[Tango-L] The basic 8 count (8CB)

rhink2@netscape.net rhink2 at netscape.net
Fri Feb 22 18:23:16 EST 2008

Hello Subscribers,

I really don't understand this antipathy toward the 8CB.  Many posts on 
this thread and others (e.g. Why teachers use the (D)8CB(WBS) (15 Apr 
2003 ), Breaking the "paso basico (12 Feb 2008)) express a visceral 
disgust for the 8CB that mystifies me.  The consensus opinion of these 
posts seems to be that the 8CB is an overlearned pattern with a primacy 
effect that makes it difficult to overcome.

Let me tell you what I think the 8CB is supposed to be (as I did on a 
recent thread), and then I'll return to this point about getting away 
from it.

I have been doing partner dancing for over 20 years covering such 
dances as swing, salsa, waltz, samba, quick step, foxtrot, hustle, cha 
cha, rumba, bolero, nightclub two-step, besides tango.  I have never 
heard any instructor in any of the hundreds of classes I've taken say 
that you must commit the basic step to memory as a pattern.  The basic 
step for any dance is taught as a way to learn and practice the 
elemental moves of the dance.  That's it!  On occasion, I have heard 
professional dancers say that they use the basic step during their 
rehearsals a warm-up.  So yes, the basic step may be overlearned, but 
that's good!

Basic steps are not necessarily easy; they are just elemental.  So if 
one cannot do the basic step(s) well, one probably cannot dance the 
dance well.

The 8CB in tango is useful for several reasons.  As I said in a 
previous post, the 8CB is the only pattern in A. tango I know of that 
has assigned counts.  These counts are used to identify the landmark 
positions (e.g. 3 and 5) in much the same way as ballet positions are 
numbered. I know I'm not the only one who has heard a tango instructor 
say, "Alright, everybody get into 5!"  In fact, I've heard this kind of 
phrase used on numerous occasions by different instructors.  If one 
does not know what "5" means, one is lost.

Another valuable use of the 8CB is that one may assume that everyone 
doing the dance has at least some knowledge of it.  So when I'm dancing 
with a new, unfamiliar partner, I almost always start the dance with a 
version of the 8CB just to gage her level.  Once I do that, I rarely 
return to it; at least I know where we stand.

Now about breaking away from the 8CB.  First, let me say that whatever 
pattern is learned first probably will be overused.  That is the 
primacy effect.  As a beginner who initially learns ochos or walking 
will almost certainly be an ocho or walking freak.  The obvious reason 
is that with a limited dance vocabulary one can do only what one knows. 
 The point is that the 8CB is not the bad guy.

This inference suggests the key to breaking away from whatever one's 
trying to break away from: increase the dance vocabulary.  So by 
learning more moves, one will rely less on the initial pattern.  This 
process may not be easy, but it is the only way I know to achieve dance 


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