Ocho

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Ochos are one of the most basic movements in tango, and very easy to communicate about (unlike change of foot, which is infuriatingly subtle). But ochos are the most mechanically complex movement.

On one level they are very simple: a pivot followed by a step. And there are only two variations (front and back).

But the procedure for spiraling the body is complex, and rarely described precisely or concisely.

It’s the Revel who executes the ocho, so let’s start with the few things we can say with certainty about her movement:

  • She needs to pivot on the ball of the foot of her base leg (by which we mean that no other part of her base leg’s foot is touching the floor, and the free leg’s foot is not bearing any weight. (It’s possible to pivot on both feet, but that’s going to be some variant of ocho cortado or a pivot performed on two feet mid-parada. Keep in mind that in the non-ocho movements with two-footed pivots, the ball-of-foot-only rule still applies to both foot.)
  • The muscles which create rotation around the spine are the obliques.
    • Note that muscles whose insertion points are stable will work stronger. Application here means that the obliques corresponding to the base leg will always have more power. The internal and external oblique muscles work in opposite directions. For front ocho, the external obliques of the base leg will get the direction we want. In back ocho, the internal obliques of the base will be most useful. The obliques cooperate automatically, so the partner (Rinternal+Lexternal, Linternal+Rexternal) joins in once the pivot is initiated and helps to complete the job.
    • It’s possible to initiate rotation solely by contracting the appropriate oblique muscles. However, many dancers first move the shoulders or hips to trigger contraction of the obliques.
  • To create a fluid spiral appearance to the motion, the Revel’s body parts should move sequentially rather than simultaneously. Contraction of the obliques will cause the upper body (shoulders) and lower body (hips and legs) to enter the rotation sequentially, not simultaneously.
  • As in any step, the revel should make sure her base leg is in external rotation relative to the projection after the pivot. (In a front ocho, she often needs to add rotation. In a back ocho, she may need to reduce her rotation.)
  • As in any back step, the revel should make sure her big toes stay in contact with the floor throughout the projection to back ocho. (Marks should take care that they do not impede the grace of her projection by holding her too tightly relative to the path along which they are asking her to project.)

Now we move into some contentious points:

  • The pivot is part of the start of the step, and therefore is always marked. The Revel should never pivot automatically at the end of a step.
  • The direction for an ocho is lateral to the Mark’s body and therefore should be marked in the same way as any other lateral step: with his obliques, resulting in a pull intention against her points of connection (not a push).
    • The differences between an ocho and a side step is only the intensity of the step. To intensify any step, use more muscle. He helps her pivot with a stronger contraction of his obliques than for a side step.
    • The only difference between the mark for a front and back ocho is 1mm of information about direction (front or back) given just before contraction of the obliques.
  • The Revel’s rib cage and abdomen should remain aligned with the hips until the change of weight is completed, before initiating the next pivot.
  • The projection subsequent to the pivot should be straight, just like a normal front or back step, not crossed.
  • The distance between the Revel’s feet during the pivot is a function of the amount of knee flexion, which matches –and is marked by– the Mark’s knee flexion.
  • Avoid exaggerated use of contra and spiral in the body as you can both destabilize your arc and break the arch .

Further advice:

  • Smaller pivots closer to 90 degrees should be understood as adjustments of orientation and alignment that both dancers make independently to ensure of the base leg in preparation for the next movement. Only a big ~180 degree pivot requires a mark.
  • If the Mark plans to make a step simultaneous with the ocho, he should not initiate his transfer of weight until the Revel’s pivot and projection are complete.
  • Both parties should be sure to establish the arch of connection at the end of every step, before initiating a pivot!
  • As in any back step, if the Revel is uncomfortable in her back ocho, she probably needs more hip flexion at some point during the step.

 

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