Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jr. Scout Extraordinaire's Expanded Report from Al Cuadrado

The following is JSE's fantastic expanded report from the field (since mine was a bit ... well ... lacking).

Jueves y Viernes, 12-13 Agosto 2010

Days 4-5 - Luciana Valle Intensivo Al Cuadrado: Soltadas, Sombreros, and their Application in Other Steps.

This session began with a summarized review of the material we had covered up to this point.

As usual, Maestra reviewed and demonstrated the Leader and Follower material, expertly explaining technique and correction for common errors while switching from Lead to Follow and Spanish to English without skipping a beat. I felt happily immersed in a dance universe, breathing it all in. The explanations are rich with content, easy to follow if you focus and pay attention. Allow your mind to wander to that special dance at last night’s milonga and you may miss some key information and have trouble catching up! Luciana’s depth of knowledge and ability to clearly communicate information is amazing to see. After summarizing, Maestra then allowed the group to practice and explore this material to music with fewer instruction interruptions, changing partners every two songs.

The material was not easy for anybody, even the expert dancers found new complexities and nuances.

This fertile environment fostered a burst of creative energy in the room throughout the afternoon as ideas began, grew, and evolved. The teacher’s assistants discovered one new spark after another, delightedly working through new ideas with students, showing each other and Luciana, while connecting and building on ideas as a team. Luciana monitored and observed all of this semi-chaotic creation, and selected various assistant/student or assistant/assistant couples to demonstrate their new findings for the class. After each demonstration, a burst of trying the new twist then expanding with variations ensued. The teacher’s assistants have varied backgrounds, some strong in ballet and some with more folkloric roots, all with more natural and trained talent than we can possibly know in this environment of a structured class. When these assistants all came together under Luciana’s guided material in this one afternoon, for me it was thunder, lightning, wind, rain, sun, moon, stars - all at the same time. I absolutely loved the moment when Luciana had two of the assistants demonstrate their new experiment, saying they were showing us what might be “the ocho cortado of the future”. With Follower’s elbows coming dangerously close to Leader’s noses at times during soltada experiments, two of the assistants found unique ways to either (1) control the elbow via a promenade moment or (2) evade the elbow altogether with a Leader’s quick spin which offered the back of the Leader’s head in a lovely way to the Follower’s elbow rather than a nose in that risky moment.

Overall thoughts on Intensivo Al Cuadrado:

So much credit goes to these wonderfully talented teachers and performers, but there is extra richness added in Luciana’s personal selection of the individuals who make up such a strong team. Some of the assistants speak little English (and it doesn’t matter at all in terms of teaching quality), some speak fluent English but choose to demonstrate/teach physically, some explain in English, some demonstrate the material excruciatingly slowly at first so that every micro movement is felt before demonstrating at a faster pace, some realize the tension/intimidation/vulnerability some students feel when dancing with high level dancers needs to be addressed so it isn’t an obstacle to learning and are very empathetic, some subtly mirror an error and then show it correctly without a word so it can be seen and felt, some allow room at first for technique errors while the student is sorting the material out then guide students into the correct technique by progressively narrowing the opportunity for error, some stop and restart until the student gets it right with little feedback. Most or all do not carry students; the student must do their own part and their own work. The difference in teaching styles feels like an accelerated immersion with Learning, trying from all angles to get into each student’s dance psyche. Luciana adapted her teaching/correction style expertly to individual students, realizing with intelligence which students responded best to which types and quantity of feedback.

The venue was well-chosen, with Club Chalmers’ pleasant staff taking good care of us with reasonably priced good quality food, media lunas, and coffee, then handing students a personal thank you card at the end of the session.

It was a joy and a pleasure to be present in a room filled with such gifted dancers, under expert guidance, as a participant and observer. An unforgettable experience.

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