Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 2-15

Friday, September 3, 2010
MUSE Milonga @ City Dance Annex.
It was my first time volunteering for this event, and except for an initial miscommunication, everything went smoothly. I was quite happy to be the registration gal, and also had ample time to dance, switching off with Howard, the organizer, who was also able to dance. The milonga is gaining momentum, with a decent crowd that night of a wide range of skills but no shortage of strong dancers. El Porteno generously donated some empanadas, and Howard generously passed on the kismet by giving free empanadas to the first 16 people who registered. Mix Mistress Z did such a fine job spinning the tunes that we all begged her to play on. She graciously complied, so that we could all party on a half hour more than the original milonga end time. It was a great night, dancewise. Shoewise, it was a little sad. I realized that one of my favorite pairs of shoes really and truly needed to be retired, once and for all (but mostly for me). I have completely blown out of it, and there is just no way that this shoe is safe to dance in any more. So sad, because it is a really beautiful shoe, that during its prime, fit like a glove and performed like a champ. Those days are long gone though. :o(

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
CellSpace Alt Milonga.
I did not go to the lesson. I had more fun at this CellSpace milonga than I had ever had previously. I stayed to the very end, which I never do. Floorcraft improved, I think because of the fine DJing of Bobbie and Luz. They played a lot of moderately tempo'd songs, so there was no frenzied dancing. Not too many milonga tandas though, unfortunately. It was really nice dancing with so many people that I hadn't with in quite a while.

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga with Chacarera lesson beforehand by Pampa Cortez, assisted by Gigi Jensen.
I just adore Chacarera, and like to attend any lesson I can on the subject, since with every teacher, I get some new nugget of how to do it right. I missed the very beginning of the lesson, and since the class was perfectly balanced, I sat it out but took notes. They split the groups up with Leaders with Maestro and Followers with Maestra. I paid a lot more attention to what Maestro was teaching since it was more captivating to me. When I got there in the middle of the lesson, Maestro was teaching the Leaders the basic Zapateo footwork (called the Hammer). But then he went on to teach a much more complicated (at least to me, anyway) Zapateo footwork (called Volcada) of a left foot step, then a right foot toe tap, followed by a right outside edge of foot foot tap (and then the opposite: right foot step, left foot toe tap, left foot outside edge of foot tap). The Zapateo footwork happens quite quickly. The lesson was good, because all the dancers came together at the end, and did the Chacarera reasonably well. Maestro ended with a demo of the different types of complicated/artistic/dance footwork that can be done to Chacarera, and then Maestros demonstrated several other Argentine Folklore dances, some of which use the elements of Chacarera (like Gato) and some that don't (Chamame, Zamba, etc.). The milonga itself was very nice. It was perfectly attended: not too crowded, and not empty. Floorcraft was also pretty good. I got a chance to talk to the bartender Red for a few minutes. If you are a foodie, you should chat him up... Fascinating guy! I really like this milonga since it's the only game in town on Thursday, so a decent crowd is almost assured, and the food is thoughtful and ample. Red has even upgraded the agua de Hetch Hetchy 2010 by adding cucumbers and lemons to it. Pampa will be giving a series of Argentine Folklore dance lessons in October and November for the screaming deal of $80 for 8 weeks Sunday afternoon. It should be a blast.

Friday, September 10, 2010
All Saints Milonga with Chacaera lesson beforehand by Pampa Cortez, assisted by Gigi Jensen.
The lesson began with us walking briefly to the 1-2-3 Chacarera rhythm. Then, like last night, we broke up into Leaders and Followers separately taught by Maestro and Maestra, respectively. Maestra taught us pretty much our part in its entirety individually, and then we all got together and did it. It was great fun, and I had a good time partnered up with La Russa, who was surprisingly extremely friendly and nice toward me. Interestingly, Maestro did not teach the same Zapateo footwork: he taught the usual basic Hammer footwork (slap, heel stomp, heel stomp), but didn't teach the volcada footwork. He taught some other footwork, whose name I didn't quite catch, that even mimicked more the footwork of a horse (more than the Hammer footwork). It was also announced that Maestro is moving back to the Bay Area, and will be starting a new Argentine Folklore Dance Company; the kick-off of this endeavor will be the 8-week series of folklore dances taught in October and November in San Francisco. They concluded the lesson with a few quick demos of the Argentine folk dances that they will teach. The milonga itself was really fun. It was nicely attended, but not overly crowded, which was good on such a warm evening. I got a chance to dance with someone I hadn't danced with in years and have sorely missed, so that was a nice New Year's present to me. Maybe it is just my imagination, but I felt everyone was a lot friendlier and warmer. (Not that anyone was ever cold, but gosh it just seemed like everyone was unusually warm...or maybe it's just me being happier and more relaxed than I have been in a long while).

Saturday, Sepember 11, 2010
The Return of the Late Shift Milonga with lesson beforehand by David and Mariana.
I missed the lesson, and got there quite late to the milonga, around 11:30 p.m. The milonga now takes place at the former Cheryl Burke dance studio space above World Gym. It's a smaller space than before, and tends to get quite hot and humid in there. Tonight was no exception since there was a strong turnout, from local SF people, as well as folks from the South Bay, East Bay and North Bay. It was great to be back again, and I think everyone was happy to see this milonga return. I had a good time. I danced with several visiting dancers who were great fun, as well as my usual favorites. Many of us stayed all the way until the end.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Orange Practica at the Beat with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas: Understanding the Follower “With” and “Against” (4th/Quattro) Back Sacadas.

The basis of our work was to focus on the Follower having an energetic pivot and the Leader leading it in a nice way. Since the recent local Bay Area lessons have focused on alignment, posture, and hip pivot, Maestros decided to teach something different from, but related to, those topics. Hence, the choice of the Follower Back Sacada.

Exercise 1: Couples Ocho Exercise

We began with the couple’s ocho exercise, where each person does ochos; there was no leader and no follower, we are equal partners. Our goal was to stay close to each other, and take long steps, and step around each other while doing a series of forward ochos (easier) and then back ochos (a little more difficult). There is no Leader and no Follower, and both dancers were to do their respective ochos together simultaneously. The goal was to be able to create balance with each other. If the dancers need to find their balance, their orientation should be backward (not falling forward).

Good posture is key in being able to do good ochos. We should think about spreading our “tango wings” by keeping our chest up, compress our shoulder blades out wide and down, and expand in our rib cage. We should not compress or slouch or curl forward in our shoulders. For the exercise, we were to pivot as much as possible, over rotating, with hips facing away from each other, but stepping around each other to stay close. We should stay with our partners and articulate the femur to really step around each other and add to the spiral, which is what we were after. We should step in an arc.

For the back ocho, which is a little trickier, it is important to step close to your partner, but also work on keeping your balance at the same time. Again, you should be on axis or oriented slightly back if you need to.

Building Toward the Fourth/Quattro Sacada with Leader’s Teapot Embrace

Next, our work on tonight’s subject, the Quattro or Fourth Sacada, began. It is from the Follower back sacada, so the Follower needs to develop a good back ocho. We did this by moving to another exercise where the Leader uses his body (his chest, not arms) to lead the Follower back ocho. For the exercise, the Leader Teapot Embrace was used, with his right arm is behind his back, and his left hand holds the Follower’s right hand. The Follower maintains the connection in her left hand on the Leader’s right arm, but his right hand does not touch her, remaining behind his back.

This exercise was to help us develop the Leader’s lead, where he turns both shoulders, left and right, evenly when leading her to do back ochos. He should not turn one shoulder more than the other, and he should not rush. The Follower receives the communication through the embrace and adds her own energy with her hip pivot through her connection to the floor. The goal of this exercise was to improve our communication with each other, and really communicate the pivot and for the Follower to pivot a lot. The lack of the Leader’s right hand/arm gives the Follower the opportunity, empowering her to get in touch with her relationship with the floor to power her steps and her pivot.

Adding the Soltada and Follower Back Sacada

Next, we added to this, with the Leader’s left hand with the Follower’s right hand, leading a half turn (inside/loop turn) soltada change of embrace on the Follower’s right foot back ocho step, with the Leader then stepping across her ocho path (slightly at an angle, away from the Follower so he doesn’t jam the Follower) with his right foot, while the Follower pivots, to do a Follower left foot back sacada through the Leader’s legs. The Follower should always try to look at the Leader, or for the Leader, so that she knows where to go, and to keep track of him to have an idea of where the space is.

Adding the Leader’s Right Hand to the Embrace

Next, we added the Leader’s right hand embrace to this. He should not raise his hand too high, but keep it safely low since his hand should go around the Follower’s waistline during her pivot as he leads the soltada. The Leader needs to lead the pivot first, before leading the half turn soltada (change of embrace). The Follower stays in the same back ocho line with her steps, and then takes a step back with her left foot.

Leader Needs to Lead a Good Follower Pivot

We drilled a lot on the Leader deeper idea of leading a good pivot. For this concept to work in our dance, the Follower should not fall into her ocho, and not fall forward. If she needs to fall to keep her balance, she should fall back or be backward oriented. The Leader needs to communicate the energy he gives as he “attacks” the floor. The Leader feels like he is pushing more into the floor when he leads a big pivot. The Follower needs to have the confidence to pivot a lot and completely, and not truncate the move or cut it short because she feels a change in the Leader lead or that something is coming up and going to happen.

The exit for the soltada figure is for the Follower to take an additional step back with her right foot, to a clockwise molinete of left foot side step, right foot forward cross step.

The “With” and “Against” Follower Back Sacada

“With” Sacada:

When the Follower’s and Leader’s hips go in the same direction (clockwise + clockwise or counterclockwise + counterclockwise), it is a “With” Sacada.

“Against” Sacada:

When the Follower’s and Leader’s hips go in opposite direction (clockwise + counterclockwise or counterclockwise + clockwise), it is an “Against” Sacada. An example is where the Follower’s hips turn counterclockwise, while the Leader steps clockwise. The Fourth/Quattro Sacada is one of these, with the Leader stepping counterclockwise (right foot open side step), while the Follower does a clockwise hip turn with a right foot back sacada between Leader’s legs.

Why Does the Leader Sometimes Get in the Way During the Follower Back Sacada?

For the Follower back sacadas, the question of the Leader getting in the way of the Follower came up. He gets in the way because he tends to over lead and get in the way. He needs to know (1) where to step and he needs to know (2) when to let go of the embrace.

The Leader can let his right hand/arm go, and the Follower should still hang on and remain connected to him with her left hand on his right arm. She needs to hang on because he should be leading a big, dynamic pivot with lots of energy, and she needs to use everything to protect her standing, supporting, pivoting leg. The Follower needs to be able to have active elasticity in her embrace, with her left arm being able to have a large range of motion, extending back to create a big energetic pivot. Here, she feels like she is being thrown out and led back in.

For the Leader, he steps half a foot back with his right foot, opening up the space for the Follower to do her back sacada. She aims for his left foot during her right foot back sacada. Follower needs to be precise where she does her back sacada.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor’s Coqueta. See the video at


Friday, September 17, 2010

MUSE milonga at City Dance Annex.

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