Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 14-27

Friday, October 15, 2010
MUSE milonga at City Dance Annex. I had an excellent time at this milonga, which had a nice turnout, the most it's ever been. There were a few more leaders than followers, so I thought it was my volunteer duty to dance with as many different leaders as possible. :o) Since they were all fantastic, needless to say, I had an excellent time. I got to dance with a few leaders that I had never danced with before, though I had been eyeing them for quite some time. The lovely Rochelle made some delicious, luscious desserts: mini lemon and raspberry tarts and mini strawberry cheesecakes, which you can see at the Tango Sitio facebook wall. All in all, a very nice night.

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga. I skipped the lesson, taught by Jorge Nel. It was one of those nights where during the day I mentally really wanted to go dancing, but when I got home, fatigue started to seep into my bones and I felt very emotionally drained from the day's events (client drama). I also wanted to try out the new Homedics chair back massager I got at a church rummage sale recently ($10 for a $100 massager-- woo hooo!!!) So I got massager set up on my chair, and then surfed onto YouTube and watched some tango videos. I kept looking at the clock, first wanting to go to the Jorge Nel lesson, but the massager works well and pretty soon I became one with my chair.... aaaaahhhhh.... I watched more videos, seeing that it was getting later and later, missing the Jorge Nel lesson and knowing that I had to be up the next day for an early morning meeting. And so I was torn. Should I go to the milonga? Or should I stay home and get a good night's sleep before my early day? It was as I was pondering this question that I came across a recent video of Jennifer Bratt and Ney Melo in Turkey. That was enough to get me inspired, dressed and out the door in no time flat. I just HAD to dance after that.

When I got to the milonga around 10:00 p.m., it was nicely crowded, with more followers than leaders. Floorcraft was a little challenging at times. Jorge Nel and his partner did an excellent performance of milonga, with the both of them wearing technical athletic clothes. My goodness, how fit, agile, and comfortable they both looked! ;o) It was a busy birthday night, with three cakes: one for El Jefe, one for Nikki and one for some other gal whose name escapes me and who left before the birthday dance. There were several people at the milonga that I hadn't seen in quite a while, so it was nice to catch up with them. The dance area opened up significantly after 11:30 p.m., which improved the floorcrafting. I stayed until the end (1:00 a.m.), which I had never done before. I also tried on a few pairs of Jorge Nel shoes, and I continue to be impressed with the selection and responsiveness of maestro in terms of shoe design. I was sorely tempted by a pair of low-heeled patent stilettos, but I just couldn't justify the purchase (or find any more room in my closet to accommodate them). Still, a tanguera can always dream...

Friday, October 22, 2010
Monte Cristo Milonga with lesson beforehand by Jorge Nel.
I missed the lesson, but got there reasonably early for the milonga. There wasn't a huge amount of people there at first, but eventually it got nicely crowded. The dancers were mostly of the social bent so we all danced with each other for the most part. It was a very pleasant evening and I stayed until the very end, although I did completely bonk about two tandas before, crashing and burning, so I really should have called it a night at that point. But I soldiered on, unfortunately feeling sloshy, weak and kerplunky physically and tired mentally.

Saturday, October 23, 2010
The All Nighter at the Beat.
I skipped the lesson, taught by Santiago Croce and Amy Lincoln. This was my first time at the All Nighter, and I didn't realize the lesson started later (9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.). Why did it take me so long to try it out? Well, I am less keen on paying the bridge toll if I am only going dancing by myself with no one else to carpool with, and in the past there were other 4th Friday tango options in San Francisco. Since that has gone away, if I want to dance tango on the 4th Saturday, I have no choice but to cross a bridge or drive quite far down the peninsula (which is unappealing since I do that for at least 5 days a week). As I cooled my heels in the lobby, waiting for the milonga to start, I got a chance to catch up with a local tangero who I haven't seen in a long while, listening admiringly as I witnessed him woodshedding, and I also met a visitor from Portland.

What was nice about the milonga was that people came from amazingly far away to dance there (from as far north as Sacramento and as far south as the South Bay and perhaps beyond...), so it's a good cross section of the Bay Area tango community, much like some Thursdays at the Verdi Club and some Wednesdays at CellSpace. It got to be extremely crowded at times, with very challenging floorcrafting. Maestros did a very fine performance to two songs, with Amy having a stronger, more evident voice in their dance than she had previously. You can see the vids at and It was very inspiring to watch them. I only stayed until 1:00 a.m., as I had danced every tanda since the start of the milonga.

I did see one very odd thing that I had never seen at any other milonga. A gal climbed through the window to get to the milonga. It seemed very strange, and she was not exactly dressed to be climbing through windows (though I am not sure what one would wear to a milonga if they intended to climb through a window to get there). She was breathless and disheveled as she plopped down onto the floor, her hair accessory perched haphazardly askew, feathers a-flyin'. The leader I was dancing with and I both though she was trying to avoid the entry fee, but on further reflection, it just might have been that the front door got mistakenly locked and she was too alpha and impatient to knock on the window to get someone's attention so that we could open the door for her. On this rainy night, the windows were wide open to alleviate the heat of the crowded dance conditions. was a very bizarre thing. But to each, her own.

Sunday, October 24, 2010
Studio Gracia milonga with lesson by Pulpo. The step was not easy, but not overly pretzeled either. The class began with a warm-up dance to a non-tango song. Then the class built on the earlier class of the day on Trap Sacadas. Basically, the Leader does a right foot back step (Follower left foot forward step), and then the Leader does a left foot side step (Follower right foot side step). We were to do these two steps together for one minute to a tango song. Then we did another simple step, of just the Leader's rock step of left foot forward, right step back (Follower's right foot back, left foot forward), to get a kind of attitude in dancing (done to a nuevo tango song). During this song, we were to work on expressing attitude. Also, we were to exhibit control, with every piece of the body being controlled. Our weight changes together were to be simultaneous so that anyone watching us would see only one body, not two. Then we did the Leader's right foot forward trap of the Follower's left foot, to bring it diagonally backish of him. This is a small movement, and the Leader brings his knee in toward his other leg. Then he steps side left with his left foot, after which the Follower must follow by stepping right around him with her right foot. This is not a simultaneous step. The Follower must wait for the Leader to do his side step, and then follow with a side step with her right foot as a consequence of the Leader leading the weight change and bringing her over. Connection is key. Also, the dancers must keep their axis and not lean into each other. We spent a lot of time just doing these two steps (the trap with the Leader step back, then his side step followed by her side step). The Leader can't pull the Follower in, otherwise she won't be able to do it. Also, her right knee and leg need to be straight as he hooks her left foot and pulls it back, setting it back diagonally behind him. We also worked on other variations o fhis right foot-- the paint brush sweep in and out to lead the Follower to do alternating ganchos, or of the Leader doing a left foot gancho. The Leader must control the weight shift at all times. This step involved a lot of opening and closing of the Leader's hip to get his knee to open and close to lead the Follower gancho in various different wraps, with a simultaneous rotating of the Follower around his sacadaing leg. It is very important to note that Maestro made special emphasis to begin the class with musicality, connection, and weight transfer exercises because that is the foundation on which all of tango is based. He also emphasized later on the need for control of every body part (upper body, legs, feet). It was an excellent class, as usual. I have various single lessons with Pulpo in the last three years, and they are always challenging. There were more Followers than Leaders, so there were times when we got rotated out...which was fine with me because Maestro would be such a good sport he would lead the out Followers in the material while the rest of the class was partnered up. Toward the end of the lesson, I got to dance some regular tango (without Pulpeadas) with Maestro. That was a truly amazing, super fun experience. Maestro was his usual charming self, social dancing with many Followers at the milonga.

The milonga itself was weird to me. My first tanda out during the first song, I felt a sharp shooting pain in the ball of my foot. I managed to dance that one song completely, but then I had to stop because of the pain, of course apologizing profusely to the leader I was dancing with. I rested for a while, and then dance the milonga tanda with Jodel, one of my favorite milonga leaders, but my foot still felt a little sore and tender, so I was more tentative with my steps. I attempted to dance with more of a whole foot rather than being on the ball of my foot so much....but that wasn't an easy thing to do since this was the milonga tanda. After that, I rested and chatted with Jr. Scout Extraordinaire. I danced very little, only 3-4 tandas from 8:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m., and then decided to do what I always tell other people to do...that is, stop and rest, which for me meant going home.

I came to the rescue of one gal who wanted more holes in the strap of her stiletto. She was amazed when I whipped out the hole punch that I had put in my purse earlier this evening, and it occurred to me that I never wrote about it. It's a wonderful watch strap hole punch, which can punch tiny, precise 1.5 mm holes into shoe straps.

I bought mine originally off of ebay and got tipped off on it by the Tango Shoe Divas May 17, 2007 blog posting of the same product. So a big thanks to Tango Shoe Divas.

I love this product, and as I rack up the mileage at the milongas, I get fussier and fussier about how the shoe fits on my feet, especially how the strap feels across my ankle. I've had my hole punch for a while now, but after this last trip to Bs As, I realized that I really need to bring it with me on trips and to the milongas.

So what am I excited about?

All the Halloween milongas coming up. Come on now, I KNOW y'all LOVE dressing up for those!!! So I will definitely look forward to seeing you in costume. :o)

Tomas Howlin. Totally genius teacher. Really. We are very lucky that he will be teaching in the SF Bay Area.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 7-13

Thursday, October 7, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga. I skipped the lesson. The milonga was fun. It wasn't super crowded, but it wasn't sparse either. So it was the perfect number of people to dance comfortably. What struck me was how good the floorcrafting was on this night. Everyone seemed very comfortable and secure in their dance skills; there was no frenzied desperation, no fighting for space, and no flying stilettos. I had an excellent time dancing with my friend, Theodore, up from way down south. It had been a while since I had seen or danced with him, so I was extremely happy that he came and we had a chance to catch up. Despite being in his 9th decade, his body is still stable, agile and musical, and his mind is still sharp as a tack. Though it's been nearly a year since I last saw him, he remembered where I work and asked how I was doing with my long commute, though we only discussed it once merely in passing-- wow, he is such a true friend! I hope I am as lucky to be like him in mind, body and spirit, if I ever make it to my 9th decade. Being as charming as he is, he introduced me to his friend and carpooling buddy, Miguel, who is a fantastic dancer. It always amazes me what talented leaders there are in the Santa Cruz/Monterey/Gilroy makes me think I should make the effort to go down there some weekend for the milongas.

Friday, October 8, 2010
Monte Cristo Club Milonga. I got there late. It was a lightly attended milonga, but I didn't mind because it gave us all plenty of room to dance with no real floorcraft issues. It was nice catching up with Handsome again.

Saturday, October 9, 2010
Volunteering for Jerry Springer, the Opera. What does this have to do with tango? Well, not much. But musicality-wise, I think it is important to be exposed to all forms and styles of musical and simultaneous physical expression to convey meaning. For some strange reason, I had forgotten how much I enjoy opera. This production was fantastic, and I can see why it got rave reviews. It was a great show! My task was to pour wine, so happily my bar tending degree came in handy. Heck, I even did double-handed two drink pours to keep the line flowing. Now THAT skill impressed more than a few people. ;o)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cellspace Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on “Sure Footed, But Feather Light”

There are many ways to dance tango. In this class, we would explore very light connection, feather-light connection. To do this, it is critically dependant that the dancers have really solid connection and control with their feet on the floor. A lot of this depends on how you use the standing leg and how you transfer weight.

By learning how to dance lightly, we are really working our feet, ankles, and legs and our connection to the floor. This helps us work on technique.

Weight Transfer

We began with an exploration of how we shift our weight simply standing. When we shift our weight, do we do it with our heels first, and then the toes? Or do we do it with our toes first, and then the heel? For our feet, does the weight transfer go from the outside edge rolling in? Or does it go from the inside edge rolling out? Answer: The foot should roll from the inside to the middle of the foot, not all the way to the outside.

We practiced this, standing with both feet on the ground, and then with the weight being on our left foot, and touching the inside of the right foot to the floor, to shift the weight to be on our right foot, with the inside of our left foot touching the floor. This weight shift does not take much torso motion. Our goal was to be sensitive, be subtle, and be controlled.

Weight Shift in Context of Side Step

Next, we did side steps with our right foot. Here, when we took the side step to the right, we were to focus on just transferring weight from the inside of our right foot to the middle of the right foot, and then pull our left foot in as our upper thighs and legs zip up together. Both legs work to create the collection, and we should push off from our standing (not just reach with our stepping leg). We tried this with both our left foot and right foot side steps.

Weight Shift in Context of Walking

Starting with our weight on our right foot, we were to reach back with our left foot, focusing on pushing off with our standing leg, pulling up with our left leg, to collect. We did this with both our left leg as the standing leg and our right leg as the standing leg, focusing all the while on pushing off with the standing leg, transferring the weight smoothly (no kerplunking), and pulling up with the other leg. We also tried this with our forward walk, with both left and right legs.

Reaching Game

Next, we played a connection game called the Reaching Game. The Leader stands with legs together and without moving. Follower’s two hands are on the Leader’s upper pectoral muscles high near his shoulders. The Follower does not put weight on the Leader, but stays connected to him at all times while also being light in her touch at all times. He is to be subtle in his weight shift so that she as a Follower also shifts her weight in response. After a few tries with this, and to make sure they are connected, he then tries to get her to start taking a step back. He does this by flexing his ankles, but remaining upright in his torso (he should not lean in on top of her or tip forward). The initial goal of this game is to become more sensitive toward each other, and to be more subtle and clear in the lead and more responsive in the follow. Once the Leader has mastered getting the Follower to reach with her foot (and the Follower has mastered responding to the Leader’s lead), he can allow the weight to fully transfer so she takes a complete back step. We tried this reaching game in both open and close (chest-to-chest) embrace.

The Leader needs to remain upright and lifted in his chest and not plank forward/lean in on top of her/tip forward, and the Follower needs to keep her connection to the Leader consistent with no hiccups and no vacuuming/pulling him into her. Her step should be as smooth as possible with no kerplunking.

We tried this reaching game while dancing to the music (doing walking only), single time and double time.

Again, the Follower’s step should be as smooth as possible with no kerplunking and no jolting – which is when her body tenses up suddenly as she gets ready to take a step. In the Follower’s step, she should push into the floor more to compel her body to stay there and not get away (jolt away). She should have strong legs to be connected to the floor.

Simple Figure

We were to incorporate all these aspects of weight transfer and connection doing all that we learned in a simple figure: Leader’s side step left / Follower side step right, to two Follower back steps with simultaneous Leader forward step outside, and then Leader forward step inside, to Leader side step right / Follower step left. We were to practice this simple figure only with no other additions (no ochos, no rock steps, etc.), although pausing and weight changes in place were OK. We could also curve the steps if we needed to to get around in the line of dance.

We were to also to practice this in open and close embrace. In close embrace, the connection should be sternum to sternum, not belly to belly. As dancers, we should hold our bellies under our ribs so that it seems like our legs come from our rib cage.

For this class, we focused a lot on quality of movement of our feet, ankles and legs. If we do good practice in our tango development, it lays a good foundation.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Tanturi’s La Abandone y no Sabia

The milonga itself was OK. It was warm that night, the third day in a heat wave, and the space at CellSpace certainly reflected that. There were more followers than leaders, but dancers of both parts were glad to have the opportunity to sit out a bit, so there was reasonable space on the dance floor. Also because of the heat, I speculate that we all danced a little more mellowly and relaxedly, and not so much athletically or frenzied. There was a goodbye dance because maestra Charity is leaving for Arizona. Lots of really great dancers danced with her and cut in, culminating with an ending dance with Homer where they did an al reves nuevo spinny thing. It was great fun to watch. Hopefully someone will post the vid of that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

September 23 - October 6

Saturday, September 25, 2010
Ushering at Marine's Memorial Theatre for the Kate Clinton Show.
The show was fun, with Lada Haha whip smart and witty. But what on earth does Kate Clinton have to do with tango, you might wonder? Well...not much. But wait!!! It was during our debriefing that the ushers were told that Forever Tango will likely be coming to that theatre in December 2010 for three weeks. In the past, when Forever Tango has been in town, the ushering gigs were only open to those who had ushered with the theater in the past. So if any of y'all are thinking that you might want to usher, now is the time to get on the Marine's Memorial Theatre ushering list. I think there might only be another one or two different shows before November/December.

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga with lesson beforehand by Cristy Cote and George Garcia of Hawaii. I missed the lesson, but it was apparently very well attended, and a good, challenging one. The milonga was also very well attended, especially by many of the the local and visiting maestros in town (in no particular order: Pampa Cortes, Luiza Paes y Julio Bassan, Alex and Luz, Santiago and Amy, Dani Tuero and Mila Vigdorova, Andrea Monti, Cristy C, Adolfo C, Rose V, Julian R, Natasha D, Glenn C, etc.). Though conditions were quite crowded, the floorcrafting was pretty good overall with dancers generally respectful and no one worked up into a frenzy. The highlight of the evening was the rather lengthy show: A dance demo of Christy Cote and George Garcia, and then another dance demo of Dani Tuero and a student of his whose name escapes me (Mila's toe is broken), and a "blind tango" dance with several of the visiting maestros After a few minutes of coaxing the four good sport volunteer leader maestros onto the dance floor, their eyes were covered with large black blindfolds (impossible to peek out of). Several of these maestros did not have their usual partners there, so that added a layer of complexity. The four couples all danced together to a Pugliese song, and it was great fun seeing how well they did at remaining in the line of dance, and keeping the space even between dance couples. Then things were turned up a notch when a partner change was called and the followers moved on to the next leader, obviously not their usual partner / dance style. It was really fun night overall. Even though there were noticeably more followers than leaders, there were no whack-a-mole tanguera ambushers, and the leaders were all of the social, community-building nature (no glommers on, no people who hung onto you and never let go because they want to dance with you ALLLLLLL niiiiiiiiiiiight loooooooooonggggg).

I had a funny conversation that night with someone who likes to tell me what I should write about. I always encourage him to start his own blog so that he can write whatever he wants to talk about. But he said he is shy that way. Whatever. Anyway, the topic he wanted me to address was when Leaders are there, and they are tired, and Followers stare them down and pretty much insist that they dance with him (or other leaders). Normally, I wouldn't write about this, and I had decided not to. However, because of a conversation I had several days later at Z's dinner, I decided it deserved some mention.

Friday, October 1, 2010
MUSE milonga at City Dance Annex.
It was a lightly attended night, but with good quality dancers. So I had an excellent time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010
Dinner at Z's.
As some of you may know, our own Mix Mistress Z is also a wonderful chef extraordinaire. Seven of us descended upon her place, and she cooked up a feast (despite having spent all day DJing at Tango in the Square): Carrot Soup with Cumin and Lime; Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion and Toasted Hazelnuts; Pur Borek with Feta Cheese; Lamb with Black Olives; Revani (Turkish/Green farina Sponge Cake soaked in Syrup with a twist). We were all encouraged to bring our own wine, which most of us did, except El Jefe, who is allergic to mold! Street parking near her house can be a little difficult (though the parking gods were smiling me on that night), but conveniently there is a public parking garage across the street. I am no stranger to some seriously delicious cooking, and tonight was no exception. Each dish was wonderful and I cleaned my plate every time (and most everyone else did, too). Portions were ample, and I am quite sure everyone had as much as they wanted of each delicious dish.

The conversations were quite lively as the group consisted of all tango people, one from as far away as Italy. It was a fun experience breaking bread with lots of people I had formerly only danced with and had conversations during cortinas with. I know that the parishioners of the Church of Glenn go out to eat after services, but I had never done so personally and so really never sat down in a group setting to eat with my fellow tangueros (except on those group tours to Buenos Aires in 2007 and 2008). Z also had fantastic music playing for atmosphere, and not just tango music.

There were more men than women at this particular dinner, and again, the same topic that came up at the Verdi Club a few days earlier came up again: That is, when women/followers stare down men, or even boldly go up to them and insist that they dance with them, even though the Leaders may be tired or just don't want to dance. I asked why these Leaders just didn't say "No" -- or "I'm tired" or the usual phrases that women use when they decline a dance. They said that it is harder for a man to say no to a woman who asks them to dance (or who fervently cabaceos them). Part of this is because guys are just really nice and they feel a lot of empathy for women who t put themselves out there and ask a man to dance. (And Pablo tells me the other part is that men are hesitant to say no to a woman because it might hurt his chances with her off the milonga dance floor as well.) They too, expressed their irritation at other leaders or followers who go up to them while they are in conversation with a follower and ask either them to dance or the follower to dance. So, bottom line is that there seems to be a need overall for more etiquette instruction. So here's a little something for us all, written by Mitra Martin in L.A.: And thanks to Junior Scout Extraordinaire for forwarding me the link last week. I thought Mitra's instructions were beautifully and cleverly written.

Come join me!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Cellspace with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas