Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 21-28

Saturday, September 24, 2011
Otra Milonga @ Basic Ballroom with lesson beforehand by Claudio Villagra & Romina Levin.
I was looking forward to this lesson and got ready and out the door in ample time to make it. However, the Metro-North did not get that memo and so was not cooperating. The express train was 13 minutes late, which is an entire lifetime when it comes to express train schedules. Thankfully though, they didn’t bother collecting fares from any of us to compensate. With a hot extra $7.85 in my pocket, I decided to take a cab, and the fare turned out to be $6 and change, so I gave him $8. So it all worked out that I got to the lesson on time.

Maestros taught in BsAs style with showing us a bit of a sequence and then us trying to do it, with them going around to provide individual feedback.

The sequence was a side step (Leader’s left, Follower’s right) to a Follower left foot forward step, then immediately back in a rock step to a Follower right foot side step while Leader does a right foot front cross weight change into a Leader left foot side step on the Follower’s left foot back step (back ocho), to a right foot back ocho, to left foot side step while Leader does lapice, to do a right foot parada after the Follower’s right forward step to pivot. For the Follower’s rock step to right foot side step, she needs to make each of the steps elegant and not clunky or floppy.

Next, maestros changed the sequence. Side steps (Leader’s left, Follower’s right), into a Leader’s left foot sacada of the Follower’s right foot trailing foot during her left foot forward step during her counterclockwise molinete.

Next, they gave us another little big with an Americana promenade with both Leader and Follower having left foot forward steps.

Maestra's philosophy on ocho is that they don’t need to militaristically collect at the ankles during each leg passing. Instead, they should be more rounded and open-ended a little.

It was a good class, and we got attention from both Maestro and Maestra, even though the class was packed (more Leaders than Followers later on).

It seems that everyone and their cousin got the memo that this was THE milonga to be at on this night, because it became even more packed. The room is spacious. Interestingly, the floor is Pergo, but it was roughed up and the slick finish spanked down, which made for a very nice surface to dance on (in my opinion, the regular out-of-the-box Pergo is a little too slick for social dancing, but OK for classes). Though there were window air conditioners and ceiling fans, the room got quite humid and warm, and that was in the early part of the evening during class. After dancing just a few tandas, it got extremely humid and hot, too much for my liking.

Then it was announced that the upstairs alt room was open. So I ventured up and stayed most of the night. Though it was a smaller room, both window air conditioners work well and were set at a perfect 60 degrees. It was also only sparsely attended, so there was ample room to dance and very amusing to people watch. Later on, they announced that the performance would start soon, which effectively shepherded us all downstairs to the main room again.

After coming from the comfortable confines of the adequately AC’d Alt room, when we got to the door, the heat and moisture hit us like a wall and we were entering a steam room. The milonga was just finishing up the milonga tanda, and after that a mini salsa tanda. So basically, the room was sweltering. Thankfully, since the Alt room dancers were tipped off about the performance, we were able to get seats to cool our heels and comfortably watch the 3-song performance, which was great.

After that, the person I danced with in the Alt room had to go, and so I stayed in the main sweltering room. I danced a few tandas, and soon it was 1:00 a.m., time for me to go to grab a bite (I started to bonk, but didn’t want to eat any of the snacks there since by the time I got to the table, the only things left were white-flour derivatives: pretzels, cookies, cakes, sugar wafers, oreos, etc.) and make the walk back to Grand Central in time for the last train home.

I didn’t realize this since I cabbed it there, but Basic Ballroom is quite close to Penn Station, so there were lots of food places open 24 hours in the area. I passed by White Castle, which I had always been curious about, but it was packed with a lot of people waiting for their orders, and I didn’t want to risk missing my train, so I just kept walking. Thankfully, I found a Halal cart still open. So I had my usual Lamb Salad (basically, it’s a lamb plate only without the rice). It was a longish way back to Grand Central, but the weather was comfortable and balmy, and since I had ample time to get there, I was able to stroll without pressure.

It was a very nice night, one of the best times I’ve had thus far at a NYC milonga, despite the sweltering conditions in the main room (which is shocking and a miracle that I can write that).

Sunday, September 25, 2011
RoKo milonga with lesson beforehand by Robin Thomas and Jenna Rohrbacher.
I got there a little late, and the lesson was already in progress with work on forward ocho technique with a focus on disassociation (keep your nose to the mirror). They also worked on side steps, taking big ones, and making smooth and complete weight transfers. Then we went into the sequence. We began with a basic side step (Leader’s left, Follower’s right), with Follower matching Leader’s size of step. Then we changed it whereby the Leader pivots the Follower such that instead of a regular right foot side step, her leg/foot actually turns so that it is more like a right foot forward step. Here, she practices disassociation, so while her lower body is at a forward orientation, her nose is still toward the Leader to maintain connection. Then the Leader leads the Follower to do a left foot forward step around him, and then a right foot forward ocho in front of him. There was much discussion on the detail of Leader torso rotation/torsion and footwork. The Follower should not do any of these steps automatically, but should wait for the lead to make the turn, make the forward step, etc. Follower should not step forward without the lead. And in her steps, she should extend the leg before transferring the weight, and not be clunky and uncoordinated. Jenna reiterated that the motion is reaching, then extending, then transferring the weight by pushing off the standing, supporting leg, and being slow and deliberate, trying to remain on the standing leg as long as possible. Follower needs to stay connected to the Leader, and her right arm needs to collapse when she does her forward ochos. She needs to really turn her hips perpendicular to the Leader. Here is where my notes end, which just goes to show I got lazy as the rest of the sequence and lesson really focused a lot on what the Leader needs to do with respect to his chest rotation, torsion and footwork. The sequence had a nice little Leader colgada-like ending to it, but sadly my brain turned off by then, although I do recall that the Follower had to be able to be in balance, pivoting on one foot as the Leader went around her in his colgada-like movement. It was a good lesson. Too bad I wasn’t particularly mentally focused.

The milonga was not the greatest, on account of the extreme humidity. Basically, after the first few tandas, we were all hot sweaty messes, despite the air conditioning. I left pretty early, as I just wasn’t fun to dance with extremely wet, sweaty people while being sweaty myself.

So what am I excited about these days?
Oliver Kolker workshops October 1-2.
OMG, I feel so lucky to be able to take his workshops ($35 for each 2-hour workshop).
Homer and Cristina Ladas in NYC October 14, 15, 16; Northampton October 21, 22, 23; and Providence October 28, 29, 30 with costume-themed milongas. I am SO there!

L'shanah tovah to all who celebrate it!

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