Saturday, April 28, 2012
April 1 - 25
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Vintage Milonga in White Plains with lesson beforehand by Ney Melo. There were more Followers than Leaders during the lesson, so I just watched and had dinner, which was much the same as last week (pasta, salad, bread, and a tomato/cheese-based entrée – this week was chicken). The milonga was fun, and I got to dance with more of the locals. We had a birthday vals for Maestro and a local tanguero. I did not cut in, but just enjoyed watching from the bar. We also had some yummy chocolate cake. Later on, I actually won one of the raffle prizes! My first! I had a choice of a very fancy silk shoe bag (I passed); brunch for 2 at Vintage (I passed, which in retrospect, I shouldn’t have); a bottle of wine (the one I chose). My last tanda was with the birthday tanguero (not Maestro), who said our tanda was the best birthday present he got. Aaaaww… now isn’t that sweet? Who would have thought those Westchester county men could be that charming. :o)
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Mariela Franganillo’s La Practica @ Dance Manhattan. It wasn’t super crowded, and a lot of my usual favorite dancers weren’t there. That’s OK though, as it meant I got to dance more with people I don’t usually dance with, and some new folks too. I met one person who turned out to be terrific. He encouraged me to stay for the next practica afterwards, which I did.
Fundamentals Practica @ Dance Manhattan. This practica was lightly attended, but instead of being absolute beginners, there were some folks who stayed from the practica earlier, and some folks who came who are actually borderline teachers but who wanted to actually practice their material on a spacious dance floor, and others who were just plain serious about practicing with their dance partner and did not switch. This group was rounded out by beginners who needed to work on their fundamentals before they were unleashed onto the milonga dance floor. What was nice about this was that the organizers recognized that there were more Followers than Leaders and encouraged the Leaders to switch so that a good time could be had by all. There was also a raffle, with three prizes: (1) and (2) refund of the $ 10 entry free; (3) free entry to a future practica.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Vintage Milonga in White Plains with lesson beforehand by Ney Melo and Rosa Corisco. What a treat to be able to take lessons from Rosa! I think I had only experienced her teaching once before, and I found her to be a good teacher, though her partner at the time had a larger presence in the instruction. Tonight’s lesson was on milonga.
Maestro’s philosophy is that the Leader moves the Follower with his embrace, his body, so he needs to move the Follower, not just his own body. (He compared this to a lot of teachers on the West Coast, who advocate more of an opening up of the space to allow the Follower to move into it).
There is not a lot of cross-system footwork in milonga, most of it occurs in parallel system (mirror image).
We first did the 6CB milonga box, with our goal to find the beat of the milonga music. Maestra taught the Follower’s adorno of the tap in between the steps of the milonga box, using either our toe or our heel. Our goal was to find where we felt comfortable and not be in the Leader’s way when we adorned. We did this to milonga lisa time (SSSS).
Next we worked on milonga traspie timing, speeding up and doing QQQQ at some points, in the context of the Follower’s left foot front cross, right foot weight change, left foot side step, right foot weight change, left foot back cross, right foot weight change step (and Leader doing his front, side and back steps with his right foot, with his left foot doing the subsequent weight change). When doing milonga traspie, or anywhere where there is QQ, take shorter steps because the step is not about the length, it’s about the rhythm. Maestra taught the Follower adorno in this traspie front-cross, back-cross step of doing a right foot beat against the left foot, which can occur on the left foot back step and also on the left foot forward step.
Then we added a change of direction, with the leader leading it by doing a right foot back step, left foot side step, turning the Follower, and stepping forward with his right foot. We drilled this, along with the other steps we learned (milonga box, and traspie timing with front cross, open, and back cross), with a focus on the musicality, really trying to hit the rhythm especially during the variacion. Our goal was to have our upper bodies be quiet (still, steady), and our lower body moving (somewhat chaotically, but controlled).
Maestro mentioned that a lot of beginner dancers dance with a lot of elaborate, showy steps like ganchos, boleos, etc., throwing it all out there at the beginning. He said that more experienced dancers save their energy and wait until near the end of the song to do more elaborate steps.
It was an excellent class, and lucky for us we were perfectly gender balanced. I had a good time.
The milonga was nice, not particularly from a dance perspective (though I had some decent tandas), but it was super fun catching up with Maestra, who currently lives in Spain but was visiting NYC.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Mariela Franganillo’s practica at Dance Manhattan. I got there early, as I wanted to get in as much dancing as possible since I missed the last couple of weeks. Many of my usual favorites were not there, but that was OK. I got to dance with some new-to-me dancers, so that was fun. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and this facility gets to be more humid than I would like. Still, the dance quality is nice and the floor crafting better than at many milongas, despite it being a practica. So I keep going, despite my (and others’) perspiration issues.
I tried to sign up for Monica Paz’s Saturday workshops, but they were already full. These were the topics:
3:00PM-4:15PM Dynamics, changing of energy
4:30PM-5:45PM “Cadencia”, Simplicity and Sophistication
Apparently, Maestra comes to town about once a year, and has for a while, so she has a nice local following. I was told by several different dancers whom I admire that she was an excellent teacher. So my curiosity was piqued. They had room for me on Sunday though…
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Monica Paz workshops at Champion’s Studio in NYC:
3:00PM-4:15PM Musicality, Interpretation of different orchestras
4:30PM-5:45PM “Pivot” dissociation and timings
Musicality, Interpretation of different orchestras Workshop
Maestra is known for being a milonguero teacher, so the emphasis is on connection and musicality. Tango is connection, with our partner, and with the music. The connection with the partner (the embrace) changes with the style of tango you are dancing. In the milonguero style, the Follower’s left arm is parallel with the Leader’s shoulder, and her right arm is perpendicular to the floor. This is so that the connection is all in the chest, and not in the arms.
In terms of music, there is the beat, the double beat, or the half beat. All are correct. With respect to the timing and length of steps>
Regular beat: regular length
Faster beat (double time): shorter step
Slower beat (half time) : longer step
We walked individually around the line of dance to a song doing regular time (regular beat). At the points during the slower beat (longer time), we need better balance because we stay on one leg for a much longer time. When walking, the focus on the foot should be at the big toe (inner ball of foot), so knees will naturally come together and be more elegant.
For the Follower, it is especially important that she stay in one line. When the Follower is precise with her footwork and stays on point (her feet are very close together at the point of transferring weight from one side to the other or when her feet pass each other) when she dances, when the dancers are in a small space, the Leader has mores possibilities to move and shift her or to move around her.
We walked individually to two different songs, both DiSarli, but one more rhythmic, and one more melodic. We noticed that in both songs, there is still the beat. However, when walking with the melody, the movement is slower, with the opportunity to do interesting pauses. We then worked on musical phrasing, with our goal to know when it’s the correct place in the music to stop. Maestra demonstrated musical phrasing to a song showing us the melody, starting at the beginning of a phrase, and stopping a little bit before the end of the phrase.
When we start dancing tango, we dance to the rhythm. But at some point it has to change, where we can express with the melody.
If you pay attention to the dancing at Buenos Aires milongas, when the crowd moves at the same time, where everyone steps at the same time, and stops/pauses at the end of a phrase.
All songs have both rhythm and melody.
Next, in partnership, we danced doing simple things, even just walking was fine. Our goal was to try to dance the melody, and perhaps doing back ochos in double time during the rhythmic portions of the music. It’s not how many steps you do, but it is very important to do it according to the music.
Next, dancing to the melody, at the slow portions of the music, the half time, we shouldn’t collect immediately (or go fast into the cross), but move in slow motion. We were to practice doing other things in half time, such as shifting of the weight, or just stretching everything out in slow motion to wait for the musical phrase to complete. If a musical pause is long, then you can do more than one weight shift in place. The important thing is the weight change transition, with our goal not to be flat, but more circular in our movement (as in doing ochos). Here, the Follower needs to have a relaxed chest and the Leader has to have circularity in his chest rotation.
To work on melody, we danced to Pugliese. Pugliese is harder to dance to because there are pieces of the song where there is only melody. The melody can be expressed in the upper body, with walking, shifting of weight, and with pauses. What’s important is to have feeling in our bodies.
Next, we worked on rhythm, dancing to Biagi, with the step of the Leader going outside, then doing a left foot rock forward and back, and then coming back inside, giving more energy. Our goal was to do this step with the musical phrase. Leader and Follower should both keep their chests with forward intention, even when you are pressing forward.
Next we worked on what Maestra calls “Pendulum Intention”. It is one of the most difficult things to master. The feeling is more like a “U” or “UU” energy, where we are not flat. We need to relax our knees. The step she showed to illustrate it was a very simple one, just a side, together, back, brush, and continuing it. The Leader’s intention can be exaggerated in his shoulders and torso to get the “U” feeling. When the Leader goes up, it’s not a stressed weight super up sharply movement. (That would be too much.) The knees are soft, because tango is grounded.
Next we tried this Pendulum Intention in forward and back steps (earlier one was a side and back step), where the Leader walks on the inside, so that the Follower’s right foot takes the spot where the Leader’s left foot was. This is easier to do with short steps.
This was an excellent lesson.
“Pivot” dissociation and timings Workshop
Pivots are like the choke on a manual car: you can use it to dance or not.
To pivot, we should generate energy from our chest so that the direction of the step changes. We create energy in our upper body to create the pivot as a consequence.
We began with very simple walking, and then pivoting at the end of the phrase, with the goal of starting our pivots with the change in energy and direction of our chest.
Our focus of the class was actually the Leader’s pivot, first beginning with the Leader being in a good position to do the pivot when he leads the Follower into the cross. For the Follower, the weight should be on the balls of her foot. Maestra’s style is that her heels never touch the ground (there is no weight on her heels). To be always ready to pivot, the Follower’s weight should always be on the ball of her foot. The Follower should always try to brush her ankles and knees together to look elegant and to keep her balance.
For the Leader, to generate intention to move, he should go down and forward, down to generate intention, and to pivot also. He should use momentum to do the pivot. The pivot has to be at the time he does the step.
In crowded milonga conditions, the Leader can lead pivots from his chest (not from/with his arms) on rhythm, or with the melody on the musical phrase. The Follower will pivot all the time as long as there is rotation in the Leader’s chest.
For the Follower, when she goes into the cross, she should pass with the knee first, then the foot, for more sensual elegant, rather than schlumping flatly into the cross with just her foot.
It is harder to pivot in slow motion, but the Follower has to do it at the same time as the Leader moves his chest.
Next, we worked on the ocho cortado, with the Leader’s left foot pivoting on his right side open step to get his weight in the middle (split weight, 50%/50%). Otherwise, if the Leader doesn’t pivot, his weight will stay on his left foot. Then he pivots back. Follower also pivots with Leader. We drilled doing the ocho cortado in a melodic, slow way, changing it so that the Leader slowly rotates his chest from his open side step to get the Follower back into her cross. This is a slow motion step and the Follower should follow the rotation in the Leader’s chest and not be ahead of what his chest is doing.
Remember, the intention of the pivot is created by the Leader creating the energy in his chest rotation (not his arms) and relaxing his knees.
We can dance with the rhythm or the melody, but the important thing is to enjoy the music. Try to listen to tango music with lots of singing as it will make it more clear where the musical phrases are, and when the phrases are over. We translate these musical phrases into our body, into our dancing. Don’t forget tango is about connection: to our partner and to the music.
This was an excellent lesson.
Other thoughts on the Monica Paz workshop experience:
Many of the students had attended her Saturday workshops except me and few other students. This was the first non-Homer non-premilonga workshops I had taken in NYC. What was striking about it was that the Leaders all seemed to be very good to excellent, and all students understood the tango individual instruction given in Spanish (the main instruction was in English). So I was extremely impressed by the Leader level in terms of dance and in dedication to learning tango to the extent that many became somewhat bilingual (at least when it came to tango instruction in Spanish). It kind of made me kick myself for not going to more local workshops to learn with these excellent Leaders.
Roko Milonga at Manhattan Ballroom Dance.
Our lesson began with the Leader exploring moving his axis to get the Follower’s foot/leg to move. So the Leader moves his body forward to move the Follower’s leg back. The Follower should keep her standing, supporting knee soft and flexed while the reaching leg is straight and extending. This way the Follower has a long line. The Leader should not lean forward and tilt his whole body, but move his axis forward from his hips all the way up.
We drilled the concept while the Follower did back ochos going through space (not just side to side, but slightly forward). The Leader takes a step to try to get the Follower to extend her leg. The Follower should be strong and solid on her standing leg (with knee bent), keeping the area stretched between her ribs to her toes. The Leader should have minimal chest pivot so that the Follower does not pivot too much when doing her ochos.
We continued our exploration of changing the Leader’s axis to move the Follower’s leg with the Leader trying to lead the Follower to extend her leg back periodically by stopping moving, and then moving his axis to send her leg back. We further worked on this exercise with the Leader just trying to play with moving the Follower’s leg (causing her to extend her leg by changing his axis).
The Follower should be a super high performance, with 1:1000 energy amplification in terms of the Leader’s axis movement to her foot/leg extension. Follower should have a bit of turnout and do a tight cross, so the Leader should lead a tight cross.
Next, we built on the axis change, Follower foot leg extension in the context of no-pivot ochos, with the goal of the Leader leading the Follower’s right foot to cross behind the left foot. The Leader does this by moving his body forward, a bit to the side, and then slightly diagonally back. These types of no-pivot ochos were the first types of ochos. These no-pivot ochos could also be an entrance into the ocho cortado, and they can also be stacked with the Leader stepping back and diagonally away. He can also try linking the back cross with front crosses.
It was a good lesson.
Since I had volunteered for two shifts at the prior week’s milonga, I was off tonight and was able to dance the night away. It was crowded but not horrendously full as it was raining cats and dogs outside. I had a good time, dancing with several new people as many of my usual favorites were not around tonight. I got a chance to dance with a couple of people who had attended Maestra’s workshops earlier in the day, so that was fun.
In case y’all are wondering why I’ve kind of been slacking with keeping up this blog, it’s because life has a way of intruding on our hobbies. Seriously though, I’ve had to really concentrate on my career, which now entails learning a brand new area. This blog started at a time when I was doing very little in the way of reading and being involved in the creative process with respect to painting with words, getting the subtle nuances of meaning, while ensuring accuracy and conveying logical thought. So in a way, the blog was a way of keeping me in shape, mentally and careerwise. Since I am now back to reading for a living, and doing all those things, I find it more difficult to get motivated with writing.
Still though, I need to get back into shape with respect to taking notes since Homer & Cristina are coming back to the East Coast next month (May 11-12 Providence, RI & May 18-20 Northampton, MA) with some exciting new content that will be taught. So I am excited about that, and need to get ready for that.
And, lucky for me, in June I will be going to a festival where I will work on what I love best, with the Maestra I’ve been absolutely dying to take lessons from. So I am super super super excited about that!!! And I plan on recording practically every single word that comes out of her mouth. They say she is a very tough (among the toughest) Maestras out there, which means she is probably brilliant!!!