Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Close Embrace Surprises

Song: Nada Mas by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
Saturday, February 20, 2010, Stanford University

Video courtesy of Chris Novak

Surprises are little jokes, little surprises, to make things fun. They are easy, and the number is endless. For this class, our music was D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas. Nada Mas is a song with lots of rhythmic accents, and every strong beat can be a moment of surprise.

We began with a connection exercise to help improve our close embrace. We were to dance one song, chest to chest with no arms, with no turns, just walking, weight changes, or side steps. For this class, we were to try not to touch heads in our close embrace.

The Leader always has forward intention in his chest, even when he collects. Otherwise, there will be bubble/hiccups in the embrace as he goes back or centered in his intention.

For our dancer connection, the tilt is from the ankles, we should flex forward from the ankles.

Next, we played our games:

Game 1: The D’Arienzo Surprise
To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in any/all directions, always stepping on the strong beat to accent it in our walk, with energy going into the floor. Every once in a while, we were to surprise someone by touching appropriately them with both our hands at two points on their body (arms, shoulders, hips), always staying on the strong beat.

The purpose of this first game was to get us used to the element of surprise as a musical tool, coordinating our dancing with the music. Every strong beat is a potential surprise. The Follower needs to feel safe and comfortable before she is surprised.

Surprise 1: Freezing
We were to dance, doing just walks, and then freezing for a moment. The Follower should always feel safe. To freeze, the Leader’s embrace changes, with compression energy to firm/tighten up/jolt/get more rigid, as his steps get down energy into the floor. After a moment of freezing, he then keeps going by releasing the embrace into the normal, non-compressed close embrace.

The Leader should wait for an appropriate strong beat, freeze for a moment, and the ease back out of it to normal dancing.

The Follower needs to respond to the change of energy.

To work on this concept, we danced one song, walking with the stop/freeze.

Surprise 1, Level 2:
Take any pattern you do, and interrupt it with a surprise freeze. This could be a on the side step, an outside step, on the rock step, or for the more advanced, in the middle of the boleo so that the Follower’s boleoing leg is suspended with foot pointing up in the air.

Surprise 2: Leader’s Sneaky Sandwich
Leader tries to trap Follower’s foot in a quick sandwich without stepping on her foot. It is easier to trap the Follower’s right foot, by the Leader approaching with his right foot first, and then completing the quick sandwich with his left foot. For this, the Leader needs to be snappy to catch the surprise to stop the Follower in the middle of her weight so that she doesn’t collect. The Leader’s heels stay together in the sandwich so that he doesn’t go too deep. The Leader should keep his thighs together and try not to change height, and to accent the rhythm/melody of the music.

Surprise 2, Level 1A: Sneaky Sandwich of the Thigh
Here, it is important to be appropriate, otherwise this surprise could be taken the wrong way. It should be comfortable and not at all inappropriate, but the move is somewhat “PG” rated. It is a gentle squeeze, with contact in the thighs, not the feet. It’s a very quick move and should not linger. It is a “hello and go” movement. Don’t sandwich too long, otherwise it’s not “PG” anymore.

Surprise 2, Level 2: Add Leader’s Pitter Patter before the Sandwich.
The Leader’s pitter patter are small, short quick baby steps. Though the Leader does his Pitter-Patter, he must also still keep leading the Follower to walk back normally, stepping on the strong beat. He should not change the height; there should be nothing going on in the Leader’s chest that encourages the Follower to do anything but walk back normally. The Leader starts the Pitter-Patter when the Follower’s right foot goes back, and when there is good synchronicity of movement.

Key takeaways:
If you can do these surprises and make the Follower feel comfortable, that is a good place.

Surprise 3: Wiggles
These are very subtle shoulder or hip twitches, which are hard to see or even teach. They are movements through your body to play with and match the music. The Follower can respond to the Leader’s wiggle, or she can initiate her own wiggles. These wiggles change the quality of Follower, adding a little bit to it. It’s a micromovement to be used with discretion, a burst, as a special thing, and not done all the time. Have a little something in your body.

We danced one song trying to do these wiggles, doing it with:

(1) He does them (for the first 30 seconds of a song)

(2) She does them (for the second 30 seconds of a song)

(3) They both do them at the same time together (for the third 30 seconds of the song)

Surprise 4: Soccer sweep
The final surprise, which maestros showed but which the students did not do during class time, was the Leader’s rock step, to lead Follower to do forward cross step with her right foot, and then he catches it and pushes it back. The Leader does this by doing a rock step with his left foot, and then a weighted right foot back cross step to allow Follower to come through with a forward right cross step, so that his left foot is free to catch her right foot as it steps forward. The Leader puts his left foot in front of her right foot, much like the footwork as if he were playing soccer. He can drag her foot back, put weight on it, and then keep going.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas.

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

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