done her big back ocho.

Leader should flex and bend the knees without abandoning himself. Then project himself.

The Follower's energy is in the solar plexis with axis forward. She should not change balance with her arms or use the Leader by hanging on to him with her arms.

Next, we changed the figure. We still began with with side steps (with rise as we arrive to our axis), with a Follower back ocho to the close side of the embrace. Leader pivots her a bit counterclockwise and then back clockwise, while he sneaks in his right leg to do a parada on the close side of the embrace as the Follower is on her right foot. This gives her left leg a chance to play with rulos, or more right leg pivots or hip pivots/swivels, to eventually pasada over with her left foot over the Leader's right leg, back to the open side of the embrace, returning to the front of the Leader in resolution.

For Follower's technique, it is important that she keep the bunion side of the foot to the floor at the point of her calesita adornos (not the tip of the toe).

The milonga itself was good. It wasn't excessively crowded, so floor craft on this particular night was pretty good overall. There were a few light bumps here and there, but most dancers behaved respectfully. It was one of the better nights with respect to floor crafting that I've experienced here.

Maestros did a wonderful performance as usual.

I tried to dance the whole night using a technical nugget Maestra gave to me, in sky-high heels. (Actually, she gave this nugget to me the last two times I had lessons with it's taken me a while to roll it around my brain, consider it, and come around to implementing it...which is silly why it took so long since it makes perfect sense with respect to how I could improve my dancing.) So afterwards, my body just ached. It's shocking how much physical and mental effort it takes to make changes to the body's natural, already ingrained muscle memory inclinations.

Friday, June 4, 2010
Palo Alto Milonga at All Saints Episcopal Church with lesson beforehand by Pulpo on Trap Sacadas.
As usual, it was a great lesson, though there were about twice as many followers as leaders. So I sat out a lot of the time, but I was OK with that because then I could concentrate on my notes. The Leaders I rotated through were the fabulous Cristy and maestro himself, being the good sport the he is in making sure his students have a good experience in class. The figure began in close embrace, and was an 8CB to 3 for the Leader, and to 4 for the Follower. Then the Leader pivots a little counterclockwise and does a left foot back cross step to catch her left forward foot. The Follower should have normal steps during the 8CB, not too big or too small. Then the Leader's right leg back ganchos/catches the Follower's left leg. Here, the Leader has to turn/pivot the Follower counterclockwise so that her knee can bend in the correct angle to exit so that her left leg wraps around and out away from the Leader's right leg. The Follower's right leg is the supporting, standing leg, and it's important that she not step too far away from the Leader or sink back all the way from him. They can exit this in three ways:
(1) out to normal walk out with the Leader stepping to the close side of the embrace to continually link these.
(2) with the Leader's right foot meeting the Follower's right foot, and as she collects with her left foot, it sandwiches the Leader's right foot, and he sweeps her right foot back.
(3) or he can bring her back into him (she goes forward into him), and then he switches her weight to be on her left foot, so that she can be free to sweep his right foot back with her right foot.

For the Follower, it is important that she not block the Leader with her left arm. She also needs to keep her heel lifted, and not sink back on her right foot.

Other options: At the point of the wrap, the Leader can do an air wrap with with his right leg of her left leg.

Again, he can link the figure endlessly be stepping forward on the outside (closed side of the embrace) with his left foot, which he can achieve comfortably and easily by moving the Follower slightly to the other side of him, more toward the open side, by adjusting her and pivoting her a little. The continuous link is basically the counterclockwise molinete footwork for the Leader: Forward left foot, side right foot, snug back cross with his left foot, forward right foot, left foot back cross sacada, etc.

The final option we did was that the Leader, after the initial sacada/wrap of his right foot and her left leg, he can transfer the weight to his right leg/foot, pivot her so that her right leg ganchos/wraps his right leg. To lead this properly, he needs to have clockwise torsion in his upper body and he needs to open up his right arm.

The milonga started off kind of slow for me, and I was contemplating leaving at around 10:00 p.m. But I am glad I stuck it out, because several people I had never danced with showed up, and I got to take a whirl with them. They were all great. So overall, I had a very nice time at the milonga, one of the best experiences I've ever had. I had an amazing milonga tanda with a young tanguero, who is home from school for the summer. His improvisational creativity and musicality are superb, and he has extraordinary sensitivity and patience (even during fast milongas). I felt when I danced with him that I was channeling Luna. So it was an amazing, incredible milonga tanda. It was one of those magical "Tango Moments." I also met Chris, the bass player for the new Seth Asarnow y su sexteto tipico, who is an excellent, inspired dancer, trained in BsAs. Sunday's performance at Alberto's should be a good one. It was a very happy night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010
Late Shift Milonga with lesson beforehand by Fabian Salas and Lola Diaz on Boleo Technique.
I missed the lesson, but it went overtime, so I got a chance to see what they worked on. It looked similar to the Rachel Greenberg CELLspace lesson of the back boleo to forward boleo on one side, and then the other side. And they also added the Leader clockwise walk-around to it. It seemed like the subject matter went over reasonably well, as it looked like all the students got it, more or less. I skipped the lesson because I thought it would have too many Followers versus Leaders. I was wrong. The class was quite crowded, and I should have taken it. Oh well. Next time.

The milonga was crowded, but not excessively so. It was a warmish night in San Francisco, and a warmish night at the Late Shift. Because of the temperature, lots of folks voluntarily sat out to cool off/dry off. Maybe the weather made us all slow down a little because there was no frenzied dancing. So floor craft was pretty good, especially considering boleos were taught at the lesson. After the first three tandas, folks settled down a bit so there weren't as many flying stilettos. The two-song performance (first to Pugliese's A Mis Companeros, and the second to Piazzolla's Ave Maria) was nice, with some new material.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
CELLspace Alt Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on The Follower's Syncopated Baby Ochos.

Our music for the class was D'Arienzo.

For syncopated steps, the Leader and Follower both have to hear the music. The Follower needs to respond immediately to the Leader and to the music, so she needs to hear and pay attention to the music. She can also help the Leader with his double time step by being on the beat even if he is a little ahead or a little behind the beat.

Syncopated Baby Back Ochos

We began with the Leader leading slow vanilla bean ochos. Vanilla bean ochos are ochos with no Follower hip pivot, and no Leader shoulder rotation, and Leader legwork as if he is roller blading. No Leader shoulder rotation = No Follower hip rotation. In the slow Vanilla Bean ochos, both Leader and Follower collect in between their steps.

Next, we added the double time, or quick quick to the vanilla bean ocho, with the Leader going forward with his left leg on the QQ. Though he collects his feet in between during the slow vanilla bean ochos, he should not worry about collecting when doing double time QQ in his steps, and he might look/feel like he is waddling; that is OK. The Follower, however, should still try to collect during her QQ steps. Since the Follower does vanilla bean ochos, there should be no hip pivot during the QQ.

It is most logical to try to catch the vanilla bean ocho on the QQ when we are on the straight side of the line of dance (not on the corners or rounded points).

We could also do Mocha Java ochos with the QQ syncopation. The Mocha Java ochos are the ones with Follower hip pivot. Since the ochos would be done on the QQ, they become smaller, and are syncopated ochitos.

Syncopated Baby Forward Ochos

Walking in promenade, the Leader can lead small, syncopated forward ochos. He does this by first leading her into promenade with a side step to his left (her right), and then opening up his left shoulder. When he steps with his inside leg (his right leg), he starts to lead the syncopated ocho. The two dancers open up like two gears meshing with each other.

Here, communication between the Leader and Follower is key. To communicate the double time QQ ocho lead to the Follower, the Leader needs to compress the embrace a little. To improve our communication / sensitivity toward each other, we played a game, Tai Chi tango, for a little while. Here, the dancers stand face to face, and have hand-to-hand contact. The Leader moves his hands and arms in a patternless movement, and Follower should match the Leader's movement and energy. At a random point, the Leader compresses his hands in the Follower. The Follower's job is to mirror and match the Leader's energy so she neither gets pushed back by him or push him away from her when he compresses.

Next, we worked on the body mechanics / physiokinetics for both the Leader and the Follower. Individually, we all stepped forward with either our left foot or right foot, then we pivoted forward, and then pivoted back, and then stepped back, so that we started and finished in the same spot. It was emphasized that we should do this homework at home often so that we can be able to communicate this through the embrace, and so that the Leader can gain control over other types of movement if he can master this one.

Next, we tried this in partnership so that we could feel the Leader and Follower rebound off each other with our hip pivots. The Leader was to build up the compression, and then release out of the compression. It is very important to keep our chest up and have good communication in the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand. The Leader's left hand and Follower's right hand should be flat like a wall so that each can rebound off of each other with their respective compression energy. This flatness of the wall also helps the Leader pivot back to his original position.

Our next challenge was to change the Leader's footwork, so that instead of stepping forward with his right foot with her left foot, he steps forward with his left foot with her left foot. With this foot position, the Leader does not do a forward ocho with the Follower's forward ocho. Instead, he still leads it with his embrace/upper body. The goal of this footwork change for the Leader was so that he get used to leading it on either foot, with or without doing Leader ochos. It's tricky, but it's a road map.

To build on these syncopated baby forward ochos from the promenade, we linked a series of them linearly. The thing that changed is that for the Leader, there is a weight change to his left foot after his pivot. So, he first steps right foot front cross step, and does a weight change to his left as he pivots to face the Follower. The weight change to his left foot is a sensation of dropping into his left foot, and then the rebound, and then his forward cross step with his right foot.

Floor Craft Comments

Maestros commented about floor crafting, since our class was so crowded and a bit unruly floor-craftwise during class. Touch The Corners is one of the rules of floor crafting whereby we try to touch the outside corners of the line of dance, and not cut across the corners. For our class, we were to imagine that there were two tracks/lanes. There should be no zig zagging, no changing of lanes from one to the other to get ahead of the couple in front of you. We were to stay in our own lanes.

End of Class Lesson Highlight Summary:

Vanilla Bean Ocho: Leader does roller blade footwork with no shoulder rotation = no Follower hip rotation. Follower still tries to collect in single time and double time. In double time, Leader compresses the embrace a little, and Follower matches the energy by compressing back.

We can add a little pivot and get mocha java ochos. Doing them on the double time QQ, we get Follower pivoted ochitos.

From promenade, the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand should be still, the same, like a wall.

From here, the Leader can do ochos with the Follower's ochos, inside foot to inside foot, or he can step with his outside foot while she steps with her inside foot.

For the linear series of syncopated baby ochos, the Leader has a weight change to his left foot, and this can be done on single or double time.

The Leader and Follower need to hear the music to know when to do the double time.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D'Arienzo's Mandria. The demo will be up at some point on

The milonga itself was just OK for me-- not magic, not tragic. I left early since it was very crowded and warm, floor craft was a bit unruly, my allergies were bothering me, and I wanted to get cracking on the notes.

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