Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 10-16

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Verdi Club Milonga.
I watched the tail end of the lesson by Andrea Monti and Gato Valdez, and it was a good one. The milonga was nice. It was crowded, but not obnoxiously so. There were also more Leaders than Followers, so I imagine that most Followers had an excellent time. Astrid Weiske was in the house, and did a two-song demo with Pier Voulkos.

Afterwards, Gato y Andrea did a two-song demo.

Then Christy made the floorcrafting announcement I had heard so much about. Apparently, people keep requesting that she repeat this, so she does at her milongas (not every week, since this is the first time I heard it, but reasonably regularly). She said: Around the perimeter of the room are two rows of tables (or a row of tables and a row of chairs). You are supposed to walk in between the two rows (NOT along the edge of the dance floor). There is also space at the corners of the room to enter and exit the dance floor, as well as some in the middle that are purposefully wide and obviously meant for that. You should enter the dance floor at the beginning of the song, whether it is the first, second or third song, they are all fine. What is not so cool is when you enter into the line of dance in the middle of a song, so please try to refrain from doing this. There might have been some other floorcraft instructions, but those were the main ones off the top of my head. No one clapped or whooped afterwards. I'd be curious to hear what other floorcrafting comments she has, which I hope will be unveiled to me over time as I go to the Verdi Club milongas.

I danced with young Saint James of Argentina first tanda out. This was our first time dancing in a few months, not since a Tuesday Gustavo y Jesica lesson few months ago. Amazingly, he has improved vastly since then, and we were blessed with a reasonably open floor. I asked how he improved so much since the last time we danced (he's now been dancing a mere year and a half, and we first danced together when he was slugging away at tango for about 8 months). Apparently, it was through privates with Marcelo Solis and the practica at Vima. It is truly impressive how Saint James's dancing has improved under the tutelage of Marcelo. I asked if he had a Follower partner for those privates. He said no, he and Marcelo lead and follow each other as they work on improving his dancing. Sounds like an excellent plan to me, and I am very impressed by the results (young Saint James is quite gifted in tango, and that was apparent at 8 months, though he was a little wild back he's a much more elegant, controlled dancer; he's always had excellent musicality). Now I am inspired to visit Vima one Wednesday as a stop on the Scouting Tour one day soon.

Friday, March 11, 2011
Palo Alto Milonga.
I missed the lesson by Glenn Corteza because I was having way too much fun at dinner. I hesitated about going to this milonga since by the time I got there, it would be quite late (10:30 p.m.), but upon arriving and peeking in, I saw that leader quality was pretty good and the gender was reasonably balanced enough. So I gave it a go. By the time I had finished putting on my shoes, some people had already begun to leave. Still, I had a nice time since the only leaders left by then were all good to fantastic, and the floor was very open by then so we could dance as freely as we wanted without disturbing the other dancers or worrying too much about floorcrafting. Jaycee and I were a little disappointed that we missed dancing the milonga tanda, and by the time we requested it, it was too late. Ah well. Next time...

Saturday, March 12, 2011
The Late Shift with lesson beforehand by Santiago Croce and Amy Lincoln.
I missed the lesson, which was too bad since it was Leader-heavy. The lesson focused on Spirals, which one Leader tried out with me during the milonga. It seemed to work OK as far as I could tell. Originally, I wanted to go to Gustavo y Jesica's Sausalito milonga since Los Ocampo were teaching Canyengue, and Monica Orozco was teaching Followers' Technique. Those two lessons plus the milonga was $40, which I viewed as reasonable. But 6:00 p.m., the time I needed to get on the road if I were to take Maestra's Followers' Technique class, came and went and I still had a load of laundry to do. So with my Sausalito plans shot down, my only options were the Late Shift or Nora's Allegro milonga. I was a little hesitant about going to the Late Shift, as when I went to it in the past on a Nora Allegro night, it would always be sparsely attended. But I am really not too keen on Nora's Allegro milonga anymore because of the exceedingly annoying to me Bucha Effect Light In The Corner. So I figured I could do a drive by to take a peek in at the Late Shift, and if the crowd was too thin, I could always jump on the bridge over to Nora's Allegro milonga in Emeryville easily enough. So that's what I did.

I got to the Late Shift just as the lesson was ending. At the lesson, there were many more leaders than followers, and the leaders who were there were ones I would have been happy to dance with. So I decided to give it a go, and I am glad I did. Though it was lightly attended in the beginning, a steady stream of people trickled in throughout the night so that we ended up with a nice crowd of skilled dancers. There were more Leaders than Followers, and the Leaders were generally good to great, so I imagine most Followers who were at the Late Shift that night were pretty happy. Floorcraft, even though somewhat crowded at times, was pretty good. I wanted to stay until the very end because I was having an excellent time, but I started to bonk and I embraced that I had danced all good or great tandas already that night, even with the one new person I danced with, and so I called it a night shortly after 1 a.m.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Just Milonga with Glenn Corteza.
Since the pool is closed for a couple of weeks, I found myself with enough time to get back to the city early enough to attend this class, which has some rave reviews from Leaders I enjoy dancing milonga with. So I gave it a go. Since I was the new girl in class, teacher began with asking the other students to explain the Habanera rhythm, which they explained as the "1, and 3, 4" rhythm, noting that the "2" moves over next to the "3" and dropped so that it becomes "and" instead. The "and 3" is usually higher pitched than the notes around it. Habanera is the main rhythm in milonga. What does it mean for milonga? It defines it, but it's not always there. Can a milonga be a milonga without the Habanera rhythm? No. The composer uses this rhythm in milonga. The 1 beat is where the resolutin is, where it rests. The way to be good at milonga is to be good at dividing. The rhythm is like a pie: 1, and 3, 4. The were to try to eat just one slice of pie, such as the "1", or the "3". We were to try to find the three consecutive beats that are even, In this case it would be the 3, 4, 1, which is the same as QQS, or traspie movement. Then Glenn went on to explain the 8 rhythmic options we can dance to in milonga:
1, 3
1, 3, 4
1, and 3, 4
4, 1
and 3
and 4

Whatever rhythmic option you choose, the vocabulary needs to be understood by the Leader and Follower.

Then we practiced drilling a lot, mostly to Canaro's Milonga Criolla and Milonga Sentimental, various simple steps that we would try on different beats. We would keep the step the same, but fit it into different rhythmic options to add different flavor to how we danced milonga. We started out just walking on the 1, which was really slow and most people had the urge to walk on 1, 3. Then we tried walking on 3, 4, 1. Then 1, and 3, 4. Then 4, 1. Then and 3. Basically, we were to just try to walk at all of the different rhythmic variations.

We also tried doing these rhythmic variations using simple steps. Some of the simple steps were to the Follower's cross, a simple side step, or a series of side steps, or a side step, weight change, and then a Leader's forward/Follower's back rock step. We were to attempt these rhythmic variations with the Leader's eye toward understanding where to place the step. "Where can I put the 4, 1 so that it's cool?"

We also changed the rhythm, with a focus on the 1, and 3 rhythm, which is the Candombe rhythm. Here, we can do the Candombe rhythm to anything that has three steps, like "tan-go-close", or the ocho cortado, which is usually done on the 3, 4, 1, but which can be done on the 1, and 3.

The most fun part of the class was the practica afterwards, where Glenn played many fast, not commonly heard milongas, to really work our musicality and hone our hearing skills. Sadly, it ended pretty much around 9:30 p.m. as scheduled.

This class is small (3-5 couples usually, so I've been told), and the students who go to it seem to be fervent about it. "One of the best kept secrets for those really wanting to learn how to dance milonga well," is one comment I heard from a disciple. And since there are no other options for regular, consistent, prolonged milonga instruction, I would have to agree.

Since this class was in the upstairs ballroom at La Pista, it only made sense to go downstairs for the Practilonga. Santiago y Amy's class was still going on with a half hour more to go, so Jaycee and I decided to go to Mars instead to knock back a few before the party began. Mars is a lot more mellow than it was during the dot com heydays when seemingly everyone and their cousin would drop in for a Martian Martini or three. They have a nice selection of libations, and the food is good when the kitchen is open (but unfortunately for us, it was already closed by the time we got there). Still, it was a very convenient place for us to shoot the breeze as we cooled our heels. The Guinness, though on tap, was not served proper :o( -- but easygoing Jaycee isn't fussy about that kind of thing unlike me, and I was happy with my Hendricks. After we finished our drinks, we headed back to La Pista.

The folks who went to the practilonga were the students from Santiago y Amy's class, and Jaycee and I from Glenn's class. So it wasn't a huge crowd, but reasonably skilled. And lucky for me there were more Leaders than Followers (a reflection of the popularity of Santiago's teaching of the Leader side of the equation, I have noticed). I had a good time; it was certainly worth the $5 admission. I danced with a few dancers that I hadn't danced with in years or in class only and never at a milonga, so that was a very interesting experience. One dance, with Irlandes, was a bit set up by Jaycee. Earlier at Mars I was griping about how I had taken lots of the same classes with Irlandes, how we go to a lot of the same milongas, blah blah blah, but how he has never once asked me to dance at a milonga. So of course when Irlandes finally asked, and we danced, afterwards I had to ask Jaycee if he had set him up to do it. Jaycee confirmed that he put a little bug in Irlandes's ear. D'oh!!! The dance with Irlandes was nice. He is a lot better than I visually thought him to be, and vastly improved from our class days.

It was a nice night. I am looking forward to next week. But then after that, the pool will be open again...

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