Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dancing to Astor Piazzolla

Songs: Oblivion, Milonga Tres, and Libertango by Astor Piazzolla
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
SOMArts, San Francisco
July 11, 2018

In our class, we would explore playing with really slow or really fast movement, creating contrast by using deceleration and acceleration in the context of dancing to Astor Piazzolla.

Astor Piazzolla had a love/hate relationship with tango dancers.  Piazzolla took the emotion / sentiment of tango and made it his own.

He started out in Anibal Troilo's orchestra (whose birthday is today), and who did the song Nueve De Julio (9th of July), which in 2003 was the first Cellspace (and today is the 15th year anniversary of the event).

In our class, we would interpret the music of Piazzolla in three ways.

(1) Slow
Dance very slowly, drilling using simple movements such as walking, side steps and ochos.  No sacadas or boleos.  

We were to focus on how to control things in our body to affect the movement.  What does it mean for us to dance slow?

We tried dancing slow to Oblivion, which is likely the most played Piazzolla song for tango dancers.

How did it feel dancing slow?  It was challenging.

Next, we focused on stretching the steps and doing ochos. 

What does it mean to stretch? Not just our legs and how we create a slow extension and collection.  It's how we use our whole body to create a more taffy-like embrace.  The embrace should be a little softer, more relaxed, but still connected with our partner.  Breathe into the floor.

To experience the feeling of caramel, we were to stand with our feet apart, and then shift weight slowly from one side to the other.  This is the caramel.  It is a wavy, slow, lateral movement. 

We did the same exercise with our feet forward and back to get the same quality, and also tried with the other side, opposite feet forward and back.

Next, we tried swiveling on both feet.

Then we did this in partnership where the Leader stops the Follower midstep, Follower pivots while she is on both feet, one side to the other.  The Follower's upper body goes first, then her hips follow, to do an ocho.  Leader walks around Follower's center where her spine is (between her two feet).  We were to try to be slow, articulating the space between the feet. 

We were to explore/think about what is involved in the gradual transfer of weight; how to make the collection very deliberate and with intention; create details to stretch the movement.  When to slow or stretch the movement.

In the context of the Ocho, we usually drill ochos using the sugarbowl embrace. However, for this exercise, we were to be in regular embrace and do a very exaggerated spinal rotation and active arms in the Leader to lead the Follower to do a big, slow ocho.  The Leader can do an extra step around the Follower to get a little extra pivot in the Follower during her ocho.  Leader and Follower turn their bodies, stretching their backs to rotate more.

(2) Milonga Rhythm
The song for the 2nd way we would dance to Piazzolla was Milonga Del Angel, which is likely the second most popular Piazzolla song in tango.

Milonga rhythm as a musical concept is super effective.  Most of the really slow Piazzola songs have milonga rhythm, as do all of the Piazzola songs with "Milonga" in their titles.

We raised the bass of the 2 tango songs: Oblivion and Milonga Del Angel, so that we could train our ears to hear the milonga rhythm (which was rather faint, but clearly present in both songs).
The idea of our drills is to either
(1) Dance really slowly, stretching the movements using simple steps, or
(2) Dance to the milonga rhythm (also using simple steps).

We were to have control in our musical expression, and be very clear.

The song we drilled to was Milonga Tres.

You can hear all these songs on YouTube.

(3) Dancing Faster (3-3-2 Rhythm)
Piazzolla used as a tool in his faster songs the 3-3-2 rhythm, which is very similar to the milonga rhythm, minus 1 accent.

So it is 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, where in our drill we would just step on the 1.

Libertango has this rhythm, and it was the song we drilled to.

Tango is about contrast, and in our drill, we could either dance really slow, or to the 3-3-2 rhythm.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and short demos to Oblivion for Concept 1 slow; Milonga Tres for Concept 2 milonga rhythm; and Libertango for Concept 3 3-3-2 rhythm

Notes courtesy of Anne at

No comments: