Ocho, ocho, wherefore art thou ocho?


Yeah, I know it means why rather than where, but I never let facts stand in the way of a cheesy title.

One word. One move. You’d think one lesson might be enough to get me to the point where I could produce something which might bear a rough approximation to an ocho if viewed from a distance on a dark and foggy night. But no …

To be fair to myself, Mariano did pull a sneaky move. He first introduced me to a beginner’s version of the move, then in a subsequent lesson decided I was ready to graduate to a grown-up one. How wrong he was!

I couldn’t get the look. I couldn’t get the feel. On the occasions when I caught a glimpse of how it should look, I couldn’t grasp how it should feel. When I had some semblance of how it should feel, the result looked almost exactly unlike an ocho.

The vanishingly few times both look and feel coincided, I had no idea how to enter it from the walk. When I figured out an 18-step plan for transitioning from the walk to an ocho, it took so much of my concentration that I forgot everything I had ever learned about the walk – and the music was over there somewhere doing its thing while I was over here doing mine.

I was in ocho hell. Combine that with a complete failure to find the right teacher at the right time, and I was considering taking up something easier, like quantum mechanics.

So Steph and I practiced. My first attempts to lead one were hopeless. But gradually, very gradually, I started to lead something which, somehow, turned itself into an ocho of sorts. More practice, and I could reliably communicate my intent, if no more than that. More practice, and eventually we ended up with something which could – were one to be both generous and short-sighted – be considered an ocho. Moreover, I could enter one from the walk; exit one; and even figure out that Steph was doing decorations, and wait for her to finish.

I was told that I’d come far enough for the moment, and now needed to sleep on it, to allow the learning to consolidate. Though I do have a sneaking suspicion this wisdom on Steph’s part was not entirely unconnected to her hunger for the scrambled egg brunch scheduled to take place immediately after the practice.

One realisation, though. I like neatness. I like precision. And an ocho is inherently a messy thing. It needs time, so can’t snap to the beat (at least, unless you are very much better at them than the limit of my ambitions for the rest of the year). It’s fluid. It’s languorous. It’s fuzzy round the edges. I think I perhaps need to be more ocho in my tango journey.

Photo: Shutterstock

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