Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Low versus High Leg Wraps

Song: Porque? by Adolfo Carabelli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
August 24, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

The topic was to wrap low or to wrap high. Like last week, communication, positioning, and energy are key. The Follower can create the shape depending on what energy she feels and what position she is in. Keep high wraps compact so that they don’t take too much space and are more socially based (as opposed to performance based where no other couples are on the floor so there is no risk of kicking anyone).

We first began with the Leader walking the Follower to the cross. Then he would try to get a low wrap from the Follower, of either his left or his right leg. After the wrap, the Leader’s feet are crossed behind. Mind the transition. This can be done from close or open embrace. The Leader leads a wrap of either his left or right foot by placing his foot next to her crossed foot where her arch is. Then the Leader takes the Follower off axis a little, letting her out while he goes back out simultaneously, and gives her a little circular energy, and then he takes her back in as he comes forward simultaneously to return her to axis and receive the wrap. Basically, his center moves out and around. The Leader bends his knee a little to get the Follower off axis. His heel is off the ground and he pushes his knee and thigh forward. If Leader’s knee is too deep, the Follower will gouge herself with her heel.

Leader needs to take care of Follower axis.

Follower should not assume/anticipate the wrap, even if she feels the contact in the leg. She needs to wait for the Leader’s lead energy. The Follower’s wrap is almost automatic when the Leader’s thigh touches hers, but she still must wait for the energy. When she does feel the energy, she needs to REALLY WRAP: that is, go with full intention of the full leg; wait for the contact (which should be mostly in the upper part of the thigh), and then let the whip bend the knee, but don’t bend by itself.

Next, we attempted to do high wraps. We started with subtle energy first for the low wraps, so that we could increase the energy to get high wraps. We also attempted to do double wraps.

Follower needs to pay attention to how she articulates the free leg for different shapes. Have good commitment, good intention, and a strong supporting standing leg when doing a wrap.

Positioning is key. There is a sweet spot in the relative positioning of the Leader’s knee to the Follower’s thigh and knee, to be in a safe position so she feels free to wrap with abandon.

We spent a lot of time drilling this to get the positioning of our knees and thighs right, and the wrap energy right.

Next, we went from the basic wrap of Follower’s right leg of Leader’s left or right leg, into the Follower’s left leg volcada-like leg-to-leg wrap of the Leader’s right leg. The Leader pivots the Follower a little, then sends Follower back out in a colgada volcada energy to do a volcada wrap. The Follower is on axis at the point of the volcada wrap. The Leader bends his right knee to wrap his leg simultaneously while she is wrapping it with her left leg.

Next, we worked on the change of energy to get a low or high wrap. If the Leader gives more energy, he will get a higher wrap. Also, the Leader bends down with his body to reinforce the idea of high energy to get the Follower’s leg to go around his body and so that his back is in a good position to receive her wrap. We started this with the Follower’s right leg wrapping to the outside of the Leader’s left leg, first low, and then high, to the outside of the left side Leader’s waist around his back.

Maestros reiterated that in the context of social dancing and being respectful of other couples on the social dance floor, the Follower always controls the wrapping leg shape. She can keep it close. She should not let her leg fly out with heel pointed up if there are other couples on the dance floor. Both Leaders and Followers are responsible for floorcraft, and Followers need to be responsible with their free wrapping leg (and potentially dangerous, pointy heel).

The Leader’s footwork/position for the high wrap is such that the figure begins in close embrace. Then he walks the Follower to the cross. Then he does a sneak attack with his left foot to plant it in position. Then he sends the Follower off axis to lead the low wrap. Here they are in open embrace with the Follower on axis. On the rebound, the Leader gives her more energy to get a high wrap. Leader’s feet are open and wide apart to be stable. His right leg is the kickstand leg, providing rock solid support so that he is not toppled over as he gives her more energy to do a high wrap around the left side of his waist.

The question came up: How does the Follower avoid kicking the Leader? She should have the contact with the upper thigh, the upper part of her leg, so that her whole leg is in the move, and her heel clears both the Leader’s and Follower’s legs. The Leader needs to have good contact with the Follower’s leg and be in good position. The Leader needs to be in the right position, at the right time, with the right energy.

We drilled doing single, double, and triple wraps, or double low to single high wraps, or double high wraps. The key was that these were all in the Leader’s chest lead/pivot.

Key points:
Position and energy are key.
Thigh has to be in the right place.
Follower controls the wrapping leg to be able to articulate and shape, how we get in or out.
Follower should have intention to make full contact with the leg, whether it’s a low or high warp.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Adolfo Carabelli’s Porque?

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Close to Open Transition via the Back Boleo

Song: El Pensamiento by Adolfo Carabelli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
August 17, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

This topic focused on communication in the context of a dynamic idea. How do we communicate this idea clearly? How does the Follower receive this idea?

In close embrace, we were to transition enough to lead a back boleo. The goal was to lead and follow comfortably, and to transition smoothly into the open embrace. The most important aspect is communication. We began in close embrace with chests touching, and then lead Follower to do back ochos, and then back boleos. The point between the back ocho and back boleo is where the transition to open embrace happens, and is where the Leader asks the Follower to do a back boleo. At the point of the back boleo, the Follower should take her axis, and not fall forward.

We practiced this lead in the kettle embrace for the Leader (both his hands are at the base of his back, with both arms to the side, and elbows bent), with the Leader leading back boleos on both sides/legs. Follower has the responsibility of receiving his communication through the embrace. She should actively hang on to his arms with horizontal energy, but not push down on the Leader at all. In the teakettle embrace, we are all symmetrical; so it will show our unevenness -- our strong or weak side, our better or worse side.

In the teakettle embrace, the Leader’s shoulders turn 30-45 degrees to lead a good back ocho. Follower needs to do much more active pivoting, as she needs to be able to amplify the Leader’s spinal energy by about 50%, and not be lazy about doing an ocho. Leader collects his feet at the ankles as part of the lead of back ochos. For both, it is important not to fall into each other.

Discussion of potential errors: If the Follower’s nose either falls in, or is too close, then she is too forward on her axis. In the open embrace, such as at the point of doing a boleo, the Follower needs to be perfectly on axis where everything (ribs, hips, ankles) is aligned, and the weight is in the middle of the foot between the ball and heel (on the arch of the foot). She only needs to release her heel to pivot, her weight does not need to be forward. Her heel can skim the floor and she will still be able to pivot (i.e., her heel does not have to be way off the floor to be able to pivot).

Leaders: pay attention to the timing of leading the ocho and leading the back boleo.

In the transition, when the Leader lets the Follower out, he does not let her out very far. He just lets go of her to give her enough space so that she is able to take her axis to be maximally stable (if she is leaning forward she is not maximally stable).

The energy in the boleo is back energy, so the Follower hangs back a little, somewhat like a little colgada energy. The Leader must also keep his axis too the whole time. The Leader can use his breath to help with the back boleo lead, as the natural movement of his spine/core twisting in the lead of the back boleo will cause air to come out of his lungs, like wringing water out of a wash cloth.

It was noted that in the boleo, the free leg is not completely free. There must be some control so that you can give shape to it. There are four different boleo shapes:
(1) on the floor
(2) razor – where knees are together
(3) circular – where one thigh is behind the other
(4) in line / linear

If the Leader leads the boleo circularly, the Follower’s answer should also reflect circularity, either high in the air (space permitting) or on the floor (if the social dance floor is crowded).

Boleos do not need to be high, and should be kept on the floor if there is no room to do them high on the social dance floor and doing so might cause injury or irritation to your fellow dancers.

At the moment of the Follower boleo, the Leader is still as it’s a big pivot the Follower has to do on one leg (he needs to wait for her to finish the boleo). Here, the Leader just provides support for her, with his left hand strong and solid like a wall for her to hang on to. He does not throw his arm out when leading the boleo; the lead comes from his spine/chest.

We then again attempted to do this in close embrace for several songs.

This lesson was important in that being able to do good boleos (and good back ochos as a foundation for them) is a simple tool to build into something even bigger. If you can communicate a boleo, you can lead almost anything. The goal is to be more dynamic.

The next two Mondays will build on this material.

Several followers asked about exercises they could do to improve while they are alone at home. Since the back ocho is the foundation for nice boleos, Maestra recommended perfecting ocho technique:
Behind a chair, practice the back ochos to work on posture, balance and weight transfer.
After a while, don’t hold on to the back of the chair all the time.
Then add the low boleo to these back ochos.
Then try them higher, in increments.
Also work on leg pendulum exercises to see how high the leg can go.

To work on the response to the lead in the Leader’s upper body, Maestra recommended thinking about/perfecting the arm push-pull energy at the barre, pulling with the right or left and pushing with the opposite left or right while doing ochos. In the beginning, this will be a coordination exercise, but after a while it will come naturally.

Maestros concluded with a nice demo to Adolfo Carabelli’s El Pensamiento.

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