Monday, January 23, 2012

Hierarchy of Advancement Workshop One

I reckoned it would be a good thing to log the workshop's contents on Salsadiary, as a historical record and reference. So here goes.

Briefing: 'Which part of the foot is surrounded by the most control points?'

One (of many) ways of constructing a step in place
Foot placement and the establishment of a mechanical bearing between the foot and the floor.
Weight transfer: re-learning walking taken from the case study of stroke rehabilitation.
Joint configuration in relaxation mode, and the joint cascade.
Properties of the hip joint and how this influences hip action.
Foot angle and its effect on stability and range of hip movement.

Bolero: rationale as a context
Originally, I'd intended on using the merengue as a context for the step construction and hip action. In the end I went for the bolero instead for these (very good) reasons:

  1. Ianthe and Michel are not novice dancers, they have already naturalised leading and following;
  2. it is a member of the son rhythm group, so it increases their versatility in being able to perform a related genre;
  3. it allows them to draw bolero influences into their salsa;
  4. it is the sequential precursor to the bolero-chá and the chachachá;
  5. the dance can be performed to bachata music.
Dancing the bolero
Timing in the acquisition mode - bolero open tones indicate the slow weight transfer.
Sensing and synchronising hip actions.
Partner holds for detecting hip action.

How a travelling step might be constructed
Maximum passive step size.
Active step sizes and the compromises to frictional stability.
Generating foot angles using floor friction and hip action.
The significant difference between 'Toes Out' and 'Ankles In'.
The 'shiny coin' teaching point.

Points of View: Configurations for the taller dancer
Both Ianthe and Michel are well above average in height. We began to address what that means in dance beginning with:
  1. reduced mechanical advantage in the limbs;
  2. the wavelength of movement; and
  3. refining timing co-ordination in longer limbs.
Re-dancing the bolero
Drawing out the 'slow' - maximising the wavelength and an even weight transfer
'push-and-pull' action - flexion and extension doubles the energy within a system and smoothens the execution of steps.
Partial weight transfer on the slap tone.
Contratiempo phrasing.

Interpreting lead information
The importance of equilibrium pressure.
Touch practice: palm to palm exercise, unsighted.
Two variations of the contradanse hold:
  1. negating turning moments using the compression hold.
  2. communicating with the picture arm in the bolero hold.
Bolero's lessons in the Salsa context
Long and Slow - saturating every moment between the beats with movement.
Then and Now: comparing the naturalised 'standard' with the bolero-derived movement.
Alterations to wavelength.

Contrasting Activities
An introduction to pivots and their execution without pre-load.
Chachachá as foot percussion fun.

Learning Materials
Salsa Teaching CD2
Chachachá Teaching CD1
Bolero Teaching CD1
Arroyo, Joe - Rebellión (CD)
Fruko y sus Tesos - Todos Bailan Salsa (CD)
Grupo Niche - Etnia (CD)


Loo Yeo

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Loo's 'Yang' to Salsa Club Teaching's 'Yin'

It began, as it normally does, over dinner.

Michel, Ianthe (not their real names) and I were exchanging old war stories and ticklish anecdotes from our skirmishes on the dance floor. What better way to idle an evening away than over delicious Szechuan cuisine in the company of good friends, to the cadence of spicy salsa stories?

Talk meandered to our experiences in salsa classes and things we would have liked to learn. Now the three of us had been travelling to dance havens together more frequently if late, where I'd had the pleasure of introducing Ianthe to national/cultural movements in salsa not normally taught in this country. Turns out that both Ianthe and Michel were intrigued when I explained that it was possible to enact the movements and gestures of salsa's various societal sub-cultures using a learning system that was parametrically based.

So out came the smart-phones to the tune of tippy-tappy fingertips, and an afternoon date was set for Sunday after this one.

As this would be the first time they'd ever been under my tutelage, I thought a one-off taster session would be best; to give every one a graceful 'out' in case things didn't work out. Not that that seemed likely as Ianthe and Michel share a searing intellectual curiosity. The plan assumed the shape of a three-hour stand-alone private workshop (with option to accommodate subsequent ones) which would counterweight this country's prevailing teaching systems.

In the past, I'd had the luxury of starting with my students from scratch. In this instance I would have to design a Hierarchy of Correction instead of a Hierarchy of Development, and make a significant realisable impact on their dancing in one afternoon. I'm relishing the challenge.

And I've got under a fortnight to cook up a best approach.

Loo Yeo

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

30th December 2011 El Rincón Latino Pre-NYE Party @Anchor Inn, Clowne, Derbyshire

Karen wanted another salsa fix. In Barcelona, her regular haunt 'El Manisero' is not five minutes' walk out of her front door; there, she dances as often as the DJs play. We'd already cut a rug in Wetherby two nights before, but her feet had started to itch in a way that only a good dose of hot sauce would cure.

In the quiet time, when events draw a breath between Christmas and New Year, salsa nights are rare as truffles. I said "well, there's Clowne..."
"Dónde?" she asked quizzically.

I'd recently become acquainted with Iván and Emma of Salsa Beat who'd both struck me as having an inclusive dance philosophy; and when I said that I thought Stephen Gordo Mágico played a good set, that sealed it for Karen... she couldn't get to the car fast enough.

Salsa is a monolithic transnational phenomenon, bestriding the megalopoleis of New York, Japan, and London; and yet it thrives in modest fertile places like Clowne, Debyshire (population circa 7500). Walking into the village centre's Anchor Inn, the barman motions us to the function room around the side of the main salon where we're greeted by salsa music blaring away.

El Rincón Latino pulses in a slightly-narrow rectangular room boasting a good wooden floor, a raised stage at one end, counterbalanced by a modest stretch of bar at the other. By the time we got there at nine-thirty the place was packed, many with faces I recognised from as far afield as Nottingham. Above the energetic hubbub, Stephen kept the dancefloor filled by limiting his palette of colours to Nuyorican dura, crossover and Colombian salsa; merengue; bachata; and kizomba - Fania classics and sones/son montunos didn't to see light of day. A track by Bamboleo (a bold choice I though, as it requires a dancer with strongly internalised rumba clave to navigate through it) made it onto the decks, but remained the sole timba number of the night - it wasn't received with the same certainty as the Colombian fare. La Excelencia's 'Salsa con Conciencia' got an airing, although I suspect it's message flowed over the majority of the dancers; I might have gone for something from their 'Mi Tumbao Social' album instead.

Observing audience-dancer responses to Stephen's music selection, I was able to assess the local salsa scene's development to be in the latter phase of the youthful growing stage. 
Karen paid El Rincón Latino's party her ultimate compliment by saying that it felt like being at El Manisero. She and I left as the night wound down through a bachata set into kizomba. We'd had our satisfying fill of salsa by then, including some Cali stepping (Karen'd lived in Colombia for a bit).

There are just a couple of tweaks I'd recommend that would make a huge difference: a pair of air blowers positioned at the bar-side exit facing outward, to extract heated air from the room; and slight attenuation of the low and low-mid frequencies to manage the bass rumble of the room.

We live in an age where bigger is marketed as implicitly better e.g. "The biggest <insert adjectives and superlatives here> salsa congress". On the contrary, I've discovered people from smaller cities and towns to be the more accommodating by far.

For the atmosphere and its warm welcome,
El Rincón Latino's party en el pueblo de Clowne [in the village of Clowne] is hard to beat.

Smaller is most decidedly better.

Loo Yeo