And so today was the weekly pre-performance rueda class composed of people interested in joining the Ithakeros rueda de casino performance group, and again we made great progress. It is exciting for me to figure out how to translate something that comes naturally, break it down and then see other people getting it.
Today I took the leaders and Nan (Nancy A.) took the followers and we worked on using the “Cuban enchufla” for the first half of the basic in al centro position. Then we came together and applied it using con las manos: first holding hands and me calling dame with basics in between, and then con las manos proper. Finally, this was applied to dame while doing rueda.
Next step? Do it with the Ithakeros performance group during our practice tomorrow – Monday night.
Dance Movement – The group is now working on Cuban stepping – enchufla, dame/DQN, abajo with enchufla step…). It is an exciting time for me! I now can see people getting what I’ve been talking about from the time I started this group and how we will be different from others in the area.
Group Membership – There is a strong possibility of some new members joining the demo/performance group. These are people coming from the performance orientated beginner class that Nancy (co-directer/co-founder and I started a little while back) Growth is always great.
Publicity: We have a website, flyers, business cards… http://ithakeros.weebly.com
I’ve always wanted to make an impact in rueda de casino in my area, always wanted to express my creativity and at long last I find that it is coming to be. I can see rueda de casino eventually becoming what I wish it to be. Teaching on Tuesday, working with my very own rueda de casino group…it’s frustrating, but also wonderful for me. So far, I’ve introduced vacilala ocho to Binghamton and Ithaca, and taking it one step further vacilala as a common entry point into al centro. Now I working on people getting familiar with use of suffixes such as no llegas, por atras, and exhibela to make moves more flexible, and will be introducing new ones….but the next step is easy blending such as Ketucky-Setenta and Abanico-Ponle Sabor. I can’t wait!
So what goes into a song choice:
1. Does it appeal to dancers/choreographer/audience?
2. What are the dynamics of song like and what are we looking for?
– tempo variations and average tempo?
– rhythms played – salsa/reggaeton/merengue/son montuno, guajira, charanga, timba….
– breaks in the song, what is the intro like, the ending
– are there natural places in the song where we can change orientation and/or types of moves being done
– does the song match the level of the dancers – eg Agua by the group Los Van Van is a high energy fast paced song without much variation in tempo. It requires people who can match that energy, and not everyone can do so.
3. Are the lyrics relevant?
I spent a lot of time on this recently and finally tonight our group – Ithakeros – danced to several song suggestions and chose Los Compeones de la Salsa by Willy Chirino.
I always say that you really don’t know it until you can teach someone how to do it. There is learning that can only come from teaching. In the past couple months I’ve started helping teach ballroom and rueda and it has been a great experience.
In ballroom it is an introductory survey class of over 50 students with 5 dances – waltz,foxtrot,tango, rumba and cha cha – covered in 10/12 weeks. With the emphasis on fun it is interesting to see how “frame” is learned. There is no substitute to feeling what a right and wrong frame is and the best way to do so is working with someone who knows that feeling. So, every time I get a chance to work with anyone I sneak in “let’s look at frame”.
In casino rueda there are many variations on the basic. The one that is safest to teach is where the leader places his palm flat against the followers palm on the second half of the basic. If the correct handhold is used where the leader pulls and then pushes the follower, so his right hand is clasping her palm it is easy for the lady to get her hand hurt. Sometimes people say oh rueda looks/feels boring. There is a reason why. A lot of people aren’t being taught the elements that make it a really dynamic breathing (in/out open/close) circle. And for good reason. Learning that correct handhold and moving well takes time.
In all dance styles most students desire to keep on learning move after move. It is few who both realize the important basic/core elements and do the work to get those right.
A lot of people learn rueda and then get stuck converting it to couple dancing in a way that makes it flow. Going back to the same starting point after each move is limiting and can break up a dance. It is only when one begins to treat move combinations as made up of components that can be mixed together that flow can happen. Take the move balsero for example, which consists of  8 counts. At the end of the first 8 count one can then do besito  8 count combination. At the end of the 3d 8 count one is in a perfect position to do an exibe  8 count next, and then one could do abanico starting from the 2nd 8 count of that move combination. I could go on for quite a bit more, but I hope that you see the pattern. And it is something that every rueda/casino dancer should learn in order to improve their dancing.
As you dance and with time you start to see patterns. Some that I have seen as well as ideas how to explore this “flow” concept:
1.Any veil where L Rh veils F at end of 8 count => next abanico starting from 2nd 8 count
2. Exhibe – dedo guarapo y bota can always be done
3. Any combinations with 2 handed R-R L-L enchufe-veil in an 8 count => next exhibe – abanico/sombreo doble/sombreo complicado/sombreo recomplicado/juana la cubana These are montana, montana bella, besito – do after penultimate 8 count
3. exhibe with L Lh-F Rh => exhibe for first half of the eight count and then transitioning into any setenta for the second half of the eight count, ending at setenta position (end of the 2nd 8 count). These are kentucky after 2nd 8 count, setenta abajo after 2nd 8 count, setenta cubano after 3rd 8 count
4. Think about possibilities using the other hand/or not switching hands. e.g. at end of 2nd 8 count of kentucky one can switch hands to do enchufe doble next. One can also do enchufe doble with a L Rh – F Rh handhold for a different feel
5. Anytime L Lh – F Rh at end of eight count- think of moves starting that way which might work: adios/enchufe, evelyn
6. Anytime L Rh – F Rh at end of eight count – think of which move combinations that start that way would work: dedo family, hecho
balsero-besito-exhibe-juana la cubana-abanico-ponle sabor
juana la cubana-exhibe
dedo-enchufe doble-exhibe-dedo guarapo y bota
habana = candado-setenta