Thursday, May 31, 2012

April 26 - May 31

Friday, April 27, 2012
NYC Milonguero Weekend 2012
Susan Miller Fundamental Principles of Milonguero Style Workshop: Posture, embrace, balance, and rhythm.  After some confusion on a lot of the dancers' part regarding location of where the Workshop would be held, we finally made it to the place, just a few minutes late.  The workshop had already started, with Maestra instructing us to stand as if waiting for the bus, with our hips down, with weight fully on one leg, and then shift to the other.  We were to keep our chests up though, with our shoulders back and down.  With this posture and heaviness in our hips and legs in mind, we danced.  We danced for 4 songs with Maestra going around to each couple to give individual feedback to the Leaders. She spent about half a song per leader, dancing with them so she could feel their posture, focusing mostly on the upper body.  After she went around and worked with all the Leaders, she asked the Followers for feedback regarding the feeling before and after.  When we give feedback to each other as dance partners, we should not take it personally, but take it technically.  We should also speak nicely to each other.  (Maestra made a comment, remarking how funny it was that people thought tango would make them happy [the implication being that it will not, and that tango will instead make you suffer]).  

Leaders need to really embrace Followers, as if they are hugging someone hello.  Maestra asked the Followers if it felt better than before (with the Leaders doing their usual embraces).  The Followers were also to hug the Leaders as if they love them.  The Follower's back should be relaxed and go up.

The ambiance of tango is that there are never all the people at the milonga on the dance floor at the same time.  The population changes, and people come and people go.  People get bored with tango.  It's tango's nature (and a statement to a natural state of being in tango).

To reiterate on posture, our upper body goes up, and our hips and legs go down.  Her goal was to make us go to our bodies.  When dancing with Followers, she should feel like water.  Tango is a river.  

The Leader's chest is for the Follower, and the Follower's head is for the Leader.  The Leader should keep his eyes forward as his body and his steps will follow his eyes.  So steps are fluid as the eyes and the muscles of the leg go together.  We should not look down.  Followers should keep their heads up too and not look down.

The Leader changes the axis with forward intention in his chest, then his belly button goes after.  We should have soft knees when we walk to be strong, elegant and fluid.

The energy of the milonguero is that water behaves with water inside. Put your muscles to sleep, then you can move.  

For Followers' connection, chest is up and forward while shoulders are back and down.  Overall, the upper body should be relaxed. Do not be hesitant about embracing Leaders or with your embrace.  Keep your right arm open (not locked), and open your chin (do not have it down).

Overall, I had very high hopes for this lesson since I had heard about this legendary Maestra for years, but never had the opportunity to take classes with her.  That being said, for me, it started out on the wrong foot with the confusion about the location and being late for class.  I found that during class she was largely a physiokinetic teacher, and it took a long time for her to go around and work a half song with each Leader.  So maybe the Leaders got a lot out of it, but as a Follower, I did not.  I was disappointed and mentally so agitated about the whole experience that I decided to skip the night's milonga (though it was part of my festival pass).  Plus the weather was freezing and my dress was skimpy.  So I decided to head straight back home after the lesson.

Saturday, April 28, 2012
Gustavo Benzecry-Saba and Maria Olivera Workshop on Vals: Challenging sacadas and counter sacadas.
We began the workshop with some walking and pivoting exercises.
For walking, we were to do it on the balls of our feet, with forward intention in our chest and with stretched torso and leg reaches.  To this, we added 180 pivots at various point when Maestro called them out.  Then we  pivoted even more, 360 degrees.  For our pivots, we were to start them in our shoulders/torso/upper body, so that our hips and feet came around pivoting as a consequence of what our upper bodies did.  

Next, we worked on doing the molinete footwork of Forward, Side, Back, Side, Forward to the right and then to the left, again, working on the concept of pivoting.

For the sequence, we did the 8CB to 5 (cross), to a Follower's clockwise molinete with a Leader Sacada of his right foot to the Follower's right foot, and then with his left foot to the Follower's left foot.

The Follower should work on her molinete technique such that her hips do not bother the Leader.  She should not tilt her hips, but keep them level.  Her core should be engaged (Maestra's verbiage was that she should lock her abs, contract her abdominals), she should have even hips, and not wobble. She should always stay around the Leader.  She should not fall on the back step.  She should be on axis and collect before the back step to control her axis.  

Maestros spoke a little about the milonguero idea.  To them, there is no specific embrace (unlike Monica Paz's instruction of the Follower having a parallel left forearm).  It just needs to be a close embrace.  And the quality needs to be there.  It needs to be an "experienced tango dancer embrace.".  Basically, it feels like butter, with no stiffness, and a feeling that the Follower can melt into the Leader's body.  The Leader revolves the Follower and his chest surrounds the Follower.

In class, if you use more floor space, for example when working on exercises where you don't quite get it yet and are thinking about and working the concept, it is still important  to not look at the floor.  If anything, we should always be precise in our footwork.  The Leader should always know where the Follower is.  

For the Leader, he should have his left foot step diagonally forward to create space before leading the Follower to the cross.  The Leader's chest movement creates the illusion of the sacada.  He should also pay attention to the line of dance.

Follower: Do not pick up the trailing left foot and have it go up like a high boleo when the Leader does the right foot sacada.  Do not do this because it's not socially acceptable, nor is it what the Leader has led.

Follower should use the legs, extend them all the way with long reaching steps to create space for the Leader to do sacadas.  

Maestros emphasized the importance of practicing.

Then we changed this, adding to it to make it more complicated with the Leader's left foot touching the Follower's left foot, then doing a series of weight changes to do a right foot sacada of the Follower's trailing right foot and then a left foot sacada of her left foot.  We also worked on the usual molinete timing of the QQ on the Follower back and side steps.

Maestra's tip for the Followers on how not to get dizzy when doing a lot of molinetes: look at the middle of the Leader's chest because that is where his axis is.  If he is shorter, look at your left elbow.

Next, we changed the pattern a little bit, stacking the molinetes from one side to the other and the Leader doing sacadas on both sides with his right foot and left foot.  The concept of which was that the same sacadas can be done with either foot on either direction molinete, clockwise or counterclockwise, 

Follower should try to occupy the space the Leader provides for her.  She should not be shy about taking her steps.

Leader should lead the turn fluidly. 

Maestro had two different colored shoes, blue and purple, so we could determine which was his left and right foot.

Someone, a not very good leader, who noticed I was taking notes by hand with paper and pen, asked me why didn't I just take videos since it was easier.  I just looked at him (perhaps unsuccessfully hiding a look of sheer dull pity) and said absolutely nothing.  And if anyone wants the short form of the answer, it's because Rodolfo Dinzel (who is also one of Gustavo's teachers) told me to.  But next time someone asks I am just going to say it's to be in solidarity with those porteno/portena dance students in Buenos Aires who do not have iphones or cameras with which to take video and actually do spend lots of time writing down their notes from classes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012
Oscar Casas & Ana Miguel workshop on Unorthodox Turns for Vals and Tango 

Working from the cross system, we were to use the possibility of the ocho.
There are lots of triangles in tango:
2 legs of the man, 1 leg of the woman or
2 legs of the woman, 1 leg of the man

Organic movement is where the energy goes in one direction.

Ladies walk forward, using the heel because it’s the nature of walking forward, to any front cross step.  We pass with our knees together.
Stretch the lines.
You can walk on the balls of your feet, but you need to respect the knee flexion.
Collection is from the groin to the feet.

We did a back cross to a front cross: a cadena or alteration.

We also did a shared axis turn from the Follower’s right foot back cross step, with the Leader going clockwise around the Follower. Follower should have her left leg a little behind the right leg.
The Leader’s right foot is about one third of the Follower’s right foot toe tip.
Leader’s compression creates emotional lines by lifting.
Playing with the energy of the Follower right foot back cross step to practice communication and musicality.

There is an up energy to lead the Follower to step over.
There is a down energy to lead the Follower to do a drag.

Follower’s sweep: be strong in the left foot standing leg with the knee bent.  The right foot needs to have no weight and be free to sweep.  Same goes for Leader’s feet/leg: Have a strong left foot and a weightless right foot.

If men touch the Follower’s feet, she needs to maintain contact with his feet.

Followers: collect, pivot, and bend the knee at the same time.

From the right foot front cross, we can change the energy for the Follower to do a counterclockwise molinete of left foot back, right foot side, left foot forward.

Follower should keep her legs close together.

Leader sacadas wrap with a weight change on the Follower’s right foot side step of the counterclockwise molinete.

Thankfully, I had a superb partner for this class.  It was totally random, but our skill levels were well matched.  I had heard of Oscar Casas and saw his videos on YouTube for years but had never taken any classes with him. I tried to when I was in BsAs, but he was always traveling during those times.  I thought he was an excellent teacher in the BsAs style.  So there was lots of showing us stuff, then having us drill it while he and Ana went around providing individual feedback. Ana speaks only Spanish, so Oscar translated her class instruction.  When she went around to provide individual feedback, many students spoke and understood Spanish.

Sunday, April 29, 2012
I had signed up and paid for two other Milonguero workshops (one with Gustavo & Maria, and Susan Miller's Pugliese workshop), but my lunch engagement ran late so I skipped them altogether.  I wasn’t particularly heartbroken about that though.

Roko Milonga with lesson beforehand by Robin  The focus of class was on musicality. We were to try to fill the music with our bodies.  We began by leaving our foot behind until four, with our heel off the floor, but having a little bit of turnout. We should keep our head in alignment on top of our spine.  Your body doesn’t stop moving.  The movement should be continuous.

We danced to a DiSarli song, on the beat, in half time, and in double time, just walking, leaving our leg behind until the last moment, and then moving.  The Follower steps onto a straight leg as the front leg bands as you push off. She should keep her torso with the Leader.

In close embrace, do not fight your partner. Hips are over heels. 

We worked on pauses. Doing back ochos, followed by side steps, and then waiting and waiting (and still moving minutely while you are waiting).

We danced to a slow D’Agostino, doing two back ochos, and then two pauses.  Let some slow beats pass (wait to pause).

Follower should bring foot arch to heel at point of pivot.  The back beat adorno was taught.

Followers were instructed to embellish like crazy to realize how much time you have. 

Leaders: be dynamic: do a side step, wait, wait, move.  Have contrast in your steps:  Q-Q-S-S-1/2-1/2

It was a good class.
I had a nice time at the milonga as well (though writing this weeks later, I don’t remember anything particularly remarkable about the night).

Friday May 11, 2012 to Saturday May 12, 2012
Providence, RI Tango with Homer & Cristina

Friday, May 11, 2012
7:30 - 9:00pm Universal Tango Technique for Both Leaders and Followers - All Levels - Homer Solo

Saturday, May 12, 2012: 
2:00 - 3:30pm Elegant Turn Transition Class (Close to Open Embrace) with Leader and Follower Embellishments (Int/Adv)
3:45 - 5:15pm The General Theory of Blending Leader's and Follower's Sacadas (Very Advanced) 

Specific class notes and videos can be found at

The organizers did a fantastic job, as usual. I had a great time the entire weekend, the best time I’ve ever had in Providence!  Everyone was super nice to me, the food was great, and the dancer quality at the milongas and workshops was superb, with folks coming from far way, just like last time.  It was a very friendly weekend.

Friday May 18, 2012 to Sunday May 20, 2012
Northampton, MA Tango with Homer & Cristina: A Weekend of Innovation and Exploration 

Friday May 18th   Intermediate/Advanced Level
7 – 8pm  /  Class Explore Alternative Music  Part Lecture/Part Dance
8 – 10:30pm 100%  Alternative Practica with DJ Homer

Saturday May 19th   Intermediate/Advanced Level
1 – 2:30pm Workshop 1: Finding your Style “MO” vis Leg Wraps
2:45 – 4:15pm Workshop 2: Putting the “Neo” in your Tango
8 – 9pm  Pre Milonga Class:  Something New, Cool and Simple
9pm -  1am  Milonga w/ performance

Sunday May 20th    Intermediate/Advanced Level
10:30am – 12pm  Workshop 3:  Volcadas and Embellishments
12:15 – 1:45pm   Workshops 4: Easy social Colgadas
7 – 9pm Practica with DJ Homer

Specific class notes will eventually be posted at at  once the videos are up.

Jackie did a fantastic job, as usual.  The focus of these workshops was on Nuevo, as Northampton is a strong bastion of Alt in the US.

The Friday class was fun for me since Who’s Jay? was there, surprisingly.  So it was a fun treat to be able to dance with him to all Alt music.

The workshops were excellent, as usual. I didn’t fully participate in them physically since there were more Followers than Leaders, but that was fine with me though since I attended as a volunteer and could focus on taking the notes.  The Saturday night milonga performance was truly fantastic!  I really enjoy the community as I get the distinct impression that everyone is very intellectual, academically oriented and also very community-building oriented.  It’s a very nice, loving place (which cannot be said for a lot of tango communities). 

Sunday, May 20, 2012
Roko Milonga.  I got there late since the drive from Northampton took longer than expected, and I had a burst of ambition to do the laundry, go grocery shopping, and prepare my food for the following week.

The milonga was not super crowded, apparently because lots of folks spent the afternoon at two outdoors milongas earlier.  It was actually nice though as Roko was full but not obnoxiously so, so there were enough people to have a good time with reasonable floor crafting.  I was very surprised to see Miguelito there.  He told me he had just moved out here, so I am sure I will see him around.

Sunday, May 27, 2012
Roko Milonga.  I was hesitant about going since it was hot and humid and I was tired from running around in Westchester all day, but I got the call to volunteer.  So I drove back home, took a quick shower, and jumped on the train into NYC.  Surprisingly, the AC was working just fine and the milonga wasn't excessively crowded. Since the following day was a holiday, I was able to stay almost until the end, which I have never done. I had a great time, and broke one of the milonga codigos that by golly, I don't think I've ever broken.  I won't say which one it was; I'll leave it to your imagination.  But it didn't go unnoticed, and I got a bit of a whiney dressing down over it.  But thankfully, I was forgiven after a tanda or two.

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