Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

If you were logged in, you’d see the premium version of this Tango Topic! Just sayin’… 🙂

Tango Building Blocks – Number 2

In Today’s Building Block Episode (#2) we have three pieces of tango vocabulary that are used frequently in most people’s dance:

1.) Follower Linear Back Ochos.
2.) Lead Extensions (sometimes called “projections”). and
3.) Lead Linear Back Ochos.

The first of these elements is used so often that most people don’t even realize they’re employing them. The second gets used with some frequency as accent idea. And the last one does not even get a thought because most Leads never even conceive of it. Today’s Building Block episode discusses these ideas in relation to your dancing experience.

Let’s get something out of the way almost immediately: This video series and everything in that follows is not a steps/patterns/figures video series. We believe that these things have their place but in the long run, they don’t really help you to become a better dancer. While the choreography removes the worry of wondering what to do next. The problem with learning choreography is that it is the same dance constantly with little variation! Tango is an improvisational dance. So it’s important to explore how to improvise, and more importantly WHAT to improvise with. What Tango Topics is offering you in this video is a way to expand your dancing repertoire using the vocabulary you already know today, in ways you hadn’t really thought of, and more importantly for use on a social dance floor.

That said, let’s dive into Today’s Tango Building Block.

Difficulty Rating:   (2.5 / 5)

What is a Tango Building Block ? In many ways, Tango is a lot like a set of Lego™ Building Blocks. With just a few simple blocks you can build very complex and intricate structures. Tango is the same way. With just a few basic moves like forward, side, and back you can build very complex movements that can later be applied in very different ways. That’s what makes Tango so amazing. It’s never the same dance twice even with the same partner and the same music!

A Tango Topic Building Block goes one step further. This isn’t just about showing you a move or a step, pattern, or figure but giving you tools that you can integrate into your dance immediately. Ideas that you hadn’t even thought of or considered.

Frequently when we dance, we get very ‘stuck’ in our repetition of the same piece of vocabulary over and over and over again. This series is designed to give you ideas, options, and opportunities to employ differences to add a bit of spice to your dance using very simple ideas.

Let’s get something out of the way going further: This video series and everything in that follows is not a step, pattern, or figure video series. We’re not going to teach you a series of patterns. We believe that steps don’t really help you. Tango, for lack of a better way of putting it, is a dance that is choreographed on the fly, meaning that it is improvised. While that improvisation has some elements to it that are common (the building blocks) how you put those elements together is where the real artistry is at. Put another way, the dance is not ‘canned’, meaning that it is mapped out precisely in time to the music as though you would choreograph a ballet. That would be a performance. What Tango Topics is offering you is a way to expand your dancing repertoire using the vocabulary you already know today, in ways you hadn’t really thought of, and more importantly for use on a social dance floor.

Today’s Building Blocks Overview:

1.) A Follower’s Linear Back Ocho. The ‘Ocho’ as you understand it is such frequently used vocabulary that it’s not even worth discussing it’s merits and detractions. However it is important to recognize that there is a distinction here, and the distinction is in the Type of Ocho that’s being led on the Follower. The Linear Back Ocho! Meaning that this type of Ocho will transition in front of the Lead, and not traverse down the line of dance. Typically this type of Ocho is used for teaching purposes only simply because it goes no where. We use them to show a student dancer the structure of the Ocho, and how they work, and why they work. They’re great for that purpose alone. They can, in a pinch, be used as ‘vamping until you’re ready’. Meaning that they can used from a Leading perspective as navigational tool when the line of dance stops moving and the Lead wants to keep the Follower moving. So they’re great for that purpose alone. Given that in today’s Tango world we have more stoppages than we do actual moving of the line of dance. This tool is perfect for those moments of not progressing.

2.) Lead Extensions (sometimes called “projections”). The teaser video above alludes to 1 version of this idea. However, in the video detail only 2 of them are presented. 🙂 A projection or as Tango Topics refers to them, ‘Extension’ was covered in extensive detail in the Golden Nugget Extensions video. For brevity’s sake a Lead Extension is exactly what it sounds like, a Lead (the person, not the action) extends their leg. Where things get complicated or challenging is when and where that extension happens, and more specifically without weight transfers! These are Extensions, not a Walking steps. If we add weight transfers to the Extension, they will become a walking step which could, in this case, create a possible Sacada. Get that thought right out of your head. There are no Sacadas here. There are some really lovely things that we can do with this idea as it relates to the 1st piece of vocabulary. Mostly though what’s shown in the video are using the Extension as an accent to a stressed note, OR just as a way highlight the beat. 🙂

3.) Lead Linear Back Ochos. This is a surprise move. Quite honestly it’s challenge for most Leads because they almost, if at all, never do an Ocho themselves. They never practice this stuff…and by ‘stuff’ we mean the underlaying foundation (opposition), and then it’s actual employment (disassociation), and then doing it themselves (applied disassociation). They Lead the Ocho, but doing them with the Follower ? What ? “That’s Follower’s Vocabulary…I…I…don’t do those things!”. And that’s why it’s a surprise! Because you almost never, ever see a Lead do these things. Very rarely if ever. However, when it’s done, it be done with great effect as shown here:

Notes For The Follower. There is a very bright spot in any tango vocabulay: You are in complete control of the execution of it. No matter what any teacher or Lead may tell you, while you may be led to do X, Y, or Z, the reality is that without you, there is no dance! Period. That means you have a part to play here and it’s all in the execution (at this stage of the game), where you may not necessarily be able to choose the vocabulary choices themselves, you can affect HOW they’re done! That gives you an enormous amount of control and it can, when done properly under the guise of the music, can have a very nice effect on the dance itself.

To be fair this is not something that can happen with every Lead, truth be told, a good portion of them loose their damned minds when they have a Follower that invokes any idea on their own without it being led. So our advice to you, short of watching our video series on the Role of the Active Follower, you should pick your Leads very, very, very carefully for this stuff.

That said, 2 of these 3 pieces of vocabulary are going to create problems for you for a variety of reasons (Follower Linear Ochos, and Lead Linear Ochos). From the typical pulling and resistance from the Lead’s embrace in the Ocho (uuuugh), and not to mention the fact that most Leads rush through Leading their Ochos and leave you behind (tsk, tsk, tsk), which tends towards Armpit Leading/Dancing, right up through the Lazy Man’s Ocho debacle that happens quite frequently. The Lead Linear Ocho, at first, until they get better at executing them, they’re going to push and pull off of you. No it’s not pleasant and no it’s not desirable but it’s what’s going to happen. 🙁 Breathe, you’ll get through it. 😉

Notes For The Lead. You’re going to have a desire to repeat yourself, frequently here with this Tango Topics Building Block. Especially with the Linear Ochos. Because once you start there’s no end to them. The problem is that these are a lot of work for the Follower, so we have a rule around here: No more than three Linear, Traveling, Circular, Over-Rotated, or Anti-Ochos in a row. It’s WORK! Hard work, and unless you do that job yourself you’ll have absolutely ZERO appreciation…oh wait….Ummmmm….Now you have to do that work!

The reality is that now you want to do this work because you’re leading yourself to do precisely the same move as the Follower! And this is where you really do need to understand, then execute disassociation, and applied disassociation and do it smoothly without pushing or pulling or compression!

To be fair, that work, which you should have been doing ages ago, you’re going to have to play catch up here. It’s going to take you a while to make this stuff clean, clear, and smooth.

That said, here’s some helpful advice going forwards:

1.) Repetition is not your friend.
2.) Variety (and variation) is the spice of Tango.
3.) Rushing the Follower is never a good idea.

Nor is, while we’re on the subject:

a.) Correcting the Follower’s dancing abilities while you’re dancing with them.


b.) Talking to the Follower while their trying to do what you’ve ‘suggested’.


c.) Pushing … ahem…”heavily suggesting” to them, that they move their ass!


You would, of course, never do those things…right ? 🙂 Of course, you wouldn’t.

creative tango ideas

Close Embrace. Obviously, you’re going to want to try most of what you’ve seen here in Close Embrace (CE). I will simply say that that’s a fabulous idea. But first you want to master this stuff in Open Embrace (OE) and make certain that it’s clean on multiple levels: Your Balance, Your partner’s Stability, No Micro Pressures from either party, No Micro Stability Issues with the Hands and/or fingers from either partner. Just to name a few. This is one reason why this stuff is shown in OE and not in CE. The CE variations of these ideas are simple-ish, the difference is that in CE everything is much smaller and requires even more precision than you had in OE. That’s why you perfect this stuff in OE first and foremost!

The Use of Open Embrace ? Don’t make the mistake that just because you’re seeing this stuff in Open Embrace that you should discard it because it’s not Close Embrace. Open Embrace has lots and lots and lots of uses as a good starting point for developing really good habits. Most notably it allows you to see everything that’s going on from both roles, whereas Close Embrace requires you to video the entire construct because what you feel is frequently not what is being seen! Truthfully the ideas noted above work well in almost any embrace format. The singular pieces of vocabulary noted above have their Close Embrace constructs as well, so please see the individual elements for their counterparts. There are nuances that have to be addressed and for that, they have been.

No Technique Discussed ? Nope, not a word of it. Ok, maybe a little bit here and there. But the end result is a deeper exploration of the possibilities than with the individual pieces of vocabulary. The technique itself is contained in the individual videos in both Open and Close Embrace. The reason no Technique is discussed in Building Blocks is because the video would take HOURS to do, so we decided to opt for focusing on Transitions between the elements and multiple options where you can invoke these ideas that you generally wouldn’t think of. Some of them are obvious….and some of them aren’t.

spicy dancing ideas

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

About The Video. This video is 3 sections and when combined create a singular viewing experience of 44m:11s.

Part 1 (19:37) – Explains the 3 pieces of vocabulary with options and variations. Part 2 (12:57) is with a Metronome to show you how some of these ideas can be set to a time signature. And part 3 (11:37) is with a piece of music. There is no Technique discussed in the video.

For technique please visit the individual topics.

Part 1 – Explanation (00:19:37)
Part 2 – Metronome Tools. (00:12:57)
Part 3 – Music (00:11:37)

Related Videos Mentioned In This Article: 

Follower Technique Series – Definition/Download
The Six Ways of WalkingDownload

Applied DisassociationDefinition/Download
Linear Ochos – Definition/Download
Traveling OchosDefinition/Download

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you are reading this topic in the hopes that it may get you to question and to dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, this topic only scratches the surface. Because you’re only seeing half of the information. You really do need to see all of it. If you had registered or ponied up the kingly sum of $7.95 for your first week, then you’d either see a free tip here, or if you’re a paying subscriber you’d see some detailed notes about the video that were either left out of the video or were an afterthought to the video after it was shot! However, because you haven’t gone and registered at least, you’re missing some helpful information that could give you a tip to making your dance a better experience for you and your partners!

thoughts about tango ?

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular 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. This is known as Tango Twister.  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 showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics 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 you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– The Last Word –

Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a subscriber today.


Get More Great Content from Tango Topics

Scroll to top