Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 10-16

Friday, February 11, 2011
Trio Garufa's $5 donation milonga with Free Parking at the Harvey Milk Arts Center.
I admit, the clincher for me going to this milonga was the free parking. Not that many miliongas have paid parking, but there are some milongas in more difficult to park areas that I generally don't go to specifically because of that. And I certainly appreciated the free parking for this milonga, because parking in the neighborhood is difficult. When I got there, Maria Volonte was finishing up her set, and it was packed. The room is large with very high ceilings, reminiscent of a middle school auditorium. Clearly, it is a dance space though, as there are mirrors on one side of the wall, and ballet barres on the other. The hardwood floor was comfortable to dance on, but the room got quite warm during the night, and the two portable fans did little to alleviate the humidity. Still, I had a good time dancing and then resting/cooling off during alternating tandas, both to live and recorded music. The wine for sale was Two Buck Chuck, each glass priced at a mere two bucks. I missed out on the empanadas, they were all snarffled and snapped up by the 23rd hour, as they were bargain priced at $3 for 2 (they were advertised as home made, though I suspect the dough was of the store-bought variety as they looked a little too "perfect", in my opinion...of course I am totally speaking out of school since I didn't have any). It was very crowded at times, as the place was filled with a lot of the local tango community, and lots of folks I had never seen before (newbies, I believe). The volunteers were all super friendly and attentive, giving out the parking vouchers immediately so no one had to stress out about it, and manning the bar and food table to satisfy the thirsty and hungry. Trio Garufa played well, as usual, and Maria Volonte is always divine. I had a nice time, and was glad my drive home was just over the hill.

Saturday, February 12, 2011
La Milonga de Nora at Allegro with lesson beforehand by Eduardo Saucedo y Marisa Quiroga.
The lesson focused on the Ocho Cortado. Since there were more Followers than Leaders, I sat it out and just took notes for most of the class until I jumped in at the end to work the material with one of my favorite leaders from the South Bay. For the Followers technique in the Ocho Cortado, be elegant and caress the floor when going into the cross. Pivot on the right foot before going to the cross, but not too much; do not overturn away from the Leader. Followers should collect the feet at every opportunity, and make the pivots with the feet together. The Follower adorno of the right foot shoe show off before going to the cross was taught, as well as the Leader adorno of the left foot heel forward touch to left foot back step was taught. More interesting, more complicated Ocho Cortado variations were also taught: The double to the cross, where Leader does not let Follower completely change her weight. The Follower forward front cross step instead of just a plain tight front cross, whereby the Leader turns his torso in a circular manner, causing the Follower to rotate more on her open/side step so that she takes a forward front cross step around the Leader rather than going into a flat, tight front cross. Here, the Leader opens his right arm a little so the Follower can pivot more, then he rotates her counter clockwise. On the Follower's forward step, her hips should be perpendicular to the Leader. For the Leader's technique, he should not sway his torso up and down. He should just rotate his torso, but not tilt it from side to side. One final variation was a variation on the double where the Leader does a forward double step with the Follower's double back step. It was an excellent class with ample drilling and individual corrections. As usual, the class ended with the super-fun Eduardo Saucedo group circle body movement dance to Tango Negro by Caceres. I don't think I've ever experienced anyone in the entire worldwide tango community who oozes as much good vibes, positive karma, happy feelings, joy and tango love as Eduardo Saucedo. It is positively infectious!

The milonga was OK. For some reason the Bucha Effect/Flicker Vertigo/Photosensitive Epilepsy-inducing light in the corner (the bright spotlight behind the spinning fan blades) really bothered me a lot on this night MUCH more than usual. And rather than tempt fate, I left early, shortly after the very generous four-song performance by Maestros:

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Studio Gracia Milonga with lesson beforehand by Negracha y Diego Lanau.
I skipped all but the tail end of the lesson. The milonga started out a bit sparse, but filled up reasonably later on. After I had danced a tanda with nearly all of the Leaders I wanted to dance with, I left.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
CellSpace ALT Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas: Get Your Lead/Follow Spiral On

This workshop was similar to the one held at Stanford in January 2011

Our focus was on the body spiral, connecting to our bodies and having more self-awareness.


We began with the Washing Machine Exercise.

Here, we turn our bodies to our left and then release the right foot, pivoting on our left foot. Our hips catch up with our chest.

The goal was to do a 90-degree (quarter) turn with our chest, with everything else following, and then do a 180-degree (half) turn with our chest, with everything else following. Then if we could master that, we could try doing a 360-degree (full) turn, with everything else following.

The motion is:
(1) Turn
(2) Release Hips
(3) Get all the way around.

We were to try this on both sides (turning to our left and turning to our right), engaging and then releasing.

We were also to try this on each foot, in each direction, so there were four possibilities:
(1) Pivoting on our left foot while turning to the left
(2) Pivoting on our left foot while turning to our right
(3) Pivoting on our right foot while turning to our right
(4) Pivoting on our right foot while turning to the left

The first level of this exercise is to have the hips catch up to the chest.
The second level of this exercise is to have the hips go past the chest.

This action is called the Washing Machine exercise because it mimics the spin cycle of a washing machine. It is a good oblique workout.

Next, we were to apply this exercise in a real tango move.


In teakettle embrace with Leader’s hands at the small of his back and elbows out so that Follower can hold onto his arms, the Leader steps around the Follower and leads her in a turn/hiro/molinete on either side. The Leader uses a bit of spiral, turning his chest first, and then his hips coming around.

The Follower also uses spiral while she does the turn/hiro/molinete around the Leader. The only point of contact is in her hands on his arms. Follower, be active in making this contact work. Hold on enough. Wake up that part of the embrace. Keep both sides (her left and right hands) awake. Her arms should be like spaghetti al dente, not too hard and stiff, but not too loose and soggy/absorbing. She should feel and be responsive to the Leader’s body so that the Leader doesn’t have to push her around.

The Leader should not overuse his hands. This is why we practiced the turn/hiro/molinete in teakettle embrace with the Leader not using his hands at all.

The Leader’s right foot outside forward step is where his first spiral is. The Follower spirals in her chest in response, to maintain connection with the Leader and to be in front of him. This is not a square move, it is a circular rotation.

We practiced doing this to a slow Di Sarli song on the strong beat.

With respect to Follower’s turn/hiro/molinete technique, she should keep her nose back on the side step, stay near the Leader, and do not float away at all on all steps of the turn/hiro/molinete: forward (front cross) step, side step, back (back cross) step, side step.

The “Rule of the Nose” was introduced. Since we were doing our work in Open Structure (as opposed to Close Structure), the Follower should try to keep the distance between her nose and the Leader’s nose the same at all time, and not get ahead or behind his nose, and not change the level of her nose up or down, or tilt her head forward or back.

More on Follower’s turn technique: Do not rush in the steps. The Leaders were instructed to lead it on the strong beat, so you should know how much time you have and what the pace of steps should be. Each step in the turn/hiro/molinete is worth $100. Do not rush through the side step and short change it. Step long and consistently around the Leader. Make the weight transfers smooth.

For Leader’s turn technique, the Leader opens his left shoulder to get the Follower to go around him in the clockwise turn/hiro/molinete. It is a pull energy. Leader needs to engage his core.

Here, Maestro demonstrated the wringing/torsion a la washing machine with his right foot forward step, and then his left shoulder opening, and as she goes around in the turn/hiro/molinete, his hips come around.

More on Follower’s turn technique: She should collect at the end of the movement where here feet pass each other, rather than throughout, which takes too much time and looks stiff and robotic.

Also, since we are working using the Open Structure, the axis of both dancers is straight.

Going back to the “Rule of the Nose” since there were questions about it, Maestra commented on how to use the nose. Having the nose and head up raises the eyes and head, which opens up the chest. It is a different way of presenting yourself. This is in contrast to looking at the Leader’s chest, which can cause the Follower’s head to tilt forward and break the line of the body and throw her off axis (make her lean in).

Next, onto the more challenging part of the evening.

The Leader’s back sacada.


Leader does a right foot back to big spiral, into a left foot back sacada while Follower does a counterclockwise turn/hiro/molinete around him. The Leader uses pull energy in his left arm so that the Follower continues to go around him in a turn/hiro/molinete.

There are two options taught in receiving the Leader back sacada:
(1) Follower raises her knees up, collects, and then steps back.
(2) Follower keeps her feet low and down toward the floor, fluidly receiving it with a little fan out, collects, and then steps back.
Either way, the Follower needs to have control of her receiving leg with either option and not let it flail around, our or away.

With the Leader back sacada option, there are three places of Leader spiral:
(1) Right foot forward step
(2) Left shoulder opening up to initiate the Follower turn/hiro/molinete
(3) Right foot back step to counterclockwise pivot

The class concluded with a review and class summary that included Maestra demonstrating the Follower homework of working on the turn/hiro/molinete footwork around a chair with her focus on keeping her spine vertical and using her arms up, like holding a beach ball over the center of the chair, to also work the spiral in her body.

Maestros demonstrated the class concepts to DiSarli’s Don Juan.


What else?

MUSE...obviously. Hope to see you TOMORROW, this Friday, February 18, at the City Dance Annex on Harrison for the return of MUSE. Homer and Cristina teach a teaser workshop to kick-off the Stanford Weekend workshop series on Volcadas and Colgadas.

Homer & Cristina Volcada and Colgada workshop series at Stanford February 19-20, with Saturday night milonga at Toyon Hall.

Monday, Orange Practica at the Beat. H&C will teach, but most importantly (at least to self-aggrandizing l'il ol' me), we will be celebrating the 100,000 hits with a cake!! Whoo hoo!! Who would have ever thought that this project would evolve to what it is now?!

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