Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Yesterday's Solares fell in that 'no man's land' between Christmas and New Year. With some regulars being away or unavailable during the festive season, I was presented with a double-length session; an opportunity which I was all to happy to take advantage of.

The circumstances demanded a programme of content which was:
  • varied or simple-but-challenging enough to avoid learner saturation;
  • non-core so as not to penalise those who couldn't attend; and yet,
  • of meaningful importance to benefit those who'd committed to attend.
Tricky. Very tricky.

I briefed them that this workshop was going to be all about elevating the quality of what they already had.

Warm Up: Simple embodiment transitions, with maracas
Solo, to music. Playing maraca rhythm. Lower body moving between the Caribbean sway, marking rhythm on the spot, walking forward.

Warming up with the maracas exercise was the cornerstone to the workshop's design because: it allowed me to assess the quality of participants' dance 'slows' as transited through Caribbean sway to walks; and, it opened up an alternative route in the workshop narrative - back to maracas development - should participants become learning saturated with the primary activity.

Briefing: The "slowandslow" vocalisation
Even though the "quick, quick, slow" vocalisation (of last session) makes sense, there is a fundamental flaw in the vocalisation - the word "slow" is only one syllable long. Dancers using the vocalisation will time their movements to the rhythm of the vocalisation, instead of the logic of the vocalisation i.e. they will dance three quick movements instead of two quick and one slower.

To achieve the desired slow movement, the vocalisation needs to be changed such that the 'slow' is rhythmically longer yet still logical. The ballroom adaptation is useful to know, and highly successful. The vocalisation is: "quick, quick, slowandslow".

Exercise One: "slowandslow" with long nails
Solo, without music. Long nails practice synchronous with the "slowandslow" (beats 3&4) vocalisation.

Exercise Two: "quick, quick, slowandslow" with long nails
Solo, without music. Complete embodiment rhythm, on the spot. Long nails practice synchronous with the "slowandslow" (beats 3&4) vocalisation. I danced with each participant to provide a movement archetype as reference.

Exercise Three: "quick, quick, slowandslow" with long nails
Solo, to music. Complete embodiment rhythm, on the spot. Long nails practice synchronous with the "slowandslow" (beats 3&4) vocalisation.

Participants reported feeling a deeper quality of relationship with the floor, almost adhesive and elastic. Once acquired they found it challenging to revert to their customary more superficial relationship with the floor. I introduced them to the concept of 'quality of movement' and labelled what they were experiencing as "deep movement" and "light movement" respectively.

Exercise Four: Relationship of qualities of movement with music
As the participants became accustomed to the exercise, freeing up cognitive headroom, I asked them:
  1. "Does quality of movement affect your relationship with the music?"
  2. "Which instruments do you have a stronger relationship with using light movement?"
  3. "Which instruments do you have a stronger relationship with using deep movement?"
  4. "Are there any instrument-relationships which do not change?"
The answer came back a resounding "yes". How you move affects how you listen. One song demonstrated this clearly: Los Hermanos Lebron's updated "La Temperatura" from their 40th Anniversary album, vol.2. (2009).

At this point, after multiple iterations, participants were comfortable with individual practice. It seemed prudent to provide them with a broader more relevant context, and introduce an additional variable.

Exercise Five: "quick, quick, slowandslow" in the rueda de casino context
Partnered, without music. Rueda de casino basic step, attenuated partner hold.

The basic step involved a small back step on the circumference side and a small forward step on the axial side on the quicks, and a close step (not a guapea side step) in-between on the slows.

I demonstrated how the basic step could be derived from the Caribbean sway by: contracting the width of the side step until a close step; and, converting the axial step from a small back step to a similarly-sized forward step.

The attenuated hold avoided the overtly expansive arm-cycling on the circumference side, and maintained contact between palms on the axial side throughout.

By silencing the consciously-induced noise from the arms, participants were able to feel how movement born of the upward joint cascade flowed into the partnership frame. Participants found this revelatory; how the torque built up from the floor manifested itself in articulations of the contredanse hold, as natural resultant movements - the same movements which are commonly overtly 'simulated' by dancers without those skills.

This is the difference between derivative movement (former), and prescriptive movement (latter).

At this point, the two hours where up. In the excitement of discovering the relevance of "slowandslow"-sponsored movement quality in the rueda basic, I think participants' overlooking of the 'big picture' difference between derived and prescribed movement can be forgiven. It gives me something to dedicate a Solares workshop to in the future.

Loo Yeo

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