A Useful 8 Count Basic
A Useful 8 Count Basic. The 8 Count ‘Basic’ is a term and ‘move’ in tango that refers to 2 very different aspects of Tango that are put together. First the ‘8 Count’ which refers to the musical component, which is the counting of 8 beats. The second is a ‘Basic’, which refers to a simple, easily identifiable, and reproducible pattern of steps which can showcase the foundation of a particular dance form. With regards to Tango, our ‘Basic’ is deeply engrained in our DNA (as it were) as a venerable teaching tool.
We frequently use it to teach the very basic structures of Argentine Tango. We use it to teach a lead to walk, and how to embrace, and how to engage with the Follower. We use it to inform the Follower how to engage an embrace, how to walk, and how to deal with the impulse of a ‘lead’. Furthermore the 8 Count really does force one to start to listen to the music in a very different way, instead of for enjoyment, but rather to learn to be in time with the music, and then to keep time with the music by focusing on the counting aspect of the music, and more importantly the ‘beat’ in very rhythmical, and set or predictable patterns that can easily be managed. Hence the 8 Count of it’s name.
The 8 Count Basic can be, if used properly, a really great primer about Argentine Tango (Aside: The author prefers the Golden Nugget of Tango as that primer but that’s professional bias). The 8 Count Basic goes one step (no pun intended) further, it even teaches both dancers about a rather ubiquitous piece of tango vocabulary: The Argentine Cross! 😉
So while the 8 Count Basic has all this going for it as a teaching tool, as a social dance tool, it has multiple failings! It’s a static pattern or figure! Talk about a yawn fest! Part of the ‘yawn fest’ comes from the fact that it’s repetitive. It never changes, there’s no variation at all. 🙁 However, that’s not it’s only failing. As you’ll see below, it has more than a few!
However, the title of this Today’s Tango Topic is not a misnomer, it’s a reality. There is a version the 8 Count Basic that is actually quite usable. However, before we can talk about a useable version, we first have to define what an 8 Count is, and what it actually looks like, then identify WHY and HOW the 8 Count isn’t useful before we can actually show you a Useful 8 Count!
What is an actual 8 Count Basic ? Put simply, it is a series of 8 steps done in Parallel (shown below) or Cross system, that start out with 1.) The Lead stepping backwards with their Right, and the Follower stepping forwards with their Left. 2.) The Lead stepping side with their Left, and the Follower matching that step with their Right. 3.) Here we can invoke either cross or parallel system, by the Lead stepping Forward with their Right outside partner (in Parallel) or changing weight and stepping with their Right (Cross), for now we’ll keep this in Parallel system, and the Follower stepping backwards with their Left. 4.) The Lead continues Forward with their Left, and the Follower Backwards with their Right. 5.) The Lead comes to Collection as the Follower crosses their left over their Right (The Completed Argentine Cross). 6.) The Lead steps forward with their Left, and the Follower steps backwards with their Right. 7.) The Lead passes through collection and steps side with their Right, while the Follower passes through collection and steps side with their left. 8.) Both partners come to Collection!
The 3 Flaws of the 8 Count Basic. There are 3 built-in ‘flaws’ or errors to the 8 Count that may seem innocuous but really aren’t they’re for lack of a better way of putting it, social dance “no-no’s”. These ‘flaws’, as we’ll call them, aren’t related to the Follower in any way, shape, or form, this is all on the Lead baby. 😉 These ‘flaws’ have everything to do with navigation and floorcraft, and really maintaining the Line and Lane of Dance.
Timmy from Idaho writes in and asks, “Gosh Mr. Tango Topics, what on earth is the Line of Dance ?”.
Mr. Tango Topics Responds: “Gosh I’m so glad you asked Timmy! The Line of Dance is a term that we use in Argentine Tango that describes how the progression of couples is supposed to move in relation to one another, as if it were a driving along a road, that we maintain the direction that traffic flows (in Argentine Tango), which is counter clockwise.”
Sheila from Arizona writes in and asks, “Driving along a road ? You mean like lanes of dance ?”
Mr. Tango Topics Responds: “Yes Sheila exactly that. Besides the Line of Dance, we also have what’s called the Lane of Dance. Which refers to ‘tracks’ of dancers as if they were in a racing lane, on a race track. That we ideally want to keep to our specific lane of dance, contained, so that we don’t impact others experience with our own dancing.”
Flaw #1. This flaw refers to the very first rule of Leading Tango as a Social Dance. You do not step backwards in the line of dance! The first step of the 8 Count does precisely that! Cue the Wrong Answer Sound.
Flaw #2. This one occurs on step 2 of the of the Basic 8. It’s the Side step. Usually out of one’s Lane of Dance.
Flaw #3. This flaw is generated on step 7 of the Basic 8. It’s the another Side step back into the originating Lane of Dance.
For these three reasons the 8 Count Basic can not be used as a social dancing tool. 🙁
What is a Useful 8 Count Basic ? Put simply it is a modification, and goes further by actually adding for variations on a theme. The modification has to do with orientation, and then actual rotation. That if you modify the orientation of certain steps and you rotate the resulting steps in certain ways then the 8 Count Basic becomes more than useful, it’s actually a lot of fun in nearly any embrace that you can come up with (including the Berlin Embrace)! Not only that there’s a possible surprise at the end that you weren’t expecting that’s sitting there!
Difficulty Rating: 2.5 / 5
The Specific Steps of A Useful 8 Count ? 1.) The Lead curves their back step with their Right. Instead of stepping straight back which would break the first rule of Argentine Social Dance, we curve it so that it doesn’t impact the oncoming dancing couple! The Follower matches that curve by stepping forwards with their Left into their lead. This, one, simple change is quite possibly the game changer for the entire Useful 8 Count! 2.) The Lead steps side with their Left, and the Follower matches suit with their Right. 3.) While a Cross or Parallel version is possible here by invoking a simple weight change, let’s keep things in Parallel Walking System - the Lead steps Diagonally Forward with their Right and incidentally stepping outside partner, and the Follower stepping Diagonally backwards with their Left. 4.) The Lead continues Diagonally Forward (the diagonal part is very important, because it continues the rotation of the couple) with their Left, and the Follower Diagonally Backwards with their Right. 5.) The Lead rotates at 90 degrees perpendicular to the lane of dance (and pivots, and it actually is a pivot) and comes to Collection as the Follower crosses their Left over their Right (The Completed Argentine Cross) matching the rotation of the Lead! 6.) The Lead steps Diagonally BACKWARDS with their Left, and the Follower steps Diagonally Forwards with their Right. 7.) The Lead passes through collection and steps side with their Right, while the Follower passes through collection and steps side with their left. There is another option that’s sitting here, a very important option! 8.) Both partners come to Collection.
The Other Options ? The video talks about, near the end of the sample above, that there are other options sitting here. There are loads of them, this video only touches on 4 of them. 2 surprises and 2 options. But those surprises are astounding, and the options are implied from the title image: Sacadas! There are in fact 2 Sacadas that are embedding the modified version of A Useful 8 Count Basic. Truth be told one of those Sacadas is right there at the beginning of the non-useful version too!
The Active Follower! This topic doesn’t get talked about a whole lot for a variety of reasons most notably is that it’s frightening to a lot of people, still another is that it is highly misunderstood as to what an Active Follower actually means. While there is an definition on this website of what the Role of the Active Follower actually is and is not, in this instance this particular video only touches on ONE very important aspect of the Active Follower, and that’s ‘energy’. Energy ? Meaning adding more than a little “vim und voive” (liveliness) to what the Follower is doing in respect to this particular piece of vocabulary. However this aspect is an important one going forwards because we want to embed this idea everywhere that the Follower is engaging. Why ? Because far too often they are passive, they are ‘waiting’ for something to happen, instead of something else: Listening! This isn’t simple word replacement by the way, but a completely different state of mind. Put simply when you are ‘waiting’ you are giving up control of what you can and will do! When you are ‘listening’ you have complete control over what you can and will do! And yet this idea of ‘waiting’ for the L/lead is precisely what happens with most Follower from the first moment they step on the floor. As a result it creates in them, and we as Leads come to expect this out of them, a state of being ‘passive’. Which should not be confused with the Passive Follower definition on this site. Passive in the state of giving up their control of what they can and may want to do in relation to the music. The passivity of the Follower in this instance is not only energy based but also in options and opportunities. The Follower tends to shut down as result of being told to ‘wait’ so often. They may hear things in the music but don’t act on them because they don’t want to disturb their lead, and/or interrupt the Lead’s idea of what’s supposed to happen according to the Lead. Well what about the Follower’s idea ? Tango can be a cooperative experience, almost bordering on egalitarian if the Lead creates the space for that to occur. Doing so creates a much more responsive, and rightfully thoughtful Follower that can add interesting ideas and options for the couple to engage in. When a Lead does not create space for the Follower, it’s nothing short of a Monologue of the Lead’s ideas. And while that can be fun to experience how a Lead hears the music, it does get a bit monotonous. There are other ideas, and the role of the Active Follower is just one place. The reason why it’s relevant here is that it can and does show that a piece of executable vocabulary, when engaged with an Active Follower is far more preferable to the lackluster Following aspect that happens far too frequently. To be fair this is not Follower Bashing. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It is in fact LEAD bashing! And while these ideas may seem heretical, almost bordering on insubordination, they’re not. However this is a topic for a different day. More on this later.
About The Video. This video comes in at 31m:13s in length in 16 Sections. Both lead and follower technique is combined and integrated in the video.
Section 1 - Introduction - 00:00:49
Section 2 - The 8 Count Basic - 00:01:10
Section 3 - Why It’s Useful - 00:00:26
Section 4 - Three 8 Count Flaws - 00:01:53
Section 5 - A Useful 8 Count - 00:02:01
Section 6 - Leading Perspective - 00:01:43
Section 7 - Following Perspective - 00:01:58
Section 8 - The Open Embrace Version - 00:00:40
Section 9 - The Close Embrace Version - 00:01:37
Section 10 - The First ’Surprise’ - 00:02:41
Section 11 - The Inverted ’Surprise’ - 00:03:39
Section 12 - The Basic with Sacadas - 00:02:31
Section 13 - Follower Technique - 00:02:43
Section 14 - with Follower Adornments/Embellishments - 00:00:52
Section 15 - with the Active Follower - 00:04:20
Section 16 - Closure - 00:01:31
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Watch It On Youtube ? Why should you pay for this video, or subscribe to this website when stuff like this is available on Youtube ? Because what you'll find on Youtube doesn't explain and walk you through the how a A Useful 8 Count Basic can function with Surprises, Sacadas, Rotations, and Engaging the role of the Active Follower! That’s why! Correction. You will find one or two videos that walk you through the a version of this idea, but not all the variations that are described above. So this is one reason why you want this video series, and more importantly to have this stuff broken down for you from a leading and following perspective.
So, please, go right ahead, go watch all the presentation videos on youtube all you want. Because that's what they are 'Presentation' videos. The couple's that you're used to seeing are performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they're not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about 'Social Dancing'. So please, go spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won't help you, because you're missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher! (ahem) ME! The goal of youtube videos is to entice you to go study with those teachers in person. The goal of these videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and be done with it. 😉
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In an hour long class, with the blind leading the blind through rotation of partners (uuuggggh!), you may glean a piece of the information you need and not get the whole thing, and you’ll miss important pieces that you’ll end up having to take a private lesson for to get the finer points. This way, you can watch over and over again, and get all the supplementary materials, and if you want you can still go take the class, only you’ll be better prepared to do so!
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