"Do you know the actual problem or are you just guessing?" ~ Marc "Animal" MacYoung

I think we've been asking the wrong question.

I've been playing with this idea for years and I think I finally understand it now.

It's not "how do I lead forward ochoes in a salon style on MJers?"

It's "what style of forward ochoes do I lead on this MJer?"

I've noticed that different MJers have distinct natural preferences for one of the tango styles (well actually it's kind of a sliding scale) - varying between:

  • Salon
  • Salon / Vals
  • Vals
  • Milonga

So, if you lead a block on one follower but instead of completing the sandwich just stay still, she won't move, though she will eventually ask if she's not picking up on your lead. Another follower will stay there for a beat and then continue moving. Likewise a sacada in forward ochoes on a third follower will get you a pivot continuing into forward ochos, whereas on Follower 4 you'll naturally get a giro. We have the disadvantage that in a tango freestyle, the music would tell you what style to dance, whereas in Ceroc, you have to work out what the lady naturally does. Likewise the Neuvo tango music downstairs in Negracha can often be approached in different styles.

I originally thought that there were separate moves for each style like this person here, however after reading the responses  it's crystalised that it's the timing and styling of the moves that changes. So for example, it seems to be fairly universally agreed among tangoistas that to go faster you take smaller steps.

I have played with trying to shift the timing – leans will slow it down and giros will speed it up. The problem is that you end up with the scenario seen in tango halls all over of dancing Salon to Milonga. You can do it, but there's a nagging feeling that something's wrong (or she trips over you a lot).

So you can get someone to follow Salon ochoes by starting from a manhatten entrance, look at your feet, which will cause them to do the same; mirror ochoes footwork until they get it (kudos to David for this idea); then look up and at their face. They will look up, at which point you can use dissociation to change your footwork without them realizing letting you set up for exits, sacadas etc.

The problem with this is if the Cerocer doesn't naturally follow in a Salon style. The Japanese refer to it as "wa" – the inner harmony of the move. If you force a Cerocer who naturally wants to dance milonga style to do a Salon style move, technically you will do the move, but it will be "dead", lacking that wonderful connection and wa that to me is the whole appeal of leading the move in the first place.

On the bright side, once you shift to matching their style, it's genuinely surprising how easy it is (allowing for how hard tango is to lead in the first place). Change of places, giros, walks, milonguero style backwards ochos – I've led them all on a beginner and frankly it was much easier than leading a lot of beginner Ceroc moves. I've noticed that the harder a beginner finds following Ceroc, the more I'll lead tango. Which rather than being evil actually makes sense. A beginner in Ceroc basically gets their hand pushed towards them and then pulled forwards and there's a whole load of "fill in the blanks" for them to do. Eek. But in a tango frame when I'm going to lead a step I supply the full information of how to move all her body, where to move it and when.

 - Christopher O' Shea