Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exploration of Height Change

Song: Como dos Estranos by Francisco Canaro (vocals by Ernesto Fama)
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 30, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Height change is the up and down movement of dancers. Are height changes deliberate or do we do them unaware as a result of bad habits? Every movement we make in tango can have an element of height or height change. If our height change is deliberate, is it styled? Does it come from communication? Is it an expression of the music? Everything we do has an impact on our partner.

We began with an exercise attempting to use height change to communicate. We did this by doing a touch step or multiple touch steps, first to the left and right sides, then forward and back. The lead is more of the energy of the Leader pushing into the ground and not transferring weight. The Leader's axis remains where it is; his center does not move. The Follower should be prepared to go down, and to do this she must have flexion in the knee of her standing supporting leg and just reach with the other leg, but not change weight. This is especially important/apparent on the Follower's forward step. The dancers' centers don't move; they stay back, but flexion in the knees give the dancers range (especially the Follower). We then tried the touch step exercise with our eyes closed.

The question came up of whether or not we knocked knees when we did this, especially on the forward and back touch steps. Many people did. To remedy this, the Leader can use our upper bodies to create space on the bottom where the legs are by going outside or inside (using a little bit of contrabody movement) because someone has to move to get out of the way.

Next subject: weight changing. Here, we were to either change our weight in place, or make a side step. We were to really work on our posture, thinking about how up we could be, and still have our feet on the ground, and keeping the backs of our neck long and letting our head float (like in Alexander Technique). If you are over your center, you will be very grounded and balanced.

Next, we did a series of side steps, as many as three, four or five, then come back up to center and do a few weight changes in place. Here, the Leader was to have flexion in his knees going down before he actually goes. There is a "U" energy when doing the side step, and when there is a series of linked side steps, the energy becomes more like a series of "O"s.

Next, we worked on forward and back steps with weight changes. Here, we stepped forward and back with the same foot with a weight change (or several weight changes) in between. This was to let us practice the concept of rising up to change weight, and to have down compression in our leg to help us move.

Next, we used height change to communicate. The Follower can help the Leader to go up, giving him a lifting energy with slight push to increase the chest connection. The Follower's supporting standing leg can create a nicer quality of the side step by staying longer on the supporting, standing leg, but pushing off and lifting and transferring the weight slowly, delayed, staying as long as she can on her supporting, standing leg so that she massages the step. Here, there is a very apparent oppositional pull of up and down in the posture, really pulling horizontally to create density of movement (like molasses). Follower should really reach when doing the side step, and to get maximum range of motion, her supporting, standing leg must have flexion in the knee. The goal was for the Follower to be really up, maximally stretching from sternum to pelvis/hip.

Next, we worked on the concept of keeping the weight transfer in the middle. Here, the Leaders used a little bit of down energy and settling. When the Leader plays with the weight in the middle, both Leader and Follower's legs are open/separate.

From this idea of the weight in the middle, the Leader stops the Follower when she is in the middle of her weight (she is at the point of split weight), he then walks around her axis. As Leader walks around Follower, she pivots around on both feet without changing weight; her body eventually unwinds as a consequence of maintaining connection and remaining in front of the Leader. The Leader uses a bit of down energy, and as he walks around and she unwinds/spirals out, both dancers' heights go up. We tried this first on the Follower's back step and Leader walking around her clockwise. This can be done on the other side as well.

From this split weight walk around, we can conclude this to unwind directly into a volcada. Here, the Leader drops the Follower in her energy to lead the volcada. For Follower's technique, it is very important to really stretch from sternum to pelvis/hip, and to maintain this stretch/reach and core engagement at all times, especially when it transitions into the volcada.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Canaro's Como Dos Extranos with Ernesto Fama on vocals.

Notes courtesy of Anne at http://scoutingtour.blogspot.com

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