Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vals Phrasing and Rhythm

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas

The Beat, Berkeley, CA
July 12, 2018

The topic for the month is rhythm and musicality, and today the focus was Vals.

We began with exercises to get ready to dance.

Roll our necks in one direction one way for a few turns.
Roll our necks in the other direction for a few turns.

Turn head to the left. Hold for a second or two.
Turn head to the right. Hold for a second or two.
Take our head and pull it to one side with one hand, raising your opposite arm.
Take our head and pull it to the opposite side with the opposite hand, raising our arm.

Roll shoulders back.
Roll elbows back.
Roll whole arms back.

Roll shoulders forward.
Roll elbows forward
Roll whole arms forward.

Hold giant fishbowl. Turn to one side.  Then turn to the other side.

Rotate hips.
Change direction.

Put heels together.
Circle knees.
Change direction.

Keep sternum and belly button together.
Stir the pot.
Take hips with you.
It's a small movement.

Rotate both wrists and one ankle.
Change direction.
Lift the knee high, with thigh parallel to floor, stir the pot with it.
Change direction.

Do the other leg, with both wrists and one ankle first
Knee up, thigh is parallel to floor.
Squeeze the inner thighs together for stability.
Stir the pot with the knee up.
Change direction

We began our class with the phrasing exercise, Vals Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of two lines of dancers facing each other all in one line, arms up and eyes making contact with each other, 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. During this game, maestro played a very regular vals so we could clearly hear the musical phrasing and sentence. It was basically:

4 forward
4 back
4 forward
4 back

At the Period (end of a sentence/phrase) is where the dancers, both Leader and Follower should do various accents/do fancy things in their dancing.

Next exercise:
In partnership, we began with walking to the comma, then wait. Then walk to the end of the sentence, then wait, to hear if there is an opportunity in the music to embellish.  This was an exercise to improve our listening and to help us be more creative.  The music will guide you to pick a phrase of music and let the embellishment happen.

4 walk
4 walk
Comma (wait)
4 walk
4 walk (embellish if you hear there’s an opportunity in the music).

The music for this exercise was Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi.

In Vals, usually the first minute is instrumental with no lyrics.  Then the vocals come in and tie into the melody.  The first minute of a vals will explain a lot about the intention of the song.

In partnership, we were to walk, pausing in the middle of the phrase, hitting the end of the phrase and getting ready for the next phrase.  We were to embellish at the end of the phrase and be ready to start at the beginning of the next phrase.

There are fills and transitions at the end of each phrase.

Followers: to help identify the middle of the phrase, use your breath to help indicate the phrase.

We changed roles, walking to a well behaved vals that has vocals.

We changed roles again, dancing to an alt song to look at the rhythms.

Vals rhythm is 1-2-3, 1-2-3 (boom chick boom or boom, chick boom -- 1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

In partnership with one person leading and the other person following, we were to just change weight and not step, trying to train our ears and lead to either the 1-3-1 or 1-2-1 for this particular alt song.

We then did  a solo walking exercise to Rupa and the April Fishes' Wishful Thinking, going forward and then backwards on the boom only first, and then the boom chick boom.

Then we tried in partnership to walking on boom only or boom chick boom (1-2-1).  For the more advanced dancers, they could try leading the boom, chick boom (1-3-1), doing a weight change or rock step to convey the rhythm.

The alt songs we drilled to generally had well behaved sentence structures, though some sentences had an extra fill or beat to them. This regular form remains very common and still being used. (1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

The way the Leader tries to project acceleration is to stay very horizontal, and be almost aggressive in the acceleration, but have control in the stop.

Try not to change height when doing the syncopation.

The faster the vals is, the more we dance on just the boom, and we may syncopate just 3 or so times during the entire song.

Other songs we drilled to and that were played in the beginning of the practica so that we could work on what we learned in class:

Hijo de la Luna by Montserrat Caballe
La Valse de Amalie
Welcome to My Planet by Lori B on the Hurricane Child Album
Mademoiselle Noir
Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny of...) by Devotchka

Notes courtesy of Anne at

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