Ochos: aiming to move beyond passable imitations


A new day and a new class: my first taste of the Tango Space Monday class. I’m not the only person to go to more than one lesson each week, so I was pleased to see a few familiar faces.

As with all Tango Space lessons, it starts with the walk. Federico had me lead him, and I again found that my walk comes together nicely when I really concentrate on all the elements – but doesn’t when I don’t. Oddly enough …

One thing I was kind of aware of: when I’m leading an experienced follower, I’m not afraid to really push from the back foot – but I’m much more tentative with a fellow beginner. I’m afraid, I think, of pushing her over. One of the other students said they were afraid of treading on the follower’s toes, which is a variation on the same theme.

Federico had a simple answer to that: provided the lead is clear, and you are projecting, it is the follower’s job to maintain the tension and respond – and to take the appropriate size step. “If you tread on her feet once or twice, she will learn.” Bridgitta had also told me that I needed to lose the fear of doing that.

The theme of the lesson was the forward ocho. Tango dancers will now laugh, but when I finally got the hang of how ochos worked, it happened to be via a backward one – and I hadn’t yet figured out how a forward one worked. For any non-tango-dancers reading this, it’s essentially identical, you just pivot in the opposite direction to begin. So about 30 seconds into the lesson, came my ‘Doh!’ moment.

I consider myself to be in phase 1 of the ocho. I have, finally, got the hang of how they work, and when I take them slowly and really concentrate, I can do a passable imitation of one. But I definitely need to massively improve my ability to dissociate. The extent to which I’m able to pivot my chest without my hips is quite limited, and it only happens at all when I very consciously tell myself ‘Side-step, pivot chest, maintain frame, wait for follower to complete pivot and … side-step …’

But, given my history with the ocho, I’m perfectly happy to be at phase 1 with them. Especially now I can lead them in either direction.

Stopping them is messier. I know the theory. Slow, to provide a clue, then simply cease the pivot … change weight … walk. My current practice is more like: maybe slow, if I have enough attention dollar left to focus on that … cease the pivot … wait for follower to complete one more because I hadn’t been clear enough in my intent … definitely cease the pivot … change weight a few times until I’m confident we’re in sync … and then walk.

I’ll get there.

I can’t make the Tuesday lesson this week. Once or twice a year, four old friends meet up, go for an extravagant meal, reminisce about the days when we drove cars quickly around a race-track (the older we get, the faster we were) and drink way too much. Waaaay too much. So that’s what I’ll be doing instead of tango tomorrow.

But on Thursday, I’ll be at the Holborn lesson, forward ocho-ing again. Possibly with a hangover. Trying to pivot my chest more, and exit with less than a fortnight’s worth of weight changes. Wish me luck.

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