Tango Argentino > Forward Ochos...Heel or Toes first? This is the question..!

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Chrisa Assis, Dec 20, 2016.

  1. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    An article originally written for bautanz.com by Chrisa Assis

    Last week we talked about how better is better than more, looking into ochos specifically. Which brought up one of the classic Tango questions: Do we walk into our forward ochos using our heel or toes first?

    This reminded me of this great answer Sebastian Arce gave to another classic Tango question: What style of Tango do you dance?

    He said (in approximation): “They asked us, do you dance Tango Salon, and I said yes. Do you dance Tango nuevo? And I said yes. Do you dance Tango milonguero? And I said yes. Do you dance Tango escenario? And I said yes. (…) We dance Tango!”

    There you have it!

    As my valued mentor would say: The YES and Yes principle.
    How does the principle go?
    When you find yourself asking: Should I do X or is it better to Y? Most of the times it is BEST if you do X AND Y.

    It is a principle that can get you out of false dichotomies, so you can focus on important issues, in your everyday life, in your health, in your fitness, in your Tango.

    People ask me, all the time, questions like:

    • should I learn to dance in a closed or an open embrace?
    • is it better to go to milongas more or to practicas?
    • should I focus on sequences or on technique?
    But the best answer to these questions and many more, is YES and YES!
    Why do you have to choose between Heel or Toes during your forward steps?
    Do you really want to exclude one option that will give different dynamics to your dance, for the sake of making a choice?
    Especially when you can say YES and YES, and make it more fun this way!
    So, in the video below, I will show you forward ochos–of different types–stepping forward with the heel and with toes first and give you a quick drill for toe-to-heel transfers.

    A better forward ocho…Heel Vs Toes


    P.S: What dichotomies are you faced with? Shoot me an email with what you want to talk about!
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Interesting article about heels and toes for Ochos. Anything that helps you decide which one you want to do?
  3. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    I usually decide based on the move, the music, and the type of the embrace.
    My intention though here through these small videos is more motivate people to find new options, create movements in different ways and discover something new. So I am not really saying you should do one or the other on the contrary I suggest you try both and even more!
  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    That answer is great for teachers intent on locking in students,
    not so great at all for learners. They are asking for guidance
    and effectively you give them none.

    I agree that health and fitness are important in normal life,
    but these questions deserve answers:

    No, students should be guided to start somewhere, never mind
    that from the evidence here we would probably start completely

    You are effectively arguing in favour of a student learning
    a variety of different ways of dancing before he/she can dance
    at all. That doesn't seem wise to me.
    jantango likes this.
  5. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Grammar-wise, I guess that "no and no" would be more acceptable. Because there would be the idea of not focussing at all.

    As for the idea itself, I am strongly against. Or to follow the assertive style of the original poster, "the worst answer is yes and yes".
    Mladenac likes this.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    She is giving guidance, and it is to try both options for the various questions, rather than excluding one or the other. Whether you agree with the advice is a different thing, but she clearly is giving guidance.
    oldtangoguy and sixela like this.
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well when she talks about "false dichotomies" it seems to me
    that she is giving some rather pretentious instruction.
    She is actually reposting something already written on her blog,
    on this forum of course I am free to disagree.

    I suppose anyone's view about whether it is effectively a
    promotion for her teaching (or her blog), guidance
    or instruction; I'll go for the first and last!

    And all of this is without even challenging her ocho exercise
    and the question she is posing, which I could do at length.
    jantango likes this.
  8. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    When I teach beginners and there is an option on how something can be done (or varying opinions, for that matter), I tend to teach them my preference if I have one (or the easiest if I don't), tell them why and that later they'll learn other variations (or show them after they have the first one down), etc. If it doesn't matter, I tell them so. It just depends on what it is...for a beginner learning tango, it would probably be easiest to focus on one style at first, while recognizing that there are other styles and one isn't necessarily "more correct" than another. a footwork option like heel vs toe on forward ochos, I think it's easy enough for them to understand they can do either depending on what feels right in the moment.
  9. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    The answer that I had been looking for was under what conditions do you feel that one method seems to work better than the other? Even if other people may feel they have a different opinion, it can be helpful to know your personal view based on the experiences you had.
    dchester likes this.
  10. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    I haven't danced or taught ochos placing the toes first in 20 years. It's taught that way by performers who dance tango de salon for exhibition.

    The second example with the heel is relatively new and used by women who dance to draw attention to their feet. I call this "foot flapping." Flexing the foot to accentuate heel placement first is not natural. The only milonguera I know who dances this way is Nelida Fernando. When she started teaching, women began copying it; new material is always needed for classes. Today it's in vogue.

    Chrissa talks about maintaining separation from a partner. I dance tango with complete body contact from head to waist. I don't see either of these forms in the milongas of Buenos Aires where women want to be held close and feel tango...not have to think about their feet.
    DanceMentor likes this.
  11. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I prefer to have many teachers, each with one style, against having one teacher with many styles.
    In the long term I try the options I have and adapt what I like to my own style, however.
    Beginners might better start with focus on other topics.

    But why is it related to an ocho - the time a follower recognizes that one gets leaded, her step is mostly done. :cool:
    newbie likes this.
  12. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Very good point!
  13. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    Ahhh, I am sorry I read your last message on a different base.
    So I personally, put my heel down first, unless I am dancing in a very tight embrace, or with a very tall partner that I need to reach up--it happens though I am tall myself. haha
    For one: This is how I was taught. And secondly, I enjoy the power that the heel gives to the step, without jeopardising the aligning between the heel and the sitbone and therefore position of my hips.
    so, for years I considered stepping with the toes first as a very banal/ old school way of stepping until I decided for my own practice to try different ways of doing an ochos, looking for different feelings and sensations created from the movement. And that is when I realized I was worng to have excluded that options from my repertoir.
    When I teach beginners I teach them heel first--because it is more natural since this is how we wlak down the street with or without heels--but after I have been with a group for a good enough time, and if I think they are ready, I introduce them to other options.
    oldtangoguy, Oliver, sixela and 3 others like this.
  14. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Yours is a very involved recipe that requires careful attention to each step. I prefer to surrender to the music and my partner.
  15. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    These subtle distinctions are fascinating, Chrisa Assis. Thank you for sharing them.
  16. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    The dance preferences between people, cultures and generations may differ, and in my opinion they should differ, indeed.
    Oliver likes this.
  17. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    These are not polar opposites. The point of practicing this is indeed to avoid having to think of it once you do have a partner and music at a milonga...
    itwillhappen, dchester and raindance like this.
  18. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Oh, you mean to make a habit of it.

    People may regard such self-absorbed footwork
    as part of tango, but it isn't at all helpful
    for dancing with both a partner and the music.
    Note that Chrisa is practising without either!

    While pursuing what some people think as beautiful,
    the pursuit of the mainly visual (good or bad)
    is nearly always disruptive of function.
    There are many other examples in commercial tango.
  19. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    May be the target audience are younger dancer that in general won't like to dance like their parents do? ;)
  20. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    This sounds like the voice of either a very poor dancer (Why practice? Just do whatever), which I seriously do not believe JohnEm to be,
    the voice of a dancer with so many years of experience that he has forgotten just how hard it can be to learn tango.

    I agree wholeheartedly with sixela's comment, and firmly believe that it is only with practice that a movement becomes natural enough that it can be performed in support of the higher esthetic of partner and music.

    And I totally fail to see what is wrong with dancers being paid to help others learn how to dance. Art teachers get paid, music instructors get paid, but dance teachers shouldn't?

    BTW, despite eleven years of dancing tango almost daily, I do not teach for money, so don't think I'm being self serving.

Share This Page