Monday, June 4, 2012

Class Explore Alternative Music Part Lecture/Part Dance (Intermediate/Advanced Level)

Song: Somebody That I Used to Know by Goyte
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
May 18, 2012, Northampton, MA

The class began with Cristina teaching some fundamental techniques regarding moving through space:

We began with removing our shoes.

With our feet hip-width apart, there was about 6-8 inches between our two feet.

We were to look down and consider them as if they looked like the letter H.

We were to distribute the weight evenly between our two feet, backward and forward, and side to side. We were stand up as straight as we can, and envision a line going down from the top of the center of our heads going through the middle of our bodies. We were to push from the waist down, and also push from the ribcage up. This creates more room in our torso. We should keep our knees soft. Then we had flexion in our ankles, moving our weight toward the ball of our feet, and then back up to axis to the sweet spot. We should imagine a hanger pulling our chest up and slightly forward. Then again we go back to axis.

Dancers should not curl their toes. Curling the toes creates a gap in the arch, which is bad for stability, so we should not do it.

It’s important to instead spread our toes, and imagine that our feet have four corners (where the pinky toe is, and where the future or current bunion is, and at the left and right sides of the heel). In standing, we should press the four corners of our feet into the floor and lift up the inside parts of our legs, lifting the inner thighs. Here, we can feel more strength in our arch. In dancing, we should be on all four corners, the front two corners or three corners (two front corners and inside back corner), but not on the two outside corners.

Standing with our weight on the right foot, we put our left foot beside it so that only one foot has weight on it. We were to try to push down on the four corners of our right foot, but lift up in the body, lifting the inner thigh. We should not have any tension in our butt. Here, we are creating length as we ground ourselves.

The concept of the four corners of body was discussed. Here, we reach out with the four corners of our bodies: down into the floor and up into the sky, and out and expansive from our sides, both left and right.

For steps (side, forward and back), we push off with our standing, supporting leg, and reach with our free leg. When we are on our right foot, we push off with our right foot as we reach with our left foot, then stretch to gain 2 more inches, and push with our left as our right leg becomes free and we make the collection.

We did an exercise on pivoting and pressing down into the floor with our standing, supporting leg, and using the four corners of our feet and stretching out in four directions (into the floor, up to the sky, and out to left and right).  We should use the floor, really digging into it to lift ourselves up and out.

For the musicality portion, Piazzolla was our focus, with discussion on his Piazzolla’s music, as well as dancing to it after we were made aware of what we can be listening to during his songs.  Piazzolla started in traditional music, as a bandoneonist in Troilo’s orchestra.

One way of interpreting Piazzolla is by dancing to the suspended, sustained notes in his music, whereby we play up the legato quality in our dance by being long in our steps and going extra slow.  Piazzolla often stretched the melody in his music, so there’s a lot of stretchy movement we can do while dancing to Piazzolla.  We do this by softening our frame.  As we push into the floor, we should float up.

Followers’ defaults:
- Take long, even steps
- Pivot forever if the Leader enables it.

Leader’s option:
Stepping around Follower, using both feet, step around the Follower to lead her to pivot in the direction of her pivot, transfer the weight slowly and soften the embrace. Here the frame really opens up, and the Follower is stretched in four directions (up and down, and out on each side).
Try to enable Follower to make a long step by making a long step yourself, be flexible in the embrace, and don’t block the Follower.

Pivot forever from forward ocho:
The Leader:
-           Extends his ocho leading by stepping around the Follower. 
-           Pivots the Follower on her axis, enabling her to stretch and pivot more.

The Follower:
-       needs to be really secure in her standing leg, otherwise she will put weight on the Leader.
-       Follower needs to engage her whole leg.
-       Keep long, floating torso.
-       Do not sink.
-       Try to stretch herself in 4 directions (up and down, left and right) so there is a sense of spreading out, but digging into the floor.
-       Pivot as much as she can.

Gist of Chapter 1: Take long steps, with the music, and have long stretchy movements.

There’s an underlying milonga rhythm to a lot of Piazzolla’s music, particularly in the songs with “milonga” in their titles (like Milonga del Angel, Milonga Tres, Oblivion, etc.).
Because Piazzolla’s music is typically slow, it is possible to hit every beat during his songs.

Our exercise was to dance as if we were dancing a slow milonga (i.e., we don’t need to stretch or take long steps).

Next, we combined dancing the concepts of Chapter 1 (long, stretchy) with Chapter 2 (Milonga rhythm).

What’s the point of a slow Piazzolla song?
We have both options to dance:
-       Long and stretchy
-       Milonga rhythm

Contrast can be really exciting/interesting.  Lots of music have underlying rhythm that ‘s stretchy and slow.

The rhythm in Libertango and many other fast Piazzolla’s is “3-3-2” in musicians’ terms or “1-4-7” in dancer terms.  It is exactly the same as the milonga rhythm, but is missing 1 accent from the milonga rhythm.

For our first dance exercise, we were to dance fast, but with small steps, speeding things up (frenetic Piazzolla).

Next, we danced to a song using slower milonga rhythm (Chapter 2), and then switch to Chapter 1 (long and slow, stretchy movements) at times where the music dictates.
Next, we switched between Chapter 3 (fast, but with small steps), and Chapter 1 (long, slow, twisty, with a focus on the Leader extended the ocho to enable the Follower’s defaults (make the longest steps possible as long s it fits the music).

We danced to a song using all of the above Chapters (1: long and stretchy, maximally pivoting; 2: milonga rhythm, 3: fast, small steps), so basically we should either stretch our steps or dance fast, with Homer calling out how we should dance to each portion of a song. 

We did this to explore the dramatic concepts between two extremes to push the boundaries of normal tango.

We should also try to incorporate interpreting the vocals in our dance. Sometimes vocals are soft, and other times they can be loud and explosive.

Maestros demo’d the class concepts to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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