Review of Workshop - G-town Tango's Milonguero Dips and Back Volcadas

Normally I don't go for workshops that have steps in the title - classes like "The Twelve Ganchos of Christmas" or "Fifty Ways to Lead Your Rulo" tend to leave me cold. However, when instructors have a reputation of teaching steps and combinations that work well on a crowded milonga floor - I'm far more willing to give the class a shot. Georgetown Tango's Special Topics Workshop last month featured Milonguero Dip* & Back Volcadas for the social dance floor.

Here are a couple of examples of the Milonguero Dip:

Ney Melo and Jennifer Bratt
The Milonguero Dip (at 0:55, 0:59 and 1:03):

and at 0:38 here:

Like some of the best stuff in tango, how the Milonguero Dip looks on the outside is nothing compared to how great it feels in the embrace. As the man collects his knees and twists he creates the slight drop which gives a "swoosh" (dip) feel to the resulting forward ocho. (That's highly technical phrasing, I know - "swoosh!" ) It's also far more complicated to lead than it looks (as is nearly everything tango, isn't it?) It looks so effortless and feels pretty natural for the follower once she's aware of the possibility. The biggest problem is that so many times we, as dancers, try to minimize changes in height - but this is exactly the effect we're going for.

Back volcadas are also deceptively simple looking and beautiful when executed well. It requires the follower to 1.) know the difference between a back ocho lead and a back volcada lead. It's very easy to interpret the beginning momentum as the start of ochos and forget to "feel" for the twist that actually causes the pivot. (If there's no twist - don't pivot.) and 2.) release the free leg.. Really release it. This is a subtle lead and keeping the free leg stiff and tense will keep the leader from being able to "place" the follower's leg (and foot) where it needs to be. At best it will feel stilted and awkward - at worst, it simply won't work.

Here are Homer and Christina Ladas demonstrating back volcadas (of varying size and speed - they get pretty big and dramatic after awhile) after a class:

Not only are both of these types of steps appropriate on a busy pista (I'm referring here to the small variety of back volcadas) - they're very expressive musically.

I've been to several classes from respected teachers that have focused on adornments and a few of them have mentioned, very generally, where you might lead them in the music. What I haven't seen/heard as much, until now, is a teacher focus on musical phrasing from the outset and then put music on within which you can actually feel the step. As the song our teacher selected played, and we tried out different combinations, we all "heard" the potential for the steps - perfect pauses and lilts in melody. Not just marking a beat or the space between beats - but using the steps to almost illustrate the music.

(I'm pretty sure there are better terms and phrases for what I'm trying to describe - both in the dancing and the music. But having a background in neither one, I'm doing my best to muddle through.)

I was so happy with the material taught in those classes that it gave me much more confidence on the milonga floor. I didn't just take away how to follow a sequence of steps, but I gained an understanding of how, why and where it could be led (and followed) in the music. I also learned how to very express my own musicality within the step as it's led. That little bit of information translated into so many other things I've been working on. That's my favorite feeling at the end of a class or workshop - like a whole new set of possibilities has opened up. A close second "favorite feeling" is when a visiting tango dancer (who was obviously not in the same class) leads the step (in this case the milonguero dip) and because I can follow it, I can really enjoy the movement - the "swoosh".

(*As the topic of the "Milonguero Dip" has come up on other sites, there has been some debate on the name - or on naming the sequence at all. Personally, I like having something to call it because if we can, at least for the purposes of the class, agree to call it something, it helps me organize my thoughts. )


Anonymous said...

I think, then, you got out of the class what was intended.

One thing I've noticed as I've gone along, is that there are classes that are "pattern" and classes that are "concept" (some more so than others) and some that try to mix the two together (sometimes this is ideal also).

I don't mind a "pattern" based class, as long as the base "concept" is apparent to the students. Sometimes you need some sort of base structure like a small pattern to outline the concept you are trying to show. It's often difficult to teach a strictly "concept" class. Usually musicality classes or floorcraft classes are where this works best.

The best advice I can give you is if you like learning by concept (and the times I've run in to this is mostly with American teachers) then choose classes/workshops with teachers that you know will give you concept because that is their nature even if there is some "structure/pattern" element to it also, because sometimes that has to be there or people just get totally lost and have no frame of reference for the concept.

One thing I also do is not to discount a pattern I learn. If absolutely nothing else, I use it as a way to get used to the feeling of whatever it is and "assimilate" it in to my body, much like you did with the milonguero dip, so that when you go out, you can recognize it and respond to it when you feel it.

But I do agree, if it's a class I've seen a topic on already, I am less likely to take a class like that unless I know the teacher included "concept" as part of their teaching method and I'm likely to learn something new about it by taking it again with them.

My prime example is Luciana Valle. I learned volcadas (correctly) with her a few years ago, then a year later she taught the class again, and I took it again and learned a few new concepts because she is one of the few Argentines I have taken lessons from who teaches more by concept than pattern so you'll almost always find new ideas each time.


Mari said...

Bastet - concept vs. pattern - that's it exactly. When steps/patterns/movements are taught without context, there is so much opportunity missed.

jantango said...

Who came up with the "milonguero dip?" The milongueros in BsAs would be interested in knowing about it.

Mari said...

I was waiting for that to come up. As you know Jan, like anything else being taught in the U.S, things have to be called something. The Dance-forums thread that goes into background of the term can be found here:

No one's claiming to have invented anything or traced its history or to anyone. It's a beautiful, versatile and very useful turn on the social dance floor that several dancers and instructors use. But that's a lot to put in a class title.

And regarding what the milongueros would think, I doubt they'd give a hoot one way or another unless someone was putting their specific name on it.