Apilado Class - the Sequel

(Pictured above, Carlos Gavito and Maria Plazaola (I think) - courtesy of PhotoTango.net - click on picture to visit the site.)

I had my second apilado class with Daniela Arcuri Friday night. I thought this time it would go so much more smoothly since I've been practicing somewhat regularly... well, okay, once a week at most. But still. Thirty seconds dancing with my teacher and she had a checklist of about 6 things that needed adjusting. Shoulder down, chest more forward, knees bent more,... more than that... heels together, now you have more room for molinetes - sweep out longer... and relax, and breathe.

When the pieces fall into place, the result is amazing. Intense connection and the ability (for me, anyway) to follow the tiniest lead almost instantly. When one piece goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart - particularly in turns. Without a very solid connection torso-to-torso, it's very easy for my partner and I to pull apart (actually, it's usually me pulling away by pulling my shoulder blades together) just enough that I can't feel weight changes clearly, which makes exiting the molinete, or even ochos, very tricky. Also, the greater the height difference, the more challenging it can be to find that "sweet spot" in the alignment. I have to make small ajdustments in my alignment more often - but remembering to keep my energy (and my torso) directed up is easier, since the first failure to do so results in an almost instant loss of connection and lag in my following.

Daniela warned again of back pain that can result from not having proper alignment and posture - or from simply overdoing it. Apilado, especially deep apilado, is not maintained throughout the song - some steps and movements require a rising up slightly (into more typical milonguero/close embrace, minus the shared axis/lean.) So far I have yet to experience any back pain, but then I've never had more than a couple of tandas in a row in apilado.

After the class, during the following milonga, and in the practica on Sunday - I had a few different leaders tell me that they would dance apilado more if there were more followers who preferred the style. As it was, the only two women in the apilado class this time were another tango instructor who was already very well versed in apilado, and me - with four leaders. I wonder if the leaders are as grateful for followers that follow it, as I am to leaders who lead it. As challenging as it is, I'm so relieved when I feel that invitation to lean - and that push of energy from where we're connected in the torso all the way down to my toes, into the floor. There's nothing else like it. Tango almost always feels good - but dancing tango in apilado feels phenomenal.

That experience can make it harder for me to transition back to salon, and especially open, embrace - where my partner feels like he's miles away in comparison. I have to remind myself to feel for the invitation to lean - wait for my leader's close embrace and step back (pulling me to him). If I forget, which is easy to do immediately following a tanda of apilado, I end up putting unwelcome pressure on my new leader.

So much to remember . . . For now, I'm just waiting for my next opportunity to dance.


Anonymous said...

I'm just curious who all might have training in apilado or even a mild shared axis close embrace in the area.

It's backbreaking to attempt to dance a shared axis with a leader who is not reciprocating the forward connection. (Please note that I am of the strong opinion that the partners should be mirroring each others connection, and using similar techniques to dance with each other. I can't force my apilado on to a person if they aren't going to reciprocate, I'll just end up with a backache and they may not be indicating they WANT apilado anyway.)

But- please, if you have leaders who say they would if more ladies would...I hope they've had some training in it for your back's sake (and there's more than one way to achieve it- the class you have taken is one way).

As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat...ewww.


AmpsterTango said...

We need to dance this some day

Mari said...

Bastet - I've answered this via email to you since it got so long. But for those who may be wondering the same thing - to my knowledge only Daniela is specifically teaching apilado in Austin. It's not commonly danced here because it's not commonly taught. And there have been a couple of dancers (both leaders and followers) who believe that simply leaning on your partner makes apilado. That practice, as you noted Bastet, will succeed only in creating a backache.

Apilado, as with many (most?) things in estilo milonguero, can't be learned from watching on the sidelines.

Ampster - that would be so lovely. You know we have a pretty fantastic tango festival in March: http://www.austinspringtangofestival.com :-D

Anonymous said...

Even with my dance background and teaching experience, I don't understand all the things you are being told. Tango is as natural as walking. The body has to relax in order to feel. Tango is an embrace, so dancing apart isn't tango. Head to waist contact is maintained throughout the dance.

When you finally travel to Buenos Aires, you will see it for yourself. The best way to learn is by dancing with a milonguero. They dance with the entire body and take care of the woman. All you need to do is relax and enjoy the ride.

If you lived close to New York City or Washington, DC, I would suggest attending the classes of Jorge Uzunian, a milonguero from Buenos Aires, who will be there in February/March. He turns 80 this year and has a wealth of experience in the milongas to share with students.

Mari said...

Jantango - I wish I lived closer to NYC or DC, but I'm in Texas - very far away and no means of travel any time soon. :-(

I think to constantly state that "tango is just walking" or "tango is as natural as walking" etc. not only ignores the fact that different people walk differently, but also have different comfort levels with how they move with and around other people. Walking is perfectly natural and relaxing, until you put a stranger buttons-to-buttons against my chest. Then it takes quite some time to feel natural. Cultures that value large amounts of personal space have more trouble with this - and telling them, as tango students, that this is perfectly natural, and just to relax, ignores their reality. We all come to tango with different physical characteristics, strengths, weaknesses and comfort levels - good instructors meet us where we are and guide us into the more relaxing, rewarding and natural state that's possible in tango.