Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Guide to Focused Intention & Energy

Song: Milonga de Los Fortines by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
March 28, 2011, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

We would explore the topic of Focused Energy and Intention in the context of doing open embrace style ochos, with the Leader doing side steps and the Follower doing reaching and touching steps.


We began our work on the basic technique to lead and follow ochos well.

For the Leader, in teakettle hold (coming back from New Orleans, some students renamed this the “sugar bowl”), with both hands at the small of his back and elbows out to the side and his chest up, his goal was to have symmetry in his spinal rotation, aiming for about 30-45 degree rotation on both sides, so that the Follower pivots. He should also time the beginning of leading her pivot, which should happen as she arrives to axis.

For the Follower, as the Leader leads the ocho with his torso rotation, the Follower amplifies the energy down to her hips (her ocho factory). The Follower’s standing, supporting leg is the pivoting one. The Follower needs to be on her axis or slightly away from the Leader while she does her ochos. She should engage horizontally, and not press down on the Leader. She should have an elastic embrace, holding on with both her hands, and having tone in both arms, but also be flexible and elastic, like pasta “al dente”. She should have good, reaching steps, and amplify the Leader’s energy in her ocho response from her hips.

The Leader takes long side steps as he leads the Follower to do either forward or back ochos. We drilled this for a while, doing it slowly.


Next, we took our work beyond ochos to work on Focused Intention. The goal here was to physically manifest intention by using our energy and connection with the floor.

In teakettle (sugar bowl) hold, the Leader leads the Follower to do an ocho, and then a little touch step. For the Follower, her footwork is a forward front cross step, and then a side touch step, or a back cross step and a back step. For the Leader to lead these various Follower steps, he makes either front cross steps, back cross steps, or side steps simultaneously with his torso rotations to lead the Follower ochos. The steps were the structure in which we were to figure out how and where to lead and follow the touch step.

With respect to intention, the two things to focus on are:
(1) Leader leads Follower to pivot with him. He needs strong intention in his chest/torso rotation.
(2) Whether the weight transfer is complete or slight/partial/in the middle so that the Follower just touches the floor.

We drilled, with the idea of experimenting by changing the speed, just touching in place, going back and forth, or transferring the weight completely. We did this with the Leader in teakettle position so that we focused on using the floor, and the Follower listening to how the Leader uses the floor, while she also uses the floor. The Leader uses the floor by using his whole body and the connection to the floor, up through his hips, through his back and through his shoulders. The Follower has to copy what the Leader does. She has to mirror his movements.

The two philosophical things we were to think about:
(1) The Leader has to know what he wants before he leads it. Thus, he needs to plan ahead.
(2) The Leader has to be completely in the moment too (which is contradictory to philosophical point no. 1)


Add the embrace. The lead still has to come from the Leader’s body and his connection to the floor.

We went back to our original exercise, only we added the embrace (some Leaders chose to use the teapot embrace of left hand as spout and right hand at the small of his back as the handle to prevent the use of his right hand to influence her ochos and pivoting range of motion), with the Leader doing side steps, and the Follower doing forward ochos (so these are “with” ochos). The Leader was to employ the technique of leading the Follower to do touch steps or full transfers of weight.

The Leader should direct energy from the floor into his body, so that he uses his right arm/hand less to lead the Follower to do ochos. This way, he will be able to do more with his core/body rotation/disassociation.

We drilled this for a while.

Timing is the most important thing. The Leader needs to plan ahead, as his weight transfer should be a little ahead of the Follower’s. The Follower is always a little behind the Leader. The Leader puts his weight half way, and then retracts it for the touch step. We drilled this doing it slow, in double time, with ochos, and without ochos.

The Leader should keep his chest up, be symmetrical in his torso rotation, plan ahead, be in the moment, and phrase the movement to the music. The Follower’s touch step does not have pressure into the floor, but it is OK to bounce or rebound off the floor. The Leader can put pressure into the floor, but not put the weight into the floor to have fast and responsive intention without changing weight. The idea is to put pressure into the floor to bounce back quickly, all the while engaging with his whole body.

Maestros concluded with a short class quiz followed by a demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor’s Milonga de Los Fortines.

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