Monday, August 22, 2011

August 15-21

Monday, August 15, 2011
Casa de Tango @ Central Bar.
This is a milonga that is on the early side, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and takes place in what must be among the cleanest bars in NYC. Literally, the bathroom was spotless and smelled mildly of bleach, so even if you were blind, you would get the impression that it was squeaky clean. The milonga happens upstairs away from the main bar, but you can still order from the food menu (typical bar fare) and drinks menu. The floor is wide-plank oak, is comfortable and smooth with none of the usual bar-floor stickiness, scrapes and gouges. I was encouraged to go to this milonga by a local NY tanguero. Still channeling JSE, I decided that this was the night to come, since I had to be in midtown later for a milonga workshop. I got there around 7:00 p.m. and danced pretty much nonstop, having a great time, until about 9:00 p.m., the absolute latest before I had to leave for the Oliver Kolker workshop.

Oliver Kolker Milonga Workshop at Dardo Galletto Studios ($35 for 1.5 hour workshop). I got there just in time for the workshop at 9:30 p.m. The room was full with about 25 people, 10 couples (half of which did not switch) and 5 extra followers. I had wanted to take lessons with Maestro for years, but just could never work it out schedulewise to make it to Seattle or Portland when he taught at Clay's festivals. When I saw this workshop pop up a couple of weeks ago, I signed up right away and looked forward to it since.

Maestro said we would work a lot, and his teaching style, though simple, is a way to make his students think.

Maestro's dance rule, his method, is that he picks one leg of the Follower and is focused on that one leg, so he always knows what happens next. In his case, he always focuses on what the Follower's right leg is doing. He is always thinking of it, always obsessed with her right leg. Maestro picks the Follower's right leg, so that he knows when it's busy (has weight on it) or when it's free (doesn't have weight on it). He doesn't see what her right leg is doing, he feels it. Bottom line: The Leader always has to know where the Follower's weight is.

Most of the time, the Follower shifts her weight because she feels the Leader shift his weight. This is a mistake. The Follower should never shift her weight on her own. She should wait for the Leader to shift her weight. And the Leader always has to know where the Follower's weight is so that he knows where and when to shift it.

The Leader mastering the Follower's weight change is the base of what we do in tango, milonga and vals.

We began with trying to understand and implement this concept with a simple weight shift exercise:
We did side steps, either
(1) transferring the weight (stepping)
(2) changing the weight (in place)
(3) rebounding (an incomplete transfer or shift of weight)
Whichever one the Leader picked, he needed to be clear, 1, 2, or 3, in how the Leader shifted the Follower's weight, depending on what he wanted her to do.

The Leader needs to know how to do the above three things and be able to do them in three directions:
forward, back, and side.
He needs to manage it like oil, "be greasy"

Maestro did a demo where he took a Follower and led her to shift her weight, make her rebound (extend leg out and back), or transfer the weight (step)

The Leader needs to always know where the weight of the Follower is.
With respect to the rebound/tap, the Leader can shift the Follower's weight in two ways:
Milonguero style: Try to put the Follower on her other leg without moving her.
Kolker style: Bring her system up and then let her go where he wants her to be.

We worked on this concept of doing these weight changes/transfers with the Leader just leading them while staying in place footwise and the Follower doing the movements (so her feet would move, but his would not).

Our music for the evening were Canaro milongas (mostly the slow ones).

Next, we worked on traspie, or QQS, using Oliver's Method.
"traspie" means to stumble, or missed step, in Spanish, and Maestro demonstrated it.

Milonga always has a four-count beat pattern. The QQS fits inside the milonga music.

We began with the six-count milonga basic box step.
1: Left Foot forward
2: Right foot side
3: Left foot back
4: Right foot back
5: Left foot side
6: Right foot close

Leader does opposite.

From the six-count milonga basic box, we played with different weight shifts to cut out some of the counts, like going from 5 directly to 2 with no weight shift, or doing 1 and with a weight shift, or 2 and 4 with no weight shift.

Then we added the QQS rhythm on the 4, 5, and 6.
Then we did the QQS on the 5, 6, 1
Then we did the QQS on the 5, 6, 3 (cutting out the 1, 2, and only going forward)
Then we did the QQS on the 2, 3, 4
Then we did the QQS on the 5, 6, 3.

From the QQS on the 5, 6, 3 timing, we added the Leader's bump to the Follower's cross. Here, he pivots her on her right foot, then bumps her with his right leg as she steps back with her left foot, so that her right leg and foot is sent into a cross in front of her left foot. For the Leader, his back left knee is lands directly behind the knee of his right leg after he sends his right leg to bump the Follower's right leg. For the Follower, her cross should clean and small, with toes together. During this bump, the Leader should try to maintain the contact in their legs with the Leader's crossed footwork of his left knee behind his right knee as he bumps the Follower into the cross. He can do sequential successive bumps.

The Leader pivots her on 5, sifts the weight, and then steps in with his right leg. Pivoting her first makes her not perfectly square with him, but at a slight angle, so he can walk directly forward into her leg and make it cross as his right leg makes contact with her right leg.

The Follower's ankles should always caress each other.

The Follower can collect with her right foot behind or in front of her left foot, it's her choice, in the 5 to 6 step of the box.

There is no lean of the Follower or Leader. Each dancer should be on their own axis.

I rotated out most of the time as there were 5 extra followers, and half the couples did not rotate. So rather than hash out the material with folks who were not too familiar with milonga, I just waited for Maestro to rotate among us out Followers. It was an absolute joy to work this material with Maestro. What I did not get in terms of quantity in time and repetition with the student leaders, I got in spades in terms of quality with working directly with Maestro.

During class, I actually got to do the Follower's assistant part in demonstrating some of the concepts, so that was fun.

But the kicker was, after class, some students were quite insistent on a demo that they could film. So Maestro took me by the hand, and we gave it a whirl. My goodness, it was an amazing dance. I don't remember which Canaro milonga it was, but it seemed to be a longer one. And we just didn't do the class material, but Maestro really got inspired and did all sorts of fancy, wonderful, amazing things. After it was over, I was breathless with joy.

Some students came up to me after class and told me how good we looked, and I said it was all him, Maestro. But then they said, really, I looked good, too. So that made my evening. I think I floated out the door, all the way down the streets of NYC, and into Grand Central, on the train to the town where I live, to my apartment, and well, even at work the next day, I had a grin on my face all day long...

It was truly an amazing experience.

Classwise, Maestro is a brilliant teacher, with a very clear, methodical teaching style that transmits well to students and really does inspire them to think on their own, and to understand the concept more deeply than the usual sequence-of-the-day classes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The Tango Factory at DROM.
You know, there are just days when you don't want to go out, but you just HAVE to go out because an infrequent event seems so wonderful on paper. This event was one of those. Not only did Tango Factory occur at an uber hip bar in the East Village, it was also going to feature a band, a lesson, and a performance, and had an optional prix fix dinner. All for $15, or $12 if you RSVP'd in advance like I did (or $25 for the whole shebang including dinner). What a bargain! (at least on paper, so it seemed). So even though I was dog tired and lukewarm about going, I went anyway.

I had plenty of time to get there for the 8:00 p.m. lesson, and had a great time strolling from the Astor Place subway station, down along St. Mark's Place (8th Avenue), to Avenue A, peeking in to the many wonderful unique shops and artisan food purveyors. As I pondered whether or not I should have the DROM prix fix dinner of mostly Mediterranean fare for an additional $13 (which was a bargain), I stopped instead at the falafel place next door, and had a lamb pita sandwich for $5. It was good and right sized and more of a bargain.

DROM is a subterranean bar underneath a Japanese Restaurant. The space is clean and modern, and the floor was a black concrete (I believe). It was a bit sticky from the humidity, so Meastro asked if anyone had powder. Since this was one of those nights where I had my tango emergency kit, I had a small bottle. So after we sprinkled a little all over the floor, we began with our lesson.

The lesson was taught by Diego Blanco.

We began with a connection exercise, where the Leader closed his eyes, and the Follower took the Leader, and walked along side them, leading them. The Leader allows himself to be walked. She could walk, change directions, walk around in a circle, do rock steps, etc. This allowed the Follower to connect in a different way and to feel what it feels like to lead and the Leader to feel what it feels like to have no support.

Next, we did a role switching exercise where the Follower does the Leader's part in the embrace.

Then we switched back to the male leader being the Leader again. When this happened, we found that the Leaders ended up just doing the steps again, whereas Maestro was hoping to have us just connect.

Next, we worked on dancing the movement. Movement can be more pronounced, as in doing the side step. Here, we were to dance with a side step, and then staying in that spot. What can the Leader do to give the Follower a different feeling? He can pivot her, play with her weight change (not through), lower his body into the step, just play as she is on one foot.

Next, we tried this same concept doing the Leader's forward step. Here he can push, pull, rotate, change levels on purpose (not as a reflection of poor technique), and use these different things to create something.

There are many places where we connect with each other, and with the music. With respect to connecting with the music with each other, we need to move at the same time. Thus, we should keep thing simple in our dance.

We tried this to a song, just walking, and slowing down the whole thing, and then pick up the beat again. When the beat escapes, the Follower has to listen to the Leader's body to connect with his musicality. The Leader has to be clear in his musical interpretation so that the Follower doesn't move like she's having a seizure. We were just to move to the music slowly, with no particular need to step.

Then he changed the music complete and we tried to apply these concepts while dancing to Pugliese's La Yumba. The goal was to show that we were connected.

Next, Maestro allowed us to do our own favorite step, to do it repeatedly, but then to change the dynamics so that the Follower does not know or anticipate the movement. Maestro showed us one of his favorite steps, Leader left side step (Follower right) to Follower left foot back ocho. The goal of this exercise was so that the Follower would surrender her knowledge.

Next we worked on a sensitivity exercise to slow our dance. Here, the Leader does a parada on the close side of the embrace. Then he lets go. However, if the Follower is off balance at all, he should not let go. This exercise is to help Leader's know if the Follower is off balance, and for the Follower to be responsible for herself being on balance.

In response to the posture of one Leader, Maestro asked, "What happens when we are afraid?" A: We tense up. To not look afraid, we need to be relaxed, and be down to the feet, to feel the heaviness and be relaxed.

One thing Maestro does at the end of the song or tanda is he let's go, and then re-embraces the Follower. It is as if you are making your bed again. Do it fresh, with new energy. The Leader relaxes his right arm down, so the Follower does the same, and then he brings it back up to embrace her again.

The lesson was good.

Later on, Maestro remarked positively on my note-taking, saying that he used to take notes as well, and that it had been a long time since he saw anyone else take notes. I smiled.

The milonga then started, and about 5,000 Followers showed up to the 20 Leaders. Needless, to say, I decided to cool my heels at the bar rather than frantically cabaceo. It was fun reflection people-watching via the mirror above the bar. I could see everything that was going on behind me, and it seemed like the folks who came as couples danced with themselves, and all the Leaders, no matter their skill level, were in demand.

Prices at the full bar were a bit steep. It seemed nearly everything was $11 no matter what you ordered. I had a specialty vodka (cucumber flavored) and soda, and the folks near me had glasses of wine. We were all charged the same $11, which I thought was strange. Still, the bartenders were nice enough, and service was quick.

One interesting thing that some of the DJs here in NYC have, which I didn't mention before, is they have a spiral bound large book of tango tandas, so you always knew what orchestra and singer you were dancing to. I thought it was a very clever milonga tool, and said so to a NY milonguero. He remarked that the DJs go them from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest!

Throughout the first part of the milonga, it got very crowded, with people steadily streaming in.

Then the band, Octavio Brunetti's Orchestra, came on. Boy, where they good! Great, really! The band leader, Octavio Brunetti, was the pianist, and he had a special guest Cellist that night, whose name I didn't catch. There were 3 musicians on violin, 2 on viola, and 1 on bass and 1 on bandoneon to round out the 9-person band. The whole band, but especially the strings sounded wonderful, as NYC must have the most gifted musicians per capita since folks come here from all around just to study at the famous schools. The strings did a lot of pizzicato, which I never noticed tango had much of, but perhaps the were playing Brunetti compositions, rather than trying to be a Pugliese or Canaro cover band.

I danced only three tandas, as it was much too crowded for my liking (and floor crafting was challenging and not the greatest), and though the restaurant has AC, it was not enough to counteract the heat that all the dancers generated. So after the live band was done with their first set, I left, not staying for the dance performance by Maestro and Ana Padron, which was kind of a shame because he seemed to be a really nice guy and a good teacher.

So overall, for me the band was the best part of the evening by a long shot. The other parts weren't really my cuppa.

Sunday, August 21, 2011
Milonga Roko @ Manhattan Dance.
I got there late, and the lesson was already in progress. As I handed over my $12 admission, the gal at the counter was kind enough to ask if I REALLY wanted to take the lesson. Looking around, I saw the extra followers and late hour on the clock and said no. Then she only charged me $10. So that was nice of her to save me my $2 (amazing bargain, really, for a quality lesson wit Robin Thomas).

I had a nice time at the milonga, which I had skipped for the least week or two. It was crowded, but not obnoxiously so. It seems lots of folks were content to just sit things out or wait for the right music to come on before dancing. No desperation at trying to rack up mileage on the dance floor, no whack-a-moles, and no sulking because a person wasn't able to successfully cabaceo one of the *good* dancers.

I stayed longer than I intended.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LV Intensivo C Notes May-June 2011

I finally had a few spare hours to transcribe my Luciana Valle Intensivo C notes from May/June 2011. Sorry for the lateness. It was a crazy trip, where I flew in just for the Intensivo, then tacked on an interview on the East Coast, then got the job and had to put my affairs in order in SF, say goodbye to everyone, etc. The move to the East Coast, start my new (old) job, which I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE, get settled in, etc. Whew. I am tired just thinking about it. So that's why my notes are two months late. Here they are, and yes, whoever you are, you should definitely go to any of the Luciana Valle intensivos, and take them multiple times if you can.

Luciana Valle Intensivo C

Our focus of Intensivo C was on the quality of the movement and to clean up the
details of our dance.
Our exercises focused on power, presence, and dynamics, with the goal
of being clear in our feedback.
Be more powerful.
Be more elegant.
Have more presence.
Intention means to be clear, and to understand the difference between moving the leg versus moving the axis.

Our first topic was intention, with respect to trying to be clear with our understanding of moving our leg and moving our axis.

Our axis is neutral to start. The motion of our axis is the direction you want to go, using a down and forward motion. We were to give heaviness to our legs and move our weight to our metatarsals (NOT our tip toes), stop it, and then come back up to neutral.

Inside of the embrace, the Follower goes opposite to the Leader, so as she goes towards to Leader, she has a standing leg and a free leg, anchoring and then going. The Follower feedback is from anchoring the legs.

Next, we did a Feedback exercise with Leader and Follower dancing with just walking chest-to-chest with no arms, with the Follower giving the Leader feedback. The Follower was to try to prevent the Leader from moving by using power in her legs. So we began dancing in neutral and playing with the resistance, sometimes being heavy and nearly stopping him by the Follower anchoring in to the ground, being very light and almost non-existent in the touch, and regular/normal.

Next, we worked on an intention exercise, with Leader and Follower dancing with just walking, but the Leader playing with the size of step using big steps, or small steps, or side steps, and the Follower following appropriately. The Leader was also supposed to alternate/mix things up so the Follower could not anticipate or predict what the next step was, so he was to try to lead big steps, small steps, and tiny steps in the same song. If the Leader takes a big step, the Follower needs to anchor more.

Next, we worked on changing the energy, large versus small and fast versus slow. We drilled this to many songs with lots of rhythmic variations. We were to step on the edge of the beat, so that it's almost like you won't make it timingwise.

Finally, we added the QQS to the walk, again drilling to lots of songs with rhythmic variations.

After the lunch break we continued to drill, taking big and small steps, and then went on to focus on the turn (molinete, hiro).

Working from the Follower's back ocho, we worked on doing overturned back ochos, as for the back cross step of the turn, the back cross step is really an overturned back ocho step. The Follower should take the same size steps as she moves around the Leader and her axis should not be forward.

The Follower needs to pivot in two places: (1) on the forward (front cross) step to the open step. (2) Immediately after the open step into the back cross (overturned back ocho) step. The energy of both these steps should be of going and pushing off. It is very important that the Follower keep her axis back.

We worked a lot on playing with the rhythm and timing of the turn.

The Follower needs to pivot on her metatarsal, but lift the heel and stay grounded, When the Follower is in the right sensation, it is when she is back, even though visually it doesn't look like it. Basically, she needs to think and be back to be visually straight.

The Leader determines the speed of the turn, and he can lead a slow turn or fast one or anything in between.

The Follower needs to push off, propel, and pivot in the turn, and be on axis while she is doing it.

Next, we worked on rhythmic variations, first working on the double time in the turn dancing to regular tango, and then to vals, working on the 1-2 rhythm. Here the QQ needs to be faster and shorter.

The Leader keeps the Follower in front of him with his right hand on the back of her sternum.

Next, we went back to the regular tango musicality, but added the Leader optional footwork of the pencil (lapice). The Leader does a front cross of his left foot before his right foot weighted leg, and then mirrors the footwork with the Follower, going in front as the Follower does her back step, to open, and then back out, all the while pivoting on his right foot.

The Follower has to wait for the Leader to do his front cross and not step until he unwinds with his front step.

Then we added the optional ending of the Leader parada on either side, depending on the direction of the turn.



We began our day with a review of what we learned yesterday.

In the turn, the Follower does a really big pivot on the back cross step (overturned back ocho), with her legs together at all points of the pivot before stepping back. She should keep her belly back in the turn.

We also drilled the Leader's parada some more. We also focused on the Follower pivoting a lot at the point before the back cross step. In the Follower's clockwise molinete, she becomes the motor and the Leader can do whatever he wants with respect to footwork. Thus, we drilled the Leader's parada, doing multiples of them on the left side and right side. We also practiced the Leader doing weight changes to do sacadas, on the left and right sides. The Follower should continue to do her full turn, forward, side, back, side, forward, etc., while the Leader does sacadas to her various trailing feet.

Maestra said regarding body tilt in the open embrace versus close embrace is BS. The difference between open and close embrace just depends on how close or far the axis are to each other. But the axis of the upper bodies themselves is upright and is the same. The goal is to have a comfortable, natural, and organic feel to the embrace


Next, we drilled a simple sequence with a focus on pivoting a lot, and keeping our axis (our bellies back during the turn, not tilting in or heads and shoulders tilting away). The sequence included a parada, and also a Follower planeo of her left leg as the weight is on her right and the Leader walks around her. He can conclude with a parada.

Next, we worked on changes of direction. Maestra noted that every ocho is a change of a direction.

So we worked on changes of direction in the turn and in the walk and the ocho, and the molinete: back cross to front cross, front cross to back cross, with the Leader changing the front where he does it. The Follower needs to have lots of torsion and she needs to pivot more (much more than she thinks she should).


We began the day of a review.
Parada with Leader's lapice, into sacada, into turns, with different options for the Leader and Follower. In all that we do, we should remain connected in the bra line. We also worked on changes of direction from the ocho, back cross to front cross. In changes of direction, the Follower needs to take big steps with push-off because the change of direction has a lot of momentum.

For the Leader, the footwork is open step to open step, while the Follower does back cross to front cross (big steps). The Follower needs to focus on the pivot and complete it all the way before stepping back. For the Follower, in vals and milonga, she should be more grounded as if you want to slow the Leader down.

Working some more on changes of direction, we worked on combining the Follower's cross footwork:
Back cross to front cross
Front cross to back cross
and moving her center through space.
Next, we added the open to open on the slow step.
Here, both Leader and Follower need to step circularly. The Follower has to really go on the side step, with a full weight transfer. The Follower needs to invest more in the standing leg, and the free leg will be free to do ________ (anything, fill in the blank).


The Follower should work hard to go, to move.

For the afternoon, which was much harder on the Leaders, we worked on combination of changes of direction with different Leader footwork options:

Follower does open to open step while Leader does:
back cross to front cross
front cross to back cross
front cross to pivot to front cross
back cross to pivot to back cross
as the dancers are perpendicular to each other

end of day 3 (which was good as I think the Leader's brains were going
to explode if we didn't stop).


We began with a review of the changes of direction.

Follower's back cross to front cross, in double time.
Leader's back cross to front cross, with Follower's open to open, which was interesting, but not the most beautiful thing you can do in tango.

Next we worked on close embrace, with the Follower collecting as each leg passes to adjust her standing foot to be with the Leader. The Follower should not be split weight, otherwise she doesn't commit. The Follower should always aim to collect, always have the intention to collect. This is what will enable her to push off at each step.

For the changes in direction, our first level of difficulty is for the
Follower do to:
Front to back
Back to front
Open to open
all in each direction, and the step is based on what the Follower is doing.

The next level of difficulty is where the the Leader changes his
footwork in any of the above, with his footwork being
Back to front
front to back
(in the first level of difficulty his footwork was open to open)

The Follower needs to stay with the Leader, as the change of direction is a suspended motion. She should not fall in between the steps and she should not be flat.

Again, we drilled this material for a long time, as repetitive tasks are a good way to drill the material.

We also reviewed the Leader's lapice, parada, and change of direction.


We began the afternoon with Circular Ganchos (ed note: NOT those icky and sophomoric stop-and-park ganchos)
Ganchos are something we usually learn too early, so it usually looks horrible (ed note: so tru dat)
For the Follower, the gancho is a step that never happens. You rebound and come back. It's like a change of direction, back cross to front cross.
We need to break lots of bad gancho habits from before (ed note: tru dat!)

The circular gancho we drilled was:
On the Follower's right foot back cross step, the Leader does a right foot sacada in front of the Follower's right foot, as she steps back, and her left foot does a back gancho of the Leader's right leg.
To this we added the Leader stepping around the Follower afterwards, to send her free leg to the other side.
The Follower was to gancho hard, not cut or truncate the movement because she is anticipating a gancho. It is supposed to be organic, and a she should step as if she will step (but the step never happens).
Again, she should pivot/rotate a lot, and keep her legs collected at the point of pivot, and step big after the pivot.

We tried this both on the left side and the right side.
The Leader receives the gancho on the back part of his leg:
Left turn with Leader's right leg
Right turn with Leader's left leg.


Review of Ganchos
We reviewed several types of ganchos:
On the Follower's back cross:
Leader's left leg to Followers' left leg
Leader's right leg to Follower's right leg
to receive the gancho at the front of the Leader's leg
to receive the gancho at the back of the Leader's leg

Our drilling was to give us tools to give our ganchos more dynamics (circularity).
The Follower should not anticipate the gancho, and she should not lose the quality of her front cross step.
For the Follower's leg to be free to gancho, she needs to bend her standing leg. With respect to quality of the step, she needs to bend from the standing leg to push off.

We left ganchos for now, and worked on musicality and timing in vals versus tango.
So we worked on dancing on the 1-3-1 and the 1-2-1, doing the various things we learned all week to those rhythms.
We also added the contra boleo for the 1-3-1 timing.
We also worked a little on milonga musicality.


It was a very good, productive week.

Personally, I felt very happy and relaxed throughout, as none of this information was new to me as I had heard it all in Intensivo A, B, and Al Cuadrado, but it was really great to be able to drill it as much as we did, and with maestra's fantastic assistants, many with whom I have worked on this material for years.

I cannot say enough good things about the Luciana Valle Intensivo experience. Though I have never really considered LV to be one of my teachers of Follower's technique, in fact, she really has been. Though she does not teach pretty adornos, her emphasis on the free leg versus the standing leg and her instructions on posture, bra line, and pivoting a lot have really been significant keys for me to become a better dancer. And in transcribing my notes, I get a kick out of seeing that she is one of those teachers who teach Followers to be "more heavy" (which I read to be more stable and present).

August 9-14

Friday, August 12, 2011
Afternoon milonga @ Triangulo (4:30-8:30 p.m.).
When I arrived @7:00 p.m., I was warmly greeted by the door volunteer. Actually, not just warmly. She gushed. She was extremely enthusiastic and effervescent. She made me feel like I was the milongas long-lost favorite tanguera, even though I had never been there in my life. In short, she was the perfect door volunteer. Or maybe she was the organizer. I don't know. But man, I was just complete shocked at the positive good vibes she threw off.

Triangulo is an older space with nice hardwood floors, and two huge window air conditioners mounted high, supplemented by large area fans (not the gigantic professional/institutional ones). There is a full-length trompe l'oeil mural at the opposite end of the room that has a wonderful milonga scene of New York. How d I know it's of New York? Well, looking closely at the faces of the dancers portrayed, it is obvious that the most clearly animated ones are of folks from the local New York dance community. So it was quite a kick to see it. In the mural, the curtains to the milonga are parted back by Carlos Gardel on right side, and a famous bandoneon player on the left.

For libations and snacks, there was wine and water, chip mix (cheese puffs, corn chips, pretzels, that type of thing), pineapple, cake, and candy.

The milonga was already crowded when I got there, and folks looked very happy. Dancewise, I had a few not-so-great tandas, and one absolutely fantastic tanda that knocked my socks off. It was the best one I have had in NYC so far. In speaking with the dancer, I was a little disappointed to learn that he was only a recent NYC resident, and that he had learned his craft in Chicago. Not that I am dissing Chicago, but I have yet to experience New York's finest on the dance floor. But maybe that is just me still working my way up the ranks...

I specifically wanted to go to this milonga since I was channeling JSE (who continues to live la vida portena) and planned to go to another milonga afterwards, Milonga Rosa at the Ukranian East Village Restaurant. So when the afternoon milonga ended at 8:30 p.m., I changed back into my street shoes and hoofed it down 6th Ave, with my destination the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, about 12 short blocks away.

I passed by many of those $1 per slice pizza places that NY is famous for. I admit, in all the 20 years I've visited NY, I have never had one. And so, even though I was going to have dinner at Ukrainian, I succumbed to curiosity and popped into one for a slice. And what did I think? Well, it tasted exactly as a $1 slice of pizza should: not magic, not tragic. OK for when you are starving, and lean on cash and time. Would I buy one again? Probably not. I'd splurge and get a $3 slice of pizza, which isn't as good as Blondies, but serviceable enough.

As I walked down 6th Ave, chomping away on my $1 pizza, I started to feel guilty because I had been looking forward to the Lamb Shank and Kasha at Ukrainian. Oh what to do? Eat the whole thing and be too stuffed to really enjoy the lamb shank? Or throw away the half-eaten pizza with grandma's voice ringing in my head saying "the most expensive food you will ever buy is what you throw away"?

I felt a bit of anxiety over my predicament, but the dilemma was nearly instantly solved, as magically, the Angel of the Guiltily Half-Eaten Slice of Pizza suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, asking for the rest of my pizza. Naturally, I happily complied and even gave him my unused napkins. He actually looked a little surprised that I did it so easily and cheerfully. Problem solved. :o)

When I got to the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, it was the same as when I was here a few years ago. Even the menu (and their prices) had not changed. So I got the lamb shank with kasha, and it set me back all of $10.95, which is a huge bargain as it came with salad and table service. It was delicious.

I got to watch the tail end of the lesson, taught I believe by Dani Carpi, the organizer of Milonga Rosa, and it seemed like he gave some good technical pointers related to the step the were working on, which was the ocho to the sandwich and the concepts of suspension and settling. Though I didn't take it, it looked like a pretty good lesson.

The milonga itself was fun. The lesson was full, and it got even fuller throughout the night for the milonga. The same guy from earlier with whom I had the fantastic tanda showed up, so we got to dance two more tandas, which were sublime. Dallas showed up later on, and I delightedly went over to him and greeted him. I hadn't seen him since he taught in San Francisco with Chelsea since I missed Austin for Thanksgiving last year. Happily, he too has relocated to NYC to work on his non-tango career, so he'll be around at the local milongas. His dancing is as great as ever.

Junior Cervilia and Natalia Royo did a great three-song performance: a traditional tango, a performance tango, and a milonga.

After that, I was pretty much tuckered out, so I made my way to Grand Central to catch the train home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Still channeling JSE, I had planned to go to two milongas this evening, Pa'milonguear@Dardo Galleto Studios and the All Night Milonga@Stepping Out.

I was curious about Pa'milonguear since Carolina Zokalski and Diego Di Falco were the hosts of this practicalonga. I took lessons from them in Austin and found them to be excellent teachers. When I got there, there were only a few people in the room, and the volunteer door person told me that Carolina and Diego were travelling and would not be at the practicalonga that night. So he said I was welcome to join, but that there would be no practica feedback. I peeked inside the space and saw only a few dancers, with several followers just sitting and one leader standing, and one or two couples dancing. So I thanked the volunteer for being frank about the situation, and decided to save my $10 for the next time Carolina and Diego were in town and the place was a little more full (he said there are usually 20-30 people).

I tried to decide if I should walk the 20 short blocks to Stepping Out or if I should take the subway. Since I had a lot of time, I decided to walk, thinking that it might be nice to just walk straight down from Broadway. That lasted all of one block since the throngs of people made it feel like I was a salmon trying to swim upstream, and I quickly decided it would be better for me to walk down 6th Ave.

Things really quieted down in the 20's, and I made my way with enough time to pop in to another pizza place for a slice. This one was $4.25, which I thought was kind of high, but there was a large selection of gourmet toppings (eggplant, spinach, broccoli, fried chicken). My sliced was OK.

Stepping Out is a large dance studio, with one large center room, and two other big rooms on either side. On this night, one of the rooms was the alt/nuevo room, and the other one was a practice space or space for dancers to dance big and not disturb all the other dancers at the main milonga. The floors are a nice hardwood, and though the place has central AC, there were also fans around to help with the air circulation.

The lesson was taught by Veronica Palacios and Omar Quiroga, and began as usual with one warm-up danced so they could assess where we were in our education. We began with the basics, walking and connection, as these are the cornerstones of tango. The concept of punto zero (point zero) is very important. Maestros illustrated the concept by showing us the wrong way, where their legs would pass quickly against each other with no pause, seemingly through and oblivious to the music, versus the right way, where the movement is very clean, very elegant, and always collecting with one weighted foot and one free foot with a nanopause at the point where the ankles are next to each other and the feet are together, before they pass each other--that is point zero.

So we tried to walk with this concept in our heads and bodies, and for the Leader and Follower to have the same timing. So we walked to one song in close embrace. Maestra noted that men needed to have intention when they walk. In partnership, men always walk forward using their whole body. And Followers need to be connected to the Leaders in their walk, and not transmit the energy backward (like pinball bouncing away). The Follower needs to make the Leader feel her presence in the embrace.

Connection is not just in the chest, it's in the whole body. For dancers of substantially different heights, they need to find their point of connection. The Follower has to find out how to connect her body with his. If you are a tall Leader,
you do not need to take big steps, but can walk normally.

Next, we worked on a simple, fun pattern. Side step Leader's left, Follower right, to a Leader's walk forward 3 steps (Follower back 3 steps), to Leader's weight change to lead Follower to do 2 milonguero back ochos (not much pivot). Leader should always keep the Follower straight, because if he turns his body in any way, the Follower is going to cross. The weight change of the Leader does not mean to change the walk of the Follower. After we worked on cleaning up the technique of this and drilling it in our muscle memories, the step was changed.

We did a side step Leader's left, Follower's right, to a Leader's walk forward (Follower back), inside and outside to Follower's back ocho, leading her to cross. Then a Follower right side step to sandwich Leader's right foot. Here, they connect at the feet and the Leader lifts the Follower's left foot with his connected right foot, to bring it up and over to the right side of her right foot in a cross. With his weight still back, he then does a small barrida of her left foot, moving it farther away (opens the cross more), then pivots around it to sandwich it again, pivots her around so that she pasadas with her right foot out to resolution. It was a fun little step.

The milonga got very crowded, and I sat out a lot. I declined a dance with someone. He's a nice enough guy, and looks OK when he dances simply with other Followers, but when we dance, I feel very pole to his pole dancing, where he tries a lot of new things but doesn't execute them well, and does a lot of stop-and-park ganchos (which I absolutely loathe on top of being very cool to ganchos to begin with). And I hate to be so prima donnaesque about this, but at some point, I'd just prefer to sit out rather than suffer through a tanda.

And yet I do recognize for him to actually be able to execute whatever it is he is working on, he needs to try it out on Followers. So there I was, having this existential conversation in my head, on the one hand not wanting a bad tanda, and yet on the other hand knowing that in a way it is the Follower's responsibility to help Leaders improve and aid in their development, even if we suffer in the meantime.

I spent a lot of time watching at this milonga (as I was not inspired to dance much), and I watched a lot of skilled Leaders dance with much lesser Followers and seem happy to do it (and happy to teach on the milonga dance floor...but that would mean I would go off on another tangential rant). So there seems to be a huge difference in how Leaders and Followers (or me!) accept the situation of dancing with beginners or improvers. Leaders seem to do it cheerfully, most Followers less so.

Before I left SF, I asked a Leader bluntly about this, about how he is a truly excellent dancer, and yet he dances with a lot of beginners and looks extremely happy and joyful when he does (the same as when he dances with the skilled Followers). He said that he is basically dancing the same dance with all the Followers, but that every Follower is different in how she responds to his lead, and the Followers respond in unique, sometimes delightful and often unexpected ways, even if they are beginner. To him, that's fun, and every Follower is a blessing to dance with. Sure, he recognizes that the beginner follower's technique is not there, but for him the point of tango is not just to dance with technically perfect dancers, nor is it to develop Followers and teach them how to improve their technique or work improved technique into the beginner Followers' bodies. For him it's a communication thing, and a getting along and having a good time thing. Which gave my brain an interesting nugget to chew on. As a Follower, I wish I had the same type of positive, happy, joyful, compassionate and understanding disposition at being a pole to his pole dancing, but I am afraid I just don't.

I also heard a bit of griping on the parts of Followers in the SF Bay Area about not liking to go to lessons because they are targeted at Leaders and they feel as though they are just tango props as the Leaders hack away at their stuff, which kind of surprised me as each lesson gives every Follower an opportunity to perfect her craft, to perfect her technique. She can work on making every step she takes as beautiful, as clean, and as precise as she can, which let's face it...that's hard work! But it's also something that all Followers can work on. Even if it's just a side step (and being precise, accurate, smooth and complete with her weight change), or walking backwards or forwards, or working on pivoting well and remaining in balance on one foot, or reaching well as she does ochos, etc. And of course everything needs to be done with good posture (most of us have room to improve there too) and respecting point zero (and not cutting it short with flailing feet).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 1-8

Thursday, August 4, 2011
Corazon Milonga at Pierre DuLaine.
One of the nice things about tango in NYC is that there are lots of milongas during the week that start very early, around 7:00 p.m. This one intrigued me because it was at the Pierre DuLaine studio, made famous by the Antonio Banderas movie Take the Lead.

It was easy enough to hop on a train to Grand Central, but I nearly got run over when I arrived in NYC by all the people rushing around, intent to catch their trains. It reminded me of when I first visited NYC and was told to "look mean, walk fast", because those folks at Grand Central at 6:30 p.m. on a weekday sure did look mean and walk fast, and with lots of intention.

The Pierre DuLaine studio is at the south part of Koreatown, so I got a chance to walk along 32nd St. (the heart of it) and check out the purveyors of all things Korean. I was not disappointed on the food end of things, as there were Korean restaurants galore, filled with folks of the Asian persuasion, having dinner at an earliesh hour. There was also a Korean market that looked pretty good, not as good as Kukje in Daly City, but good enough for Korean food fixin's, and open until midnight every night of the week.

The milonga itself is in a very nicely air conditioned studio, and there were ample snacks (chips, pretzels, the saltiest peanuts I had ever eaten in my life, sugar wafers, chocolate chip cookies, scones, water and ample wine). Since this was an early evening milonga that was from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., it never got super crowded, but was reasonably full. Dancers were mostly improvers and those seriously addicted. I had an OK time. Left around 9:30 p.m. since it was a school night.

They had two raffles and prizes were (1) free entry into the next Corazon milonga on Tuesday, and (2) free entry into the Saturday milonga hosted by the same organizer, which should be great since Veronica Palacios (Luna's sister) is teaching. I was hoping to win, but didn't. That won't stop me from going to the Saturday milonga though since I adore all things Luna.

Friday, August 5, 2011
Purple Orchid Milonga at Dance Times Square.
I wanted to go to this milonga the week before, when it was the opening night but I missed it. So I tried this week since it was so close to Grand Central. It also started early (8:30 p.m.) with a lesson beforehand (7:30 p.m.), so it was easy to just take the train in directly after work.

When I got there, I saw that there were only a few beginner-looking students for the lesson, so I decided to sit it out and just observe and take notes. Host Marco Leal taught the lesson, and since the class was so small, he decided to focus on the basics. So they worked a bit on walking with connection, and Marco talked about how the Leader takes the Follower in the embrace, and a little bit about the technique of Leading. He emphasized for the ladies that they needed to work on their molinetes, and he demonstrated the technique by going around one of the very small stool/chairs in four steps. He emphasized that the Leaders needed to be upright, straight and tall in their dance, not hunched over the Follower at all. He also said that the Leaders had to work on being able to pivot on one foot also so they could do interesting elegant things like enrosques. He also spoke a little bit about dance party etiquette, and that people should not interrupt other people in conversation to ask them to dance, but to use eye contact instead. He did not use the word cabaceo. He also demonstrated the different types of tango dance music, including canyengue, milonga, and vals, to captivate these beginner students' imaginations for what their dance possibilities are. So the lesson was heavy on the verbiage, but a little light on the student physicality.

The milonga itself started out a little slow, with just the students, me, and the organizer and his two volunteers for about the first hour. We often amused ourselves by going over to the snack table, which was absolutely the most gorgeous one I had ever seen. I thought certainly this was either composed by a professional caterer or a socialite wife, and I was not wrong. It turns out one of the volunteers was indeed a professional caterer. The food was fruits (blueberrie$, strawberries, red and green seedless grapes), baby carrots, blue potato chips, flax seed chips, pretzel bites, pesto dip, green and black olives, and three different types of cubed gourmet cheeses. Instead of plates, there were small sheets of brown butcher paper rolled up into cones with the bottoms folded over to secure them, similar to how street vendors sell roasted nuts. These brown cones were stacked inside each other and laid on the side, and were a very simple, elegant, earth-friendly alternative to cocktail plates or napkins.

The room itself is gorgeous, with a wonderful ceiling, and mirrors on some sides/sections of the room (one where you can see into infinity, which is a trip). The atmosphere was made warm and elegant by the purple orchids all around, including in the luminaries and in the color of dress of the hostess volunteers. The vibe reminded me of MUSE, only prewar and with a lot more patina, but still the same careful attention to detail and desire for excellence and elegance. The floor is a very nice hardwood. The bathroom, along with the usual vessels, had a shower in it. So it was typical of what you'd find in someone's apartment. Thankfully, this night was sparse enough so there was never a line.

Dancewise, I had a good time. The milonga became fuller and fuller, so we eventually gained enough mass with many good Leaders in attendance to make things fun for the Followers. I had many good tandas, and everyone was very nice and friendly. I found the host and his volunteer hostesses to be incredibly warm, charming people. They were all super-friendly to me throughout the night, and one gal gave me some purple orchids to take home as I was leaving.

It was a very nice night.

Saturday, August 6, 2011
Amarras Milonga @ Dancesport with lesson beforehand by Veronica Palacios and Omar Quiroga.
The lesson was one that started with a simple three-step walk forward, and three quick weight changes in place. Our goal here was to do this to the music (our orchestra for the lesson was DiSarli). Then, the step was changed where instead of three small quick weight changes in place, the Leader would lead three slight small steps back and bring the Follower toward him, but not too much (it's a very small movement). The Leader transmits the lead with his embrace. Then the movement was changed, curving it, so that when the Follower does her three quick weight changes, she does left foot back ocho (back cross) step, right foot side step, left foot tight front cross, led by the Leader turning his body, and pivoting on both his feet with his weight on his left foot, and then he steps with his right foot to unwind as the Follower does her left foot tight front cross step as she goes around in a counterclockwise molinete. This movement has to be small to dance in the often crowded social dance floor.

To this, the Follower adorno was added as the Leader leads her to do another forward ocho (front cross) step with her right foot. Before she steps, the Leader can lead Follower to add an accent to her pivot. The adorno on the pivot showed was the air tap and also the quick sharp pivot (dynamic forward ocho). Someone asked if adornos were led and if the Leader should wait for the Follower to do them. Maestra said that Follower adornos are the musical interpretation of the music. In our simple step, the Leader leads the accent as the Follower comes back around in her right foot forward ocho (front cross) step, but whether the adorno is an air tap or a dynamic sharp pivot depends on what the music dictates and how the Follower interprets it.

It was a good lesson, but Follower heavy, so I sat it out a good bit of time as I found I got more out of it by taking detailed notes and watching Maestra's footwork. Regarding Maestra's footwork, it is truly amazing, a sight to behold. It's incredibly precise and expressive, extremely articulate, with beautifully flowy undulation. Her feet have an extraordinarily clear, commanding voice, and they have such presence and so much to say about the music. I got so much out of the class, not just from her verbal instruction or working through the physicality of the step, but by watching her footwork and body movement. There was a point in class where she did the forward, side, and back steps of the molinete, and she did it with such effortless balance and precision. She made it look so easy and like it is the most natural thing in the world, even though it's not.

The milonga itself got even more crowded with Followers, so it began a bit slow for me. That was OK though since I got to watch Maestra social dance. Eventually, though, I got bored, and rather than stare down the Leaders for a tanda, I decided to have a drink at the bar. There, I saw that this milonga had some freebie snacks (Pringles, pretzels, and cookies-- chocolate chip cookies, chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies. There were empanadas for sale ($7 for three, with choices of beef, chicken, and spinach); I tried them, and they were pretty good. The dough was on the dense, chewy, bready side (not light, airy, flaky, pastry side). Sizewise they were comparable to those in BsAs, and flavorwise they were fine. The beef had no egg in it, but had olives. For libations, there is a full bar in addition to beer and wine, so I had a Manhattan, which was made just right, a bit pricey at $10, but relatively cheap compared to the wine ($6-8) or beer ($7).

The midnight hour soon rolled around, and Maestros did a three-song performance, which was fantastic. They really went all out, with Omar in a tux and Veronica in a lovely formal dress. Afterwards, they came by the bar for a post-performance celebratory drink. There, we got to chat a little, and I told Maestra that she, Luna, and Alejandra were the absolute best and that no other Followers came even close to their level. She smiled and accepted my compliment graciously. We talked about their schedule, and lucky for me and NYC, they are going to be around for another six weeks. So I will be sure to catch as many of their premilonga lessons as I can, as I get a huge amount out of time just watching her dance (so different from YouTube, where in real life I can truly experience first hand all the subtle nuances).

After their performance, the floor thinned out, and I decided I had warmed the bar stool long enough. I had several good tandas, and one excellent milonga tanda. So even though I didn't put in much floortime, I still had a great evening.

Sunday, August 7, 2011
Milonga RoKo@Manhattan Ballroom Dance.
The lesson was a good one, that focused on cleaning up the technique for some simple moves. Robin Thomas was the teacher, and he had a Follower assistant teacher whose name I did not get. I got there a little late, and the class had already begun.

The question in the Leader leading the 8CB to 5 (cross), why does the Follower not cross sometimes? It's because she feels disconnected from the Leader's chest. The Leader turns his chest toward the Follower. After the 5 (cross), the Leader steps left foot forward straight toward the Follower, matching the Follower's left foot. Before the cross, the Follower should take a big right foot step back so that the cross feels natural. After the Follower cross, the Leader does a rick step on his left foot straight toward the Follower. The Leader should keep his back back on the heel that's behind him so it's a true rock step. Follower does a right foot back step to a side step. She should always keep her distance from the Leader the same and from hips to shoulders the same. Sometimes the Leader leads the cross so that the Follower changes direction (which is wrong). The Leader should turn his chest into the line of dance in a straight line, turning towards the Follower first and then into the line of dance straight (not a "J" movement).

Next, we switched things up some more with the Leader turning counterclockwise, stepping around the Follower while she does back ocho steps. His steps are such that left foot steps front cross a little bit under himself (so his feet are in an "L" position to each other with left heel perpendicular to right big toe), and then pivoting out to a right foot side step. During this step, his right foot steps with her right foot back ocho and his left foot steps with her left foot back ocho. She pivots a lot on her left foot back ocho (more like 180 degrees versus 90 degrees for her right foot back ocho). The Follower waits for the Leader's upper body to turn and that's how she knows how much to pivot. She does not do the pivot from her hips on her own. Since the Follower's ochos are uneven, the Leader needs to give her more time on one side. Follower should not have a stiff embrace; she should keep it soft so that she can pivot. Leader should not use his right hand on the Follower's spine to move her around; it's manipulative and uncomfortable.

In tango, we are always bending and straightening our legs, one or the other. In the Follower's big pivot, both knees need to be bent. The Follower should pivot a lot to get clean back steps, and always collect in between. The Leaders goal is to make a tight circle with his right foot side step and left foot front cross step.

Follower should not be too easy to move. She should try to corkscrew into the ground to make the pivot, and then step. The Follower's hips are perpendicular to the Leader as she makes her back step.

Then we linked all the steps together, fitting it into the line of dance: 8CB to 5 (cross), rock step, side step, 180 degree turn of Follower back ochos while Leader steps around her, etc. In practicing this in the line of dance, the Leader needs to always be in control of where he's going and what they're doing, and always do it in the line of dance. It was a very good class.

Afterwards at the milonga while we were dancing, someone remarked about my note taking, asking about how long I've been dancing, and surprised that after all this time I still take notes. He also asked if I take the notes from the Leader or Follower perspective, and I told him both, although my emphasis has typically been on the Follower side of thing. He wondered out loud what things I wrote down about Followers' technique. And I got to thinking about it, a lot of times I write down what I've already heard before about FT, but for some reason haven't incorporated it into how I dance. Other times, like when I see someone truly brilliant dance, I write down some nugget that I got just by watching them. Or in the case of lessons, sometimes I do get pointers that are real doozies and that change the way I dance *forever*. Right now I keep taking notes because it keeps me mentally focused and alert, and in shape for when Homer & Cristina visit the East Coast later this year and we throw a few chapters down on the tangostudent.blogspot.

The milonga was OK. It was crowded, but not obnoxiously so. Same crowd as the previous weeks. For some reason, I got really tired after the first few tandas, and then it occurred to me that the Leaders in NYC are a bit taller as a group than what I am used to in San Francisco. So my teres majors started to hurt, which they never had before. I try to keep my shoulders level and shoulder blades down, but there is still an element of lift when dancing with someone significantly taller. Multiply that by many tandas, several days in a row, and well, it starts to make itself known. After I danced with one of my favorite leaders, I called it a night.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July 24-31

Friday, July 29, 2011I really wanted to go dancing, but when I was getting ready, it began to pour—one of those flash East Coast storms with booming thunder that set off many car alarms and downpours of buckets of water in a very short time while folks are still out and about in wife beaters and shorts and no umbrellas since it’s still 85 degrees out. Though I am not made of sugar nor am I the Wicked Witch of the West (though some might have their doubts on both sides of the equation), I decided to stay in rather than fight Mother Nature. That was OK though, as I got to help my roommate pack up his room and send him off on his jaunt. It was a little bittersweet as we’ve become good friends the last three weeks of living together.

Saturday, July 30, 2011I really wanted to go dancing, but earlier in the day I moved to my new apartment (and so spent the morning packing up my stuff and buying “furniture” for my new place). So when the hour came when I needed to get ready, I was already exhausted and ached from lifting, moving, and unpacking, and famished from working through the momentum of wanting to get everything unpacked. And unbeknownst to me, I made the AC freeze up and stop working because I turned it too low. Thus, the pipes needed to thaw and the unit drained, which only one other person (who happened to be on vacation this weekend, just like the landlord) knew how to do. So you can imagine that I certainly was a very popular new roommate on this sweltering day. (Not!!) But it was very satisfying to unpack all of my tango shoes and all of my tango clothes so that I finally feel “completely home” in that respect.

Sunday, July 31, 2011
Milonga RoKo @ Manhattan Ballroom Dance with lesson beforehand by Robin Thomas.
I wanted to take the lesson as I had been curious about Maestro since he was Jennifer Bratt’s teaching partner from way back, and I had heard his name mentioned through the years as being a pretty good teacher.

The lesson started at 7:15 p.m., which means I had to catch the ~6:00 p.m. train from where I live, which meant I had to get ready at 5:15 p.m., which meant I had to skip dinner at the apartment. That was not a bad thing since it enabled me to stop at one NYC’s ubiquitous Halal food carts. Though I didn’t make it all the way up to the famous 53rd & 6th Halal Gyro Platter Cart (which I’ve been eyeing for a decade but STILL haven’t gotten to, conveniently, there was one right outside Grand Central. I got the Lamb & Rice platter with iceberg lettuce and tomato, all smothered in white sauce for $6. Since I didn’t want to sit inside Grand Central to eat, I made my way over to the New York Public Library and sat on the steps. It was great fun to pleasantly people watch as the day faded on a late, breezy Sunday afternoon, snarffling up the feast in the Styrofoam container perched on my lap. It is lucky that I don’t live in NYC, otherwise I’d eat a lamb platter every night, it is THAT delicious. I wanted to savor every bite, so after I was full, but had eaten only half my meal, I put the rest of it away to eat later on the train back home. So I tucked the rest of it away, and made my way over to the Manhattan Ballroom.

Upon arriving outside, I noticed that there were several parking spaces on the street. I looked around at the signs, and walked over to the communal meter spot to read the regulations and requirements. Then the building security guy came out and we chatted a bit. He recommended that I do drive in instead of pay the $18.50 train ride (or $15 with the discounted 10-ride ticket), as he said there were usually a few spots that time of night on Sundays. I was struck by how friendly the security guard was, but weary of his recommendation that I drive in since we’ve all heard car-break-in stories of decades past, pre-Bloomberg.

I got there a minute before the lesson started, so quickly changed my shoes. The lesson was a simple with one, with various simple sequences including side steps, forward and back steps for both Leader and Follower, and rock steps, the goal of which was to fit them into the music, especially milonga. The lesson was rich in technical detail for both the Leaders and Followers, and I found the content interesting and valuable. Normally, I am rather cool toward male teachers of Followers’ technique, but I could find no fault with what Maestro was teaching on the Follower (or Leader) side of the equation. What a treat in that milonga + lesson was only $12 (milonga only is $10). This has got to be the among the most bargain of quality lessons in NYC, and I was very pleased that a number of excellent leaders and followers were in the class.

The milonga itself was fun, more fun than last time for me. It was less crowded, though still full, and I got to dance with a number of very high level, high quality dancers (thanks to being introduced to them and working on the class content beforehand). I also sat at the table where an elderly gentleman who must be local tango royalty since everyone and their cousin seemed to come up to greet/kiss him, and since I was sitting there with him, they greeted me too, thinking I was part of his group. How bizarre is that?! And no, I did not crash his table; the host actually sat them next to me since it was the only table with space in it at the moment.

I danced up a storm early on, and things lulled a bit around 11:30 p.m., so I decided I had had my fill and it was time to go. I got to Grand Central in time for the express train back to my town, but the AC was broken. There was another train a mere 3 minutes later, though not an express. I decided to take that instead, as I was in no particular rush to get home and would certainly welcome the AC rather than skip it.

I don't know if I mentioned the floor and AC, but the floor is a nice wooden one, and the AC works beautifully, which is very important since it's been sweltering.