Sunday, May 22, 2016

That Ocho Cortado Class! Lessons Learned While Leading

In this very, very large small city/town where I live, there is, to my knowledge, only one drop in Tango floor in town. We are that floor! We are not a ballroom, there are no packages to buy. We dancers with a floor inviting all to come Tango with us.

It is lovely as we learn, practice and grow together. We workshop Argentine Tango. As I have had countless Argentine Tango beginners classes, love the dance, practice at home and come from a dance background - by default - I lead the workshops.

However I learn so much every class and every dance I remain a perpetual student. As such, I had the best experience/lesson in the art of “showing up” to dance last week I want to share it. 

In the Argentine Tango, the embrace is the foundation of communication. There are no other cues or clues. This is one reason this Tango is so exciting. Both dancers must be present, out of themselves, not thinking, not analyzing, not worrying about how they look or if they are “doing it right.”  Being present is the only way to accomplish all of the aforementioned concerns.

If both dancers are present and have learned the fundamental principles of movement, dancing happens. Argentine Tango happened because each person hears the music, feels the music, and either leads or follows to the music of Argentine Tango.

(Yes, you can dance to non traditional Tango music, and sometimes I like this very much! In fact I may share a video of that embodies one of the best follower walks I have seen and a seemingly effortless lead at blogs end.) 

Back to the story! We were workshopping the ocho cortado and realized that a new dancer had never seen the “Basic” or the “Basic Eight” pattern before. Many teachers do not want to teach the pattern, and some find it a very useful tool to help new students become familiar with the movements necessary to dance Argentine Tango. 

After a review of the Basic, the ocho cortado was next. I danced lead and a dancer (she is well trained as a dancer in other styles - a dancer to the bone kind of dancer) stepped into my embrace. 

I had opened my right arm to allow her to enter my space and presented my left hand as a support. Then the magic of connection happened. She placed her had in my hand with presence. I knew she was there, and ready to dance. 

How did I know I that? How did that connection happen?

There was just enough attention/tension and pressure as she placed her hand in mine that I was able to place my hand with hers with tension/pressure and the connection was made. I knew where she was. Further, as I gently wrapped my arm around her space - rather as a vase creates space for a flower - I let my right forearm and hand rest very, very gently on her upper back, just around the shoulder blade.

She could feel me, and as her posture was excellent, and she could feel my arm as a presence. That was all the embrace needed for her to hear me and for me to know where she was in the dance. Of course the dance was beginning. We had not yet taken a step!

It was from this connected embrace - salon style or open embrace  - that I learned to lead and she to follow the ocho cortado.  We choose to do the step with the leader offering a parada. It looks good, and as a beginning leader dancing with beginning dancers, we need a bit of flare when we can get it. 

The Ocho Cortado is a step that requires listening, leading, following, timing and for the follower the ability to “cross”  ( I may add two videos to this blog - one of my favorite ocho cortado video and the other of a fine dance.)  

Did I mention that I learned that I sometimes was dancing with “noodle arms?”. I did learn that. I could not have really internalized the lesson without having a fine embrace with a present follower. I had hear the critique in classes as a follower - but did not know quite how to fix it. I didn’t realize that noodle arms are a symptom of not willing to be in connection, or not knowing how. Perhaps not feeling invited in? 

For everyone reading, please know that in this dance there are leaders and followers. Men may dance with men, women with women, men with women…… it really doesn’t matter. What matters is Tango Argentina. So please feel welcome, should you be in Jacksonville Florida in a Tuesday night to look us up!! 

We have a  Facebook Page with far more members than dancers - so don’t worry! There is room for you. 


“Miss Ann”