Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cristina's Favorite Moves

Song: Felicia by Adolfo Carabelli
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 22, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Cristina’s Favorite Moves” - Typewriter Pitter Patter and Bandoneon Pitter Patter

The material and inspiration for the class were taken primarily from our dancer friend Mark Harris. The class consisted of compact and playful musical ideas focusing on the Follower.

We began with a posture exercise, which would apply to how we moved for most of the class. We lifted off our heels, but did not crunch our toes. We should be able to wiggle our toes. When we lift off our heels and with our chest/sternum up, we should not lift our shoulders. The lift is from the heel and ribcage, but we should try to pull our shoulder blades down. Our weight is up front, but not to the toes.

To this lifted posture, we added a little bit of movement, little tiny quick side steps to the left and to the right, the Follower’s tiny pitter patter, which was called “The Typewriter Pitter Patter” (those who don’t know what a typewriter is can Google Image it or visit a museum). When this movement goes forward and back (instead of left and right), we called it “The Bandoneon Pitter Patter” – because the movement is similar to the Bandoneon bellows compressing and expanding.

In doing these Follower pitter patter steps, the steps are tiny, the thighs are together, and the knees are soft.

We worked on these Follower Pitter Patter steps using the same song for the entire class: Adolfo Carabelli’s Felicia so that we could really lock into the parts of the music where the Follower’s Typewriter Pitter Patter or Bandoneon Pitter Patter could be led.

Typewriter Pitter Patter
In partnership, we danced with the Follower’s typewriter pitter patter side steps to the Leader’s right. To lead this, the Leader’s lift comes from his chest, with a little bit of compression, at the point in the music where it would make logical sense for her to accent the music with these small, quick side steps. The leader rotates her to his right, and then back to his left. In the song “Felicia” the most logical places for this to occur would be in the piano or bandoneon fills in between the phrases of the music.

For the Follower, she needs to be in tune to the music. The move is compact and the Follower has equal responsibility for the musical interpretation of the song. The Leader can lead the general direction of the movement when he rotates her to his right and back in to the left, but the Follower’s steps are up to her in terms of the timing of each left – right – left –right pitter patter step.

The question came up of how the Follower knew to do pitter patter, quick tiny side steps, rather than regular molinete grapevine footwork. The answer was that there is a definite lead from the Leader for the Follower Pitter Patter. There is more lift and compression than a regular molinete.

Next, we drilled the Typewriter Pitter Patter to the left and to the right on the open side of the embrace.

Next, we drilled the Typewriter Pitter Patter with the Follower and Leader doing it alternately. Here again, there are the lift, hold, and compression ideas, depending on the music. The question came up of how the Leader holds the Follower and ask her not to move or step when he does his Typewriter Pitter Patter steps. The answer is that the Leader needs to isolate the embrace, holding her out there, and the bring his body when he wants her to move. Both dancers here should keep their shoulders down, as it is easy to accumulate tension during the alternate Typewriter Pitter Patter. That is why in between the Pitter Patters, we need to walk it out or do other things, before we start again with more Pitter Patter. The Leader can lift the Follower, and then let her down, and then do his pitter patter. Or, he can just keep lifting her, holding her up as he does his pitter patter.

The Bandoneon Pitter Patter
The next idea we explored was the Bandoneon Pitter Patter. In “V” embrace, we went to the forward promenade (Americana) walk. This is a move from close, to more open in promenade, back to slightly more in, in “V” while the Leader leads the Follower to walk around him with forward steps. To lead the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, again he would give her lift and compression at a place in the music where it made sense for her to do the Pitter Patter. The lift is like a little scoop as the Leader compresses. The Leader should take care that the Follower is comfortable in the lift, and that her left shoulder is not overly lifted or uneven with her right shoulder.

From this promenade Follower walk in a circle, the Leader can lead her to do the Bandoneon Pitter patter forward and back, or right and left, which would be away and back near to him since they are at right angles to each other. For the Follower, her left arm is caged in because of the compressive energy, so the forearm is what expands and shortens when she is sent out to her right and then back in to her left.

The Follower has a lot of choice in terms of how she interprets the music with her hips and body movement. The Follower needs to own her own movement.

Some Followers had trouble following the lead for the Bandoneon Pitter Patter out to the right and back in to the left from the Follower promenade walk in a circle. It was noted that this might be because the Leader had to catch the Follower on her correct foot, to enable the free foot to correctly step out to the right. The Leader also needs to ground himself a bit more to lead the Follower Bandoneon Pitter Patter out to the right and left from the Promenade Walk.

Some Followers responded with Colgada body movement. Maestro noted that there is a different send energy in the Bandoneon Pitter Patter than the Colgada. In the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, there is lift and compression and height change. In the Colgada there is no height change, not a big compression, and the send energy is much larger. There is also a definite sense of planting in the Colgada.

It was noted that there is a Physical Lead to these pitter patter moves, as well as a Psychological Lead (if he starts to do it, she might mimic him at some point, understanding what he is hearing and how he is interpreting the song and inviting her to do the same with her movements). The more you do these Pitter Patter moves, the more natural they becomes. When social dancing with someone who is unfamiliar with this concept, it is best to try The Typewriter Pitter Patter before attempting the Bandoneon Pitter Patter.

Since the class was struggling a bit with the Bandoneon Pitter Patter, maestros decided to back things up a bit, and we tried it in partnership facing each other. Yes, our butts stuck out a little bit. In this embrace, we could do the Bandoneon Pitter Patter with just the Follower, or alternating with the leader, or simultaneously.

She Steps, He Steps
Our last idea was She Steps, He Steps idea. Again, working with lift and compression, the Leader leads the Follower to do two steps, and then he takes one step, eventually leading her into the cross. First, he steps side left, changes weight, and then steps left foot forward in a sneak attack. He leads her to walk using horizontal energy in the lead, to get the Follower to take two steps. Then he takes one, and then she takes two into the cross as he takes one.

Concluding remarks:
The Follower has the freedom and responsibility to be in tune with the music.

The Leader’s lift comes from his chest, and combined with compression, is a scooping idea. He can send her alone on either side, or send the Follower and then go himself. He needs to choose the moments wisely of when to lead these Follower Pitter Patter steps.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Carabelli's Felicia.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leader's Back Enrosque

Song: Cascabelito by Osvaldo Pugliese
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 15, 2010, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

We went immediately into exercises.

Exercise 1: Crossing behind while walking forward. With all of us together in one big circle, we were to try to get to the center of the circle by walking forward with tight back crosses.

Exercise 2: Crossing forward while walking backward. From the center of the circle, we were to try to get to the perimeter by walking backward with tight forward crosses.

On both these exercises, our feet should be in tight crosses, with our two feet coming together to point in an arrow /\. We were to have no bounce, and we should lift our heels so that we can get in and move forward or back as we cross in the opposite manner. We were to try to get to the middle of the room (or the perimeter of the room) as quickly as possible, but with control, elegance, and grace.

Exercise 3: In partnership, hand in hand, we were to do forward ochos together and back ochos together, stepping around each other so that we remain relatively close. Timing wise, we were to go together simultaneously. The Followers need to create spiral in their bodies, and the Leaders should try to be as elegant as the Followers in their ochos as well. Good ocho technique applied in this exercise: caress the floor with our feet, keep our knees, thighs, and ankles together at the point of collection/pivot.

Exercise 4: Next, we were to compete with each other to see who could get the most energy in our forward pivot, pivoting as much as we could to see who has more hip energy. Here, it is very important to connect to the floor with our standing, supporting leg, so that we can pivot strongly and a lot. The energy in our hips depends on how we connect to the floor. We were to compete with each other, but have speed as well as control, but with grace and without falling. This exercise is important because most of the back enrosque is derived from the forward pivot.

Exercise 5: A drill of the Leader Enrosque footwork. The Leader walks in a line, starting with a forward step (forward ocho / front cross step) with his left foot, with his right foot hooking behind, then pivoting counterclockwise, then changing weight to be on his right foot, to a pivoted back step (back ocho/ back cross step) with his left foot. The Leader faces the same direction at the start on his first step forward, and at the finish with his last step back. His goal is to stay in a straight line for this drill.

We also did this exercise with the right foot, stepping out with our right foot first, tight back crossing with our left foot, to pivot clockwise, to change weight to our left foot, and then to pivoted back step with our right foot.

Exercise 6: The ocho exercise transformed into the back enrosque exercise. Again, in partnership, both dancers did the same footwork as in Exercise 4, of forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), to tight back cross of other foot, to pivot, change weight, and then back step (back ocho / back cross step). If starting with the left foot, it also ends with the left foot. If starting with the right foot, it also ends with the right foot. Both dancers need to be responsible for their body, to be aligned and have good spiral, and hang a little back (do not lean forward). The dancers can lift the heel a little by bending the knee, to help them pivot. The idea to focus on in this exercise is to be very grounded over ourselves as we did this enrosque footwork. We need to be on the balls of our foot, and be solid. Our whole body works, not just our foot. There was less pivot in this exercise, so the dancers danced in a straight linear direction with the pivot in between steps, to arc around each other in a half circle.

Exercise 7: Leader back enrosque footwork during Follower molinete / turn. While the Leader does his forward step (forward ocho / front cross step), tight back cross, pivot, weight change, and back step (back ocho / back cross step), he simultaneously leads the Follower to do a molinete / turn of forward/front cross step, side step, back cross step. We did this with the Leader’s left foot first and last (during Follower counterclockwise molinete / turn), and then Leader’s right foot first and last (during Follower clockwise molinete / turn).

Follower should have long, consistent steps during their molinete, and she should not transfer the weight too fast, especially on the side step. She should have complete control of her reaching leg, and take equal size steps. She should also have a smooth transfer of weight. Even if the Follower feels the Leader changing weight, nothing in his upper body should do anything other than keep leading the Follower in her molinete. The point of this exercise is for the Leader to figure out when to transfer weight to maximize the energy in the turn.

Exercise 8: The introduction of a cheat: The Forward Sacada. The forward sacada can be used so that the Leader is around the Follower’s center more, in a tighter relationship. The forward sacada helps the Leader do his enrosque. The Leader’s forward sacada is a forward ocho step, on the Follower’s forward step at her trailing foot.

Note that the Leader’s back step afterwards is optional. He can do it continuously, link it with rulos, etc.

Finally, Maestros showed us conceptually that entering (doing the sacada) on the Follower’s side step is easier than entering (doing the sacada) on her forward / front cross step because it synchronizes the pivots of the Leader and Follower, thus adding power to the Leader’s pivot.

Note that the sacada can be done on any step of the Follower’s molinete: back step, side step, forward step. There are many possibilities.

Sometimes the Leader might inadvertently get confused with his feet, and then end up in the wrong crossed feet position. To get out of it, he can do another tight back cross to be on the correct foot again to get out of it.

Summary Comments:

Leader’s back cross / cross behind technique is key. So is his forward ocho and back ocho technique.

Follower’s molinete / turn technique is key. Take long steps. Have smooth weight transitions. Keep close. Be on axis with nose over hips.

Maestros concluded with a demo to Pugliese’s Cascabelito.

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Art of Floorcraft

Wednesday, March 9, 2010

CellSpace Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas on "The Art of Floorcraft". After the dance floor was made smaller, to be somewhat tight, we began with some games:

Game 1: Molecule Game

Every person is a molecule that stands still, but there is one rogue molecule that stimulates random movement. When that rogue molecule touches you, you need to move away in a random pattern away from the spot you just occupied, and touch/invade the space of another person/molecule. Then that person moves, etc.

Game 2: Actors' Walk

Walk across the dance floor, in a random direction, either across or diagonally, but not in the line of dance, to get to the other side of the dance floor. Do not run. First, walk slow. Then go faster. Then faster. The point of this game is:
(1) to watch where you are going
(2) to make adjustments
(3) to increase your sense of awareness and vision

On the milonga dance floor, it is OK to dance in the middle or outside, but do not weave or zig zag between couples.

Game 3: Touch the Corner

In partnership, we danced doing just walking and weight changes, trying to go around the line of dance, but especially touching the four corners of the dance floor with one foot of the Follower, where chairs were set up to clearly delineate what the corners were, and the object we were to try to touch with our feet to make sure we actually went all the way to the four corners. The point of this game is:
(1) to be aware of how much space we have behind us and in front of us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving (do not slow it down or speed it up)

Game 4: Blind Tango
We built on Game 3, Touch the Corner, with the eyes of both the Leader and Follower closed. We were to dance with our eyes closed, line of dance, and touching the four corners with one foot of the Follower. We were to dance doing simple things, small movements, and nothing complicated. The point of this game is:
(1) to sense other people around us
(2) to keep the line of dance moving

What helped us? Lots of people, so that we could hear and feel them. No hard elbows, so no one got hurt even if there were little bumps. The bumps, if any, were soft. Soft bumps/taps are important.

Tool 1: The Switcheroo
Next, Maestros taught us a technique to help us in tight spaces: “The Switcheroo”

Here, the Leader and Follower are on the respective sides facing each other, and then they change to the opposite sides. It is similar to a cross-body lead in salsa. The Switcheroo takes a little space, and both dancers work in a little circle together. For the Leader, his footwork is a rock step on his left foot, and then a back cross step with his right foot (or the opposite side of a rock step with his right foot, and then a back cross step with his left foot) as he brings the Follower around. For the Follower, it is a rock step, where the weight remains in the middle, and then a front cross step to a pivoted collection in front of the Leader.

Game 5: The Tango Train
Our class, all couples in partnership, were formed into dance trains of 4-5 couples, each train having one couple as an engine, and one as a caboose, and the other couples in the middle the chewy, gooey center. The goal of the engine is to not let the line get jammed up into the train in front of them. The goal of the caboose is to keep the train moving, protecting the middle segment. Our goal was to keep the line of dance moving, but not move too fast or two slow. If we move too fast, we end up jamming the people in front of us. If we move too slow, we end up being a space hog.

Space Hog:
Leaving lots of space in front of you and backing up everyone else behind you.

Space Jammer:
A tailgater, dancing right up to the couple in front of you.

Game 6: Rogue Molecule added to Tango Train
One couple was assigned the task of trying to enter the line of dance anywhere, in any way possible. The rogue couple in this case had a very strong leader, who was aggressive enough to try to get between the dance couples in these very tight conditions. It was discovered that it was possible for a rogue molecule to enter, but this was only accomplished between the trains, as each train was a pretty cohesive group in our class, making it difficult to get inside of one train. If the trains were not a cohesive group, the rogue couple would have been able to get between an engine and caboose in the middle of a train.

Concluding comments:

Ideally, the buffer between dancers at the milonga should be at least one step (but ideally two) in any direction in front of, behind, and to the side.

Be aware of what part of the dance floor you are occupying.

Know the line you are occupying.

Don’t zig zag on the milonga dance floor.

If you need to change lanes, make EYE CONTACT first.

With respect to passing: Don’t do it unless there is a major accident.

Sometimes there will be couples just standing there chatting away for much longer than the 20-30 seconds at the beginning of the song. In that case, it is OK to pass them as long as the intent is to keep the line of dance moving.

Beginners are often pushed into the center of the dance floor.
Intermediates are often like Porches on the Autobahn, zig zagging in and out because they are getting the hang of how to navigate.
Advanced dancers can pass, but don’t. They prefer to stay in their lane, dancing in the line of dance.


Do not cut corners. Dancing all the way out to the corners creates space for you and everyone else.

Don’t be a space jammer or space hog.

Followers: Be precise with where you are stepping (do not fan out far and wide or do high boleos if it means it will take out all of the couples around you). Followers are also responsible for the social dance milonga floorcafting with respect to how they answer with their dancing to the Leaders’ leads. Do not collect, or do any movements, in a thoughtless manner. These movements include reaching, collecting, and transferring weight, as they all matter. Keep the footwork close to the floor and close to the embrace/body, especially in crowded social dance milonga conditions. You are dancing with the whole room.

There was no didactic demo due to the nature of the class.