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).

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