Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Phrasing to the Transitions & Fills

Song: No Se Porque Razon by Enrique Rodriguez
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
February 21, 2011, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Our class consisted of many games and exercises.

Game: Vals Chacarera.

We got into Chacarera formation of Leaders all in one line facing Followers all in one line, making eye contact with the person across from you, and keeping hands in the air, and turning our torso a little diagonally since the room was quite crowded. Then we took four steps forward and four steps back, 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. We were to play in between the sentences of the song, doing pitter-patter or some fancy or playful footwork or bodywork. Our goal was to get back to our original spot at the end of the sentence.

During this game, maestro played a very regular vals, A Magaldi by Alfredo de Angelis, which has some very nice fills and some run-ons in the song.

Next, we tried to dance in partnership, dancing to the fill. Our constraints were that we were to just walk to the end of a sentence, to get ready to dance to the fill. During the fills we were to do playful things like taps, pitter-patters, or shimmies. Our song was still A Magaldi by Alfredo de Angelis. We were to be as creative or as simple as we want to be during the fill. We were to give ourselves room to play.

“Fills” are often transitions between sentences, but they can also be Run-Ons. We should pay attention to the lyrics because they can help us with timing and anticipating when the fills will come. The lyrics don’t come into a song until the entire song does its thing. Vocals are in poetry form, so it gives you an idea of how the sentences will come. The lyrics/song poetry falls directly on top of the sentence/musical structure of this particular vals, as is the case with many valses. Maestro 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.

Exercise: Follower Musically Educating the Leader

Our next exercise focused on the Follower educating the Leader about what she hears musically. The Leader pretends that he doesn't hear anything (including the beat). We were to only walk. We were not to do any weight changes, rock steps, turns, ochos, double time steps, or traspie. The Follower needs to actively hear the music, as she tries to gently educate the Leader in a subtle way, conveying what she hears in the music. The Follower is not to back lead or take the lead away, but to use subtle things to suggest to the Leader what she hears. This is so that the Follower can empower herself and be in tune with the music. This is an exercise for the process of Leader education. The Follower can use other parts besides her legs to express the fills in the music: She can do these subtle things:
hand signal (slight squeezes)
move hips
move shoulders
soft taps with hand

She should keep her subtle suggestions and signals in her upper body, and not use her legs and feet. Otherwise, she will be back leading. Without back leading, the Follower can add accents to the music.

The secret agenda of this exercise is to empower the Follower. The Follower adds a lot to the Leader’s education if she is in tune with the music. When we really know the music, we will know it, we will own it and it will come easier.

What is the difference between this and back leading? Do the little things with other parts of the body so that they are under the radar. Follower can initiate something independent of the lead to enhance the dance. Be active in creating the dance with the Leader.

To develop our musical awareness, we did four different exercises.


To Canaro’s Poema, we just listened to the song without dancing or doing anything (although at home we could do something mindless like wash dishes so that we can focus on the music). In listening, we were to sharpen our hearing and try to find and recognize the fills.


Here, we played a game. In partnership, with Leader and Follower face to face, fingertip to fingertip in mirror image to each other, our fingers and hands “danced” to Canaro’s Poema, with the Leader leading first, and then the Follower given the ability to impose herself if she chooses. This was a give-and-take exercise, with our hands and fingers mirroring and talking to each other. This exercise is to help the Leader to listen to the Follower better, and for the Follower to be more vocal in her body movement about what she hears.


To Canaro’s Poema, we danced simply, giving ourselves a set of constraints, which were to just walk during the song, but to catch the fills, during which we could do pitter patter or taps, but nothing much fancier than that.


At this level we danced with no constraints, being able to do anything, but still dancing to the music and to try to interpret the fills.

Note that fills can be at the middle or the end of a phrase. Maestro asked if we wanted the same song or a different song. The class wanted a different song, so we danced to Rodriguez’s No Se Porque Razon.

In sum, our 4 Levels of Awareness are:

1. Listen to the song and do as little as possible other than listen.

2. Play with a partner to develop listening interaction skills without physically dancing.

3. Dance with a partner with constraints to try to interpret the music. Use simple movements.

4. Dance with no constraints, but dance to the music and try to interpret the fills.

Maestra shared her experience as a learning Leader. She said she is currently stuck at Level 3. She said she tries to interpret the fills, but by the time the fills arrive, she is late in her lead to them and has missed them. For her to get to the next level, she is trying to simplify everything else, but save the “special” movements for the fill. The “special” movements are simple ones like rock steps or weight changes.

After a short question and answer class summary, Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Rodriguez’s No Se Porque Razon.

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

No comments: