Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 7-13

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mariella Franganillo’s La Practica at Dance Manhattan.
I got there right when the practica started as I had such a great time last week that I wanted to pack in as much dancing as possible in the 3-hour event. This practica was not as full, but that was fine with me. After I put my shoes on, someone new asked me to dance. He was a very good dancer, and after that, I was able to dance with several other new people, also very good dancers. So I was very happy and the practica got off to a great start for me.

Then one Leader I cabaceo’d for weeks but gave up on surprisingly came over and asked me to dance. Needless to say, I was floored and thrilled. He was great, as I thought he would be. In watching him dance, I could glimpse suggestions of his skill, but he often danced with lesser-skilled Followers, so I wasn’t certain of how well he could dance. Anyway, it was a great dance, and afterwards he told me I was a good dancer and that he really enjoyed the tanda. So that made me happy (dare I say triumphant?!).

The blind leader was there, and we chatted a bit. He asked me how the Oliver Kolker workshop was, and I told him fantastic, of course. Then I told him about my dilemma of whether I should take a private, even though it wouldn’t be because I actually want my dance to improve, but because I know I’d get an amazing one-hour dance massage (he laughed at that description). He said I should go ahead and do it since Maestro would probably be happy to have another private student, and if I had the money to do it, it’s good for the economy (and Maestro’s finances specifically). He saw it as strictly an economic event: Maestro is supplying something and I could afford to do it. He said it doesn’t matter what my motives are or how pure my heart/dance intentions are. It’s just good business.

The rest of the practica flew by, and I danced nearly every tanda. People were friendly and relaxed. It is a great event, much better than a lot of evening milongas. I danced so much my feet were sore afterwards, which honestly hasn’t happened in a while.

After the practica, as I walked to the subway station, I passed a restaurant (Boqueria, 53 W19th St., with hanging jamon in the window, just like in Spain, and I could not resist the aromas wafting from the restaurant within. Looking in the window, I saw a sign “Michelin recommended”, and my curiosity got the better of me so I stopped in for a late brunch.

Since it was a weird hour to be eating (2:15 p.m.) I was able to be seated easily. I chose to sit at the bar so I could watch the charcuterie guy cut all the tasty salumis, gourmet cheeses, and artisanal breads. I ordered the Bocato Boqueria ($12), an egg sandwich with the soft scrambled eggs cooked with Spanish chorizo and mushrooms, which came on a thick slice of airy, crusty bread, with a side of salad and elegant, thin fries, flavored with pimienta, I believe. It was delicious, and I had it all washed down with a nice glass of wine (the wines by the glass were $10-15 each). I will certainly be back, but I think a more fun experience would be to share several tapas dishes.

There was a store I wanted to go to after that, but it was closed for Yom Kippur.

After my rest at home, I made the hour-long drive to New Haven. The C.A.T.S. (Connecticut Argentine Tango Society) was having its 10th Anniversary milonga, moved from the prior weekend so that it could coincide with the Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo weekend workshops. I thought about going to the workshops too, as I have always enjoyed Maestros’ workshops when I took them at Fandango de Tango, but as a single follower I didn’t want to show up and possibly be left standing a lot without a partner, even though the organizer assured me that she and a number of her female students who also lead could step in to fix any gender imbalance.

I arrived on the early side to the Whitney Arts Center, which is a nice old historical building with lovely hardwood floor. Upon paying my entrance, I chatted a little with the organizer since she was happy I was new to the state so she added me to her mailing list. Since this was their 10-year anniversary, they also gave me (as well as all the guests) a 22-song CD, which I thought was a very nice, festive touch.

During the milonga, a couple of leaders were kind enough to give me a whirl early on. Afterwards, I decided to check out the rest of the space. In a separate adjoining room, the food was laid out. On a low table at the front of the room was a nice box of pepperoni and sausage pizza (maybe that was for the set-up crew as it looked a few hours old, just the way I like :o) so I helped myself to a slice), while the main table had an assortment of cheeses and crackers, olive spread, water, sodas, a plate of M&Ms and pirouettes, and a bowl of crinkle-cut potato chips.

The other room had the masseuse and his chair, and clothing set out for purchase. I was impressed with how beautiful and well made the clothing was, and the designer was there herself, Eloise de Gardel (also a fantastic dancer). There was a super-bargain table of clothes $10, $20, or $30, while the racks of dresses were around $100. I am no clothing shopaholic, but her designs were compelling enough for me to try on several frocks (that is really saying something). Interestingly, it was mentioned later on that all profits from clothing sales go to the designer’s efforts to build a school in Colombia, where she is from.

After that, I made my way back to the milonga, but sat out the rest of the time. That was OK though as my feet were still a little sore from the afternoon and there was no one I had a burning desire to dance with, and it was great fun just watching the group. There was a joyful exuberance and a relaxed happiness on the pista, and it seemed like the community just really likes each other. It was kind of weird in a good way. One couple danced Canyengue, so obviously there are some extremely serious, deep tango students in the midst. Several followers, including the organizer and her volunteers, were indeed strong leaders. And still other leaders were among the most creative I had ever seen (not in a technically perfect way, but in a fun musical way).

Before the performance, the organizer said some words of thanks to her volunteers an the community, along with a little history of tango in the New Haven area (basically, she started it, along with lots of help along the way from her volunteers, who are all women, and Fernanda and Guillermo, who now reside in Boston), which ended with a birthday-like dance of the organizer and core group of volunteers, followed by the October babies birthday dance.

Finally after that, Fernanda and Guillermo did a 3-song performance (one of their performance rain coat tango, a tango, and a milonga), which was fantastic. Afterwards, Fernanda spoke about what a nice, growing community it was. After that, they did a mixer dance starting with the core folks who were around 10 years ago, who would dance a while, and then each partner would go get new partners, etc., until everyone was dancing on the dance floor (a la Clay Nelson’s festivals).

Then the milonga started up again, although as usual everyone rushed out to get some refreshments. Foodwise, a huge bowl of fruit salad was whisked in a little earlier, and after the announcements and fantastic performance, three cakes to celebrate the decade of milongas were brought out: a Costco chocolate cake, a grocery store cheesecake, and a humongous (4-5 inches tall, 15-18 inch diameter), divine chocolate mouse hazelnut cake made by a local artisanal bakery. I normally don’t eat much more than a forkful or two of any cake, but this one was so good that I ate the whole slice, it was THAT delicious. I am sure it cost a pretty penny, too.

After I had my fill, I made the drive back home, listening to the party-favor CD part of the way. I found it to be very good, having lots of songs I don’t have in my collection.

Sunday, October 9, 2011
RoKo Milonga at Manhattan Ballroom Dance with lesson beforehand by Cesar Velasquez and Jenny Nolan.
Of course, since Maestra was teaching, I had to go. The focus of our class was turns, and we began with a warm-up dance. Then we did an exercise to work on the technique of the turn, specifically, the Leader’s torsion and how he produces circular energy from his chest/scapula/shoulder blades so that the Follower does the back cross step, side step, and forward cross step footwork. The goal for the Follower was to be more sensitive so she could stop. The goal for the Leader was to transfer the energy in his arms, from his right to his left, and his left to his right, as the Follower went from one side of him to the other during the cross. He could also experiment with leading her to do a back cross step first or forward cross step first, depending on how much he rotated his upper body and allowed space for the Follower to move.

Then we moved on to the simple sequence:
Follower’s part:
Right side step
Left back step
Right side step
Left foot front cross (forward ocho) step
Right foot front cross (forward ocho) step, diagonally away from the Leader so that it opens up room for him to do a left foot sacada of her trailing left foot
To pivot a lot to do a left foot forward step in the Americana position to the Leader’s right foot forward step
Out to resolution

It was a good class, with lots of technical detail and individual attention given to all the dancers. Maestra is very good in that no matter what your skill level, she gives individual feedback specific to where you are in your dance.

The milonga was fun. It wasn’t as packed, but it was still nicely crowded enough to get plenty of good tandas in. Since it was a Sunday before a Monday holiday, the boys downstairs were again having their usual heavy-on-the-bass thumpin’ rave party. Thank goodness it was not as loud and distracting as the last time.

Maestra and Cesar Velasquez did a nice three-song performance, which can be seen at
Apparently, Cesar is Maestra’s dance partner in England.

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