Ochos means 8s or Figure eights. A crossing & pivoting figure which is Executed as a walking step with flexed knees and feet together while pivoting, ochos may be danced either forward or backward and are so designated from the lady’s perspective. El Ocho is considered to be one of the oldest steps in tango along with caminada, the walking steps. It dates from the era when women wore floor length skirts with full petticoats and danced on dirt floors. Since the lady’s footwork could not be directly observed the quality of her dancing was judged by the figure she left behind in the dirt after she danced away.
Our figure begins with the man leading the woman to back ochos using the cross system. He does this by taking a step to his left LF while she takes a step to her right RF. He brings his feet RF together and changes weight while leading her to pivot to her left, her hips are now facing his right side. The man then steps again to his left LF bringing the lady with him. She is still on her RF and steps with her LF. He leads her to pivot to her right so her hips face his left, as he leads this, the lady collects her RF first and then pivots. The man leads the lady to take a step to his right with her RF while he rocks back on to his RF. To make it more comfortable the man can walk slightly forward with each step and the woman doesnt need to pivot the whole 180 degrees but more so that she places her foot very close to where he is placing his. The signature of a back ocho is that the lady steps with her foot furtherst from the man.
tips for ladies: If you are just learning this step, make sure that you keep your trailing foot on the floor the whole time. Also it is imperitive to collect your feet, making sure your ankles are together before pivoting and stepping back. If you don't, the movement will look messy and wild. Practise this so that the movement of the collecting of the feet, the pivoting and the following back step are separate movements and each one lead by the man.
Another very important concept is that of the dissociation of ones body. This occurs when the upper body, torso remains completely parallel to the man while the hips twist and become dissociated with the upper body. When doing the ocho, make sure that you are in effect walking straight from the hip, that is you are not crossing your legs to do an ocho but rather your hips are twisted so that the side ocho is really a back step. Try and keep your distance from the man constant so that if he is holding you at arms length, step so that you remain at arms length. This is essential to practice as it will help your molinettes as well. Walk like an Egyptian, that is keep your torso facing front, with your hips, legs and lower body facing to the side. Balance is also very important here and practicing on your own in front of a wall will ensure that you pivot using your own movement and don't rely on the man to spin your body. Lorena Emontionada says to pivot from your ankle so that your trailing ankle pushes your supporting ankle around. Practice Practice Practice !
Finally a small movement of the mans torso should cause a much larger movement of your hips so that he only need turn his torso a little and your lower body will pivot to face the direction he is turning. Your body should be acting as an amplifier. Some male leads like the woman to have a firm
tips for men: The lead of the ocho is crutial for understanding the tango. Try and keep a frame when you hold your lady. That is your arms should not be moving back and forth. Although the old fashion way is to lead the ocho by bending your right wrist, we now like to teach that you lead the ocho with your whole torso, that is to make the lady pivot to her left, the man twists his torso to his left, The frame of the hold must twist too so that the lady feels the length of his arm moving at the same speed and angle as his torso. Practise this. Take a pose with an imaginary lady in front of you, make sure your arms are comfortable and in a kind of a circular form, make sure your left elbow is down, twist your body at the waist keeping your arms in the same position.
Other thing to watch out for is bending at the waist. Stand tall and rotate around your axis. Remember, you are a proud milongero with your torso leading every movement.
Also don't rush the ochos, take your time leading every moment from the step to the pivot.
Although this moment is most basic, it is essential and difficult to perform with complete accuracy. If you learn nothing else but a perfect salida, ocho and giro, you will be well on your way to pleasing ladies in this dance.