Getting into traveling back ochos and exiting (Salem Tango II)

This week, we continued our work with the crossed system. Whereas last week, we changed systems at the cross by leaving out a step, this week, we added a step in the forward walk to switch from parallel to crossed and back again.

There are tons of patterns that you can do from traveling forward (as a leader) and switching into crossed system, but traveling back ochos are an old standard. There are several ways to get into ochos, but I think the easiest is to double-step forwards (step together step) while the follower is walking backwards (two steps), and go right into traveling back ochos.

Leaders! Remember:

  • Keep your forward momentum: the ochos are barely rotated. If you turn your body (or, God forbid :-) your feet) from side to side, then your partner is going to give you a less elegant, more weaving ocho. Focus on traveling forward, and let the follower's hips follow the tiny rotation that your chest will make.
  • Step near your partner's feet: when I lead traveling back ochos, sometimes I even feel the outside of my partner's foot against the outside of my foot. I step forward, but slightly outside of a narrow track. That means that BOTH my steps are to the forward diagonal, and this makes my partner step directly in front of my foot (as usual), but with the OTHER foot as we are in crossed system, creating a back zigzag (traveling back ochos).
  • Push off! Don't swing your feet to get around your partner!

Followers! Remember:

  • Push off with your supporting leg and foot. You need to match the step size that the leader requests. Swinging your leg and foot around and back will make you look much less elegant than a very narrow, sinuous ocho will.
  • Let your hips rotate gently. The leader should not be pushing you in a wide zigzag (if s/he is, you need to follow it). Just by being in crossed system and having the leader walk, you end up doing back ochos.
  • Focus on your energy: this should feel delightful for the leader, not wild and out of control. Keep your axis on balance and breathe, but give energy to the leader so that they can use your ochos to go into other moves. Stretch up your axis so that the leader feels your feet on the ground.

Three alternate ways to get into back ochos:

  1. Walk to the outside in parallel and switch to crossed system in the walk. Then, when both people have the right foot free, rotate the follower ACROSS the leader's line of walking and proceed as above for back ochos.
  2. Walk to the cross, leave out out to change to crossed system, and go into traveling back ochos from there. I personally don't like this one as a leader or follower, but if it works for you, go for it.
  3. Turn your partner in a giro. When you are facing line of dance, make sure that you are exiting in crossed system (if anyone needs to switch weight, it needs to be the leader!) and walk out in traveling back ochos.

Now, you have four ways to get into back ochos. What the heck do you do to escape (er, exit)? Again, there are tons of things to do. Here are the patterns we worked on in class:

  • Leader double-steps to return to parallel system and continues walking.
  • Continue in crossed system to the outside for a walk.
  • Cross to the inside, walking to the cross in crossed system and leaving a step out at the cross, get back into parallel system (I know, I know, all these terms with "cross" in them!)
  • Stop traveling, rotate the follower more, and lead a back ocho in place, with variations on leader footwork (more on this another class). From this, we'll build in the paradas, boleos, etc., we started last session.
  • Scoop turns: This is what we started at the end of class, so I'll talk more about this and walkaround turns next week after we've got a better handle on them. We'll also work on chain steps (cadenas) that boggle the mind, but are rather fun, later in the session if we have time.

Everyone is doing a great job in class. I especially notice that some of you are much more on axis and balanced even than last week. This will make all the turns we work on this session much easier to execute. Until next week!