The Eight Ochos of Argentine Tango
Argentine Tango consists of many ways to interpret it’s musical component through movement. One of those movements is called an “Ocho” which when you translate it from the original Spanish into English means “Eight”. The “Eight”, in this case, refers not a number but to a shape that is created by the Dancer’s feet (typically by the Follower, but as you will soon see it can be done by the Lead as well) on the floor when they’re led to do so.
The Ocho is one of the 7 Basic Moves of Tango Vocabulary (see link) that is used in nearly every dance by every dancer at every Milonga in the world. It is almost as ubiquitous as the Argentine Cross in this respect. So much so that one may lead or follow an Ocho and not even be aware that they’re doing it. The movement is taught as one of the very first things we learn aside from walking. While one’s walk is insanely important, the application of the Ocho is almost, if not as, equally important for both roles. From a Leading perspective, it’s one of the ways that we can create a navigational structure & generate navigational options. We can use the Ocho to interpret the music and to generate musical structure from it. And it also has the obvious ability that allows to use it as filler content until we’re ready to do something else that may lead up to something else. From a Following perspective, it is one of the very first things we are taught to master and must become facile with because our very tango lives depend on it for a whole host of reasons which will become obvious later on down the line.
That said, let’s take a deep dive into the 8 Types of Ochos for Argentine Tango.
What is an Ocho ? In it’s simplest form and right up to its most complex form The Argentine Ocho is a learned, and generated motion. Meaning ? That the Ocho is not a natural construct. It is something must be learned and then mastered by both roles, not just by one.
The Ocho is powered by 1 of 3 types of “Engines of Motion”:
Each one of these techniques can generate no bodily rotation motion, some bodily rotation motion, or an enormous amount of bodily rotation motion at the point of Social Collection. Where, depending on the type of desired Ocho, that no body rotation or some body rotation will be done at very specific angles (0, 45, 90, or 180 or more degrees) where the dancers’ feet will rotate and body either with or against their dancing partner’s motion. In all but one type of Ocho the dancer (Lead or Follower) will step forwards or backward thereby setting up the next Ocho movement. However, and there’s always a however to these things, there is one type of Ocho where the dancer does not step forward or back but instead changes their weight from one foot to the other and then employs one of the 3 techniques above and does this repeatedly in time to the music.
It should be noted that the Argentine Ocho in all 8 varieties listed below all invoke Cross-System walking using either Step Half-Step or a Weight-Change Step, or a Cross Behind (not shown in the video) to get into and out of them. If you’re not familiar with this terminology please see their respective links to dive deeper into getting into Cross-System.
Put simpler: The Ocho is where the dancer (lead or follower) steps into Social Collection with their feet, and then assuming one of the 3 techniques above is used to generate bodily rotation that seemingly starts at the feet, and goes all the way up the body. Seemingly. 😉 The reason the Ocho is called an Ocho as was mentioned before, that the dancer will create a pattern on the floor with their feet, that resembles the number 8. However, over the last few decades, the floor pattern isn’t really adhered to, but instead it’s more a straight, curved line or an arc, with a point on either end of the arc. That point on either end, is where a body rotation can occur, or a point of transition occurs using one of the 3 techniques described above.
This is an Argentine Ocho
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What are the Different Types of Ochos ?
Type 1 – The “Milonguero” Style or “Lazy” (starts at: 00:03:14) Ocho. In this Ocho, the Follower (usually), is led to stepping in a diagonal 45-degree angle across their natural body meridian thereby engaging in the 1st Engine of Motion. The Follower does not rotate their hips in any way, shape, or form, nor do they need to do so either. Their legs will cross over their natural body meridian in a walking step to do perform the “Lazy” Ocho. The Lead can also self-lead themselves to do this same motion going backward down the line of dance. This Ocho is ideal for small space dancing and it is ideal for the Encuentro environment. The reason it is called a Milonguero or Lazy Ocho is because in this instance the Follower is emulating minimal body movement of the Milonguero style of dance that emulates a Walk. It’s just that this walk crosses over the body’s natural meridian. Of the 8 types of Ochos, it is by far the easiest to do and the most effortless to dance.
Type 2 – The “Linear” Ocho. (starts at: 00:10:07) In this Ocho, the dancer is led (the Follower) or self-led (the Lead) to using the 2nd Engine of Motion: Disassociation and then Applied Disassociation to self-rotate, due to torsion build up and release. As a result of this type of engine, the dancer rotates to a 90-degree angle perpendicular to their partner, which then can result in either a forward or backward walking linear step on two separate but equal walking tracks. This position is also where the Ocho gets its name from because the Dancer is literally transitioning in front of their dancing partner over a line or a linear space directly perpendicular to their partner. It should be noted that the dancer can employ the 3rd Engine of Motion: A Pivot but it is not desirable to do so. The Linear Ocho can be done from Open or Close Embrace, however it’s typically done from Open Embrace or a Fluid Embrace, as the Close Embrace version of the Linear Ocho can be stressful or uncomfortable due to the fact of some people may want to use arm tension, hand/forearm pressure, compression, and/or resistance in the embrace to generate it. None of that is required. The build-up of Bodily Rotation Torsion via Disassociation, and then the release of that Torsion as Applied Disassociation is what generates the bodily rotation. Primarily the Linear Ocho is used as a teaching tool for both roles to instruct, and then practice, dancer Disassociation and Applied Disassociation. Once learned, Linear Ochos can be employed as a ‘Filler’, or as a navigational tool, or it can be used as an intro that leads into either a series of Sacadas or the opening step to a whole host of vocabulary. “Filler” in the sense that it can be used as some vocabulary to lead into something else or when you’re stuck from a leading perspective. It should be noted that while it’s only hinted at in the video above, the Disassociation and Applied Disassociation element is insanely important. 😉 It is what ‘powers’ all the ochos in this series with the exception of Type 1 and Type 7.
Type 3 – The “Traveling” Ocho. (starts at: 00:12:55) This Ocho is called a “Traveling” Ocho because it Travels down the line of dance. It is the Ocho that everyone thinks of when they hear the word “Ocho”. Typically this Ocho is done by the Follower, however, a Lead can self-lead themselves to engage in a Traveling Ocho as well (going backward down the line of dance). These can be done in Open Embrace, or Close Embrace, however, predominantly see them done in Close Embrace. Ideally, the Traveling Ocho employs the 2nd Engine of Motion thereby resulting in a 45-degree body rotation to create the desired ‘Traveling’ Ocho. Traveling Ochos can be done with Forward steps or Back Steps, and while the Forward Traveling Ocho requires the Lead to walk backward down the line of dance to do engage in it, the Forward Traveling Ocho is a lot of fun and add a lot of variety to the dance. Not to mention it also opens up lots of other options and opportunities to do other things that you wouldn’t ordinarily see. Traveling Ochos have a few built-flaws to them from a Leading Perspective that are discussed below in the Leading Perspective section. The Traveling Ocho is typically the ‘goto’ Ocho in all environments for a wide variety of reasons, mostly because the other 7 Ochos on this list aren’t taught all that often! Sadly. It should be noted that the dancer could employ the 3rd Engine of Motion: A Pivot but it is not desirable to do so.
Type 4 – The “Circular” Ocho. (starts at: 00:17:35) The name for this Ocho is a bit of a misnomer because we’re not actually generating a circle but more of an arc around the dancing partner. So rightfully it should be titled, the “Arced Ocho”, but that’s awkward, so we’re sticking with Circular. 😉 The Circular Ocho can be done from Open and Close Embrace, and typically employs the 2nd Engine of Motion, where the dancing partner will rotate 180 degrees on either end point of the walking Arc. Typically this Ocho is done from a standing position. And more often than not it is used primarily as the opening step to the Follower’s Molinete to the Lead’s Giro. The Ocho itself is not really used as a dancing element over and over again, but rather as a singular element to do something else like engaging the Follower’s Molinete, or any one of 12 types of Ganchos, or a series of Paradas, or changes of direction. It is generally not used as a navigational element either primarily because of its awkward embrace nature (see Linear Ochos). Circular Ochos also have a built-in flaw that is discussed below in the Leading perspective section. Notation: The dancer could use the 3rd Engine of Motion but it is not desirable to do so!
So where are the other 4 Ochos and what are they ? Register, it’s free, and find out. Just scroll down below.
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