Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Contratiempo Rueda: Breaking Open Basic Combinations

Warm Up
Two-couple square formations. No partnership hold. 'Enchufla-Dame-Dile Que No' stacked calls. Federated calling. To music. We began this double-session where we left off. This was a chance for me to assess the level of retention of last session's content. In general this was good, but a gentle reminder to emphasise availability in the 'pockets of synchronisation' was necessary.

Educator's Note
Last session, I'd thought to introduce a mid-session contrasting activity in the form of an ethnomusicological briefing. Although all participants agreed that it was informative, I felt that it lacked flow, and caused bodies already warmed up to cool off. This made it more challenging to resume flow.

I resolved to front-load the briefings as part of the warm-up, and use physical contrasting activities as necessary in the latter phases of the session.

Concept: Line of Dance
Social ballroom dances of European origin which are progressive in nature proceed around the dance floor in an anti-clockwise manner. Rueda de casino is no different.
  1. Progressive movement anti-clockwise around the floor is described as moving "along the line of dance" and, its converse, clockwise around the floor is "against the line of dance".
  2. Orientation along the anti-clockwise circle is "facing down or along the line of dance" and, its converse, clockwise around the floor is "facing up or against the line of dance".
Hence the 'arriba' ['up'] call modifier in rueda de casino. I used the analogy of kayaking - moving or facing downstream or upstream - to drive the point home.

Exercise One: Line of Dance Orientation in Contratiempo Rueda de Casino
Two-couple square formations. No partnership hold. 'Enchufla-Dame-Dile Que No' stacked calls. Federated calling. To music. This was identical to the warm up, except participants were asked to take note of their orientations and movement relative to the line of dance.

Concept: Relative Direction, Ensemble versus Individual
I asked participants "On which side are you stepping on when you make the ¡Oye! alert call?" They all came back with individual-relative directions: 'left' and 'right'. I introduced them to the idea of ensemble-relative directions: 'inside' and 'outside' of the rueda de casino circle.

Exercise Two: Ensemble-Relative Direction in Contratiempo Rueda de Casino
Two-couple square formations. No partnership hold. 'Enchufla-Dame-Dile Que No' stacked calls. Federated calling. To music. This was identical to the warm up, except participants were asked to:
  1. take note of their orientations and movement relative to the line of dance; and,
  2. pay attention to when they were alerting and issuing calls, in ensemble-relative terms.
At the end of the exercise, participants observed that:
  • using individual-relative direction, calls issued changed between left and right when dance orientation reversed; whereas,
  • using ensemble-relative direction, calls issued remained the same - inside or outside - despite reversals in dance orientation.
This phenomenon of calls remaining consistently unchanged when using ensemble-relative direction is central to the meaning of the next exercise.

Exercise Three: Disassembled Enchufla Combination, Interleaved Elements
Two-couple square formations. No partnership hold. 'Enchufla-Dame-Dile Que No' un-stacked calls. Federated calling. To music. This exercise was identical to the previous ones except for one very important thing. Callers were asked to call each element individually, unconcatenated. This would give rise to:
'enchulfa' - Caribbean Sway basic - 'dame' - Caribbean Sway basic - 'dile que no' - Caribbean Sway basic - (repeat)
The pedagogic objectives were two-fold:
  • call-orientation flexibility - calling on a different foot (individual-relative) yet same foot (ensemble-relative) direction; and,
  • clear feedback on movement quality - providing clear definition between elements, thus rendering transparent the quality in execution of change-of-place elements.
The stringency made clear:
  • any differences in call timings (in transpired that a participant was calling one beat too early);
  • the need for close and consistent partnership distance (to maintain connection and mirror neurone stimulus);
  • the levels of drive needed to get into a good position in the change-of-place; and,
  • began to establish connections between dancers of the same role i.e. follower-follower and leader-leader.

Concluding Point: Redirecting the Stamp
I'd observed that a habit had spread to all participants - they were all accenting with their feet (almost stamping) the 'tok' (beats 4&8). I understood that this was deployed as an overt means of inter-member synchronisation.

The emphasis, while rhythmically correct, introduced a vibration perturbation to their lower body which prevented the hip from settling in the immediately following '-y'. Whatismore, it indicated that energy was being lost through sound and friction-generated heat on the floor - energy which would be better harnessed as mechanical leverage.

I drew their attention to their accent, and asked them to redirect the accent:
"Instead of stamping the sound on the 'tok',  try redirecting the accent sideways through the hip."
It took a couple of tries, then an exclamation rang out: "there's so much power!"

My work tonight was done.

Loo Yen

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