Making friends with ocho cortados, and my first milonga fix for a fortnight

fast turn

I’m not generally going to the pre-milonga Tuesday lesson these days, but the topic was one I must have missed before: ocho cortado with circular movements. That sounded both fun and useful, so I headed over for that.

As it turned out, we didn’t get as far as the circular movement part, but I didn’t mind at all …

Improver class

Hamdi and Natalia were teaching, and there was a very strong technique focus.

I’ve noted before one of the weaknesses of teaching set sequences is that followers are effectively trained to do them on auto-pilot. Teach an ocho cortado as a rebound, one leader back-step, a pivot and then closing into the cross, and followers will tend to anticipate the lead.

Hamdi addressed that very early on by inviting leaders to vary the number of forward steps before the rebound, and to vary the number of back-steps before the pivot. He also had us vary the pace of the pivots, sometimes pausing a beat before leading the cross.

Doing this, the ocho cortado really clicked for me in a whole new way. I think I’d always seen it as this fixed sequence of steps, and at a fixed ‘on the beat’ pace. But what we were doing today was completely flexible.

Ok, the real-life opportunities to take more than one back-step in a milonga are less frequent than the UK’s Brexit reprieves, but I found it still made a big difference to think of it as this thing you can do on demand and at my choice of speed.

Hamdi and Natalia also seemed happy with my technique, offering only one small suggestion.


Even if I were still doing the tanda-by-tanda reports, I’d have had no chance tonight. The executive summary is I danced a lot and loved every tanda!

I liked a lot of the music. Pretty much every other tango tanda, and I think every vals and every milonga! (Yep, you now can’t keep me in my seat during a milonga tanda.)

It seemed all my regular followers were there, so every time I wanted to dance, I was able to cabeceo someone whose dance I really enjoy. Indeed, there were followers I wanted to dance with but didn’t get the chance because there were so many. I don’t think there was an unusual imbalance, just lots of my favourites there.

I also enjoyed dancing with two new followers in the class, so added them to my hit-list. (No, not that kind; I don’t have any followers on that one.) I danced with both, and both tandas were lovely.

I did lead the ocho cortado in the milonga, and found I loved it with this new-found flexibility. For songs I know really well, it’s a great tool for switching from a rhythmic section to a lyrical one as the cross is a very natural place for a pause.

Another drawback of learning by numbers is that followers are often taught – in very clear terms – to change weight immediately after a cross, so they are ready to walk. That’s a useful shortcut, but there are times when the leader doesn’t want the follower to change weight until it’s led, and leading several back-and-forth pivots in and out of the cross is a good example. I found you can only do that with a very experienced follower who waits for the weight-change to be led.

Conversely, that level of following means the lead needs to be a very conscious one, because when do lead the weight-change, the follower needs time to do it, so you have to pause for a beat.

I also accidentally led a medio-giro in a new way. I usually now end it with a parada, but in this case someone stepped back into the space into which I was going to lead my follower, so I had to end it at the side-step, then a change of weight and walk forward. I realised afterwards that this is a very neat and simple way to do a 180-degree turn pretty much inside our own space. I lead it a few times deliberately afterwards and confirmed that it’s a really handy tool.

Literally the only time I couldn’t find a partner was after I’d decided it was time to go home and had taken off one shoe. But then the milonga song started playing, and it was a fun one, so I decided to dance it. However, quite a few people had left by then, and, unusually for a milonga tanda, everyone left was dancing! Seems I wasn’t the only one who liked the song.

But the previous tanda had been really lovely, so I was more than happy to end the night there.

Thursday, I have the intermediate class – on boleos. A small room and lots of people leading boleos; I’m considering personal protective equipment …

Image: Shutterstock

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