Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Contratiempo: A Bigger Picture With Rueda Contratiempo

I was looking to mix things up a bit.

The past few solares sessions had been dedicated to laying down the rhythmic foundations of: recognising tones, and vocalising/playing them; understanding what the sounds mean, and the movements they cue. It's been two-thirds individual and one-third partnered at a guess, and all based on the Caribbean sway.

This session, I wanted to use it to regain touch with why we were all dancing - music, movement, laughter, people. Along the way, I wanted to give them a sense of what dancing contratiempo was about. Think of it as a session-long contrasting activity in the long arc of the contratiempo chapter.

But first, because there was also a newly-joined participant, there was the recap warm up.

Warm Up: Caribbean sway, maracas, and vocalisation
Solo practice. Caribbean sway performed contratiempo. Maracas playing "tok" (beat 4) with the hembra and "tuk" (beat 2) with the macho. Full vocalisation "tok-tik-tuk-tik" on beats 4-1-2-3 respectively. Participants whom encountered difficulty where first asked to play the "tok" hembra tone (beat 4) only. Once they got in the groove, they were to add the "tuk" macho tone (on beat 2).

Exercise One: Contratiempo Rueda de Casino
Rueda de Casino, to music. Contratiempo embodiment rhythm. Basic and 'dame' call only. Federated calling. The rueda de casino group had an excess of one follower. I required all followers to maintain the correct partnership position and perform their steps relative to a virtual partner, NOT to face the centre and dance basic time as they were inclined to do. This was another objective: to encourage followers to take a more active role, to visualise their movements for each move called.

As expected even the simple choreography proved challenging, although participants were able to work out their solutions after five tracks. Both the followers' spatial practice and the difficulties they encountered under the new contratiempo timing, caused them to reflect on whether or not they truly knew their choreography.

I asked them to note that dancing contratiempo is not the same as dancing son cubano. The contratiempo embodiment rhythm is a property common across genres of the son rhythm group (which includes: son, changüi, bolero, chachachá and son montuno). Put another way, the contratiempo embodiment rhythm is a defining characteristic of son cubano, but it is not the sole defining characteristic i.e. dancing contratiempo alone does not make it a son cubano.

The final point was encouragement to take the opportunity, at party nights, to dance contratiempo rueda to bachata tracks. The rate-limiting step currently, for this chapter of Solares, is the amount of contratiempo partnered practice everyone has outside of the sessions.

Loo Yeo