The Ochos

This is the first figure the students will experiment. It is the first sequence of movements they will make at the place they are. We are including concepts like how to make figures at a place as milonga, where everyone wants to dance their own choreography but nobody bothers anyone else by pushing or blocking the dancing.

When the cruzada starts, the leader invites the follower to go forwards with the right foot by the side. Then, the leader goes backwards with the left foot. We must take into account that, at cruzada, the follower is still on the leader's right.

The leader closes up with the right leg after making the step backwards, and the follower who has stayed by the side enters with the left foot, looking for the leader's front and making half an ocho. The leader's leading is not always necessary for this last movement if the concept of always looking for the partner's front has been learnt. In this case, the follower enters looking for the front of the leader, who has stayed still waiting for the follower to enter.

At this moment of the follower's entrance, the leader turns ninety degrees on the right foot to make a new step backwards with the left foot, so that the follower can go with the leader in a repetitive movement with the right leg forward and by the side. It is repeated three or four times until the leader resumes the dancing line.

All this happens in a continuing movement. At the moment the leader stops turning, the follower rests with both feet on the ground once it's facing the leader. And there they start from scratch.

The ideal thing would be to show the performance of only one accompaniment of complete ochos for them to practice until they find coordination in every point of the figure. Once they can make a complete ocho with its appropriate accompaniment, it is a question of repetition.

The moment when it is necessary to step on at music tempo is when the leader goes backwards with the left foot and the follower goes forwards with the right foot. When the follower makes half an ocho, it is unnecessary to follow a rhythmic sequence. The best thing would be to use three times of music for every complete ocho. When technique is acquired, only two times can be used for the whole movement in some tangos that are not too fast.

There is another way in which, when cruzada is about to happen, the leader goes backwards with the right leg and the follower goes forwards with the right leg on the same line of the leader's backward going foot.

The leader opens the left foot leftwards at the same length of the shoulders’ width, creating a frame so that the follower can make her ochos in front of the leader posture, from one side to the other, letting the leader lead the follower by his shoulders' movement.

I used to teach these two ways of entering the ochos, but I realized that students got confused too much when entering the figures because they could not remember what foot they had to pull backwards.

Memory is important at the beginning of learning. It is also important afterwards, but nothing compares to movements of the beginning. Leaders have to remember so many movements that you cannot demand too much on their memorizing ability. If we teach them two ways of exit backwards after a cruzada in order to enter the ochos, we will note recurrent mistakes, where they pull out the wrong foot for each variant.

I prefer to teach the first example at the beginning and leave the second one for the time they understand some more concepts. If it comes to options, we can find many more, though it is about teaching them some definite, secure content where they can support on so that they feel safe in action. The fact of not having "hit the nail on the head" three or four times in a row when performing a step, is a source of high frustration.