Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 11-17

Friday, November 12, 2010
SF Tango Marathon. Volunteer meeting
. I found the organizer, Ayano, to be very organized, thoughtful and gracious (right-hand gal Rina also). I found the other volunteers to be very generous in time and spirit. I was dog-tired from the drive up in bad traffic and wasn't too keen on having to drive back home to change into my milonga clothes. The meeting went a bit later than usual, so I couldn't go to Grumpy's for one of their divine hamburgers (among the best in San Francisco). Too bad, I was looking forward to it. And that made ME a little grumpy. :o( One really great instruction that Ayano gave us is that we were all to be ambassadors of sorts for the milonga, so that even when we weren't technically "on shift", we were still to help out and step in whenever the need arose. Basically, it gave us all the responsibility for helping to make this event as smooth and successful as possible. That so much care and consideration went into making this event a fun and happy experience for everyone was clearly evident, even in the premarathon email sent out to all attendees, which had the following "Rules of the Road":

"We're very well aware that you all know the drill but for the few percent of you who don't know what the rules on the dance floor are…. here we put together some guidelines. Please read before the marathon and prepare yourself.

Rules for the Road (courtesy of M&A!)

We want to encourage great navigation and some of the fun and unique aspects of tango etiquette at the marathon milongas.
The following are some suggestions for the road that we hope will make everyone's experience of the milongas more pleasurable:

Invitation: We encourage the use of cabeceo. Please communicate invitations with your eyes when possible.
Entrance: Please catch the eye of the passing leader and receive acknowledgement before entering the floor. Merge into the flow of the dance when you enter.
Lanes: Please stay in your dancing lane; on the outside lane or the inside lane. If you are really amazing or just crazy, you can dance in the middle.
Flow: Please dance with the flow - do not hold up traffic and do not overtake. There are no prizes for finishing first.
Accidents: If you bump into anyone or someone bumps into you, apologize (verbally, or visually, during or after the song), even if it is not your fault.
Teaching: Not on the floor please.
Exit: Leaders, please accompany the follows to their seats. Clearing the floor after tandas allows dancers to use cabeceo to invite a partner for the next dance.
General: Please treat each other with courtesy and respect. We may have different styles, opinions, values in tango (and elsewhere), but we all share the same passion.


SF Tango Marathon. Broadway Studios Milonga "Una Noche Elegante". Luckily, my days as a cover band groupie came in handy as I easily found rockstar street parking. The men were instructed to wear jackets, and most of them cut rather dashing figures in their Sunday best. The ladies looked great as usual. (A female visitor from Florida commented to me on how many beautiful women were at this milonga. I smiled and agreed.) The floor was a bit sticky in the beginning, which slowed us all down a little and made us look even more elegant. As the night progressed, it got to be quite crowded and the floor less sticky. So dancers got more excited, danced a little faster, and floorcrafting got to be a bit hairy at times. There were lots of folks who came in for this specifically from way out of town (some from the other side of the continent), balanced with a lot of locals. The lovely Julianna and Brian from L.A. were here, and it was great seeing them again. I didn't dance a huge amount since I wanted to rest my foot in between tandas, but it was fun just people watching the many skilled dancers. The food was ample and delicious and the water never ran out (at least not while I was there). Broadway Studios is much like I remembered (though we are talking about a decade ago), only cleaner and freshened up a bit. It really did turn out to be Una Noche Elegante.

Saturday, November 13, 2010
SF Tango Marathon. Matinee Milonga @ Regency Center.
I had an amazingly good time at this matinee milonga, which I honestly wasn't expecting. The turnout was good, it had a very nice vibe to it, and it was very nice to be able to dance among the other dancers, and yet not have it be obnoxiously crowded. I danced in my dance sneakers (the color of which matched my dress perfectly), and stayed longer than I expected. I got to dance with the gorgeous leader Rochelle (from Buenos Aires half the time), who I had danced with previously at the San Diego New Years Festival. She is an amazingly strong leader (and kind person), and how lucky for us followers that her husband lets her dance the way she wants to dance (whether it is as a leader or a follower). The room is spacious and elegant, the floor hardwood, and the ventilation great. There is also a separate seating area with ample leather sofas and ottomans to put up our feet.

SF Tango Marathon. Evening / Sparkle & Shine Milonga @ Regency Center. This milonga was also super fun. Some people thought the lighting was a bit bright. I didn't agree, I thought the lighting was fine and on par with what you'd find at a Buenos Aires milonga, where it is light enough to cabaceo each other without difficulty. Happily, a few of my buddies that I chatted up about the Marathon showed up as drop-ins, even though they previously expressed doubt about dancing for 15 hours straight. The milonga wasn't crushingly crowded, so it was actually great fun dancing. The DJs were excellent. The food was ample and thoughtful. In addition to what we had during the day (red and green grapes, chips, salsa and guacamole, cherry tomatoes, brie and bread, satsuma oranges), throughout the night other yummies were provided: empanadas (chicken, beef and vegetarian) and dim sum (egg rolls, pork buns, some other type of bun (custard, perhaps?), siu mai, potstickers, fried won tons, fried won ton skins), nutella and bread, bananas, walnuts and almonds, and poundcake/bananbread/walnut bread. It was a super fun night for me since I was able to dance many excellent tandas (and several especially outstanding milonga tandas), interspersed with extensive volunteering in the kitchen. So I had the best of both worlds. Working registration, it was nice to match the names with faces, both local and visiting tango glitterati. I also came to the rescue of one gal looking for a safety pin. When I asked why she needed a safety pin (since it didn't look like she was having any wardrobe malfunctions), she said it was to add another hole to her stiletto shoe strap. So of course I whipped out my tango emergency kit and the handy dandy hole punch that I raved about a couple of weeks ago (link also posted again below). Should this issue come up again in the future for any one, I recommend asking any of the tango shoe vendors if they have a stiletto strap punch that can be used.

Sunday, November 14, 2010
SF Tango Marathon. Matinee Milonga and Evening Milonga @ Regency Center.
I got there very late for the matinee milonga since I only wanted to wear one outfit and not go back home or to 24 Hour Fitness to change. Gosh, even as I write that, it sounds so lame. I should have just bitten the bullet, packed two outfits, and got there earlier. The matinee looked super fun when I got there, so I was kicking myself for not showing up sooner. A few of my buddies were leaving since they had gotten there much earlier, and had spent much of the afternoon dancing. They told me they had a blast. It was slightly less attended than yesterday, but it was still a good crowd.

The evening milonga, for me, was just OK, as I was working through my own star-struck angst and insecurity. The Emerging Up and Coming Tango Star was there. I've been very impressed with his dancing for the last two years, and even saw him live and in person in real flesh and blood at New Year's in San Diego. I knew he would be in attendance, since he was on the list, but he hadn't shown up on Friday or Saturday. So what a surprise it was to me to see him at Sunday matinee milonga. Of course I chatted him up, just gushed about how impressed I was with his dancing, which of course caused him to extend an invitation to dance later on that night (but not right now since he was hot and sweaty since he had danced all afternoon at the matinee). He was very sweet though, letting me know that he was leaving for dinner, saying that he'd be back in an hour. And so I waited. And danced. And waited. And danced. And waited. And danced. 3 hours later The Emerging Up and Coming Tango Star finally shows up. And it seems everyone was waiting for him too, as he certainly was very popular with many admiring fantastic and gorgeous followers. Well, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. I could not outlast all those other followers, waiting for my chance to dance with Him. My feet already hurt, my body sloshy, and my brain tired from dancing more than I should have as I waited for Him to return, so I threw in the towel and left the milonga around up my chance to dance with The Emerging Up and Coming Tango Star. Oh well, maybe it will give me something to look forward to at the next SF Tango Marathon. Obviously, I didn't make it to Mighty for the late night/early morning milonga as I was just too pooped.

Final thoughts on the SF Tango Marathon:
It was a great event, with a lot of heart that went into the organizing. The ventilation was great, so the men were able to keep their jackets on while they danced, if that is what they wished. Overall, the dancers were very skilled, so it was a pleasure to dance with them (though sometimes intimidating).

Monday, November 15, 2010
Orange Practica at the Beat with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas: "How to Cure the Follower's Forward Walking Phobia"

The music for our class was Miguel Calo with Podesta on vocals.

Q: Why do Followers hesitate when asked to step forward?
It could be because Followers are trained to walk backward all the time, so they are not used to walking forward.
They feel insecure.
They are afraid they might step on their partner's foot.
Maybe they do not feel comfortable getting into the Leader's space.

We began with an exercise, where we lined up so that we could see our spines in the mirror as we looked sideways.
We were to stand as straight as we could.
Then we started to shift our weight, from left to right and back again, really feeling connected to the floor.
We were to try to feel where the weight is distributed on the foot from side to side and forward to back.
Then we put our weight on our left foot, pushing our left foot into the floor more than usual (about 5-10% more), without bending our knee but keeping it soft, and keeping our spines straight.
Then we reached forward with our right foot.
We also tried this on our opposite feet (putting the weight on the right foot pressing into the floor and reaching with the left foot).
In this exercise, our legs and backs are really working.
Left foot is grounded.
Right foot reaches forward.
Transfer the weight by moving the spine forward.
The goal as we take these forward steps is to not change the articulation of the spine as we transfer weight.
That is, we should not plank back, lean forward, or fall into our step when we take our forward steps.
Our spines move through the space in a vertical position to make the weight transfer nice and smooth.
Also, we were not to go down too much as we take our forward step.
The length or strength of the forward step depends on how you connect with the floor with the standing leg.

Phase 1: In partnership with Leader and Follower facing each other, hand in hand in open embrace, the Leader steps back, the Follower lets the embrace open up but still has tone in her arms, and then she steps forward AFTER she feels the lead and AFTER the Leader begins to step back (she does NOT step simultaneously with the Leader).
Phase 2: Similar to Phase 1, only the embrace opens up less, and the Follower does not take as much time before she goes (but she still waits for the lead and does NOT step simultaneously with the leader).
In the Follower's forward step, she reaches first, pushes with her standing leg, and then goes. She should not pre-empt the Leader's lead by matching him step for step. She is supposed to lag behind, really waiting for and feeling his lead as he steps back, leading her to take a forward step.
To begin this exercise, the Leader shifts weight a few times to be really clear regarding what leg he wants the Follower to be on.
The Follower should try not to change height when she takes her steps, and not plank back or lock her arms. Her arms need to be flexible to allow the embrace to open up, and yet she must also still have some tone in them.

Most forward steps are curved, walking steps around the Leader. Our next exercise focused on the Follower taking curving steps around the Leader with a long forward step.
With Leader in teakettle hold (both his arms behind him at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), he was to lead the Follower to do forward ochos, really taking big side steps and reaching as far as he can. This will force the Follower to take big, strong forward steps in response.
The Leader should be even in his chest rotation as he leads her forward ochos, as the Leader's tendency is to be uneven, with one side being more open than the other. We were to try to correct this by being as even in the Leader's chest rotation as possible.
The Follower's goal is to try amplify the Leader's chest rotation in her hip rotation to really pivot. Also, she should make her forward step nice and smooth.
In this exercise, the embrace was not to be too hard or stiff or too loose. It should be al dente.

In partnership, we did forward ochos together, with our forward step reaching for our partner's trailing foot.
Our goal was to keep our spines nice and stable, and use the pushing energy of the standing leg as we did our ochos. We were to add pressure with our whole foot as we reach and transfer weight.


Leader and Follower are in open embrace, hand-to-hand hold, and we did continuous right foot forward ochos and left foot sacadas around each other.
Follower does her right foot forward ocho clockwise, stepping around the Leader, and then the Leader does his left foot sacada of her trailing left foot.
Leader does right foot forward ocho clockwise, during which Follower steps forward into the Leader in her left foot sacada. Here, the Leader steps a little away from her, not around her, so that she has room to do her sacada and so that he does not block her from walking into him.
It is important that the Follower have an elastic embrace, as one arm extends as the other arm flexes.
Both Leader and Follower should have long forward steps, and have good quality of their sacada.
The Leader needs to continually rotate his chest and open his right shoulder so that the Follower knows where to step and he doesn't get in her way. So the fundamental lead is for the Leader to turn to his right.

In this exercise we are working on two kinds of forward steps:
(1) curving and around the Leader
(2) pivoting a lot, and then doing a direct step forward. This is not a cross step. You just have to go for it, pushing into the floor and then going.

To make this exercise more challenging, we could do it with the Leader in teakettle embrace (both hands at the small of his back, elbows out to the side), which would compel the Follower to have elasticity in her embrace, really demanding that the Follower be responsible for the extension and flexion in her arms.

In close embrace, the Leader leads the Follower in forward ochos. The Follower should take big long steps and not truncate the steps and jamming the Leader. She should make the Leader rotate around to meet her.

We are to practice these exercises at home. That is our homework. As we work on our technique, these concepts can be applicable to other areas of our dance.

The Follower's default steps should be LONG as long as it goes with the music and she stays with the Leader. The Follower often takes too short of a step or truncates the step, which kills energy and/or the next movement.

After our class review, maestros did a demo to Calo's Si Tu Quisieras, which you can see at


FYI, here is Homer & Cristina Ladas's upcoming SF Bay Area teaching schedule:
Dec. 8th (INT class) - CELLspace
Jan. 12th (Beg class) - CELLspace
Jan. 17th - The Beat
Feb. 21st - The Beat
March. 28th - The Beat


Here's the info for the stiletto strap hole punch. What makes this punch so great is that the hole it punches is quite tiny, the perfect size for our stiletto straps.



I am toying with the idea of going to Ashland Thanksgiving Turkey Tango Festival. Anyone want to join me? I am looking for a roommate/carpool buddy. Ladies preferred as roommates. :o)

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