Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vals Turns and Phrasing

Song: El Dia Que Te Fuiste by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 30, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Working in open and close embrace, the goal of this class was to make the molinete turn more dynamic, including working on the weak side (Leader’s right). The underlying theme of the class was for the dancers, but especially the Follower, to be really active in hearing the music and making a good effort of knowing the vals rhythm and cadence.

We began with an exercise of just walking by ourselves to the vals rhythm with two options:

(1) only on the boom (the strong beat, the 1)

(2) on the boom - chick - boom (the strong beat and a weak beat, in this case the 1-2-1), with the “chick” step a real step (not just a collection).

We built on this exercise, by then doing the grapevine pattern stepping only on the boom (stepping each step of forward, side, back, side, forward, on the strong beat, the 1, the boom), and then doing the grapevine pattern in the boom - chick - boom (1-2-1) rhythm. We first did this grapevine pattern to a slow vals, and then challenged ourselves more with a faster vals.

When the Follower feels the Leader accelerate the turn, he is probably looking for the rhythm. Since it’s integral, it’s important for the Follower to have control.


Next, maestro introduced the Leader’s footwork of the Paddle and Kickstand. This is a Leader footwork technique during the Follower molinete turn. This Leader technique accomplishes two things:

(1) It maintains the Leader’s axis either tilted forward in the close embrace, or more vertically straight up and down in the open embrace. Note that in the close embrace, there is less room for the Follower’s hips to pivot, and that in the open embrace, there is more room for the Follower’s hips to pivot.

(2) It gives the Leader extra power for the turn to get around on the boom-chick-boom (1-2-1) syncopation.

Our goal is to fit the molinete turn to the music.

In the Paddle and the Kickstand footwork, the Leader lifts his heel off the ground and kicks his heel around to turn. The kickstand foot is where the Leader pivots on the ball of his foot with his supporting, standing leg. The Leader’s paddling foot should be in line or slightly behind his hips as he paddles around. We first began with the left foot as the kickstand, and the right foot as the paddle.

The Leader’s right foot or left foot can be the supporting, standing, kickstand leg, while the left foot or right foot can be the paddling leg, depending on the direction of the molinete turn, clockwise or counterclockwise.

We drilled to many different valses, first slow ones, and then faster ones, with Leader’s Paddle footwork with Follower molinete turn, both clockwise and counterclockwise, using the boom-chick-boom (1-2-1) rhythm.

The boom can be difficult to lead after the chick syncopation because you have to slow your partner down.

Follower should lock herself to the music to know where the boom - chick - chick syncopation is, and to pay attention to the music and the lead. The more the Follower’s body locks into the music, the more she will be with the vals cadence.

Leading the boom - chick - boom (1-2-1) rhythm is easiest on the back step of the molinete turn, and in the Leader’s paddle footwork, he is doing exactly what he is asking the Follower to do.

We also played with doing the boom - chick - boom (1-2-1) at different points of the Follower footwork, such as the side, forward, side, and in open and close embrace, clockwise and counterclockwise.

Follower should not fall on the boom (generally the side step), but be controlled, and not transfer the weight too fast, otherwise she will arrive too early. She needs to really lock her body onto the music for better control.

It was noted that in the close embrace, it is more difficult to get the Follower to go all slow (boom) steps. In the open embrace, it is easier for the Follower to go all slow, though slightly more difficult to lead the boom - chick - boom (1-2-1) syncopation. In the close embrace, the Follower’s back steps can be very short and quick, rather than with substantial hip pivot and drag around.


Next, we worked on vals musical phrasing in the context of doing turns. Our goal was that within a musical phrase, we were to be consistent, fall into a groove, and when it feels like it’s time to turn, to connect the turn to the music.

First we backed up with a little game of Vals - Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of Leaders all in one line facing Followers all in one line, we took four steps forward and four steps back similar, similar to the Avanzado and Regreso initial steps of the Chacarera. The 4 forward steps were done in 4 beats, and the 4 back steps were done in 4 beats. During this game, maestro played a very regular vals so we could clearly hear the musical phrasing and sentence. He noted that the lyrics/song poetry falls directly on top of the sentence/musical structure of this particular vals, as is the case with many valses. Mastro demo’d this concept by dancing by himself, walking forward and back with the musical phrasing, showing that we could hear the sighs, and take a pause to start the next phrase (like a comma). At the comma or the end of a sentence (phrase) is where the Leader should start the turn in the other direction.

Next, we attempted to dance with trying to change the direction of the molinete turn at the macro phrasing points. It was noted that it often took two turns [(1) forward, side, back, side, (2) forward, side, back, side] in the same direction before the appropriate phrasing point arrived, and that most times in our dance we do not even do one complete molinete (we usually do half or three quarters of a molinete turn). The Paddle keeps the Leader in one place, so it’s a good technique.

In the open embrace, the Follower whips her hips around on the chick, really pivoting a lot to get them around quickly. She should use the embrace of the Leader to get herself around and add whip / energy in her hips.

It was noted that there was asymmetry of the close embrace turn where the Follower’s back step is almost just a snappy short back cross with no pivot in the hips in order to maintain the integrity of the embrace. This is quite different from the open embrace turn with a lot of Follower hip pivot for an overturned full back cross step.

Maestros demo’d to Canaro’s El Dia Que Te Fuiste.

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

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