Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Art of Surprise

Song: Al Compas Del Corazon by Miguel Calo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
November 23, 2009, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Surprises are little jokes, little surprises, to make things fun. They are easy, and the number is endless.

We began with games/warm-up exercises to get us in the mood.

Game 1: The D’Arienzo Surprise.
To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Nada Mas is a song with lots of rhythmic accents, and every strong beat can be a moment of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in all directions, and at the moments of the strong beats in the song, we were to touch someone (appropriately) with both our hands on the outside of their shoulders to surprise them on the strong beat.

Game 2: Flowing versus Freezing.
To develop the idea of Flowing versus Freezing, we were to dance. During the song, Maestro would periodically call out “stop”, at which point we were to freeze. Then he would call out “go”, and we would continue to dance. We were not to pause during the flowing parts of the music. We were to try to step on every strong beat.

After we did this, Maestra asked how it was. Some leaders found it disconcerting when someone commands you to stop. Was it manageable? Could you prepare yourself and your follower? The leaders said it takes half a beat. The goal is to be prepared. It helps if you know the music so you can anticipate when to freeze.

Exercise 1: The Statue.
This was an exercise to get us to be really connected to the floor and our own bodies. One person, the statue, stands with two feet on the floor, with arms up a bit. The other person, by touching or gently pushing (appropriately), tries to move parts of the statue, first one part in one direction, and then another part in a different or same direction. The body parts are random and could include shoulder, fingertip, thigh, forehead, back of head, elbow, etc. The goal of the Statue was to maintain a solid state, be balanced and attached to his whole body, to breathe normally and resist the push and be stiff like a statue, regardless of what body part was being pushed.

Level 2 of the Statue Exercise:
The statue stands on one foot and tries to remain stable and solid with no moving body parts while the other one touches/pushes on his body parts.

Chapter 1 of the lesson:
Freeze the Follower in the middle of the rock or side step. The Leader freezes the Follower after her reach, but not necessarily when her weight has transferred. The key point is for the Leader to know where the Follower is, so that he can play with the timing. Leader should not hold the Follower with tension. On the rock step, the Leader should not put all of his weight on the forward step. Instead, he should reach in his step, ground into the floor and bend his knee, exhale and be like a statue. For the exit, the Leader’s body goes up a little, his body loosens up a little, and the energy goes forward.

The Follower needs to match the Leader’s energy, whether it is a little soft energy or a lot of big or powerful energy (they can practice Tai Chi Tango arm and arm circular energy exercises for this). She also needs to match his qualities and feel the release to be able to move freely after the freeze. We attempted to dance with Freezes on the rock step or side step to D'Arienzo's Nada Mas.

Next exercise: We practiced dancing to a different, less rhythmic song, continuing to do our walking and freezing during the rock step or side step. Through this exercise we realized we could incorporate the concept of freezing into other movements, like the boleo. For the freeze, it is important for the Leader to present one voice of lead to the Follower, where all factors reinforce that there’s something different going on. So he needs to (1) find the moment and ground, (2) exhale and be like a statue, (3) compress the embrace.

Chapter 2: Leader tries to trap Follower’s foot in a quick sandwich without stepping on her foot. It is easier to trap the Follower’s right foot, by the Leader approaching with his right foot first, and then completing the quick sandwich with his left foot. For this, the Leader needs to be snappy to catch the surprise to stop the Follower in the middle of her weight so that she doesn’t collect. We also tried capturing the other foot, or capture the feet in different ways. This is a surprise for the Follower; it’s a sneak attack.

Next, maestros demonstrated some other surprises: The Jump, The Cross Jump (Follower’s right foot is easier than her left foot), and the Pitter Patter. For the Pitter Patter, the Leader should wait for the Follower’s right foot to go back, then he will wind up on her right foot as they finish. The Follower can also do surprises like at the end, by sneaking her foot in between the Leader’s feet as he attempts to collect.

Chapter 3: This final chapter is sophisticated, elegant, and can be a little dangerous. First maestros demo’d the Follower forward ochos with Leader paradas, both on the open and close side. The “surprise” was when the Leader stops the Follower as her leg goes up to pasada over his parada leg. To surprise the Follower, the Leader leads a series of (2 or 3) Follower ochos with Leader regular paradas with her regular pasada several times before he surprises her with his stop. He leads the surprise stop this by lifting his heel and bringing his knee/shin closer toward the Follower to catch her leg. The sweet spot of the Follower’s leg is at the shin/ankle/instep. For the exercise, the Follower needs to be honest and not anticipate the surprise.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Calo’s Al Compas Del Corazon.

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