Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tango Argentino Ocho Cortado Milonguero

That Ocho Cortado Class! Lessons Learned While Leading

In this very, very large small city/town where I live, there is, to my knowledge, only one drop in Tango floor in town. We are that floor! We are not a ballroom, there are no packages to buy. We dancers with a floor inviting all to come Tango with us.

It is lovely as we learn, practice and grow together. We workshop Argentine Tango. As I have had countless Argentine Tango beginners classes, love the dance, practice at home and come from a dance background - by default - I lead the workshops.

However I learn so much every class and every dance I remain a perpetual student. As such, I had the best experience/lesson in the art of “showing up” to dance last week I want to share it. 

In the Argentine Tango, the embrace is the foundation of communication. There are no other cues or clues. This is one reason this Tango is so exciting. Both dancers must be present, out of themselves, not thinking, not analyzing, not worrying about how they look or if they are “doing it right.”  Being present is the only way to accomplish all of the aforementioned concerns.

If both dancers are present and have learned the fundamental principles of movement, dancing happens. Argentine Tango happened because each person hears the music, feels the music, and either leads or follows to the music of Argentine Tango.

(Yes, you can dance to non traditional Tango music, and sometimes I like this very much! In fact I may share a video of that embodies one of the best follower walks I have seen and a seemingly effortless lead at blogs end.) 

Back to the story! We were workshopping the ocho cortado and realized that a new dancer had never seen the “Basic” or the “Basic Eight” pattern before. Many teachers do not want to teach the pattern, and some find it a very useful tool to help new students become familiar with the movements necessary to dance Argentine Tango. 

After a review of the Basic, the ocho cortado was next. I danced lead and a dancer (she is well trained as a dancer in other styles - a dancer to the bone kind of dancer) stepped into my embrace. 

I had opened my right arm to allow her to enter my space and presented my left hand as a support. Then the magic of connection happened. She placed her had in my hand with presence. I knew she was there, and ready to dance. 

How did I know I that? How did that connection happen?

There was just enough attention/tension and pressure as she placed her hand in mine that I was able to place my hand with hers with tension/pressure and the connection was made. I knew where she was. Further, as I gently wrapped my arm around her space - rather as a vase creates space for a flower - I let my right forearm and hand rest very, very gently on her upper back, just around the shoulder blade.

She could feel me, and as her posture was excellent, and she could feel my arm as a presence. That was all the embrace needed for her to hear me and for me to know where she was in the dance. Of course the dance was beginning. We had not yet taken a step!

It was from this connected embrace - salon style or open embrace  - that I learned to lead and she to follow the ocho cortado.  We choose to do the step with the leader offering a parada. It looks good, and as a beginning leader dancing with beginning dancers, we need a bit of flare when we can get it. 

The Ocho Cortado is a step that requires listening, leading, following, timing and for the follower the ability to “cross”  ( I may add two videos to this blog - one of my favorite ocho cortado video and the other of a fine dance.)  

Did I mention that I learned that I sometimes was dancing with “noodle arms?”. I did learn that. I could not have really internalized the lesson without having a fine embrace with a present follower. I had hear the critique in classes as a follower - but did not know quite how to fix it. I didn’t realize that noodle arms are a symptom of not willing to be in connection, or not knowing how. Perhaps not feeling invited in? 

For everyone reading, please know that in this dance there are leaders and followers. Men may dance with men, women with women, men with women…… it really doesn’t matter. What matters is Tango Argentina. So please feel welcome, should you be in Jacksonville Florida in a Tuesday night to look us up!! 

We have a  Facebook Page with far more members than dancers - so don’t worry! There is room for you. 


“Miss Ann”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lessons Learned Exploring the Ocho Cortado

I am a very fortunate woman. Always a dancer, I have finally found that dance that I always new was out there…… waiting for me. It is the Argentine Tango. 

It pleases me, entices me, and as I explore it, practicing the basics, I am becoming more balanced, more self-aware and more in love with a new music.  Tonight I was delighted by this Tango in the perfection of the physics of the demands of the walking of it. 

As it happened, a dancer in our group wanted to learn the Ocho Cortado. Properly done this step sequence is a delight to me. This move enables the leader to “show off” the follower - to flaunter her and to delight her with a move that is visually beautiful, and when properly done - in time to the music - an exhilaration to follow. It can be breath taking.

What is most fascinating at this moment, home from class, is that in showing this movement and all aspects of it, I am so impressed with the perfection of the structure of learning this dance. 

The basics of the walk are crucial to dancing his sequence. To be “one footed”,  to be in anticipation as a follower and in confident balance as a leader are critical to the successful completion of the movement.

To be on ones axis or “axe” is critical. To flow and to pivot are necessary. To be able to walk with another so that they may step into your foot steps is vital. 

Wandering off, pulling your partner off balance, anticipating the leader, being reluctant to commit to your step as a follower (all Basics of the dance) are flaws that must be address and rectified. 

I find as a leader that building physical trust with a follower is a wonderful thing. I feel honored, and moved when the follower relaxes in my arms, trusting that I do “have her”, that I will move with her, inviting her, leading her, careful of her so that she does not stumble, fall off balance, dancing so that she is able to “hear” me as we make art together.

To lead the Ocho Cortado and have followers be delighted and surprised was a joy. I could see them feel the challenge and they challenged me back! I danced with three followers and followed one leader tonight. 

Each follower expressed the ocho cortado differently, and this is another piece of the pleasure of an improvisational dance. So we workshopped that movement.  All of us.

It was in the workshopping - isolating the rock step, the parada and checking that side step that we all overcame small frustrations we may have had in not being able to do it “right” the first time. I am sure I will practice and perfect that step for all my days.

We were all open and willing to work it out. Who are we? Just a small group of people who somehow got hooked on the mastery, the Tai Chi, the chemistry of this dance. This class we had two leaders (one male, one female) and three followers. Some of us are dancers to the bone while others are simply fascinated that two people can learn to move as one. 

I am simply she who is trusted to “be in charge.” I collect the floor fee, I pay the rent. I manage the advertising, and the out reach. If there are no visiting teachers some might say I teach.

I feel as if I am always learning. I hope that I continue to be pleasant, kind, and encouraging.  I am very comfortable admitting my mistakes, owning my ignorance, and asking for help.  I am blessed to have had some very fine teachers and hope to meet many more. 

I wish you Tango! 

“Miss Ann”

Monday, May 16, 2016

The “Romance” in ArgentineTango.

I had three wonderful short dances a few nights ago before the screening of a new Argentine Tango film. 
The venue was very small, just room enough for two dancers on the floor at a time. Rather like dancing in a very long bathtub!

Everyone was elegantly dressed and happy! Those who arrived early were chatting by the door.

(Most at the door were the more experienced dancers from the host city.)  Late comers and out of town guests moved toward the back of the hall. 

The best part of that Milonga for me was talking with old dance friends, being surprised by who was there, meeting new friends and practicing my Spanish. 

All seemed Art Deco and perfect. Friends, new and old and I watched as different couples had a dance. As the Milonga was only to last an an hour and a half, and everyone wanted a least one dance, we were dancing one dance a couple. Of course i was wondering if I might have a turn on the floor.

I had my first dance with the host who waved and pointed at me across the crowded room. I pointed and myself - got the nod - and we had a lovely little Tango. 

(For those new to Argentine Tango - a Tango song is about 3 minutes long. In general, when asked to dance, you dance three dances with each partner, but there are always exceptions! ) 

My leader was very experienced and charming and he tried to dance with most all the women at the gathering. I was glad to be asked. However, it was nice to see my friends dancing as well. A new dancer came with me, and she really enjoyed watching how we dance, the steps and pivots, as well as the turns.

I was very happy that I had two more single song dances that night. For the first I struck up a conversation with a leader I had met at a class in St. A. He is new to the dance. I felt new my first year, and remembered my own feelings of being an outsider. Noticing he had been sitting alone for awhile, I asked him “Aren’t you dancing tonight?”.

I don’t recall his exact words, but I remember he minimized his skills, and informed me he was a beginner. I am always happy to dance, beginner or not. 

Sometimes I offer my truth which of late has been:  “I have been dancing with the wall a good deal.” before heading onto the floor. I am not making excuses for my ability - just giving fair warning. 

I have no idea if we were brilliant or bumbling - although I am sure we danced somewhere in between. 
My pleasure was the connection of Tango  - of knowing where to go, how fast, how far…. and feeling very lead by my partner. 

In fact, if a know the very experienced leaders from other Milongas, and they are welcoming and friendly, I will accept an invitation to dance. I too offer the “new dancer” disclaimer!  

A gracious leader doesn’t care how long you have been dancing - they want to share the song, the feeling of the dance, help you improve your Tango while sharing that special energetic connection of making art to music.

It was easy to relate to his comment/disclaimer, so I shared that I was open to a nice walk if he would like to dance. When I dance lead - my truth at present is that I can offer a nice walk - perhaps a few rock steps, maybe an ocho here and there, but I am a beginning lead and also feel as if I don’t have much to offer - except the joy of sharing the music.

So, we accepted each others invitations to Tango, and I am so glad we did. His posture was perfect, and his embrace provided that “connection” that makes all the steps unimportant. 

The embrace can be such a special communication. Without that, all the fancy steps I can do feel hollow to me. I would rather a connected walk around the floor than a Tango filled with planeos, and barridas. At songs end we each returned to our barstools to watch other Tangos. 

I was very happy to see another Tango friend, from Argentina! She arrived late for the dancing but in good time  for the film. She is such a bright personality, so encouraging of my Spanish - and willing to help me have conversations with others that I almost forgot about dancing.

She had found a new pair of shoes, and showed them to me. I thought they were indeed a good find, perhaps a subtle cue that she was prepared to dance? We talked a while, I was reintroduced to a dancer I met on Facebook. She also spoke Spanish and the three of us had a fine time. 

As the house lights flickered for the first time - I asked my Argentine friend if she would care to have a bit of a dance. It was a favor to me to practice leading - and as people were going for their seats, we had some room, not much of an audience, and therefore a dance. 

I think I was in stilettos and she in wedges, but the connection was immediate. She was a brilliant follower, loved the song as I did, and even thought we may have only had a few minutes of dancing, she was very happy.

I was very happy because we were able to share so much in those moments. The connection of Tango! I think she may have been surprised to find that she was a very good follower (or that I was such an awkward leader) but we had fun.

Tomorrow I will be hostess to an open floor for Argentine Tango. I will offer an Argentine Tango basics class to new dancers. (I am sure I have attended at least 30 of beginners classes with some very fine teachers, some World Class teachers  and know I am able to share what I have learned.) 

I will warm up, perhaps find a new balance exercise and hope to offer everyone the best time possible. We are to practice a new step - the ocho cortado. (Wish me luck!! ) 


Monday, May 9, 2016

Our First Practica! Argentine Tango has a Floor in Jacksonville!

Our First Practica  -  Wonderful!

I arrived at our new dance floor early and was able to watch all the young dancers working on their routines! They were an enthusiastic group with plenty of awards to show for their efforts. There was plenty of room in the reception area to visit with Argentine Tango dancers while we waited for our turn. I was surprised to see some dance family that I had been missing for a while.  

For me, I thought we had a very nice turnout! Although Sunday afternoon from 2 -4 seemed like the perfect time for dancing, apparently I was mistaken! Although I did enjoy my time in our old location, my best partner had become the wall! Now, there are many advantages in dancing with a wall! My cohos are much improved, I picked up some speed in my pivots, as well, my posture is improved. 

What is lacking when one dances alone is the opportunity to dance in response to another. I find this quality of Argentine Tango very compelling. As a dance that happens between two dancers in response to the music - having a partner helps me learn to listen, to be mindful of my center, to be aware of each step because there is either someone following or leading each one. 

For those who have stumbled across my blog, I am writing about “salon” style tango, which is a social tango. We can become more and more advanced, and learn all sorts of “adornos” or embellishments with time - but the heart of the dance is the connection between the dancers. 

Two dancers who have found that “connection” are able to dance the simplest steps and have them seem so elegant and beautiful because all the other elements of Argentine Tango are perfected, and so go un noticed by the untrained eye. I will post a video at blogs end for you to enjoy.

Back to the practica! Some dancers attending had over ten years Argentine Tango experience, and some came for their first class. The experienced dancers could enjoy practicing with each other, perfecting those advanced moves, while new dancers enjoyed a relaxed overview of the principles of the dance. 

“The Walk”in Argentine Tango is not at all like ordinary walking, and it is the principle of the walk that is the foundation for all the rest of the moves you see in show dances and impromptu tangos by more experienced dancers. 

One of the ideas continue to work with and of course to perfect, is the “one-footed” nature of the dance. Our weight, centered on our axis - or as it is sometimes called axe - is always only on one foot at a time.
It is this one footed way of being that makes the Argentine Tango work. The leader knows where the follower is because he or she has “placed” the follower on the left or right foot depending on how the leader transfers his or her weight.

Often the leader and follower are both weighted in such a way (for example the leader may choose to be on the right foot, placing the follower on the left foot) that the walk unfolds perfectly. 

The length of the step is determined by the leader, and this is communicated through the embrace with “intention”.

Often people want to know if you signal your partner with your hands, or with gentle squeezes or whispers……. but no. The dynamic that creates Argentine Tango is the unspoken connection transmitted through a good embrace, based on the agreement that both leader and follower will be ready, listening to both music and each other to create a dance. 

I hope you enjoy my notes. I hope you that they bring you pleasure, perhaps intrigue you a bit, where ever you are. 

This is not a gender specific dance. Here in Jacksonville, Florida we have one Male leader who dances regularly in practices and we see him at milongas in Gainesville and elsewhere. I am informed there are men who dance Argentine Tango in Jacksonville   - our male dancers find us on Meet Up and drop in because they are passing through town, have been too long at sea, and just have to dance!! 

As a student who has been validated to teach by some very fine instructors - I am the one who has the most experience, therefore I teach. I really feel as if I am sharing my joy - my excitement, my discoveries and am holding the floor open until such a day comes that the floor is full - we hire a DJ and offer our first MIlonga! 

See, you don’t have to buy a package to dance. You drop in and dance when you are able. This is possible because I am a free lance artist, designer and consultant - and am able to offer this space with no expectation that  teaching dance will support me.

I have great respect for those who live the “Tango Life” and rely on classes, workshops and Milongas for a living. I hope that we may become a resource for all those excellent instructors, the world class dancers who will come for weekends. 

Until that day, I hope to keep the floor open for us all.  

Please enjoy this video of an elegant Argentine Tango that is a fine example of the walking nature of this dance. 
Of course you are watching a master of the dance with a younger partner. It may be hard to see how he leads her - which makes this video all the more compelling for me.