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.

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