Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Video analysis #1 - Can you use this "Ocho Cortado" transition?

Here’s a lovely, simple milonguero-style performance that’s not too far from social tango.  The artists are Alicia Pons and Luis Rojas.

First watch the video and enjoy it.  If there’s something you particularly like about Alicia and Luis’ performance, please tell us in the comment area at the bottom of this post.  

Next, we'll dissect a tiny part of it.

I want to show you a 4-second segment (0:48-0:51) that looks so simple and normal that you might hardly pay attention to it!

I wonder how many of you are in the habit of working through the various possibilities of a common figure to allow you to move with freedom within the space you have in the line of dance, and especially to respond to unexpected blockages in the ronda

So here's a variation on an Ocho Cortado that helps you change direction, even on short notice, in a round and fluid way.

[Note:  This article raised some controversy about my calling the figure an "Ocho Cortado". You can read my response, with a deeper analysis, HERE. But finish this post first!]

We’ll look at the smooth link Luis creates
 between their loose, but clean, Ocho Cortado and the circular Va y Ven that follows it.


We start our analysis when Luis and Alicia top off a completed phrase that they’ve just walked (0:41-0:47) with a modified Ocho Cortado.

I’ll break the sequence down into three parts:

1) 0:48 -  Luis leads Alicia in a modest opening around him to his right.

0:48-0:49  Next, he uses great torsion in the return to bring Alicia 180 degrees around his left side. But he also adds something special - the “smooth link” I mentioned!

Observe Luis’ pivot on both feet, all the way through 0:49, and past Alicia’s step onto her crossed left, which ends their “loose” Ocho Cortado. Alicia has ended her figure, but Luis smoothly continues his torque/pivot, leading her to pivot another 90 degrees on her weighted left foot, until his forward step on 0:50 starts the Va y Ven. 

So, from the start of the Ocho Cortado at 0:48, they’ve turned 270 degrees, with Luis’ fluid torsion and two-foot pivot driving the turn:  180 degrees up to the end of the Ocho Cortado, and another 90 degrees until the first step of the next figure.

3) 0:50-0:51 Luis leads a Circular Va y Ven, turning yet another 180 degrees, completing  the circle to return the couple in the direction in which they had walked a few seconds before.

Adapting the sequence for dancing in a milonga:

Though you won’t want to do this great a directional change in a milonga, because it would send you against the line of dance, you could pivot during the Ocho Cortado to whatever degree YOU need to smoothly and fluidly change direction.  Or go ahead and turn 270 degrees from the woman’s first left step of the Ocho Cortado just like Luis and Alicia do . . . and then make your circular Va y Ven only 90 degrees, as the video shows Luis facing in the middle of 0:51 (a split second). There, when he changes weight to his left, had he been in a milonga, he could have remained facing in that direction and walked straight ahead.

* * * * * *

My next post will analyze a 7-second segment of the same video for our tangueras.

Was this analysis of this 4-second segment helpful to you?  Please comment below!


  1. Replies
    1. So glad, Robert. Thanks for letting us know!

  2. ok but...where's the ocho cortado ?

    1. Hi Mario! Thanks for your challenge. I knew that when I published the article I'd raise some controversy by calling the figure at 0:48-0:49 "an ocho cortado"! That's why I refer to it in the article as "a modified ocho cortado" and "a loose, but clean, ocho cortado". I'll explain why in an update in the next day or two.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful and informative video!
    I started ATango April 2015...and am just beginning to feel adventurous enough to start participating milongas...have been at Practicas and will continue that also...but it's time to move a bit forward I think. ~Leo Newburn

    1. Bravo, Leo! I have witnessed year after year with students that practicas are the most useful vehicle for getting ready to dance in milongas. Go for it! Please keep us posted on your progress, and let us know how we can support you!

  4. Like Mario, I am not seeing the ocho cortado starting around 0.48; instead, it seems to me that he is leading her into a forward ocho while he turns left ...

    1. Hi Nori! First of all, it's thanks to your posting this wonderful video on your Facebook page that I chose it for this and the following articles! I meant to mention that in the article, and I will.

      As I just mentioned to Mario and to another reader who emailed me, I knew I'd raise some controversy by calling that figure "an ocho cortado"! I refer to it in the article as "a modified ocho cortado" and "a loose . . . ocho cortado". I'll explain in detail in an update very soon, and we can discuss it further.

      Abrazos and thanks for the video, and for raising the question!

    2. Helaine, you are most welcome. I am glad that the video I shared was of some use to you. I am trying to understand why you would want to call the figure in question a modified orcho cortado. Reminding myself of the definition of ocho cortado, i.e., that it is an ocho interrupted, I am trying to imagine what would have happened had they not done what they did at 0.48-0.49; in other words, would she have ended up doing an orcho (a front one, perhaps)? I will keep watching while I wait for your next post, Thank you very much for challenging us to see an ocho cortado here ... Abrazos.

  5. Love whatever he's doing around 2:30--that series of backward turns he does. That's very cool. I've always liked that and want to do it. By the way, the directional change is almost 360 degrees. I'll bet you could finesse it at a milonga. I've used a variant of that move myself. I really like the way this guy moves. Thank you for sharing, Helaine!

    1. That backward turning sequence that you like, Robert, looks to me like a backward "cadena" (chain). Cadenas involve small sacadas by both parters. I don't think I've ever seen them done backwards! I think that if you go back to 2:20, you'll see the first one done in half-time, which might help you figure it out.

      So glad you really enjoy Luis' dancing. Though you probably know that my favorite dancers are salon-style (preferably close embrace), I've been a fan of Alicia's for a while!

      (I don't know which directional change you're referring to. :) )

    2. Oh, sorry for not being specific. I was referring to your question about the ocho cortado (loose or otherwise). Not sure I see it as an ocho cortado exactly. He leads into it with that boxy turn (does it have a name? I use that often.) to his left and then leads her out in front of him. The end result is almost a 360 degree rotation for Alicia. Ahh, but you know, it looks to like a rock step of some kind not an ocho cortado. Yeah, I see what you're saying, there's a bit of ocho cortado there because of that brief cruzada. Is that what you're referring to? Takes a lot of viewings to see it. (By the way, who is the composer of this glorious piece of music? Or which orchestra? I'm in love with it.)

    3. You know, looking at it again, it simply looks like she's pivoting on her front foot (or he's pivoting her).

    4. Hi Robert. I appreciate your getting back to us with your additional observations! In the next few days, two more articles will answer your new questions: one on why I called it an ocho cortado that was "modified" or "loose", and another all about the music, and why I'd categorize this interesting tango as "Irregular". For now I'll simply answer your question about the composer and orchestra: both are Domingo Federico. There's a nice story behind it, and perhaps a surprise. The tango is called "Y Todavía te Quiero".

  6. I like the video+breakdown -- it's a good way to add value and get your audience to engage.

    I'm not so sure about your breakdown though. I don't think it's an ocho cortado and circular step:
    - if it were an ocho cortado, he'd be interrupting her mid-weight on a sidestep. Instead, she's completely transferring weight on a forward (left) step at 0:48 and changing direction -- a check step in outside partner.
    - if it were an ocho cortado, she'd be doing a cross after her side step. Instead, she's doing a full forward ocho, complete with a 180-degree pivot.

    In other words, he's leading her into a forward check step, followed by side+forward ocho -- half of a molinette, followed by a standard va y ven.

    One of the things I think is really cool about the sequence just leading up to this is that Alicia is embellishing her forward walks with syncopations that Luis isn't leading. She can hear that this is walking music, figures out that Luis is leading 1s and 3s (you can see her figuring it out), and knows how to sneak in some minor weight transfers that fit in with his musicality (he may not even feel her weight transfers, because her upper body never stops moving into him).

    1. Thanks for your input, Anon! Very soon I'll publish another article that explains why I called the figure a "modified" or a "loose" ocho cortado, and how seeing it that way can potentially help one's improvisation in milongas.

      Meanwhile, I'll respond to your thoughtful comments.
      - On interrupting the sidestep mid-weight in an ocho cortado:
      a. Some teachers teach that the step is stopped mid-weight. However, others teach, and I've experienced through many years of dancing with milongueros and other expert dancers, that the woman, in her weight transfer on the side step around her partner's right, goes as far as she's led to go. Often we're brought fully to axis on our left foot for that one beat, allowing us to play in some way with our free right foot for that beat.
      - Also, I'm seeing Alicia do not a check-step forward with her left to Luis' right side, but actually pivot on her right so that her left step around him is a side-step. You can freeze the frame when she transfers her weight to her left and see that it was a side step.

      - > she'd be doing a cross after her side step, but instead she's doing a full forward ocho . .
      This is my main point. Had Luis stayed still on the return from the side step or check step, she would have crossed. But because he torqued and pivoted at that point, it stretched out Alicia's step with her left, distorting the ocho cortado, creating a much greater turn.
      I'll explain in more depth in the next article, and I'll explain why I chose to make such a seemingly wacky statement.

      It's fine if you disagree. :)

      Finally - good call on the sequence leading up to this! When you wrote I was about to publish the next post on just this walking segment! I hope you'll read it.