Class Notes: October 2010

Previous months: June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010

These are the class notes for September 2010 Tango classes in Berkhamsted.

3rd October: Technique, musicality, steps



Keep a "forwards lean", all the time. Think of the posture as being an upside-down "Y" shape.


  • Walking forwards, push off from the back foot and soften the knee of the supporting leg.
  • Walking backwards, again soften the supporting leg, and extend your free leg back (free leg is straight)

Changes of weight / sidesteps

  • Think "up and around" rather than "side to side" for changes of weight
  • For sidesteps, conversely, think "down and across"; soften the knee of supporting leg, then step
  • It's a useful exercise to mix and match weight changes with sidesteps, so that you can learn to differentiate between the two

Follower's free leg movement

  • Trust your following instincts, and try to be more confident in letting the lead's movements translate into leg movement.


Ensure you set up the lead for every step, in the time before you actually lead that step. So start "pre-leading" the next step, during the previous step.

Head placement

Don't move the head in ralation to the body - keep it pointing in the same direction as your chest.



Follower technique:
  • For the side -> back bit, ensure you pivot fully before stepping back, step fully around the partner
  • Ensure you don't overtake the rotation of the leader's chest
  • Keep the movements smooth and continuous; don't stop moving the free foot; keep it moving continuously

Ocho Cortado

  1. Leading the "pulse" part of the step, as a start-of-a-sidestep
  2. Rotate around the follower anti-clockwise to lead her to cross


  1. From a sidestep-to-left, right foot in between follower's legs
  2. Follower brings legs together, pivots, then steps back
  3. Can continue this as part of a giro movement


  • Put in lots of pauses!
  • When pausing, pause to the music - listen to the music
  • Pauses are opportunities for the follower to decorate / adorn steps
  • It takes time, but it'll come when you listen / dance to enough of it.

Some more musicality information here:

10th October: Ochos and Decorations

Beginners Class: Ochos

We focussed on the "ocho" movement in this class.

Key points
  • Leaders: don't "row" - don't use your arms to pivot your partner, use your chest.
  • Leaders: always lead the pivot first, then the step. Don't try to do both at the same time.
  • Leaders: the step is in the same direction as the pivot.
  • Followers: pivot first, then step. They are two separate motions - don't rush into one before the other.
  • Followers: keep your chest facing towards your leader (that's the "dissociation" thing).

There are two simple ways to change from a forward ocho to a back ocho and vice versa.

  • Reverse the pivot: lead a pivot in the reverse direction, then lead a step in that direction.
  • Don't lead the pivot: lead a step, without the pivot, then lead a step in the reverse direction.

Easy :)

More information

Some more information about ochos.

Improvers class: Ocho decorations

Adornments (or "Embellishments" or "decorations" - all the same thing) are general actions which make the dancing look and feel better - they're the icing on the cake.

A key point about decorations is exactly that - they're icing, they're not the cake. So these should not ever interfere with the connection or the basic step. If you're not comfortable doing the basic step, then don't do decorations.

Decoration 1: Hook step ("Amague" / "Saludo")

For any forward or back step, followers can "hook" their feet into a back or forward cross position, before taking the step.

We worked on this with forwards and back ochos - hooking behind in forward ochos, hooking in front with back ochos.

Here's an example of an Amague as used on a back ocho:

Decoration 2: "Lapiz" / "ronde"

This involves the follower tracing a pattern with her free leg, during the "pivot" part of the ocho.

This is the sequence we worked on:

  1. The follower steps forward on her inside foot, and collects her feet
  2. The leader lowers the follower - the follower bends her knee and then extends her outside leg to the side
  3. The leader pivots the follower - the follower can then trace a circular movement with her outside foot
  4. At the end of the pivot, the leader should raise the follower back up
  5. The leader can then lead another step as part of the next movement (say, another ocho).
Key points
  • Leaders: get the timing right. Lower for the pivot, raise for the step
  • Leaders: to lower, lower your frame, don't crouch down
  • Followers: don't anticipate, let the leader lead each stage
  • Followers: collect the leg back in when you're raised at the end of the pivot

Decoration 3: "Planeo"

We then briefly extended that movement, to create a "planeo" movement, with the leader walking backwards and leading the follower to pivot around.

17th October: Crosses

Beginners Class: Leading a cross

Followers, you can occasionally be led into a cross-step; it's like a collection, but intead of one foot being next to the other, one foot is crossed over the other.

If your free leg is relaxed, this should happen naturally when led - you shouldn't really need to think about it.

Leaders, to lead a cross step, you need to indicate to the follower what to do; typically, this means you need to:

  • Apply a slight pivot as part of the step as a lead - "closing the chest", basically.
  • Open up some space between you, for her to put one leg in front of the other.

You can also apply a slight "lift" as part of the lead.

You can do this from a normal walk, and it should feel natural ("inevitable") to the follower.

A Sequence!

We did a standard entry to a cross step:
Leaders: sidestep left (to outside) > 2 forward steps > collect (and lead a cross step) > lead a weight change
Followers: sidestep right > two back steps > cross when led (left foot over right foot) > change weight to front (left) foot

Key points

  • To lead the sidestep left, lead your partner to take a normal-size step, then once she starts to move, take an outside step. Don't lead a large step from the start, or you'll both simply take large steps!
  • When leading the actual cross, don't pull your partner to the side, simply straighten out your body - "close your chest"
  • Followers: similarly, don't turn to the side, but keep facing your partner when you cross.
  • Leaders: start leading the cross from the second forward step - make this second step small, to give the follower space to cross.
  • Followers: don't anticipate a cross after 2 steps back. Wait for it to be led.

Important note: the above is simply a sequence - it's not necessary to do this to lead a cross. If you look at the video here, that shows you some alternatives.


Improvers class: Cross variations

From the crosses, we covered a number of possible variations in terms of movements.

Decorations: The cross position allows you to create some nice patterns - for example, forward ochos out of the cross (produces the same look as the "hook" decoration covered last week).

Cross in close embrace: we covered leading the cross movement from a close embrace, as well as from open.

Ocho cortado cross: you can lead a cross from a sidestep motion, as we described in the Ocho Cortado movement in an earlier class.

Key points
  • Cross movements should feel natural. So leaders, don't "expect" a follower to cross at a certain point. And followers, don't anticipate a cross - only cross when the step is led.
  • Followers, after you cross, change your weight to the crossed foot - this change of weight should be led, but for the moment, you're best off just doing it, as that's what you'll need to do 99% of the time anyway.
  • Followers, take your time to cross - the movement should be natural, at the same speed that you walk back normally.

24th October: Improver's Workshop

See the detailed workshop notes for more information.

31st October: Free leg movement

The main theme for the two classes here was "Free leg movement", with a few specific movements designed to use and exploit such movement.

Beginner class: "swinging" and linear boleos

After warming up, we spent some time working on leading free leg movements.

Followers did some "leg-swinging" exercises, standing on the mats and getting used to feeling our legs swing, in as "free" a matter as possible. We then got the leaders to start to try to influence this "swing" - feeling the way the follower's legs moved, and trying to enhance / damp down this movement.

The idea of this exercise is:

  • To get the followers used to free leg movements,
  • To get the leaders used to being able to effectively lead and change these movements.

Movement: linear boleo:

This movement is designed to get the leaders used to interrupting a movement, and to get the followers used to having free leg movements.

  1. Step to the (leader's) left, leader stepping further than follower
  2. Take one or more forward steps, then bring the follower's upper body to a halt, as she starts to move her free leg back
  3. This will result in the follower's leg "sweeping" back.

Key points

  • Leaders: get the timing of the halt right. You need to lead the follower to start to take a step back, and give her enough time to start to move her leg, before you apply the "emergency stop".
  • Followers: let your free leg be free in its movement. Don't tense up if the leader stops you.

Improver class: ocho-based Boleos and wraps

Using the free leg movement we worked on in the beginner class, we then worked on a particular movement using that technique - a boleo, followed by a leg wrap.

Firstly, for a boleo, we used a practice sequence, as follows:

  1. Leader sidestep left, change weight, pivot follower anti-clockwise, then start to lead a back ocho step
  2. Follower starts to take that step, leader then interrupts the step with an "emergency stop"; follower's leg sweeps back.
  3. Follower completes the movement, then collects as normal.

This movement can be done on the back step of any ocho - we demonstrated on it on the leader's right side also.

Key points

  • Followers: the movement is exactly the same as with the beginner step - you're simply facing a different direction.
  • Leaders: again, the lead is exactly the same, as is the timing.

Here's an example video of this type of movement:

(See the Boleo description for more example videos)

Secondly, we demonstrated and practiced a leg wrap motion, starting from both a boleo base, and also from a forward ocho base.

From a boleo base:

  1. Lead the boleo as described above, then, when bringing the lady back around, place your outside (right) foot alongside the lady's right foot.
  2. Simply pivot the lady around clockwise - her left leg should swing around and wrap around your right leg.
  3. You can reverse the motion to unwrap her - if your right leg is bent, straighten it to provide extra momentum.

From a forward ocho base, it's a very similar movement - simply block her right foot, then pivot her around as before.

Key points

  • Followers, keep your leg relaxed as it swings around. Wait for the movement to be led.