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Ochitos (Tiny Ochos) in Milonga

1/21/2013
"Milonga de Mis Amores" by Francisco Canaro (1937)
One great thing to notice about this milonga is the use of a musical saw.  At 2:20, it is the instrument making a wavering type of sound in the background.

This is a class demo on Ochitos (Tiny Ochos) in Milonga. We looked at how to lead her to take tiny ochos, moving both linearly and circularly.
 

Steps for the Social Dance Floor

This series of classes focuses on popular steps for use on the social dance floor. We have compiled a list of popular moves that we have seen used by some of the very best Argentine Tango Dancers. If you travel to Argentina and visit some of the milongas, you will see these moves being used by the Milongueros. Here are some of the criteria we used for putting together these steps:

  • They keep you moving in the line of dance without disrupting others.
  • They are musical and express the rhythm of Argentine Tango.
  • They are full of expression without being flashy or dangerous to others.
  • They feel great to the leaders and the followers.

While these moves are great for tight spaces and crowded dance floors, they also require a high degree of skill, balance and communication between partners.

Intro to Barridas, Pasadas y Paradas

A Barrida (a sweep, a drag) is the dragging of a partner’s free leg during a Caminata (walk) or Giro (turn). During this series, we will examine the proper technique for leading and following both external and internal Barridas in both open and close embrace. During the class we will also look at Paradas (stops) and Pasadas (passovers). Barridas are also known as, Arrastre (sweep, sweeping) and Llevada (carried, carrying).

4 Parts of a Step
Each step that we take in tango consists of 4 separate parts. Imagine that your supporting leg is your right leg, meaning that your weight is completely on your right leg:

  1. We send our free leg (left) to find the floor where we are about to step
  2. We begin to transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  3. We finish transferring our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  4. We collect our new free leg (right) next to our supporting leg (left).

Practice finding and feeling all 4 parts of a step by taking slow, deliberate side steps. Feel every moment of the step.

Barrida Technique
Barridas are largely about positioning. While walking or turning the leader wants to stop his embrace while the follower is between her steps, so that she is mid-stride with her legs apart. He then positions himself over his new supporting leg, without shifting his embrace which might cause her to complete her step. He then uses his free leg to find the leg he wants to sweep. He leads her to transfer her weight to her new supporting leg and sweeps her free leg. Once he has completed the barrida he should lead her to settle her weight over her new supporting leg and to collect.

Tips:

  • Triangles - We are often forming triangles when we do barridas. Notice in the video, if you look at the 12sec mark, when the the barrida is being initiated we could form a triangle by drawing a line from the mans left to the woman's left to the two left feet. Then when the barrida is executed the triangle would simply flip, seen at the 15sec mark.
  • The leader wants to find the forward part (toe area) of her free foot with the forward part of his foot. He does not want to go in too deep. See Image 1 below.
  • The leader starts with his free leg’s knee bent and straightens it during the barrida. His supporting leg should be bent slightly, so that he can be grounded and very well balanced during the barrida.
  • Once the barrida has been initiated, the follower wants to apply just a tiny amount of pressure against his foot, so that she can easily stay with him. This would include going up into the air with the feet.
  • Technically the barrida is usually an illusion. The leader is leading her to step and it only appears as if her foot is being dragged, but it is nice to have enough pressure so that the drag is felt.
  • The leader should turn to get the hip of his free leg close to the hip of her free leg. This should result in his supporting foot being parallel to her supporting foot. See Image 2 below.
Image 1
Image 2

Figure 1: Simple Sacada

  1. We start out this move with back crosses (ochos). When I lead her back cross to the open side of the embrace, I initiate a barrida with my right to her right.
  2. I then lead her to take weight on her right. My weight is still on my left and I don't collect.
  3. I lead her to take a forward cross step, passing over my right foot (pasada) as I take weight onto my right. We pivot to return to our neutral position.
  4. We could do an arrepentida to return to line of dance.

Figure 1: His and Her Sacadas

  1. We start out this move with back crosses (ochos). When I lead her back cross to the open side of the embrace, I initiate a barrida with my right to her right.
  2. I then lead her to take weight on her right, while I collect my feet around her right foot (mordida / bite).
  3. I leave her on her right while I switch weight to my left and then lead a back cross to the open side of the embrace (my left side and her right side) for both of us.
  4. As we complete our back crosses, I lead her to execute a barrida to my left with her right and switch weight to her right. In the video, notice the triangle we create at 1:19. Also, leaders need to adjust their left foot at the end of this step to give her more room for the next step.
  5. Now, I lead her to take a forward cross step over my left foot, as I pivot and take weight onto my left foot creating a sacada to her right foot.
  6. We pivot to our neutral position as I switch weight to my right so that we end in parallel system with me on my right and her on her left.

 

Part II:

In this second part, we look at paradas which are stops and happen whenever we stop our movement for any length of time and pasadas which happen whenever one partner has to step over (pass over) the other partner's foot or leg.

Figure 1: Basic Parada Sequence
We started by looking at a very basic parada sequence.

  1. The sequence begins from back crosses (ochos). When the leader leads the woman to a back cross to his right side he stops her (parada) mid-step and extends his right foot to find her left foot. He wants to put the forward part of his right foot to the forward part of her left foot, not going in very deep, just right at the toes. 19 sec of video
  2. He then takes weight on his right and steps around with his left to face her. His feet collect around her left foot creating a mordida (bite). Again, his left should not go in deep and the contact should only be at the forward part of the foot. 40 sec of video
  3. He then switches weight to his left and steps back and around with his right bringing her forward onto her left. At this point she should have her feet surrounding his left foot (mordida). Notice in the video that when I step back Shelley just comes straight forward onto her axis but no further and the I don't lean back, but rather keep my upper body over my hips while I settle my weight onto my back leg (right). 52 sec of video
  4. At this point, she is facing me so if I were to lead her to take a forward step she would have to walk into me, so I pivot her counter-clockwise. She is still on her left foot. Then I lead her to take a forward cross step over my left (pasada) and around me with her right as I take weight on my left. 54 sec of video
  5. Then I lead her to pivot and to take another forward cross as I return to my right. We are back in parallel system and can walk out.

Figure 2: Basic Parada Sequence with Barrida
This figure is the same as the one above only we add a barrida (sweep) at step 3. To accomplish this, at step 1, we must make sure that we stop her (parada) with her weight all the way back onto her right leg, so that her left is free to sweep.  1.30 mark in video. Then we step around with the left and sweep her left with our right. 2.07 mark in video.

Tips:

  • Triangles - We are often forming triangles when we do barridas. Notice in the video, if you look at the 2.38 mark, when the the barrida is being initiated and when it is completed.
  • The leader wants to find the forward part (toe area) of her free foot with the forward part of his foot. He does not want to go in too deep. See Image 1 below.
  • Once the barrida has been initiated, the follower wants to apply just a tiny amount of pressure against his foot, so that she can easily stay with him. She should also keep her foot on the floor and not to take it up into the air unless the leader takes his foot up in the air.
  • As the follower's foot is being swept, she should pivot on her supporting foot to keep her hips and upper body facing in the same direction as her foot that is being swept. 3.03 mark in video

Figure 3: Basic Parada to the Leader's Left with Barrida

This move uses a very similar technique as the other moves only we are starting with a parada to the leader's left (open side of the embrace). Then we are stepping more around her so that we can sweep her right foot to our right foot. 4.02 of video

 

Part III:

Figure 1:
Parada and Barrida from Follower's Forward Cross

Tips

  • At the 1.19 mark, the leader stays on his left foot while leading the follower to switch weight to her left at the cruzada.

Figure 2:
Forward Sacada to Forward Cross to Parada and Barrida

Tips

  • At the 1.47 mark, notice the proper barrida technique of finding the forward part of her foot with the forward part of your foot. Don't go too deep with the drag.
  • At the 1.54 mark, notice that as I rotate my chest that my left foot pivots with me to provide stability.

Figure 3:
Barrida to Colgada

This figure is for more advanced dancers who already know the proper technique for leading and following colgadas.

Sacadas I: Forward Sacadas

A Sacada (displacement) is when one dancer steps into the space that their partner just vacated. In this class, we will look at Internal and External Forward Sacadas for both men and women. We will also look at the difference between Low and High Sacadas.

4 Parts of a Step
Each step that we take in tango consists of 4 seperate parts. Imagine that your supporting leg is your right leg, meaning that your weight is completely on your right leg:

  1. We send our free leg (left) to find the floor where we are about to step
  2. We begin to transfer our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  3. We finish transfering our weight to our new supporting leg (left)
  4. We collect our new free leg (right) next to our supporting leg (left).

Practice finding and feeling all 4 parts of a step by taking slow, deliberate side steps. Feel every moment of the step.

8 Parts of a Step
Now let's imagine that for leaders there are actually 8 parts to every step. Why? Because leaders must also lead the follower in all 4 parts of her step, while he is executing his step. This concept comes into play with many moves such as sacadas.

Practice with your partner, leading her to take a side step around you without you taking a step. Then lead her to take a side step while you take a side step with her, but stop in the middle of your step and then practice leading her in one direction while you go in another direction.

3 Basic Forward Sacadas
In the video, you will see that we show three basic forward sacadas. We can perform a forward sacada with either the right or left feet to the follower's side open step, forward cross step or back cross step.

Basic Sacada Technique
A sacada is a displacement, meaning that we are taking the place of our partner. We are entering the space that our partner has just vacated. To accomplish this, the leader leads the follower to take a step and as she is taking weight onto her new supporting leg, he steps in to the space she is leaving. He should step just inside of her free leg just after the moment that it becomes 100% free of weight. To resolve the step, he should take weight on the leg he executed the sacada with and both partners should return to face one another.

Tips for Good Sacadas:

  • Respect her axis - Do not step in the middle of her step or towards her new supporting leg, as this will disrupt her vertical axis and cause her to loose balance.
  • Don't kick her - Step inside of her step but not on her toes and do not worry about making contact with her leg. There should be little to no contact between the leader's and follower's legs. You are not pushing her leg out of the way, you are taking the space as it is leaves.
  • Hips - The hips should go straight in the direction that you are stepping. The upper body should turn towards her but the hips should go straight and then pivot after the step is complete. Also, when executing a forward sacada to her forward cross or back cross, get your hips positioned behind her hips to give yourself room to step around her. See picture below.
  • Protect the toes - For the women, take a look at the picture below and see how Shelley has the toe of her right foot pointed. She does not leave it on the floor flat to be possibly stepped on. When watching the video, watch how she lifts her toe the moment her leg becomes free.
  • Complete the step - Leaders, finish your step by taking weight on the foot that you performed the sacada with. Don't just stick the foot out and then pull it back. Finish the step by taking the space that she just left.

Figure 1:
Simple Sacada

  1. We start out with the weight on the leader's right and follower's left. We take a side open step for him and a side open step for her. The leader double times this step and switches weight to his right as she completes her side step. Now we are in cross system.
  2. He steps forward with his left as she steps back with her left.
  3. He steps forward with his right inside partner as she takes a back open step with her right. He then leads an arrepentida by bouncing her off her right foot as he rocks back to his left and leads her to take a side open step to the open side of the embrace (leader’s left).
  4. He returns to his right creating the sacada to her open side step. He pivots on his right foot approximately 180 degrees to come back in front of her. He is on his right and she is on her right.
  5. Steps 5 - 8 use our basic turn (giro) to the left to get back to line of dance.

 

Part II:

Exercises:

We start with an exercise by leading the woman in forward crosses (ochos). We want to take our time and lead them very slowly and deliberately.

Exercise 1: As she steps forward with her left foot and takes weight on her left, we extend our left foot as we lead her to pivot on her left. We pause momentarily creating a parada (stop) and then repeat on the other side.

Exercise 2: This is the same as the first exercise, except as she commits to her left foot we extend our left foot into her stride towards her right foot and repeat on the other side. So, when she steps onto her left, we are extending our left towards her left (the foot she is leaving). We are not committing to this step, we are only extending our leg/foot to find the correct placement and timing for our sacadas. We must practice so that we can comfortably lead her to take forward crosses while we extend our legs and remain balanced. All the tips below are things to look out for in this exercise.

Tips for Good Sacadas:

  • Respect her axis - Do not step in the middle of her step or towards her new supporting leg, as this will disrupt her vertical axis and cause her to loose balance.
  • Don't kick her - Step inside of her step but not on her toes and do not worry about making contact with her leg. There should be little to no contact between the leader's and follower's legs. You are not pushing her leg out of the way, you are taking the space as it is leaves.
  • Hips - The hips should go straight in the direction that you are stepping. The upper body should turn towards her but the hips should go straight and then pivot after the step is complete. Also, when executing a forward sacada to her forward cross or back cross, get your hips positioned behind her hips to give yourself room to step around her. See picture below.
  • Protect the toes - For the women, take a look at the picture below and see how Shelley has the toe of her right foot pointed. She does not leave it on the floor flat to be possibly stepped on. When watching the video, watch how she lifts her toe the moment her leg becomes free.
  • Complete the step - Leaders, finish your step by taking weight on the foot that you performed the sacada with. Don't just stick the foot out and then pull it back. Finish the step by taking the space that she just left.

Figure 1:
Simple Turn to the Leader's Left with Sacadas

  1. We start this turn on the leader's right and the follower's left. We lead the follower to change weight to her right and pivot 90 degrees forward. The leader stays on his right putting us into cross system.
  2. As we lead her to take a forward cross with her left, we step forward with our left creating a sacada and pivot to face her. The leader must pivot very quickly here to be ready for the next step.
  3. We then lead her to a side open step while stepping in with our right creating another sacada and pivoting to face her again.
  4. We are still in cross system at this point so we can exit to the cross system basic or back crosses.

Figure 2:
Simple Turn to the Leader's Right with Two Sacadas

  1. We start this by going to the basic cross in parallel system and the leader crosses his right foot behind his left as the woman crosses her left in front of her right. We then lead her to pivot counter-clockwise on her left and to step forward with her right, as the leader steps forward with his left creating a sacada.
  2. We then lead her to a side open step with her left and we step forward with our right creating another sacada. We pivot on our right to return to line of dance.
  3. The leader then switches weight to his left without leading her to switch weight and leads a back cross.

Figure 3:
Simple Turn to the Leader's Right with Three Sacadas

  1. We start this by going to the basic cross in parallel system and the leader crosses his right foot behind his left as the woman crosses her left in front of her right. We then lead her to pivot counter-clockwise on her left and to step forward with her right, as the leader steps forward with his left creating a sacada.
  2. We then lead her to a side open step with her left and we step forward with our right creating another sacada. We pivot on our right to return to line of dance.
  3. The leader then switches weight to his left and leads the follower to a back cross while he steps forward with his right creating a sacada to her free leg (left).

High and Low Sacadas
We also discussed the differences between high and low sacadas. A high sacada is when we displace her free leg above the knee and a low sacada is when the displacement happen below the knee. We always want to make contact either above or below the knee to avoid injury. Also, the contact that is made is very very light and should not be thought of as a push or kick. In fact, often there is no contact at all in low sacadas and a little more contact in high sacadas.

 

Part III:

Figure 1:
Forward Sacadas for Leader and Follower

Tips

  • At the 16 sec mark, leaders tuck their left leg behind their right leg. Don't worry about tucking too deeply. Your left knee should be sitting gently behind your right knee. You should be able to bend your knees slightly while in this position and easily switch weight between your feet without having to displace either of your legs.
  • At the 20 sec mark, I switch weight to my left and do a lápiz (pencil) with my right foot. A lápiz is an embellishment which is done with the leader's free foot and is usually a circular movement which looks like he is drawing a circle on the floor with the inside part of his foot. Lápiz can vary in size from being very tiny to very large. Lápiz are also sometimes called Rulos or Dibujo (drawing).
  • At the 25 sec mark, women should notice how quickly Shelley gets her back toe up off the ground as soon as she completes her forward step. This creates a nice line for her legs and protects her toes from being stepped on.
  • At the 42 sec mark, women should not be afraid to step forward. Often women hesitate when asked to step forward, but they should trust that the man knows what he is asking for and to step straight.
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The Rhythm of Vals I

Vals is one of the rhythms that we dance to at Milongas (Tango Dance Parties). This class will focus on understanding the rhythm of Vals, how to incorporate your existing steps into Vals and new steps that fit nicely into Vals.

Synopsis: This class focuses on using Cross Steps in the rhythm of Vals.

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

Video Demonstration:

Figures:

Dual Molinete or Giro
20 Second Mark of Video Demo
Description: All in Cross System, MBC & WBC + MOS & WOS + MFC & WFC + MOS & WOS
Tip 1: This move is usually repeated twice and works best with a quick quick (Double Time) on the MBC & WBC + MOS & MOS then slow slow on MFC & WFC + MOS & MOS.
Tip 2: After the Back Crosses and Forward Crosses both the Man and Woman collect their feet and Change Weight instead of taking real Side steps.
Tip 3: This is a very circular move, so the Man and Woman should very much step AROUND the other never stepping away from one another.
Tip 4: Do Not skimp on the Forward Crosses, take real forward steps around each other.. not tiny ones. The Man’s Forward Cross can also go deep to get a Sacada.

33 Second Mark of Video Demo
Description: MFC & WBC in Parallel System + MOS & WBC in Cross System: Man performs a MFC and the Woman a WBC and the Man collects and changes weight to his Left and pivots the Woman clockwise and perform a MOS & WBC in Cross System, The Man then collects and changes weight to his Left and REPEATS from beginning.
TIP 1: The Man always collects and changes weight to his Left on every step. He is always stepping with his Right.
TIP 2: The Man always steps with his Right on the downbeat and is double timing every step. The Woman is not changing weight with him, she is just stepping on every downbeat.

Drunken Ochos
12 Second Mark of Video Demo
Description: In all Cross System, MOS & WBC + MOS & WBC + MOS & WBC: From Back Ochos in Cross System, as the Man leads the Woman in a WBC to the Open Side of the Embrace, he takes a tiny step forward with his left turning counter clockwise 90 degrees. Then he takes a large Open Side Step (MOS) with his Right as he leads her to a WBC to the Close Side of the Embrace. REPEAT
Tip 1: This is all in Cross System and the Man and Woman are both stepping on the downbeat of the music.
Tip 2: The turn happens with the Man’s Left foot, his Right foot only goes side ways.
Tip 3: The Leader must lead ochos which require the Woman to pivot, not walking or non-pivoting ochos.

Arrepentida with a Cross Over Step. This is a very musical move and is very helpful for changing directions if you need to in order to avoid a collision with another couple.

Figures:

Figure 1: Arrepentida with a Cross Over Step
In Demo at :28 of Video Demo
In Slow motion at 2:36 of Video Demo

Step 1: The man takes a Side Step with his left and does a quick weight change to his right (double time). The woman takes a Side Step with her right. They are now in cross system.

Step 2: The man then takes a Forward Open Step with his left to the open side of the embrace and leads the woman to take a Back Cross Step with her left. His upper body is turned slightly clockwise to her.

Step 3: The man then takes a Forward Cross Step with his right to the open side of the embrace but does not complete that step, rather he rebounds off of his right as he steps back and counter-clockwise with his left. This results in a change of direction of about 180 degrees. Then he crosses his Right foot in front of his left. The woman takes a Back Open Step and then rebounds off of her right foot and takes an Open Side Step around the man with her right foot.

Step 4: The man changes weight to his right foot which is now crossed in front of his left. Both the man and woman collect.

Step 5: Repeat Step 2

Step 6: Repeat Step 3

Step 7: Repeat Step 4

Step 8: Repeat Step 2

Step 9: The man takes a Forward Cross Step with his Right and leads the woman to take a Back Open Step with her right and to perform a Forward Cruzada and to change weight to her left. The couple is back in Parallel System.

Tip: There are double times (quick-quick-slow) for the man on steps 1, 3 and 5. There is a double time for the woman at step 9.

Tip: On step 3, the man needs to contain the woman and give a lot of energy to the rebound and to bring her around in the change of direction. He does going slightly down in his right leg to get more energy from the floor for the rebound. He also makes sure not to collapse his embrace. he needs to keep his embrace solid so that she does not get behind him.

Tip: On step 3, the woman should feel the man lower in the rebound and that should be an indication of a large step coming. She will need to take a large side step around the man in order to stay in front of him.

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Embellishments (Adornos) for Women and Men: Part I

Embellishments (Adornos) are small foot, leg or body movements that dancers work into their dance that are not functional, but rather embellish their steps. Since women do not dictate the steps, rhythm or direction of the dance, they use embellishments to express their personality within the dance. Men can also perform embellishments to add flavor to their movements.

Teachers: Clint Rauscher & Shelley Brooks

From Walking

In the video below, we show some basic embellishments which can be accomplished from just walking.

  • El Lapiz (The Pencil)
  • Playful Weight Changes
  • Heel Taps (Taconeo)
  • Tuck and Tap by Him

From a Side Step

In the video below, we show some basic embellishments which can be accomplished from a side step.

  • El Lapiz (The Pencil)
  • Tuck Behind before Side Step
  • Double Side Step for Him

From Back and Forward Ochos

In the video below, we show some basic embellishments which can be accomplished from back and forward ochos.

  • Foot Kisses by Him
  • Foot Kisses by Both
  • Foot Kisses during Forward Ochos
  • Tucks by Her
  • Tuck and Hold by Her
  • Circular Leg Lift by Her
  • Straight Leg Lift by Her