Archive for November, 2010

Arms and the man

A more “playful” session today, the last, excepting one more soley for review and some video recording.

– Forward hook: Out of the american position, have that left out in front and turned outward. It needs to be in front of her foot so you don’t block her pivot.

Experiments with, say, a sacada/boleo resolution of the cross.

– for the sacada / back sacada resolution of the cross, keep that left foot glued to the floor. If you move it, you weren’t in the right position to start with

For back boleos out of a back sacada, you have to move radially around her; and you have to have the embrace and frame fairly firm; it is like a “cage” for her to move within. This embrace and can move radially around her dis-associated from the rest of you, all other things like posture being equal.

By properly maintaining those shoulders and arms where they should be — and arms are never to be a part of any boleo lead, hardly, it was amazing how effortless it was (granted, dancing with a performer and instructor) for these boleos to evolve out of all kinds of variant possibilties.

Another fun thing: Lady’s back gancho out of the position I had priorly been attempting lady’s back sacadas out of. And: back gancho resolution of the two-way exercise for lady’s sacadas.

Last year I described my teacher as a magician, who could pull figurative rabbits out of a hat; which is true. She can also pull confidence out of the student.


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The classes I have been having are ended with a 10 or 15 minute diversion into milonga; which is a way to blow off the stress of trying to apprehend some difficult combination of figures; it ends things on a positive note after an hour and a half session. Probably for the teacher, as well.

Today we worked with what I will call a “sawtooth” pattern – I have a background in electronics, and this describes something on an oscilloscope screen – which is great. Good for a beginner follow who can’t quite move well enough for a standard “box”, and one can do tiny little ochoes with a more skilled follow during the faster-paced cadencia bits.

More work with lady’s sacadas in a pattern, and also a lead’s back sacada as a resolution of cross in the basic step after an ordinary sacada and a back ocho.

POSTURE. POSTURE. POSTURE. Pauses. Shifting the rigidness of the embrace as appropriate. Precision in foot placement.

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Bits and pieces…

In times past I have tried to use my own off-brand notation to describe what I am doing, or simply record my impressions. Sometimes life just comes at you too fast to indulge yourself in scribbling your memories. And even at that, it seems now at what level I am that getting things hard-wired into muscle memory is what counts for me, rather than scribbling a diary entry.

….It is the close of week 1. So many impressions; some to be lost to my immediate memory, I am sure… An Argentine Cub scout, stereotypically helping an elderly lady across the street (his Kerchief the albacelest). … The students of my main teacher here who welcomed me to their table at Confiteria Ideal.. the peddler’s donkey that plods by (!) with a cart early every morning. The German fellow-traveller, now on the next leg of his life’s adventure. ..And so forth.

Actually implementing the new “break-open” milonga step .. close embrace sacadas in cross and parrallel systems; actually leading front and back boleos from a molineta out of a cross, and that with a new follower. Steak. A blur…….

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Figure: leading a forward ocho, sacada forward with the left, pivoting, extending the right out to catch the lady’s L in what should be her side step. Barrida it back to la cruz. Observed in group class.

Today in private: Lady’s sacadas. More work tomorrow on this.. the different between one that works and one that is ugly is a matter of precision and inches. It is also a good exercise for firming/softening the embrace on the command of your mind. Proper radial stepping around the lady clockwise, then counter: Your reward is forward and back boleos.

Also: Boleos led out of the la cruz instead of the usual sidestep. Whoo! Also a variant resolution of the American position, simply stepping in front of the lady and pivoting, and walking, instead of, say, the usual back sacada.

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The Cycle repeats

I find that I am hearing the same comments about my dance as I did a year ago. While this may be thought of in one sense as disheartening, it is not. It takes a long time for these things to sink into our subconciousness so deeply that the body acts as quickly as the mind thinks. By this, my second day of private lessons, I have been “re-tuned” as has happened before. I have allowed all sorts of bad habits to creep into my posture and walking; some of this from sloppiness; some of this from evolved attempts to “make” things happen with less than skilled follows. Plenty of blame to go around. It takes more than two …. it takes a community.

Notes from today:

Relax my right shoulder to protect the abrazo, but keep the chest “centered” in the mind and in the posture.

Remeber the “ruler” between the hands. I submit to myself that I should start work out with a physical length of wood to condition myself to a firm abrazo that does not give way. It is so amazing how boleos out of molinetas, etc. happen so naturally by simply maintaining an iron-clad embrace.

For “down” leads, it is *always* at the knees; never the hips.

Stop “lifting” with my right shoulder.

Sssssslide those feet.

Close embrace turns — 1! – 2- 3. Con tiempo. Signal with the CHEST.

We used a percussion exercise today to train the mind for milonga: One can use a coffee can lid, or what-not. The legs and hands operate a different syncopation. Feet – 1 -2. Hands – 1! – 2- 3.

I have thought to myself that milonga was perhaps a form in which I did ok, if I didn’t mind saying so myself. That got broken to fine meal today between a more proper milonguero fashion and this syncopation exercise.

I am enjoying all this. Even if it is mind-numbing.

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Buenos Aires, November 2010

Some great time ago I took my first trip to Buenos Aires; and my tango naivete was such that I thought that maybe I could leave my struggling beginner status behind. I did do that, in time, and my first trip helped in that regard; but I think I was blissfully ignorant of just how benighted a beginner I was. Back then I could not, in my mind, justify a trip for the purpose of taking dance lessons, so I assauged myself by splitting the trip between organized Spanish lessons and dance classes. I had been casually taking lessons for a year and getting nowhere; and was too shy to even attend practice, (let alone a milonga) even after a class; though this was fixed on this trip.

And so in time I found my way there again about 18 months after that. In that case there were muddled reasons for going; relational issues were clouding my tango sensorium. It was well that I went; though my motives were mixed.

…And more time passed. I kept going to classes here in the states and practicing regularly.

….And so yet I found myself there again, a year ago, trying to grab a finger-nail hold on a solid true intermediate/advanced level; a vain attemp to satisfy my vanity, or whatever it is that compels me to strive to be a better lead.

And now I am returning yet again; in what I suppose and think will be my last (really) trip to this city of dreams. I am “content” with my level but aim to advance; for my own sake, without thought of what that may bring in terms of any type of happiness; or not.

I recognize that what I am “buying” with my trip is mostly a concentrated form of “opportunity cost.” I have been taking annual trips to somewheres in the world anyway for awhile now, having gone in recent years to Turkey, Nepal, and Cambodia; and I am happy to do this again to this place. I know now that the tango I am looking for is [cue violin music] inside me; not in some physical place. Sounds corny. But it’s true. My lead has to come from that same place; in all the respects that this entails, and in all the respects that this matters.

…It’s not that the tango is “purer” or any such thing, here in the land of its birth; it is just rather that I know that I learn a difficult thing best when I am soley focused on that one thing. And this is a good place to do this, for more than one reason. I do genuinely like this city, and have developed (as is the case with mate – also an acquired taste) a taste for the grittiness and color that make this place such a cool place to visit.

I struggled a bit over making the decision to make this last trip. But it’s the right one. And I am so very sure of that.

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