Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Follower's Syncopated Baby Ochos

Mandria by Juan D'Arienzo
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
June 9, 2010, Cellspace, San Francisco

Our music for the class was D'Arienzo.

For syncopated steps, the Leader and Follower both have to hear the music. The Follower needs to respond immediately to the Leader and to the music, so she needs to hear and pay attention to the music. She can also help the Leader with his double time step by being on the beat even if he is a little ahead or a little behind the beat.

Syncopated Baby Back Ochos

We began with the Leader leading slow vanilla bean ochos. Vanilla bean ochos are ochos with no Follower hip pivot, and no Leader shoulder rotation, and Leader legwork as if he is roller blading. No Leader shoulder rotation = No Follower hip rotation. In the slow Vanilla Bean ochos, both Leader and Follower collect in between their steps.

Next, we added the double time, or quick quick to the vanilla bean ocho, with the Leader going forward with his left leg on the QQ. Though he collects his feet in between during the slow vanilla bean ochos, he should not worry about collecting when doing double time QQ in his steps, and he might look/feel like he is waddling; that is OK. The Follower, however, should still try to collect during her QQ steps. Since the Follower does vanilla bean ochos, there should be no hip pivot during the QQ.

It is most logical to try to catch the vanilla bean ocho on the QQ when we are on the straight side of the line of dance (not on the corners or rounded points).

We could also do Mocha Java ochos with the QQ syncopation. The Mocha Java ochos are the ones with Follower hip pivot. Since the ochos would be done on the QQ, they become smaller, and are syncopated ochitos.

Syncopated Baby Forward Ochos

Walking in promenade, the Leader can lead small, syncopated forward ochos. He does this by first leading her into promenade with a side step to his left (her right), and then opening up his left shoulder. When he steps with his inside leg (his right leg), he starts to lead the syncopated ocho. The two dancers open up like two gears meshing with each other.

Here, communication between the Leader and Follower is key. To communicate the double time QQ ocho lead to the Follower, the Leader needs to compress the embrace a little. To improve our communication / sensitivity toward each other, we played a game, Tai Chi tango, for a little while. Here, the dancers stand face to face, and have hand-to-hand contact. The Leader moves his hands and arms in a patternless movement, and Follower should match the Leader's movement and energy. At a random point, the Leader compresses his hands in the Follower. The Follower's job is to mirror and match the Leader's energy so she neither gets pushed back by him or push him away from her when he compresses.

Next, we worked on the body mechanics / physiokinetics for both the Leader and the Follower. Individually, we all stepped forward with either our left foot or right foot, then we pivoted forward, and then pivoted back, and then stepped back, so that we started and finished in the same spot. It was emphasized that we should do this homework at home often so that we can be able to communicate this through the embrace, and so that the Leader can gain control over other types of movement if he can master this one.

Next, we tried this in partnership so that we could feel the Leader and Follower rebound off each other with our hip pivots. The Leader was to build up the compression, and then release out of the compression. It is very important to keep our chest up and have good communication in the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand. The Leader's left hand and Follower's right hand should be flat like a wall so that each can rebound off of each other with their respective compression energy. This flatness of the wall also helps the Leader pivot back to his original position.

Our next challenge was to change the Leader's footwork, so that instead of stepping forward with his right foot with her left foot, he steps forward with his left foot with her left foot. With this foot position, the Leader does not do a forward ocho with the Follower's forward ocho. Instead, he still leads it with his embrace/upper body. The goal of this footwork change for the Leader was so that he get used to leading it on either foot, with or without doing Leader ochos. It's tricky, but it's a road map.

To build on these syncopated baby forward ochos from the promenade, we linked a series of them linearly. The thing that changed is that for the Leader, there is a weight change to his left foot after his pivot. So, he first steps right foot front cross step, and does a weight change to his left as he pivots to face the Follower. The weight change to his left foot is a sensation of dropping into his left foot, and then the rebound, and then his forward cross step with his right foot.

Floor Craft Comments

Maestros commented about floor crafting, since our class was so crowded and a bit unruly floor-craftwise during class. Touch The Corners is one of the rules of floor crafting whereby we try to touch the outside corners of the line of dance, and not cut across the corners. For our class, we were to imagine that there were two tracks/lanes. There should be no zig zagging, no changing of lanes from one to the other to get ahead of the couple in front of you. We were to stay in our own lanes.

End of Class Lesson Highlight Summary:

Vanilla Bean Ocho: Leader does roller blade footwork with no shoulder rotation = no Follower hip rotation. Follower still tries to collect in single time and double time. In double time, Leader compresses the embrace a little, and Follower matches the energy by compressing back.

We can add a little pivot and get mocha java ochos. Doing them on the double time QQ, we get Follower pivoted ochitos.

From promenade, the Leader's left hand and the Follower's right hand should be still, the same, like a wall.

From here, the Leader can do ochos with the Follower's ochos, inside foot to inside foot, or he can step with his outside foot while she steps with her inside foot.

For the linear series of syncopated baby ochos, the Leader has a weight change to his left foot, and this can be done on single or double time.

The Leader and Follower need to hear the music to know when to do the double time.

Maestros concluded with a demo to D'Arienzo's Mandria.

Notes courtesy of Anne at