Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Milonga Basic Rhythm & Phrasing

Milonga Vieja Milonga by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
August 31, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

In this lesson we had two concepts: (1) Focus on the two strong beats in milonga, and (2) work on sentence structure / phrasing.

We began with a simple pattern: Side step to Leader’s left (Follower’s right), rock step of Leader’s right foot forward (Follower’s left foot back cross), to come up with weight change, side step to Leader’s right (Follower’s left). Within this pattern, we were to work on the subtle use of the height change: with the Leader using height change to signal stepping (down) or weight change (up). For the Follower, her challenge is to be able to sense the subtle height changes and step appropriately. The quality of the height change directly affects the quality of movement.

Next, we did the same simple pattern, only really focusing on the quality of the rock step, as the quality of the rock step affects the quality of the movement. In the rock step, the weight is in between. The Follower’s upper thighs are closed, as are the Leader’s. The dancers should try to maintain contact in the outside thighs of the Follower’s right thigh to Leader’s right thigh. Also, in the rock step it is important for the dancers to keep the relation to each other in their chest, with contra rotation, which helps their thighs stay together.

In the rock step, the Leader can turn to his left, or turn to his right, or do a crab walk to the left, or a crab walk to his right. The Follower copies the Leader’s legs, so keep the weight in the middle.

Next, we played with the musical phrasing by having the Leader walk forward around the Follower clockwise, either after the rock step or directly following the pattern. While the Leader walks forward around the Follower, she walks backward, with her outside leg doing back cross steps as for ochos.

To improve our musical phrasing, we danced much of the night to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga, our goal of which was to hear the phrasing in the song and put our movement in it. Historically, milonga used to be danced on the strong beats: the 1 and the 2. To this song we were to dance, and pause on the really up, or the really down, but not in the middle with split weight. We drilled the dancing and pausing several times to this same song.

Then we changed the song to D’Arienzo’s Silueta Portena, and our goal was to identify which was the 1 beat and which was the 2 beat in milonga. First, we did an exercise where we just stepped on the 1 with our left foot (and on 2 with our right foot), and then switched it to step on the 1 with our right foot (and on 2 with our left foot). The 1 beat is the ultimate home base, ground zero. Rhythmically, the 2 is where you’d do traspie (assuming no melody in the milonga). To this song, we continued to dance, trying to work on the phrasing, breaks, and pauses.

Homework assignment: When not dancing (such as when we are in the car or in the kitchen washing dishes), play milongas, lots of them, and just try to figure out where the 1 is and where the 2 is. In milonga, we often don’t think about phrasing.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D’Arienzo’s Milonga Vieja Milonga.

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

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