Flashy feet: ocho variations for leaders (Salem Tango II)

As a leader, I often find myself wanting to mess around with rhythm while leading beginning or intermediate followers. I want to keep the dance simple so that they can enjoy themselves, but I also want to bring out the playfulness I hear in some music. One of the ways that I do this is to use different accompanying steps while leading ochos for the follower.

Ways to accompany back traveling ochos:

  • in crossed system: walk forward while follower does back ochos.
  • in parallel system: do forward ochos while follower does back ochos.
  • in parallel system: do overturned back ochos while follower does back ochos (note: these are HARD; save them for last).
  • in parallel system: do "the crab" while follower does back ochos. This is easiest if leader's body faces diagonally forward towards the center of the room.
  • changing systems: using the same foot, step forward cross; change weight in place; step straight forward; change weight in place. That means that you would step forward on the left, step right in place; step forward with the left, step right in place (or all forward steps with the right foot). This is done with all quick steps while the follower does ochos with all slow steps.

There are other harder/more silly ways, but this should keep you busy for some time! When I was learning to do these variations, I practiced putting several steps of each into a pattern (two walks, change systems with a double-step in place & two front ochos & two back ochos & two crabs & two right foot forward system changing versions & two left foot forward system changes, for example).

In the actual dance, you rarely have room for more than two or three sets of back ochos for the follower, so you don't usually get to do all your variations at once. Also, the follower gets bored if you lead them in back ochos constantly while having fun yourself. Mix it up and give the follower some fun stuff, too.

Hint: Get the follower started on a traveling back ocho before you mess around. If the follower can't feel the back ocho lead, things will fall apart. Do not neglect the follower just to show off!

Being able to do a lot of variations is not important in the big picture of tango. If these don't make sense to you, throw them out the window. They do not add to the follower's enjoyment of the dance for the most part. They do not improve your navigation. They do not create world peace. BUT, I find it useful to know that I can use either foot, that I am balanced over my axis, and that I can play with the music when it says PLAY! to me.

As a follower, what I enjoy about the leader doing variations on my ochos:

  • I can more deeply enjoy their interpretation of the dance (as long as the music is driving the variations!)
  • I can put adornos into my back ochos that work well with groovy, quirky leader variations. I can participate actively in making the dance look good and feel good.
  • It urges me towards doing my best with the music, too. It allows me to dialogue. I'll show you what I like to do with these moves next week. I learned some fun things from Florencia Taccetti about really pushing the envelope on "following" ochos :-)

Music for practice:

I'm in the middle of a Canaro kick, so here are a few Canaro tunes that I like to dance to using this idea: La Barra Fuerte; Rodriguez Pena; El Entrerriano; El Otario; and La Clavada.  I'll use these in class next week. Also, I love messing around with these to Tubatango: La Cara de la Luna; El Pensamiento; Nueve de Julio; and Yunta Brava.  Of course, there are a lot of other tunes.  These tunes are all slow enough to play around without tripping over yourself.