Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rhythmic Milonga Traspie

Song: Cacareando by Orquesta Tipica Victor
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
The Beat, Berkeley, CA
July 16, 2018

Theme for the Month: Rhythm and Musicality
Today's Subject: Rhythmic Milonga Traspie

Our class focus is doing the Traspie on the "2"

We began with an individual exercise, walking forward to the strong beat of a very slow milonga, listening for the accompaniment that sounds like  "San Fran Cis Co" rhythm.  Our song was Canaro's Milonga Sentimental.

Then we walked backward to the same song, again on the strong beat.

There are four accents in "San Fran Cis Co".  We were to walk on the two strong syllables: "San" and "Cis".  "San" is on the 1 and "Cis" is on the 2

We could walk, change weight, do a side step, or do grapevines, but we were only to step on the 1 "San" and 2 "Cis".

We did this to a different slower version of Milonga Sentimental, by Adolfo Carabelli.

Next, we explored how to switch from Left Foot to Right Foot when stepping on the "San" or "Cis".  There are two ways: (1) we can pause, or (2) we can take an extra step (doing it in double time, QQS).  If doing the double time, it should be done around the 2, "Cis".

We tried to change the "San" from one foot to the other by doing double time or by pausing.  We tried this to 1 minute of Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental and then 1 minute of Canaro's Milonga Criolla.

For the rhythmic double time, Fran Cis Co San, are the walking beats.  In partnership, we were to walk, stepping on "San" and "Cis" and switching from open side to close side.  1-2 and 1.

Partners need to know when they are stepping on the "1" or the "2".  1 is "San" and 2 is "Cis".

Leader has to communicate the weight change.  We drilled this to Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental, and then Canaro's version.

We were to think about the two walking beats, 1 or 2, "San" or "Cis".   To change where the 1 is, we have to do a double time on the 2, so "2 and 1". 

1 and 2 have different values.  1 is more down and grounded with more density. 2 is lighter and just swims through.  Use that knowledge to change the quality of movement to enhance the communication.  Both dancers need to appreciate the different values of 1 and 2.

Milonga has an earthy quality.

Next, we drilled to a small micro pattern.

Side step
2 and 1, repeating it, whereby for the first 2 and 1, there is a sensation of going down, and then the next 2 and 1 goes back up.  So we change from going down to going up in just the side steps.  We drilled this to the faster song, Canaro's Milonga Sentimental.

Next, we drilled to a more complicated pattern to Carabelli's Milonga Sentimental

Open side of the embrace is on 2
1                      Leader left foot forward;Follower right foot back.
2 and               Leader right foot forward; Follower left foot back
1                      Leader left foot forward cross hook (Leader makes a "J" shape with his foot tracing the floor); Follower right foot back cross hook behind left foot.
2 and               Leader right foot straight back step, taking Follower with him; Follower left foot forward step
1                      Leader Left foot forward cross hook; Follower right foot back cross hook behind left foot
WALK             Leader Right foot forward, step; Follower left foot back step
TO                   Leader Left foot forward step; Follower right foot forward step
THE CROSS   Leader Right foot collect; Follower left foot front cross tuck against her right foot

Leader's chest starts square to the Follower, and then when he takes his first step, his chest gets angled to the partner as Leader does the "J" with his hooking forward foot. He should keep this angle and contain it.

Follower should always try to be in front of the Leader and mirror whatever alignment his spine and hips are doing, this makes it easier when the Leader levels out his shoulders to really understand that they are trying to create a cross.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and demo to Orquesta Tipica Victor's Cacareando.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vals Phrasing and Rhythm

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas

The Beat, Berkeley, CA
July 12, 2018

The topic for the month is rhythm and musicality, and today the focus was Vals.

We began with exercises to get ready to dance.

Roll our necks in one direction one way for a few turns.
Roll our necks in the other direction for a few turns.

Turn head to the left. Hold for a second or two.
Turn head to the right. Hold for a second or two.
Take our head and pull it to one side with one hand, raising your opposite arm.
Take our head and pull it to the opposite side with the opposite hand, raising our arm.

Roll shoulders back.
Roll elbows back.
Roll whole arms back.

Roll shoulders forward.
Roll elbows forward
Roll whole arms forward.

Hold giant fishbowl. Turn to one side.  Then turn to the other side.

Rotate hips.
Change direction.

Put heels together.
Circle knees.
Change direction.

Keep sternum and belly button together.
Stir the pot.
Take hips with you.
It's a small movement.

Rotate both wrists and one ankle.
Change direction.
Lift the knee high, with thigh parallel to floor, stir the pot with it.
Change direction.

Do the other leg, with both wrists and one ankle first
Knee up, thigh is parallel to floor.
Squeeze the inner thighs together for stability.
Stir the pot with the knee up.
Change direction

We began our class with the phrasing exercise, Vals Chacarera, where in Chacarera formation of two lines of dancers facing each other all in one line, arms up and eyes making contact with each other, we took four steps forward and four steps back, similar to the Avanzado and Regreso initial steps of the Chacarera. The 4 forward steps were done in 4 beats, and the 4 back steps were done in 4 beats. During this game, maestro played a very regular vals so we could clearly hear the musical phrasing and sentence. It was basically:

4 forward
4 back
4 forward
4 back

At the Period (end of a sentence/phrase) is where the dancers, both Leader and Follower should do various accents/do fancy things in their dancing.

Next exercise:
In partnership, we began with walking to the comma, then wait. Then walk to the end of the sentence, then wait, to hear if there is an opportunity in the music to embellish.  This was an exercise to improve our listening and to help us be more creative.  The music will guide you to pick a phrase of music and let the embellishment happen.

4 walk
4 walk
Comma (wait)
4 walk
4 walk (embellish if you hear there’s an opportunity in the music).

The music for this exercise was Alfredo de Angeles’s A Magaldi.

In Vals, usually the first minute is instrumental with no lyrics.  Then the vocals come in and tie into the melody.  The first minute of a vals will explain a lot about the intention of the song.

In partnership, we were to walk, pausing in the middle of the phrase, hitting the end of the phrase and getting ready for the next phrase.  We were to embellish at the end of the phrase and be ready to start at the beginning of the next phrase.

There are fills and transitions at the end of each phrase.

Followers: to help identify the middle of the phrase, use your breath to help indicate the phrase.

We changed roles, walking to a well behaved vals that has vocals.

We changed roles again, dancing to an alt song to look at the rhythms.

Vals rhythm is 1-2-3, 1-2-3 (boom chick boom or boom, chick boom -- 1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

In partnership with one person leading and the other person following, we were to just change weight and not step, trying to train our ears and lead to either the 1-3-1 or 1-2-1 for this particular alt song.

We then did  a solo walking exercise to Rupa and the April Fishes' Wishful Thinking, going forward and then backwards on the boom only first, and then the boom chick boom.

Then we tried in partnership to walking on boom only or boom chick boom (1-2-1).  For the more advanced dancers, they could try leading the boom, chick boom (1-3-1), doing a weight change or rock step to convey the rhythm.

The alt songs we drilled to generally had well behaved sentence structures, though some sentences had an extra fill or beat to them. This regular form remains very common and still being used. (1-2-1 or 1-3-1)

The way the Leader tries to project acceleration is to stay very horizontal, and be almost aggressive in the acceleration, but have control in the stop.

Try not to change height when doing the syncopation.

The faster the vals is, the more we dance on just the boom, and we may syncopate just 3 or so times during the entire song.

Other songs we drilled to and that were played in the beginning of the practica so that we could work on what we learned in class:

Hijo de la Luna by Montserrat Caballe
La Valse de Amalie
Welcome to My Planet by Lori B on the Hurricane Child Album
Mademoiselle Noir
Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny of...) by Devotchka

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

Tango Music Concepts

Instructor: Homer Ladas
Athletic Playground, Emeryville, CA
July 7, 2018

I arrived to class late, as I was a first-time student at Athletic Playground, so had to spend a few minutes filling out their registration form and paying my fee.

Class began in barefeet with socks, shifting on the beat, walking back and forth, or to the side on the beat.

In an individual exercise, we were to only step on the beat, and not pause.  We could do grapevine feet, though we were to avoid crashing into people.

Next, we played a game, "D'Arienzo Surprise". To D’Arienzo’s Nada Mas, we worked on the concept of surprise. Everyone was to walk around the room, in any/all directions, always stepping on the strong beat to accent it in our walk, with energy going into the floor. Every once in a while, we were to surprise someone by touching them appropriately with both our hands at two points on their body (arms, shoulders, hips), always staying on the strong beat.

The purpose of this game was to get us used to the element of surprise as a musical tool, coordinating our dancing with the music. Every strong beat is a potential surprise. The Follower needs to feel safe and comfortable before she is surprised.

Next, we played a game of "tag" where one person is "It" and they would sneak up on someone and give them a shock by touching them with both hands at their shoulders.  We began with two people "It".  The goal was not to be the person who was "it" at the end, though it was OK to be tagged "it" duiring the song.  We were to do this all the while stepping on the strong beat, locking onto the walking beat.

For our next exercise, in partnership in open embrace, we were to step on the strong beat only, walking mostly, but we could do other steps suck as simple side steps and collecting (weight changes).  To convey the rhythmic intensity, you don't need to change the speed, you can change direction to convey it.  Step together, weight change, then step in opposite direction.  Forward/Backward, Side (weight change in between).   We drilled this to No Mientas, stepping on the strong beat.

We added touch steps, where we reach our leg, pull back, transfer almost no weight, but have pressure on the foot.  Reach back, stop on ball of foot, reaching to the side with the big toe on inside of the foot.
On the forward step, our foot can land flat or we can land on the ball of our foot.

We should have good reach in our back step.  Put pressure, then pull back to fake out your partner to create some interesting moves.  Keep your heels together.  The Leader tilts at his ankles to initiate the step.

Our next drill/exercise was in hand-to-hand hold, we were to feel each others' weight change and lead the touch step.

Our next drill/exercise was in open embrace, where Follower could have closed eyes to increase sensitivity.  We were to change direction/fake them out. 

Mastering weight changes.

To put this all in the picture, we drilled to Mil Pasos, doing walking, full weight changes, and touch steps.

DO NOT EVER BLAME YOUR PARTNER. It's your job to work with it and figure out a solution if things aren't going as you lead them.

Final concept is the idea of contrast.

Tango songs usually follow the structure of:
1 minute instrumental
1 minute instrumental

When the singer comes on, we go in slow motion.  During the instrumental part, we can go back to dancing rhythmically to add more dimension to the dance.

In Mil Pasos, during the jazz saxophone is when you can go slow.

Class concluded with some delicious home-made vegan popsicles made by the lovely Ms. Kyra.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dancing to Astor Piazzolla

Songs: Oblivion, Milonga Tres, and Libertango by Astor Piazzolla
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
SOMArts, San Francisco
July 11, 2018

In our class, we would explore playing with really slow or really fast movement, creating contrast by using deceleration and acceleration in the context of dancing to Astor Piazzolla.

Astor Piazzolla had a love/hate relationship with tango dancers.  Piazzolla took the emotion / sentiment of tango and made it his own.

He started out in Anibal Troilo's orchestra (whose birthday is today), and who did the song Nueve De Julio (9th of July), which in 2003 was the first Cellspace (and today is the 15th year anniversary of the event).

In our class, we would interpret the music of Piazzolla in three ways.

(1) Slow
Dance very slowly, drilling using simple movements such as walking, side steps and ochos.  No sacadas or boleos.  

We were to focus on how to control things in our body to affect the movement.  What does it mean for us to dance slow?

We tried dancing slow to Oblivion, which is likely the most played Piazzolla song for tango dancers.

How did it feel dancing slow?  It was challenging.

Next, we focused on stretching the steps and doing ochos. 

What does it mean to stretch? Not just our legs and how we create a slow extension and collection.  It's how we use our whole body to create a more taffy-like embrace.  The embrace should be a little softer, more relaxed, but still connected with our partner.  Breathe into the floor.

To experience the feeling of caramel, we were to stand with our feet apart, and then shift weight slowly from one side to the other.  This is the caramel.  It is a wavy, slow, lateral movement. 

We did the same exercise with our feet forward and back to get the same quality, and also tried with the other side, opposite feet forward and back.

Next, we tried swiveling on both feet.

Then we did this in partnership where the Leader stops the Follower midstep, Follower pivots while she is on both feet, one side to the other.  The Follower's upper body goes first, then her hips follow, to do an ocho.  Leader walks around Follower's center where her spine is (between her two feet).  We were to try to be slow, articulating the space between the feet. 

We were to explore/think about what is involved in the gradual transfer of weight; how to make the collection very deliberate and with intention; create details to stretch the movement.  When to slow or stretch the movement.

In the context of the Ocho, we usually drill ochos using the sugarbowl embrace. However, for this exercise, we were to be in regular embrace and do a very exaggerated spinal rotation and active arms in the Leader to lead the Follower to do a big, slow ocho.  The Leader can do an extra step around the Follower to get a little extra pivot in the Follower during her ocho.  Leader and Follower turn their bodies, stretching their backs to rotate more.

(2) Milonga Rhythm
The song for the 2nd way we would dance to Piazzolla was Milonga Del Angel, which is likely the second most popular Piazzolla song in tango.

Milonga rhythm as a musical concept is super effective.  Most of the really slow Piazzola songs have milonga rhythm, as do all of the Piazzola songs with "Milonga" in their titles.

We raised the bass of the 2 tango songs: Oblivion and Milonga Del Angel, so that we could train our ears to hear the milonga rhythm (which was rather faint, but clearly present in both songs).
The idea of our drills is to either
(1) Dance really slowly, stretching the movements using simple steps, or
(2) Dance to the milonga rhythm (also using simple steps).

We were to have control in our musical expression, and be very clear.

The song we drilled to was Milonga Tres.

You can hear all these songs on YouTube.

(3) Dancing Faster (3-3-2 Rhythm)
Piazzolla used as a tool in his faster songs the 3-3-2 rhythm, which is very similar to the milonga rhythm, minus 1 accent.

So it is 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, where in our drill we would just step on the 1.

Libertango has this rhythm, and it was the song we drilled to.

Tango is about contrast, and in our drill, we could either dance really slow, or to the 3-3-2 rhythm.

Maestros concluded with a class quiz and short demos to Oblivion for Concept 1 slow; Milonga Tres for Concept 2 milonga rhythm; and Libertango for Concept 3 3-3-2 rhythm

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