Sunday, November 25, 2012

October 1-26

Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Evan Griffiths lesson at Dance Manhattan.
We continued our work in playing with long steps and short steps. We began with a simple sequence with a small step on our side step, followed by Leader’s right foot back step, Follower’s left foot forward step.  Follower should be precise in her footwork and have structure in her body (engage her core).  To this small step, we added a big side step, 2 big back steps to pivot on the close side to a counterclockwise molinete.  Then we added the Follower’s right foot back cross tuck to the Follower’s left foot rounded check step, out to the walk.

Jesse Roach and Xavier Vanier lesson at Dance Manhattan.
We continued our work on with boleos with unusual setups. Happily, Cristobal decided to drop, and his superb leading was appreciated by many Followers in this class. We began with a review of the front with boleos from last week.  Next, we worked on back boleos, again with a focus of unusual setups, such as from the Follower’s front cross.

Xangria Practica at Dance Manhattan. Since Cristobal stayed around for the practica, I had a truly excellent time!  We got to work on our homework from that night and from lessons long past.

Sunday, October 7, 2012
Roko Milonga at Manhattan Ballroom Dance.
There was no lesson. I didn’t dance a huge amount at the milonga, but that was totally fine with me. I did dance some, but was happy to just sit and watch until it was time to go.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Evan Griffiths lesson at Dance Manhattan.
We continued our work in doing big things and little things to add interesting texture to our dance, such as playing with long steps and short steps. We began with a simple sequence of a left turn from parallel system to a Follower’s counterclockwise molinete. Then we did another small sequence where the Leader makes a right foot forward step, left foot fake collect (no weight change, but left leg draws into standing, weighted right leg, to left foot side step on the Follower’s left foot front cross (forward ocho) step, to a series of forward ochos. From here, we added rebotes (what Evan called “bounces”).  The Leader leads these with his left hand being like a wall.  The Follower needs to bounce off the Leader’s left shoulder to the close side with her left hand.  We drilled this, alternating with regular forward ochos with the bounces (rebotes).  The Follower’s hips need to have momentum in them. It’s all up to her.  Next, we changed the sequence up so that we could set things up where we did the rebotes (bounces) on the close side of the embrace.  Then we played/drilled this with big things and small (tiny) things, where each step might only be 2-3 inches.  The Followers were to focus on their technique and balance.  It was a good class, as usual.  Evan asked if anyone took a look at the Noelia y Carlitos Con Todo Mi Corazon YouTube video, and I said “Yes!”.  :o)   At one point during the class, Evan peeked over at my notebook, which I had set down. This made me blush a little as no teacher was ever curious enough to actually see what my raw notes look like, and because my verbiage isn’t want he used in class (he used “bounce” and I wrote “rebote”).

Jesse Roach and Xavier Vanier lesson at Dance Manhattan.
We continued our work on with boleos with unusual setup steps.  We began by dancing to one song doing as many of the boleos that we learned in the last two weeks that we could remember.  Then we worked on the Follower’s back boleo from the Leader’s right foot sacada of the Follower’s right foot to a right foot back boleo. Xavier introduced a prop to help the Follower’s with their boleo technique – that is, a piece of paper on the floor.  So we would strike the floor and flick the piece of paper up, attempting to get good contact and momentum to send it up to high altitude. Regarding the Leader’s technique in terms of how he leads the boleo, he needs to send a lot of energy to her belly and her standing left leg.  The Leader should not start or stop suddenly, but be sharp and clean with his acceleration and deceleration.  Next, we did a different step where the Leader does a sacada and then walks around the Follower as she becomes the center of the circle, with her legs together and the other foot/ leg wraps around her standing supporting leg, ready to do a forward boleo.

Xangria Practica at Dance Manhattan.
I didn’t stay for the practica, as I got there, looked around, saw that there was no one in particular that I had a burning desire to dance with, so I left. It was just one of those kinds of nights.

Saturday October 13, 2012
Mariela’s Practica @ Dance Manhattan. What can I say? I had another great time, which is why I keep coming back. Maestra is back and taught and nice little step, that was challenging, as usual.

Sunday, October 14, 2012
Roko Milonga with lesson beforehand by Robin Thomas and Amanda Archuleta.  We worked on our close embrace dancing, which I personally found to be barely tolerable and sometimes agonizing.  But maybe others found it pleasant. The sequence was a simple one, more to just work the concept, and included walking to the cross and not walking to the cross, into some no-pivot ochos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Evan Griffith’s lesson @ Dance Manhattan. We continued our work on the quality of movement, with a focus on having liquid movement and frozen movement.  For liquid movement, we move in slow motion, with saves in the body to get to the next step.  The idea is to have flow.  In frozen movement, we go from melting to instantly frozen. For our class we would pay with these two contrasting ideas.  Individually, we did an arm/disassociation exercise taking forward steps, back steps, and side steps with our arms out like an airplane and moving in an unrelated way to our steps.  Next, in partnership, we did an exercise where we picked up our feet when we did front and back steps.  The goal here was to be slow and controlled and to really pick up the feet during the steps.  We were also to be slow in our collection and have smoothness all throughout the steps.  The idea was to control the free leg in the air in slow motion. In our dance, we can transition into this type of movement.  We drilled this concept to a song, going in and out of regular and slow motion.  Next, we worked on freezing.  When we freeze, we are at split weight.  Working in solo, we tried to freeze at various steps: side, back cross forward, forward, forward; back, back, back; front cross, side; left and right, etc.  We try to alternate freezing and slow motion, going in and out of them to add interest/excitement in our dance.   Next, we focused on the idea of picking up our feet, and we drilled this to Di Sarli’s Germaine.  Then we were given a simple sequence to drill this idea to Germaine: Leader right foot sacada of Follower’s right foot on her left foot back cross step of the counterclockwise molinete, to the Follower’s right foot front boleo freeze, to rotate out to Leader’s right foot parade of the Follower’s left foot, to sandwich it, pivot and parade on the open side, to do a Follower’s right foot pasada to the close side of the embrace.  It was an excellent final class to an excellent series.

Jesse Roach & Xavier Vanier’s lesson @ Dance Manhattan. We continued our work with boleos, by starting with a review of the front with boleos.  Some reminder pointers: Leader should go toward Follower’s center, her standing leg.  The Follower should let her right arm give a little to absorb the energy and send it down to her feet and into the floor to help her pivot.  We were given three songs to find a new entrance to the Follower’s left foot with boleos while she is on her right foot.  Then we shared the different ways we discovered.  Then we were given a few songs to find different exits from this with boleo beside the normal logical left foot back cross step.  Then we shared what we learned (gancho, calesita, boleo) and maestros demonstrated several other different options (colgada, volcada). It was an excellent exploratory class that really stretched us intellectually and really helped us to understand the mechanics of the with boleo, and also helped us to work on the improvisational aspects and seeing and working to find all the different possibilities of how to get into these with boleos and how to get out of them. Much better than a sequence class.  It was a challenging, fun final class to a truly fantastic series. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012
Mariela’s Practica @ Dance Manhattan. What can I say? I had another great time, which is why I keep coming back. Maestra taught and nice little step, that was challenging, as usual.

Sunday, October 21, 2012
Xavier Vanier and Jesse Roach workshop: Dynamics & Contrasts.

The focus of the first part of our class focused on groundedness.

We began with foot exercises to strengthen our feet and ankles because those are the foundations on which we dance.  Buildings are not built from the top down.  They are built from the bottom up.  When we dance tango, our dance is built from the bottom up, our feet and ankles.  We need to have strength in our feet and ankles so that we can have good balance and pivot.  If practicing just five minutes a day for 500 days to strengthen our feet and ankles it is worth more than taking 500 lessons.

We began with slow walking, really rolling through our entire feet, pushing off with our back foot and going from heel to entire foot to toe on our front foot.  Notice that most time we are on both feet, and it is only for a short time that we are on one foot.  

Next we did side steps, being fully on one side of our bodies, like a column going from the bottom of one foot up one side of our body, then bending our knee to go down, reaching to the side with our free leg, then transferring the weight over to the other leg while keeping our body and rib cage at the same height, and then being fully on the other leg, arriving on a bent leg and then stretching it up to a straight leg, with our bodies going up to the starting level.

Next we did some exercises while standing going up to the balls of our feet.  Maestros explained that the ball of the feet is not just the inside big toe joint of the foot, but the entire section underneath all the toe joints.  The weight needs to be distributed across this entire section of the foot for stability and strength, not just on the big toe joint as that would be too much pressure on that area.  Maestra pointed out that there were times when we did emphasis that big toe joint, but it’s just when we are arriving to that foot. But that when we are completely on it, it is across the entire ball of the foot.

To understand this concept easier, we bent forward all the way, with our legs bent, and our bodies parallel to the floor, and then we moved upright from the hips to standingish position (like a cantilever), but we are able to have one leg completely free. This was to feel the correct posture and orientation of where our bodies need to be, slightly forward in the chest in relation to the hips, so that we can be balanced on one foot, but still solidly on the other foot with the weight distributed across the entire ball of foot.  When we come up, we should be on balance, and our free leg should be completely free, and we can test this by reaching it up forwardly.

Next, we did a connection exercise where, in partnership without touching, the Followers were to follower the Leader’s chest, wherever it was going, and however it was moving, not necessarily in a tango way, but every which way, and including our legs if he took a step.  This was identical to some aspects of how the Dinzels teach connection.  :o) We did this to a slow song, and not necessary using tango movements, but any movement in general no matter how bizarre, as long as it was clear in our chest. 

Next, we did this exercise using tango movement.  And then we did this exercise in partnership dancing, but not using our arms in any type of embrace.

The purpose of this exercise was to improve our connection.

Then we had a short 5-10 minute break, and Maestros thoughtfully providing Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (YUM!!) and Dark Chocolate Espresso Beans (not my cup of tea).

After our break, we began with walking backward, again focusing on the concept of rolling through our feet as we arrived to our weighted foot, and as we left our weighted foot, leaving our heels on the ground as we rolled through to transfer the weight to our arriving foot, and arriving on our toe, and then full foot, and then heel while leaving from the toe, then full foot, then heel.  It was tricky, as many people do not leave their foot that way with the foot still connected to the floor.

Next, our lesson focused on lightness.

In partnership, we did an exercise where one person lifted the other person’s ribs from the base, while the other person kept their hips weighted, so that they would feel a stretch in between the space between the bottom of their ribs and the tops of their hips.

Afterwards, we discussed what we felt, and what muscles we needed to develop to help us attain this feeling all the time in our dance. Those muscles weren’t our frontal core muscles but the ones that run diagonally across our sides.  We were also not to have our ribs open up, but to have our ribs up but closed.

As an exercise, we danced holding each other up by the bottom of our ribs.  It gave the feeling to the Follower of having very easy pivots in her hips since there was so much freeness and she was not sinking into her hips.

Next, we worked on contrast.

As an exercise, we were to dance using only walking and side steps.  Maestro called out various points in the song where we were to change the contrast of how we danced.  Since there was no instruction to this, many dancers just kept dancing to the same beat even though it changed (this was a pre-intermediate class and up, with most dancers pre-intermediate).

Next, we added the turn when Maestro called out “Change”.

Then we worked on musical phrasing, as it would help the Leaders to work on choosing when to start.  When we choose, we choose to do something different.  This was to help us in our dance to make everything we do in tango important.

To help us understand this concept, we were to dance to a tango song, doing just walking, but skipping the 8, still having our legs move through the 8, but taking two beats to do on step from the 7 to the 1.  Our goal was to purposefully slow down that step.  This was to help us understand the contrasts in the energy, going from steady pace to a pause, but being smooth and moving through the two beats to do the one step. 

To further explore having contrast in the energy of the movement, we worked on creating tension and then releasing it.  We did this through a simple side step (taking many beats instead of one beat), into a counterclockwise Follower molinete of left foot back cross step, right foot side step, left foot front cross tight tuck step (not a left foot forward step). 

Next we worked on dancing to the variation. We did not try to dance to every beat of the variation, but instead we were to dance super slow during it, with stepping only on the strong beat (with sometimes many beats going by in between). We drilled this to the song Abondono.

It was an excellent lesson, and a bargain too at only $35 (because I was too flaky to sign up and pay in advance for $30) for a 3-hour lesson that worked deeply on technique and much drilling and individual guidance.

Dinner was at Blaggards, because I find their bartenders fun and charming in their innocence at not knowing how to make a Manhattan (despite being in Manhattan), and because their beef salad is truly sublime and they always make it to my specification (and I am particular as to how I want this made).  Plus I get triple miles whenever I eat/drink here.  :o) And they have free-ish wifi (if you know the password).

Dinner was delicious as usual, and I tried not to look like too much of a West Coast dork with burning the keyboard on my laptop, although I must say that I (sadly) enjoy having it with me when I have hours in between events.  And since I am not watching YouTube vids in the meantime, I found I can travel easily without the battery), which is a huge consideration when you are schlepping a couple of pairs of tango shoes, a paper notebook, a water bottle, an emergency toiletry/makeup kit, a couple of cell phones, etc.  (Thank God it was not a juice day otherwise I’d add a cooler, a block of blue ice, and 12-14 lbs of juice to that list.).

Then onto Roko…

Roko Milonga with lesson beforehand by Robin Thomas and Maria Elena Ybarra.  While the topic would continue from last week on close embrace dancing, which I personally found to be agonizing, we began doing some technique exercises on doing forward ochos, and then we split up and the Follower’s worked on their backward ocho technique (I did not pay attention to what the Leader’s worked on at that time).  For our back ocho technique, we were to start spiraling from the top down.  But maybe others found it great.  The sequence was a simple one, more to just work the concept, and included walking to the cross and not walking to the cross, into some pivoted ochos.

Friday, October 26, 2012
Flight to Buenos Aires. I am getting better with my travel planning, such as buying the bus ticket from Grand Central to JFK on line to save a few dollars and to get triple miles.