Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 23-29

Saturday, December 25, 2010
TangoUniverse Christmas Milonga @ JustDance Ballroom.
There was no lesson, and I arrived, goodies in hand. It wasn't hugely attended, but nicely attended, largely by folks turned off by the usual crowded dance conditions/spatial bottlenecks of the All-Nighter at the Beat (although someone told me later that Christmas at the All-Nighter was great since it was not as crowded as it usually is). The skill level of dancers was good to excellent. Except for those folks who came as couples, most everyone danced multiple tandas with everyone else (but properly, not in a row) since it was a long night and there weren't throngs of people. There were a few fewer followers, so by the midnight hour, I was exhausted from the workout, though happily so. Ashvin and his assistant did a wonderful job as hosts, with ample food, water from a regular table, hand-held pitcher that never ran out, dancing with everyone who looked like they wanted to dance, and doing a great job as DJ of mostly traditional and a couple of alt tandas, and not playing anything too obscure that would have had people groaning or scratching their heads, wondering why he didn't pick a better (more well-known, popular, fun-to-dance-to) tango/vals/milonga. The food was ample and included croissant half-sandwiches with cheddar and ham, grapes, crackers and hummus, assorted sliced pastries cakes, and cookies, and my chicken phyllo triangles. There was also wine, champagne, and water (from the miracle pitcher than never ran out).

There was a ballroom party next door, for the bargain price of $6. I was tempted to switch back and forth between the two rooms, but saw that they were really going all out in their dance with their performance posture and arm styling, so I stayed safely in the milonga room instead. I think our food must have been better since we had several crashers come in from next door. It was all good though, as J-Z and Pam demonstrated for them, and showed them a few things about Argentine Tango that are different from what they know from the ballroom, as they listened and watched attentively, all the while snarffling up tasty morsels from the milonga potluck spread.

Side note for the foodies:

Since this milonga was positioned as a bit potluck in nature, I decided to channel my old Martha Stewart life, combine her with the current tanguera, and threw together some chicken empanada-like phyllo triangles.

Phyllo has come quite a long way in the last decade or two! Unknowingly, I accidentally bought the new, thick, country-style phyllo dough, which didn't exist when I first started playing with phyllo, and neither did silicone pastry brushes. I loved how the thicker phyllo sheets (and my amazing silicone pastry brush) performed for this particular use (something akin to an empanada). The box said there would be approximately 8 sheets; reality was 11 or 12. (Regular phyllo has about 21-25 sheets). Because of these substantially fewer sheets to butter, work time is a lot faster and much less butter was used. In the age of smart-carbing, I was extremely pleased with the proportion of dough to filling I was able to effortlessly achieve. Basically, I only buttered one sheet, cut it into 4, 5 or 6 (I was experimenting with the sizes), added filling, folded like a flag, put in pan, painted with butter and baked. I was also glad that I used less butter: one full stick, which is substantially less than I used for one package of regular (thin) phyllo dough.

I am much more relaxed about things in the kitchen these days, so instead of growing my own free-range chicken and organic veggies (ha ha, just kidding!! I never did THAT!!), I happily used a Costco rotisserie chicken (aka Frankenchicken. I swear these things must be mutantly humongous when they start, because after they are roasted, they are still humongous, much bigger than Rocky or Rosie rotisserie chickens, or a Safeway or Lucky rotisserie chickens for that matter...[Yes, I eat a lot of rotisserie chicken] and certainly bigger than any home-roasted chicken [which I haven't done in more than decade since rotisserie chickens became so ubiquitous and cheap) as the base, shredded and then rough chopped, added in some dried reconstituted shitakes, chopped green onions, paprika, and black pepper, mixed it altogether, and had a tasty filling in no time flat.

I think I should have been more ample and liberal with the final brushing of butter before baking, since it took a while for them to get browned. I am toying with the idea of adding eggs to the butter for an egg wash/butter combo, hoping that will speed the browning.

I am going to experiment using other empanada fillings I had in BsAs: beef with egg & olive, sweet beef with raisins, corn & cheese, green veggie (I am thinking of combining acelga (Swiss chard) with spinach for a spin on Spanikopita...hey, maybe I will call it Swiss Spanikopita.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Studio Gracia Milonga. I did not attend the lesson beforehand, and it seemed that not many people did either since it was a bit sparse when I got there. The crowd filled up nicely (but not obnoxiously) as the night went on, so it was a fun evening dancewise for the gals since there were more Leaders than Followers. DJ Emilio's watchful eye and nimble fingers on the subtle speed moderation button kept us reasonably in line floorcraft wise. The food was how it usually is, but had the addition of a bit more holiday sweets to tempt us. There were a few folks who came in for the holidays so it was fun dancing with some new and old friends.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alt Milonga at CellSpace. There was no lesson. The milonga itself was fun as a lot of people came into town since work loads are light this week. Unexpectedly, Albuquerque, New Mexico 5-piece tango orchestra QTango (2 violinists, bandoneonist/vocalist/band leader, pianist, bass player) played two sets of many 2-song tandas. They were excellent, especially the singer. At first, I had wondered how they were able to get such crisp, vocal-only tracts to so many tango/vals/milonga songs. Then when I looked up to watch the band for a moment, I was surprised to see that the bandoneonist was actually singing the lyrics. Some of the songs had fast, complicated lyrics, so it was even more impressive that they were sung with such beauty and precision. The band also did us a favor by announcing the name of each song before they performed it, and even gave us some creative stretch goals by doing Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel. What an unexpected treat to hear them play. QTango plays tonight, Thursday December 30, at the Verdi Club, and then it is off to Sacramento for the Tango by the River New Years Eve party. Check them out at It was a great night.


January 15 & 16. 2011 : Homer and Cristina Weekend at Stanford - NEW TOPICS!!! These workshops should be great!


Workshop Theme: "The Leader's and Follower's Body Spiral".

11:30-1:00 All Levels (not for novice dancers) - Fundamentals of Body Spiral for Leaders and Followers
1:00-2:00 Lunch Break
2:00-3:30 Beg/Int - Get Your 'Pivot' vs No 'Pivot' Ochos Defined with Edgardo Donato
4:00-5:30 Int - Rebotes (switch steps) for Tango, Vals and Milonga with Juan D'Arienzo

2:00-3:30 Int/Adv - The Boleo vs Overturned Gancho Connection with Roberto Rufino
4:00-6:00 Adv Couples Only Seminar - The Body Spiral Explored with a CELLspace Inspired Music Mix
6:00-8:00 Dinner Break
8:00-10:00 Music Jam with Open Practice

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 16-22

Friday, December 17, 2010
Tango Nation Milonga at Allegro Ballroom.
I got there really late, so missed the lesson. This milonga takes place in the Junior Ballroom at Allegro, while the main ballroom hosts the ballroom party. Since I got there really late, there was no one at the main door to answer any questions. There was just a big sign, front and center, that said "Late Comers, put $3 in the envelope". So that's what I did since I didn't know any better. Apparently, that was a mistake, and I was supposed to pay my milonga entrance fee directly to Mat MaMoody, the organizer, or one of his volunteers. Whoops. My bad. When I asked/told him about it later, he was totally cool about it, said I could pay whatever I liked (since it was extremely late) and that it was on the honor system, which was nice.

The milonga itself was interesting. It appeared to me that it was attended by a lot of his regular students, who seem to have ballroom backgrounds or are interested in performance-style dancing. Though it is unlikely that I will have the best tanda of my life at this milonga, it was still very entertaining from a people-watching standpoint. I think there were several dancers who switched back and forth between the ballroom party and the milonga, and had I attended earlier, that was my hope as well. The food was very ample (the most I've seen per capita), with wine and margaritas, cakes, cookies, chips and guacamole. The music, DJ's by Mat, was interesting in that it had a fair bit of Alt, the cortinas were ballroom dance type song snippets, and he even played the full song Por Una Cabeza, among other more mainstream tangos usually played at milongas. The dancers, for the most part, had a very fun, joyous quality about them, as they tried out their dips, lifts and other dramatic steps, sometimes seemingly without a care in the world to floorcrafting. They were having such a good time, that several dancers stayed later than the 12:30 a.m. official end time, and Mat was such a good sport that he accommodated them with music to dance to.

Saturday, December 18, 2010
Milonga at Bollyhood.
In the interest of adding diversity to Scouting Tour, I had intended to go to this milonga, but after spending 10 minutes circling for a parking spot (and not wanting to pay extra to park in a lot), seeing one, and then turning the car around to get it, only to watch it get snapped up by the person two cars in front of me, I got frustrated and threw in the towel. I didn't want to go through the parking hassle on this Saturday night when it was supposed to be rainy. So I reprogrammed the GPS to go to Cheryl Burke, now the Metronome Dance Collective, and went there instead, where I found rock star parking right out in front.

The Late Shift Milonga at Metronome Dance Collective. They have changed the space a little since I was here last. They built a full wall with doorway in the front area by the windows where the two areas of the room used to be somewhat separate. In the now fully separated area is some seating, a desk and cash register, and interestingly, two vending machines with water and soda, and snacks, each with a $0.50 premium on top of the usual item cost (i.e., a $1 bag of chips sells for $1.50). This $0.50 charge goes to the fund that will help the Collective rent a 4,000 square foot ballroom space (I assume that is the other big original Metronome ballroom a block away).

The milonga itself was fun. I got there a little early and was among the first to arrive. So I had a chance to dance with one of my favorite leaders, and to do so freely without concern about taking up too much floorspace or getting the hairy eyeball from anyone. It filled up nicely as the night went on, and dancer quality was good to great. I danced a lot that night, and was amazed to see a fresh wave of dancers come in around midnight. By then, I was thoroughly pooped, and so even though one of my favorite leaders arrived and we danced, I did embarrassingly poorly and knew it was time to call it a night. So I left immediately afterward. All night I had worn a pair of stilettos that I used to normally wear (before the weird ball-of-foot pain), and so my feet and legs were more tired than usual since it had been a quite a long while since I wore such high heels. I was no longer used to the height and was made keenly aware that a half or three-quarters of an inch makes a huge difference in terms of ball-of-foot pressure, weight distribution, and all the different leg and foot muscles used.

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Cafe Cocomo with lesson beforehand by Felipe Martinez and Shorey Myers.
The class was good, and focused on the Leaders, in my opinion, which is a good thing, and I was surprised that there were a number of very high-level leaders who made a special point to attend this lesson. The topic was the cross system walk to the Follower's cross, and then for the Leader to walk on the outside of the embrace (still in cross system), and then to the inside of the embrace (still in cross system) to Follower back ochos. So during his forward cross system walks on the outside and inside of the embrace, he steps left foot forward on his left side, and right foot forward on his right side. Then we changed the step, with the Leader walking on the close side, back into the line of dance, while leading several Follower back ochos. Here the Leader's left foot crosses behind his right foot. Then she does a right foot side step, during which the Leader does a right foot sacada of her trailing left foot, into Follower left foot back ocho, right foot back ocho, left foot back ocho. During the Follower back ochos, the Leader walks around her on the close side. Here for the Follower, the goal was to get extreme (270 degree) rotation on her left foot back ocho so they get back into the line of dance. To do this extreme back ocho, Leader should lead Follower such that her left shoulder opens back to get her hips around and pivot farther for her back ocho/back cross step. At arriving at the Follower's cross, the Leader leads her side step right first, and then he does his right foot sacada. The Leader goes down at the Follower's side step so she can make her side step solid, big and around the Leader. All the steps for the Leader are in cross system. It was a very good class.

The milonga itself was fun. It was nicely crowded, but not overly so. The leader quality mostly ranged from good to excellent, so floorcrafting was generally not a problem. A number of people asked why I chose this milonga instead of Studio Gracia where Natalia Hills was teaching, and I said because I figured more women were likely to go to her premilonga lesson, and more men likely to go to Felipe's lesson. So for me, it was a numbers game. They laughed.

The food was festive since this was the last milonga of the year, and a holiday one. So each guest was given a candy cane upon entry, and there were cookies, more candy canes, and snacks galore. The Marin French Artisan cheese was just that, definitely head and shoulders above the ubiquitous President Brie. There was also a self-serve plate of spiral cut ham, reminiscent of the self-serve slab-o-meat thing I first experienced in Ashland and which I am finding that I really like, despite its rather inelegant, somewhat cavemanish presentation.

Yumi sold her empanadas, $2.50 for 1, $6 for 3. The flavors were beef, chicken, and vegetarian (spinach and ricotta). I bought all three to go. Eating them reheated in the toaster oven the next morning, I found them to be tasty. The fillings were ample but simple, with the beef and chicken being mainly ground beef or shredded chicken dotted with a bit of color from various random vegetables, but no visible egg or raisins in the beef. The vegetarian (spinach and ricotta) was surprisingly my favorite. The crust was not too thick, very flaky, buttery, and chewy, very much like croissant dough, and the nice coppery brown sheen suggested that they were finished with an egg wash. The size was perfect: neither too large nor too small.

Cafe Cocomo's "new" floor didn't seem very new to me. It seemed to me to be merely refinished (and I have seen better refinish jobs), and after a few months of the rigors of the salsa dancers (and their sticky drinks), the floor seems much the same as it was before, only lighter in color. I was curious about the floor since I had heard many negative things about it (so I thought they replaced it with pergo...and was totally wrong about that); perhaps these folks have a problem with the stickiness, as there was an ample sprinkling of powder on the perimeters (which I don't recall them doing on the old floor, despite its patina of years of spilled margaritas and Coronas).

This was the first time I had heard Steve and Joanne DJ, and I thought they were excellent. They will be hosting a New Year's Eve milonga in San Francisco, to kick off the upcoming new Saturday milongas at Club Florida. I had been doing an informal survey asking folks where they will be going on New Years Eve, and it seems that most people are still on the fence and haven't decided yet. For me, I am put off by the high price of Club Florida, but when you add in the $6 Golden Gate Bridge toll to the Tango Con*Fusion Bay West NYE Milonga, it becomes almost equal in price, but without a lesson and 40-mile, 1-hour round trip drive. Needless to say, I still haven't decided where I will be going (and might spend the night on the lanes instead; after all, there IS life beyond tango...).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Volunteer Ushering at Forever Tango at the Marine's Memorial Theatre.
I ushered for this show two years ago when it was last in town. Back then, it was at the Post Street Theater, the former sister theatre to Marine's Memorial. Marine's Memorial is smaller than Post Street, and every seat in the house is a good one. The ushers seats are whatever ones are available, usually in the back, as they were on this full-house night; I had no problem seeing or hearing and was very happy with my view of the show. One of the most fun things this time around was that the dancers did a lot of behind-the-scenes practicing of different, non-show material beforehand. The show itself was good, although I admit that I liked the 2008 production better.

One surprising thing about this new show was that it lacked Jorge Torres. Also, Luis Bravo himself was on cello, so it was a real treat to hear him play, and see his technical virtuosity and artistic strength (he broke several strings on his bow throughout the night) and modesty (no solos from him and at the end no attention being called to him even though he is the creator and director). About half the dancers were the same as in 2008 when the show was in town. The program highlighted Cheryl Burke, who performed in several numbers in dance style similar to what you'd usually see in a Broadway musical (or on Dancing With The Stars) and less so on a milonga dance floor. There was one number where all the dancers danced in what I would consider a Tango Rueda. The band was especially fantastic, with three bandoneonists, a pianist, two violin players, Luis Bravo on cello, and a bassist. I found myself wanting more band-only numbers, which was the opposite of what I felt in 2008, when I wanted to see more dance numbers. The singer was fine.

It was a good night, and I was glad I and Jr. Scout Extraordinaire and my two usual usher buddies were able to be added to the Forever Tango volunteer roster. In the beginning, it didn't look like we would since there was such an overwhelming response to the call for ushers. But eventually we were added. During our briefing, the house manager took us aside and invited just us four to usher for some upcoming shows that will not be open to the full volunteer usher email list. I believe that was her way of recognizing and appreciating the long-standing regular volunteers (not just the Forever Tango volunteers who have never or will never volunteer to usher for any other production).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 2-15

Friday, December 3, 2010
California Tango Film Screening at the Roxie.
I did not get there early enough for the "music and dancing", but as I waited the 5-10 minutes or so before the film started, I didn't see anyone dancing. I don't recall the music, but assume it was Carlos Gardelish in nature.The movie was not my cup of tea at all. I kept checking the time to see when it would be over. The tango sequences were short and few and far between. In my totally biased opinion, the best dancers were Chelsea and Count. I did like the Che Guevara character, thinking that he looked quite like the real deal, only with much better teeth. The popcorn had real butter on it, and had Brewer's Yeast as a self-serve sprinkling (gotta love San Francisco), and was reasonably priced compared to the usual big screen, big theatre names. I did not stay for the 90 minutes of music and dancing afterward (music also Carlos Gardelish), as I saw the first song was Cecilia and Igor on stage, and a song or two later they were joined by some beginner dancers in the floorspace below the stage. In short, I found the entire experience a bit of a letdown.

Saturday, December 4, 2010
Leonardo and Olga Suarez-Paz with Tango Revolution at aMuse Gallery.
It had been forever and a day since I had been to aMuse here for a tango event (I do so miss the milongas Glenn used to organize here, although I do note that the parking is a lot more difficult now with all the buildings around the gallery completely built up with residential units). The lesson was great. It was a technical/conceptual one done in the context of a simple step. I didn't take notes, but I thought it was excellent. Maestros spent ample time giving each couple individual attention. The evening, overall, was great. The concert by Tango Revolution was wonderful, especially the solo by one violinist. Allison Lovejoy did a wonderful piano solo, played with amazing feeling and nuance. Leonardo sang two songs, played the violin to one, and he and Olga also did a fantastic performance of two songs. It wasn't super crowded, but had an interesting mix of many very seasoned dancers and some beginners, all from near and afar. Sonja mentioned several times what a wonderful treat it is that Leonardo is taking an interest in the local tango musicians and is mentoring/coaching them and giving them guidance/instruction about tango music since he is a descendant of tango royalty. I totally agree. DJ Mix Mistress Z did a find job spinning the tunes, as usual. I passed along the Momo Smitt CD I snagged in Ashland (so maybe we will hear more of him at milongas). It was a wonderful night. ::::happy smile::::

Sunday, December 5, 2010
Korey and Adeline Ireland workshop at La Pista: Single Axis Turns (Advanced) - The Art and Science of Whoosh and Wheeeee!
Even though this lesson was clearly noted as "Advanced", I was extremely surprised to see some very beginner dancers at this workshop, dancers who have been dancing less than six months and by no means dance prodigies or otherwise gifted by any stretch of the imagination (despite what some of the more opportunistic leaders and teachers might be telling them). Luckily for me, I didn't have to work on the class material with them. The lesson itself was good. We began with some individual exercises of stepping around in an arc, and then pivoting on the arriving foot. Our arms were round, like holding a big beach ball.

The Leader does a rock step with his left foot, Follower with her right foot, Follower does right foot side step, pushing and pivoting at the same time to be curved and around the Leader, not floating away. The Follower's arrival point in her step makes her the center of the circle. The Follower keeps her hips level, and slides with her big toe on the floor. The Leader steps with his right foot behind her heel as he moves around the circle, stepping around her axis after she steps right. The Leader needs to keep his sounders equal distance with the Follower as he steps around her.

Shared axis turns are about centrifugal force and the balance of the couple. Balance is about mobility. The goal is to end more or less frontally with each other.

Next, we worked on a Shared-Axis Turn with more potential for "Wheeeee!", in both directions where the Leader on his left foot, and where the Leader was on his right foot.

For the timing, it is
Rock step
(small delay here)
Me (Leader)

How do you get the Follower to take a big step? Use a chest lead with your whole frame. Follower should keep her knees flexible. Leader should use his body below the ribs without chest/arms (which could knock the Follower off balance). How close and around the Follower steps toward Leader is key. Follower should not lock her knees. She should keep them soft and push into the floor. For her footwork, she arrives on her right foot. She needs to have quality in her body, mobility in the joints (do not be locked), so that she can keep the couple balanced.

We did a lot of drilling.

We also changed the entrance, with a Leader side step left foot, weight change, to step left foot forward (during these steps the trajectory is around the Follower), then the Leader comes around with his right foot to the usual Follower side step right shared-axis turn. If the Follower loses balance, do not use the arms to maintain it. Use your legs, core, etc., but not your arms.

Advice: Location, location, location. Where you put the weight is key. Just behind her heel is the sweet spot of where the Leader should step. More "whooosh" does not mean more "Wheeee!" The exact moment/timing is a little inaccurate.

Maestros concluded with a demo of different types of shared-axis turns, illustrating that by sharing space and keeping the Follower on balance, shared-axis turns can be done socially.

I had a nice time.

Entry into the practica afterward was free to those attending the lesson beforehand, so it was nice to see it reasonably attended. I always have a terrific time at this practica when there are a decent number of people.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Gustavo & Jessica Hornos Intermediate Lesson at La Pista.
On a whim, I attended this lesson. Santiago de Argentina's partner Ana (la otra) didn't arrive, so lucky for me, I got to partner with him in class. The step taught was a simple one, with Follower back ochos, to a Leader right foot displacement of the Follower's left foot after her right foot back ocho, to unwind her, and then lead her to do more back ochos. Then this was changed to the same Follower left foot displacement using Leader's right foot, to unwind her, and then lead her to do a clockwise molinete/hiro/turn. After we drilled this for a while, we added a Leader right foot sacada of Follower's trailing right foot on her left foot side step after her forward step. The step was simple, and we spent ample time drilling and discussing some finer points of Leader and Follower technique (like direction of Leader's torso and Follower being on balance and her quality of foot movement and also an embellishment: a quick and elegant small beat back on the displacement). Maestros showed each couple lots of individual attention. I had more than enough dancing in the 45-minute practica afterward, but clearly there were some others who wanted to stay much longer (even though they apparently had already mastered the class material).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
CellSpace ALT Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on: An Introduction to An Effective Use of Body Weight in Tango

This was a brand new, experimental class.

We began with an exercise. In teakettle open embrace (with both the Leader's hands at the small of his back, and Follower hanging on to his biceps), the Leader was to lead the Follower in a dance. The following things were things we should think about:
Leader: How do I use weight to lead?
Follower: How do I use the weight to respond appropriately to the lead?
We were to be slow and elastic, dynamic, and in control in our dance (in teakettle open embrace).

How do we use our standing leg? We should connect with the floor with our standing leg.
We should really spend time and effort to really settle in to our standing leg, settling first, and then reaching with our free foot for our next step.
Try to use the connection to the floor.
The Follower's embrace is elastic: each arm can bend and flex.
In the Follower's steps and dancing, she should not be flighty and try to get away from the Leader.
She should use her whole body when she starts moving.

We then danced a song, again in teakettle open embrace, where the Leaders were encouraged to change it up more by:
Changing weight
Being subtle at times
Being energetic at times
Changing from one direction to another
Followers were instructed to be grounded, and show a bit of resistance.

The question came up: "What is resistance?"
Does the Follower slow down the Leader?
The Follower's purpose is to connect with the Leader.
The kind of resistance we hope to achieve is horizontal in energy, not vertical.
It is the Follower choosing to actively stay longer on the standing leg before reacting to the lead.
This is the Follower's way of letting the Leader know how she moves through space using her weight.

The question came up of how to handle males who follow since they have higher centers of mass.
How do you (the Leader) compensate?
Cristina's answer: You connect with the floor more.
Homer's answer: (1) You play with the tilt of the bodies/axes and (2) Make the Follower learn to connect with the floor more.


Next, we played a game.
In teakettle open embrace, in partnership we were to walk forward and walk backward.
In our forward walk, our bodies are slightly toward each other /\.
In our backward walk, our bodies are slightly away from each other \/.
Our goal in this game was to feel the weight of our bodies.
The Follower should take long forward steps, but not plank in her body. She should also not fall into her steps, especially the forward step.
Both dancers should create a natural resistance and communication in the embrace.
The Leader changes the embrace compression at the point when the direction changes forward to back, or back to forward. He does this by taking a moment to create the resistance by settling into the floor.
The Leader and Follower should both should collect first, and then work through the neutral zone, then change the direction before the next step is made.
For the exercise, it is OK to exaggerate it, to feel and understand the concept.
The Leader tilts his axis by flexing his ankles as he changes direction forward to back or back to forward. If his or her toes are crunching, he/she is too far forward. The toes should always be able to wiggle.
The change from forward to back feels like a slow vacuum.
The Follower feels the intention to change direction in the change in the tilt of the Leader's body before the change in direction, so she knows where to go.
It is up to both the Leader and Follower to build the relationship before you step/change the direction.
This game gave us a concept that will help us add elasticity to the embrace. Shifting weight has great leverage potential.

Next, we worked on the concept of Dynamics, that is going from a linear to a circular move using the above concept.
The Follower should have an al dente embrace (not too soft and not too hard, but firm and responsive), using her back and core muscles.
The step, still done in teakettle embrace, was a simple one:
Leader's side step left (Follower's side step right) to step forward with his right foot, change weight, and then back with his right foot, as he leads the Follower counterclockwise molinete/hiro/turn around him.
This was a very simple sequence, and our goal was to work on quality of movement.
The dancers are close to begin with, and then the Leader changes his axis back as he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. The Follower's embrace has flexibility (compression and extension). The Leader works through a forward tilt and back tilt during the Follower molinete/hiro/turn, and the Follower feels a "slingshot" type of energy as she comes around.
To get out of it, the Leader captures her with another side step left.
The movement is soft and quiet, and then explodes, and then quiets down again.
The Follower should not take short steps, and not fall into her steps. Otherwise she will kill the dynamics of the molinete/hiro/turn. She should also make a good reach effort.
The Follower should really arrive on her step before reaching for the next step, and use everything in her body as she moves through space. She should not rush, and not be afraid of being left behind by the Leader.

Next, we added the teapot embrace with the Leader having a right hand handle and left hand spout to have more control.
The Follower must really hold onto the Leader.
Again, we tried the side step to molinete/hiro/turn on one side (counterclockwise) and then the other (clockwise).
The Leader should not move his body in a block when he leads the molinete/hiro/turn. Otherwise, he will be inefficient in his molinete/hiro turn lead. Instead, the Leader should use disassociation to make the movement easy and with finesse. Leaders tend to use their arms too much when leading the molinete/hiro/turn, so our work using the teapot embrace should alleviate that, and to also work on the secret agenda: that is, for the Leader to develop more pull energy with his left hand (as opposed to overusing and misusing his right hand by pushing the Follower to do the molinete/hiro/turn).
The teapot embrace also causes the Leader to engage his arms to his back to the floor.
The Follower works through many different types of strength in her embrace in this simple sequence in teapot embrace: soft, al dente, and firm, but she should always have elasticity, with each arm expanding and compressing as she goes around the Leader.

Maestros concluded with a demo to DiSarli's Comme Il Faut, which you can see at

This was one of the rare nights that I also stayed to dance until the end of the milonga. I had a great time (even though the music was 50% alt, which is not really my cup of tea)! I had several truly excellent tandas (one with a dancer from Oregon), so it was enough to keep my attention and presence there for the whole thing. A nice couple from Norway said some kind words to me about my tangostudent note taking, so that was a little treat. There was a birthday dance for Aneta, and she brought in lots of chocolate for us to partake in (and I am kicking myself for forgetting to get a to-go plate!). And at home later on, the notes came easily ... so no burning the midnight (er...2:00 a.m.) oil for me. It was a very nice night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010
Verdi Club Milonga with lesson beforehand by Oscar Mandangaran and Georgina Vargas.
I missed the lesson. When I got there a little after 9:00 p.m., the place was already packed. It seemed everyone and their cousin got the memo that this was the place to be there or be square. Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico played some lives sets, and I was amazed at how good they are. I am kicking myself that I hadn't made the effort to see them perform earlier, though I had met the Bassist and thought he was a wonderful dancer (so assumed he would be a brilliant musician as well). Julian was the other bandoneonist, and Peter the pianist. Can't say I know the names of the two violinists, but the woman especially played with great precision and energy. Anyway, they were all fantastic, and shame on me for not seeing and hearing them earlier. I especially liked the tunes they did in the style of D'Arienzo. The dancing was a bit not magic, not tragic. It was super crowded, and floorcraft wasn't the greatest, so I can't say I had a thrillingly good time, dancewise. The socializing, however, was great fun since everyone was in the house. The performance by Tango Con*Fusion was excellent, even though it was still a work in progress.

Saturday, December 11, 2010
Nora's Milonga at Allegro with lesson beforehand by Fabian Salas and Lola Diaz.
The lesson was good, and focused on the space between the Leader and Follower where they connect, that is between her left arm and side of chest to the Leader's right arm and side of his chest. We did many exercises and small simple sequences to play with the idea of moving together by moving the space, or moving the Leader separately from the space or moving the Follower separately from the space. The Follower responds with her legs to what the Leader does with his chest.

We began with a simple Leader walk forward in partnership with Follower walk back, always going through the center. Next, Maestro noted that there were many types of embrace, but for this class we were going to use the following one: The Leader puts his right hand on top of his left chest, with his elbow away from his back. His left hand goes on top of his right hand, his elbow also away from his back. Then the Leader brings his left arm up. He pulls his right hand away from his chest, but still keeps it in front of his body, opening up the space. The Follower walks into the embrace, taking the Leader's left hand. For the Follower to answer the Leader's chest lead by moving her legs, she must always be in contact with the Leader to hear his lead. The contact between the dancers is in the area of the Follower's left arm and chest to the area of the Leader's right hand and chest. This can be in full contact or in more open embrace, with the space in between them still the area of contact. If the Leader moves that space, the Follower fills it up. The Leader can move this space three ways: (1) move himself and the space, (2) move the space only (while he remains in the same spot), or (3) move himself only (keeping the space in the same spot). We tried to understand this concept by doing a simple sequence of Leader side step left (Follower side step right), Leader changes weight to walk Follower to the cross, so Leader and Follower are now on the same feet (left and left), to another step (right and right), to Follower cross.

Next exercise: Maestro drew a line on the floor. We were to do the same step but on the Follower left foot back step, the Leader makes the Follower rotate a lot to cross over the line in her left foot back cross step, using the Leader's embrace and without the Leader travelling. This goes against the line of dance, but that is OK since it is just an exercise. The Leader needs to move the space so that the Follower moves. Next, to fix the line of dance problem, we changed the step. Instead of a side step (Leader's left, Follower's right), the first step was changed to a Leader slightly diagonal back step (Follower right foot forward step), so that this move pivots a lot. As the Follower goes around the Leader, he sneaks in his right foot in between her steps as he pivots her counterclockwise on her left foot back cross step. Here, the Follower is going through the embrace ahead of the Leader. Maestra noted that the Follower should always try to close her legs. The point of this simple step is to make the Follower step without the Leader actually travelling. Next exercise, in walking in the line of dance, Leader forward left foot (Follower's back right foot), to a rock step to a Follower forward right foot (Leader back left foot), the Leader turns around and walks out while Follower does left foot open step, right foot back step (like the first half of the ocho cortado). Next, we tried to make this travel more in the line of dance.

The sequence: Side step, to promenade of Leader's right foot forward to Follower's left foot forward, rock step back, Leader steps forward on his right foot, outstepping the Follower's left foot step, to pivot around the Follower to lead Follower back step, as he steps forward with his left foot. We tried this in QQ rhythm to give the move more dynamic. We could also do this move continually. The class ended with another small exercise of rock steps with the Leader's left foot only (Follower right foot only), with the Leader stopping before the Follower collects her feet. We also tried to do this in QQS rhythm, with the goal of leading it through the embrace. Next exercise, step followed by weight change to QQ rhythm. To sum up the class, the Leader could have done all these leads with just the embrace (moving the space).

The milonga was fun. Christian has finally moved to the Bay Area, so what a wonderful treat it will be for the Followers to have another good leader in our midst. And lucky for me (and other salseras), he is also an excellent salsa dancer. Lots of folks came up from the South Bay to support Nora and because of Fabian and Lola. DJ Emilio did a fine job keeping us in line, as floorcrafting was pretty decent, despite it being very crowded. Also, lots of folks were content to sit out some tandas instead of joining in on the milonga dance floor. The performance by Fabian and Lola were good. She has improved. For some reason, I was ravenous that night, and thought many times of going to Denny's for quick bite (but I didn't). The ventilation has improved at the Allegro. (At least I think it's an improvement. Those prone to be chilled might not like it as enthusiastically.) I believe they got a new A/C system (or fixed the one they had) because there were two extremely noticeable localized spots of blasting cold air from the ceiling. Thus, it never got hot or humid, despite the large number of bodies. I stayed later than I expected to, wanting to get that one last tanda in with one of my favorite leaders. I should have skipped it though, since I bonked and my feet were sloshy. Needless to say, I danced that last tanda quite poorly, and certainly wouldn't want to remembered by it. :o(

Monday, December 13, 2010
La Cumparsita Milonga with lesson beforehand by Korey and Adeline Ireland on: Gancho a Favor Forward
(also known as a gancho off of forward). Ganchos = enganches = wraps. Our goal in the class was to use a technique to work on something specific, a movement. We began with a warm up, hand to hand in mirror image, raised up near our shoulders. The follower was to do a rulo with either foot, and the Leader was to try to feel it in his hand that the Follower was doing the rulo. So it was up to the Follower to communicate through her hand that she was doing a movement with her foot (right foot to right hand, left foot to left hand). The goal of this exercise was to work on having an elastic connection. How do the hands affect the feet? The connection of our hands to our feet, and our feet to our hands, is through the body. To give us a picture of what the class topic is: for the A Favor Forward Gancho, dancers look for the same shape, when Leader and Follower are traveling in the same place and same direction. "with" = "a favor" = Leader traveling in the same direction as Follower.

Tool #1: Leader Controlling Follower's Foot
We did an exercise where the Leader was to lead the Follower in such a way so that he could move the Follower's foot into an ocho. Note that it is the Leader asking for a movement. The Follower should not change (collapse) her arms and hands as the Leader leads/asks her to make a shape with her foot, otherwise she will absorb the lead. Leader should use his left hand to communicate what he wants of the Follower. The distance of the free leg is key.

Tool #2: Leader Turns Axis of Follower While He Walks Around
We did an exercise where the Leader goes around the Follower, and also leads the Follower to rotate her hip clockwise and counterclockwise as he walks around her in one direction, and then the other. The Leader suggests the Follower movement with (1) his body, and (2) his embrace. We practiced this exercise with the Leader walking both ways, clockwise and counterclockwise, and Follower hips going both ways, clockwise and counterclockwise. The Follower takes the information from the Leader's body.

Tool #3: Combining the Two Tools, and Follower Communicating What Foot is Doing in Her Hand
Leader's walks around around the Follower's axis, and uses it to lead her to do other things with her hips and legs (boleos, etc.). The Follower tells the Leader where her foot is in the gancho with her hand.

The Sequence:
Follower forward cross step with her left foot, Leader's right foot steps around the Follower counterclockwise to bring her right leg to gancho the Leader's right leg and he rotates his torso counterclockwise. The Leader steps behind the Follower's left heel, and he also bends his right knee a lot to create the sensation.

Since we didn't look so great doing this, we backed up to do an exercise to really free up the Follower's right leg. As the Follower is on her left foot, pivoting, her right foot is free and the Leader leads a kick through his axis (through his legs) from her forward ocho step. This was to get the Leaders used to managing the Follower's free leg.

Next, we simplified the movement even further. We did the Follower right foot back gancho of the Follower's left leg as he rotates in the same direction counterclockwise.

Another one we did was from the parada position. From cross system, as Follower does her back ochos, the Leader almost sandwiches, whereby the Leader's right foot steps around the Follower's trailing forward right foot on her left foot back cross step (left foot back ocho step, which should be small), to lead a Follower right leg gancho of the the Leader's right leg as they move counterclockwise. The left foot back cross/back ocho step should be small, so that the Leader's right foot forward step does not have to be so long.

Maestros demo'd a lot of different leg responses (boleos, different types of ganchos, etc.) in the context of the Leader moving his torso and using his hands and feet to move the Follower.

This was an awesome class, very high level, surprisingly so for a pre-milonga class.

One wacky thing that happened though was that it was belatedly attended (how rude!) by several rather aggressive followers, who threw the until-then perfectly balanced class off. Then these rather aggressive followers, who all have a certain anxiety and stink of desperation and frustration when it comes to being rotated out during class, came up to ME and asked very forcefully if I would lead them. My response to them is the same as it is to everyone who asks: "I do not lead." And if pressed about why, my answer is the same: "There is no upside for me to lead any follower (or leader, for that matter)." I am not a big gal, but I certainly don't lack muscle either. However, leading some of these aggressive followers feels to me like moving 25 cubic foot refrigerators. There are certainly a noticeable number of non-beginner leaders who enjoy working with (or ... ahem ... "teaching" ... cough cough) lesser followers, and for all I care, they can certainly go at it (and they certainly do, which is why some of those non-beginner leaders don't improve all that appreciably either). In the past, my experience in leading demanding, needy followers (except at Ney and Jennifer's classes, where everyone was super nice, wonderful, and polite) has been that they are rude and they are very quick to jump on me and tell me what I am doing wrong as a leader. When I tell them that if they know so well how to lead and what the Leader's part should be, then they should go ahead and BE THE LEADER and that when I take the Leader role I am doing THEM a favor. This is where these thankless aggressive (usually untalented and unskilled) followers get all huffy and pissed off (their eyes get a little bit smaller and they press their lips together) and then they thankfully shut up and work on their Follower's part like they are supposed to. For the most part, my upper body and back aches every time I try to be the Leader, and so does my head. After a lesson where I lead, I am much too tired and fried physically and mentally to enjoy the milonga afterward. So God bless those gals who actually do Lead, because they are true saints. I, for one, would much prefer to happily sit out the entire lesson as a Follower rather than attempt to lead. So there you have it. Any leaders and followers reading this, please don't bother to ask me to lead you. It's nothing's just that I've been burned way too much by past experience. And I, for one, am straight and have no interest in being a teacher, and therefore have no interest or ulterior motive about giving any followers any delusions about...anything.

The milonga itself was fun. It wasn't hugely attended, but dancer skill level and quality were good to excellent. Tangonero played well, as usual.

Here's a video or Nora's Mission Cultural Center Performance Class Performance on December 11, 2010 I wasn't there, but many of the dancers we enjoy dancing with (if we are so blessed) performed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November 18 - December 1 (with thoughts from Anne and JSE's Excellent Ashland Adventure)

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Verdi Club.
The lesson by Facundo and Christy was good, and involved a couple of sequential sandwiches with changes of direction so that it continued in the line of dance. The milonga was crowded, but DJ Emilio helped keep the floorcrafting in line by playing generally slow songs.

Friday, November 19, 2010
MUSE milonga with lesson beforehand by Howard.
Eva was ill, so I stood in for her. We taught a brand-spankin' new-to-tango couple, from square one. So the first lesson was all about walking, leading and following, and connection. It was good, but very challenging for them. Hats off to Howard for having such heart with teaching newbies. The milonga was lightly attended, but I had a good time regardless.

Ashland Turkey Tango 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The drive up to Ashland was not bad. It took me just under 6 hours with a half-hour lunch break. I stayed at Bill & Julie’s thanks to the Festival’s organizer trying to connect housing providers with housing seekers by providing a blog for Ashland Lodging Offers. I decided to give it a go, since I had heard of such things but had not yet personally experienced it.

Bill & Julie’s house is very nice and just a couple of miles from the Turkey Tango venues. It’s in a residential area, and the room they provided was the master suite, complete with queen bed, sitting area and small entertainment center with TV and stereo. There is a master bath with separate two-person tub, shower, and two separate sink basins. In short, it was perfect. It is in a convenient location because Subway and Safeway are on the way to the Turkey Tango Venues, so it is easy to pick up supplies and such, to make it easy on the waistline and pocketbook, and to optimize fueling for training, since the room comes with kitchen privileges and its own separate mini fridge. The cost was more than the hostel, but less than a motel. Since Jr. Scout Extraordinaire decided to room with me, it helped make the trip reasonably affordable. The hosts are as nice as can be, and Bill is a custom shoemaker who offers classes in how to make shoes. You can see his web site at

The Turkey Tango Thanksgiving dinner was nice. About 65 of us descended onto the community center to partake in turkey, yams, stuffing, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin squares, as much as we wanted. It was all very yummy, and a really nice way for us to begin the festival together and also enjoy the holiday dinner that many of us missed with our own families. After we had our fill, the tables were cleared, the floor swept, and the milonga begun. What struck me initially was how tall so many people were! It was nice to see some familiar faces from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. I even ran into several people who I usually see at Austin’s Fandango de Tango this time of year. So it was kind of funny that we decided on Ashland this year instead.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Milonga Fundamentals with Francisco Canaro.

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Milonga: Cristina’s favorite Milonga Moves with D’Arienzo.

Korey Ireland and Adeline Schieferstein lesson on: Learning Tools: Optimizing the Workshop Experience. This was a truly amazing class.

Ribbon Milonga

This milonga started with a mixer, where a song was played, and after 20 seconds or so, it was stopped and we all got new partners. Then the song would play for another 20 seconds, stop again, and we got new partners again, etc. It really “broke the ice” for lots of us so that we could get some type of idea what we all danced like, and so that we could figure out who we wanted to ask to dance at the ribbon milonga. At the ribbon milonga, you could voluntarily wear a ribbon, which signified that you were willing to dance with anyone (including beginners), and that it is OK for you to be asked to dance/cabaceo’d, even if you are a Leader. Followers were encouraged to ask ribbon-wearing Leaders to dance. So it really got a lot of us out there and dancing with people we wouldn’t normally have danced with. The food was ample, fresh and delicious (especially the jicama). The coffee and tea bar was assorted and ample.

Friday Late-Night Milonga

Afterward, I went to the late night milonga at Tease, but only stayed a little while and only stayed to watch since I didn’t want to be late for the next morning’s classes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Part I: Half Turn in Close Embrace.

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Part II: Close Embrace Alteration and Turn with D’Sarli and Rufino on vocals.

Varo & Naomi on Milonga with Yum and Spice.

La Gran Milonga

This was a good milonga night.

The lesson before the milonga was taught by Varo & Naomi and was an all-levels lesson on the Ocho Cortado.

The performance was good, with each teaching couple, except Korey and Adeline, performing. Momo Smitt was also in the house, and performed two rap songs, one new and to which all the instructors danced. Then there was a snowball dance, where the festival instructors, staff and volunteers danced with each other, and then the song was stopped and those folks were instructed to get people in to dance who were not dancing, etc., until finally, we were all on the dance floor, dancing with each other. I got pulled in kind of late, and by that time, the only leaders left were the beginners or non-dancers. Still, it was great fun and I appreciated the effort to make the milonga inclusive.

I bought Momo Smitt’s 6-song CD, which I think is good. I’d be happy to share it with anyone interested. You can check him out at

The food was amazing with cocktail wieners and pineapple, chips and dip, veggies, and Dagoba dark chocolate fondue with accompaniments of graham crackers, marshmallows, sponge cake, mandarin oranges, and pears. There was also a whole turkey at the self-serve carving station. The coffee and tea bar was assorted and ample.

Post Gran Milonga

I went to the late night milonga at the Cultural Center, and had a nice enough time, though I was quite tired.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Part I: Colgada Basics with Miguel Calo.

Homer and Cristina Ladas lesson on Part II: Exploration of Styles within Colgadas with mixed music (including Alt).

Varo & Naomi lesson on Volcadas She Will Fall For. This was a basic volcada lesson.

Milonga de la Busqueda

We played a busqueda card game, where we all had dance cards, and had to fill it with the names of people who:

(1) were from a different state

(2) had different color eyes from ours

(3) someone we had never danced with before

(4) had the same astrological sign

It really broke the ice and got us all interacting with each other a lot more (not just dancing). When our cards were filled, we could drop them into the bowl for the drawing, the prizes of which were:

(1) Dagoba Chocolate and yummy coffee

(2) Turkey Tango 2010 All Milonga Pass

(3) Turkey Tango 2011 Full Pass

Even though baby needs new shoes, I did not win any of the prizes. :o(

Food was cheese, crackers, grapes, and wine, as well as a whole turkey at the self-serve carving station.

Monday, November 29, 2010

We left bright and early, after letting the car warm up for 20 minutes since there was so much ice on it. Jr. Scout Extraordinaire was a good sport in driving the whole way back, after she saw my look of fright as Bill explained that I should leave their home and drive down the hill slowly and carefully using a low gear. That was enough for me to hand the keys over to JSE. On the way home, we listed to the Momo Smitt 6-song CD I picked up during the festival and had him autograph. It was good. We stopped at Granzella’s in Williams since Julie recommended it, and had some gut-busting Italian sandwiches and lots of different olives at their free olive tasting bar. We made it home, safe and sound.


Initially, I had not intended to go to this festival at all. I thought, why would I go all the way to Ashland to take workshops from primarily San Francisco Bay Area tango teachers (Christopher & Caroline, Santiago y Amy, and Homer and Cristina)? But then I got inspired by the momentum of the tangostudent blog, and how maestros were structuring their course offering during Turkey Tango. Since I wanted more 2010 tangostudent content, I bit the bullet and decided to go, very late in the game, and with my foot being a little tender and recovering from injury. I was very careful during the workshops, heeding El Russo’s advice to wear shoes with as much cushioning as possible, only wearing my Sansha helium (feels like dancing on bubbles) dance sneakers during the lessons, and only wearing my bullet-proof low-heeled Artisanal shoes during the milongas. I was also very religious about putting Freeze It on my feet every night, which I also shared with JSE. Combined with my Yoga Toes, I had no problems with pain whatsoever during this festival. I was also happy to sit out the Homer and Cristina workshops where there was a gender imbalance on the side of too many followers.

It was really wonderful, amazing and shocking how genuinely nice everyone was, at the festival and in Ashland. I totally LOVE LOVE LOVE full service gas stations!!!

Before or during milongas, there were many games that we played to get us all dancing with each other and out of our usual comfort zone of just dancing with the people we are familiar with. Even the teachers danced with a lot of the students at the festival milongas. The organizer also had out flyers at the registration table regarding the Rules of Floorcafting, which I appreciated.

Bill & Julie were awesome. JSE and I felt so cared for and welcome as we stayed in their home. They even shared their Thanksgiving leftovers with us one night, so the hospitality we received seemed to go largely above and beyond what we expected as room renters. The shoe making side of Bill’s life is fascinating, and you could imagine how JSE and I found the topic tantalizing with respect to tango shoes. One great tip that Bill gave me, since I was complaining about blowing out of some of my shoes so quickly and needing a leather that had as little give as possible, and that I wanted the leather to remain the same as the day I try on the shoe, he recommended Kangaroo Leather, saying it was the leather with the least amount of stretch. I think I need to surf the next to stock up before my next trip to P.H. (Grito de Ascensio 3602 xCachi en Pompeya) in Buenos Aires.

The weather while I was there was unseasonably cold, with snow on one day, and rain on a couple of others, and extreme cold on the last day. So one has to be careful and make sure the car is in decent shape before coming up here, with a decent battery, decent antifreeze, and decent breaks.

It was very nice of Jr. Scout Extraordinaire to join me again on a tango jaunt, and super fun to catch up with Graham and Jimena (from the August 2010 LV Al Cuadrado Intensivo). I didn’t dance with Graham in August, but was totally blown away by his skill at the Turkey Tango Festival. It was great seeing such a strong Mendocino contingent organized by Raquel and Walter, who are both fantastic leaders and dancers. It was also amusing to run into all of the San Francisco Bay Area folks (many of whom I usually run into at Austin this time of year). I had some pretty amazing tandas during the festival, and have a new appreciation for the Sacramento dancers and Oregon dancers (GO Brookings!!!).

I wasn’t blessed to dance with Momo Smitt, but was at least able to watch him. He is an amazing dancer with fantastic musicality (no surprise there), and has accomplished an absolutely extraordinary amount in the 14 months he’s been dancing. I was pea-green with envy because Jr. Scout Extraordinaire got SEVERAL tandas with him over the course of SEVERAL nights, whereas I got none. :o( JSE seems to still be in some kind of a slightly disoriented tango fog state and has not fully returned from those fantastic Momo Smitt tandas. :oP~ In one class I took that Momo was in, I was very impressed by the intelligent questions he asked, and the keen awareness of his partner and their dancing together, and of tango that he conveyed. He is no dummy. He is one sharp tanguero. That he has already shown such amazing awareness and understanding of tango just after 14 months of hacking away at it is truly mind-boggling. He really does have awesome potential, and it will be fascinating to see how he develops on so many different levels (as a rapper, as a dancer, and as a teacher) in the tango world. I’ve tried to think of other adjectives to use to describe him and his development, but all I can come up with is amazing, awesome, and extraordinary. I am dumbstruck by my own lack of not being able to come up with more diverse vocabulary to describe him, but honestly in my opinion, those are the most accurate ones.

The Oregonians I met all seemed to be extraordinarily nice, and it seemed to be contagious, thankfully. Many were also quite tall. (I wish that was contagious to me, too, but I think I’m a few decades and a few ancestral generations too late for that.)

It was very touching and humbling to meet, be thanked by, and dance with some of the folks who read or subscribe to the My tangostudent other half really should join me next time to share in the kudos!

And man, I had so many great conversations many folks with ideas that inspire me to write something about… I couldn’t fit it all in here on this one posting…but maybe I will just let those nuggets roll around in my head for a while…and I’ll put it down on paper (or pixel) on a week when lesson/milonga content is lighter. But I feel as though I am just bursting with content right now!!!

And if any of y’all are wondering why my class notes are not on this blog, it is because I also have my goober moments. I left my notebook at the festival. It is being shipped as we speak. I will have the notes done this weekend, and might just do a separate (non-Wednesday, non-Thursday) posting since the notes will be quite lengthy. My tangostudent other half is on the other side of the pond right now, so we are also dealing with technical production issues.

When I arrived in Ashland on Thanksgiving Day, I felt as if my body was saturated in cortisol. :o(

When I left Ashland Monday morning, I felt as if my body was awash in DHEA. :o)

This might just turn out to be my new Thanksgiving tradition.


My Homer and Cristina workshop notes can be found at

Here are my other notes that are printworthy (I took one other workshop and one other premilonga class, but have chosen not to publish those notes).

Friday, November 26, 2010
Int: Learning Tools: Optimizing the Workshop experience by Korey and Adeline Ireland.
Maestros seemed to be pleased with the turnout in class, and asked us, "What did we imagine from such a class?" The answers:
Basic steps that you can use everywhere.

Maestros intention is that some people get more out of classes, while others seem to stay at the same place (i.e., show no or very little improvement).

Our first goal for the class is to think about how we approach our role as students.
University versus non-university
Optimized skills
Watch words for most classes.
The effective student's relaxed concentration

Next, we did several exercises to illustrate the different styles of learning (visual, verbal, kinetic). We formed a diagonal line, then a circle, then a square, then a zig zag, then a triangle. Our goal was to see how well we, as a class, could follow instructions that were verbal by doing something physical/kinetic and visual.

Then we partnered up to do a visual/verbal/kinetic sequence of
(1) wave
(2) uh huh (nodding our head up and down)
(3) wax on (raising our left or right hand and doing a circular movement in the air as if waxing a car or surf board)
(4) I don't know (with shoulder shrug).

One partner did a sequence (physical and verbal), and the the other partner had to do it as well).
Then we removed the verbal aspect of it, and the other partner had to say out loud what the doer was doing (wax on, uh huh, I don't know, uh huh, wax on, uh huh, etc.).

Next, we did more exercises to work on coordinating our visual and kinetic learning. The class was split into four different groups, and we lined up in four rows. The first person in the row was to do a choreography, with the person behind him doing the same thing four beats behind, and then the person behind that person doing the same thing, four beats behind.

Next, the class was split into groups of four people each: Leader, Follower and two observers. The Leader and Follower were to do a sequence/movement that involved 3-4 simple steps, and then demo it to the two observers 3 times. Then the observers were to see and reproduce what the original Leader and Follower did. One trick to do well at this was to focus on what the Follower did.

Next, maestros demonstrated a step in class, and asked us what we all saw.
Our first answer: Ocho Cortado
Maestro then asked us to be more descriptive, so we came up with:
rock step
forward ocho
check step to the cross
Follower moves in a line, and then circularly.
Parallel system
What's happening in space? Goes from linear to circular.

In partnership, we were then to try to reproduce the Ocho Cortado as Korey and Adeline did it.
Rock Step
Open step
To Cross

Follower hangs on to leader. Leader is just there for stability. Follower does ocho cortado on her own.

We were to work on quality of movement, really observing how Maestros did it. So Maestros demo'd it again, and Followers were to pick three points in Adeline's quality of movement that we want to have in our dance. Then do it in our own dance. We drilled this several times with our partner.

Then a partner change was called, and we used this as a seed moment for empathy. The Follower was to lead the move, and the Leader was to follow the move. This also put us more in listening mode as the person who is usually the Follower taught the person who was usually the Leader what his Follower footsteps were, and the person who is usually the Leader teach the person who is usually the Follower how to lead this movement.

Then we had an exercise to get us in a listening mode. Maestros told us a story about their drive up to Ashland from LA, what they spoke about on the the car ride, what they ate, etc. Then we were to repeat it back to them, noting what the key points are and building a list, with detail. Then they asked us specifically what they ate on their car ride up, and we were to answer it.

Back to the ocho cortado, the Leader creates suction on the Follower forward step. The Leaders footwork includes a right foot behind the left foot, and his mid-back opens out. His right foot toes are close to the heel of his left foot as he leads the ocho cortado, with more pelvis on top of hips as he opens up to his right.

List of points for the Follower's cross:
Go with the heel first into the cross.
The right foot pivots as Follower goes into the cross (as an exercise we can try to pivot this right foot maximally).

We repeated the act of going to the Follower's cross repeatedly as a way to work on our muscle memory.

So in this class we worked to sharpen the following learning tools:

Using bullet points
Doing it (muscle memory/kinetic).

Kinetic Tools:
Doing it slow (going to the cross, we take 6 seconds to do it).
(1) slow motion
(2) repetition (do it 5 times or 10,000 times)
(3) Find slight variations
- in dynamics
- in timing
- in the start (to stay alert to movement)
- vary the step size
- do a different entrance
- bit side step to pivot around the Leader
- close versus open embrace
- attitude

Relaxed and Trust
Attitude / emotions
Be cool and easy.

Those who cross over learning modalities can accelerate their learning.

We touched on the use of sound effects in our learning.

(1) Visual
Watch the Follower
Key thing to watch is the big picture spatial relationship: who is the center, and who goes around.
Buy a laser pointer.
Which part are you watching?

(2) Talking/Verbal
Filter what is important
Use bullet points
What is the intended message? (This is not always received correctly.)
Stay open minded and curious

(3) Movement

Find ways of crossing over.
Combine visual/auditory with verbal and physical

Tango can be purely abstract/conceptual.

With respect to learning strategies, sometimes it is better to do more and talk less.
Sometimes it is helpful during our classes/workshops to do it or try to do it three times before discussing what is working or what's not, what feels right, etc.

This was a truly excellent class.

Saturday, November 27, 2010
Int: Milonga with Yum and Spice by Varo Boyajyan & Naomi Hotta

We began with an exercise to get our bodies used to the milonga rhythm. What is different with milonga rhythm is that it is happier and faster. With respect to speed, it depends on much distance you travel in the amount of time. Since milonga is faster, we should take smaller steps. We explored this by dancing one milonga song, doing large steps and small steps, controlling the speed of the dance by how large we step.

Next, we did an individual exercise of just stepping forward and collecting, and then stepping back and collecting. We were to be fast, step small, and be on our toes. We should keep our knees aligned with our toes and keep our knees soft.

Next, we did another individual stepping exercise of right foot forward cross diagonal, left foot collect, side right, left foot collect. Again, we did this fast, step small, be on our toes.

Next, in partnership, we did the first exercise of forward step, collect, back step collect. When we did this reasonably well, we added the double time QQS timing.

The First Yum:
Rock step as Leader goes back with right foot, Follower rock step forward with her left foot outside.

The Second Yum:
Rock step can be bigger, and then finish with back step.

The Third Yum:
"The Penguin": a series of side steps, to the Leader's right, or to to the Leader's left. There is a little shift up top in the shoulders.

The Spice:
A dip and a jump.
The Follower's left foot dip to the side with a little hiccup jump onto the Follower's right foot as if a step, where her left foot then goes up freely. For the Leader, his footwork is merely a right leg bend, and then he goes up.
This is (surprisingly) easier in close embrace. The Leader just leads the Follower to jump. He does not jump himself. He also lifts her in his upper body.