'OCHO_CORTADO': Altered Realities of a Tango Dream


'OCHO_CORTADO' is a short film depicting altered realities of a tango dream from a female dancer's perspective. The story takes place on a subway commute (NYC's subway) when the main character (female dancer) fall asleep on her seat and start dreaming about dancing on the train platform.

There are three independent dancing dreams during her daily commute, each dream with a stranger/dancer that gets into the train and seats next to her. While the female character is dreaming, her dreams are interrupted by images that anticipate a tragic event. The third dancer ends dead at the subway platform by the cut of a knife, covered with rose petals over his body.

The name of the film -Ocho Cortado- refers to a tango move/figure being cut and when you make a longitudinal cut to the figure of number 8, you get number 3 as result; that's the reason for three dreams. 'Ocho Cortado' also refers to a common tango social dance step, and as such the name has its place within the repertoire associated with tango dance moves.

The film has a duration of [6-min:42-secs] and combines the sound landscape of the subway with electronic music. The characters of the piece are real dancers from the NYC tango community (Video 1).

Video 1. Ocho_Cortado: Altered Realities of a Tango Dream is a short film portraying the tango dreams of a woman on her daily subway commute. Reality and fantasy are in dialogue with each other through the embodiment of tango dance with subway strangers. One of the dreams anticipate a tragic event in reality. Featuring Jusleine Daniel, Eli Leserowitz, Santiago Steele, Peter H. Visoso! Written and directed by Martin Calvino.


There is a tragic component in tango (or at least in the lyric of many tango songs) that is usually overlooked when tango is presented and promoted as commercial venture around the world. By suddenly bringing a tragic event within a dancing short film, the story has a surprising and unconventional ending.

Tragedy is objectified with images of a cemetery, knifes hanging from a tree in the woods, and red roses over a dead body. These images intermingle, invade and/or interrupt the dreaming instances of the female dancer during her commute, and somehow announce -in an anticipatory form- that tragedy is soon to come.

Because of the Spanish word 'cortado' which means 'cut', the knife and his actions take on an indirect role within the film, this role being portrayed by two segments of tango lyrics presented at the beginning and at the end of the film, respectively. The first lyric segment is referential to the tango 'Te llaman Malevo' written by Homero Expósito; whereas the second lyric segment is referential to the tango 'Sentimiento Gaucho' written by 'Juan Andrés Caruso'. In both lyrics, the image of a knife comes to life and is associated with the act of either homicide or suicide. Consequently, the tragic ending of the third dancer alludes to either homicide or suicide and is let undefined in the film, allowing the viewer to fill the gap according to their own interpretation of the possible cause for the death of the third dancer.

Visuality & Aesthetics_

High quality (4K) video recording in black & white. Up close and personal imagery of character within an urban setting. The reality of a subway commute is blurred with the surrealistic nature of the tango dreams.

Feeling / Mood_

Intriguing, somber and inward. It's a story about the intriguing fact of a dream having the anticipatory capacity of 'seeing' a tragic outcome happening in reality; all in the midst of imaginary scenes happening to the dreaming woman.

Sound Landscape & Music_

Sound of moving train and subway commute with electronic music. The first three soundtracks of Martin Calvino's album 'looping_thoughts' were used throughout the film, each soundtrack for each of the three dreams. The selected soundtracks contained tango lyrics created with machine learning algorithms.


The creation of the storyboard by the author served as general guideline to the realization of the film. It provided an overall idea of the story and its feasibility and an entry point for actors to acquaint theirselves with their role within the film. It is important to note that the storyboard was only used as referential material, as departure point into the story, with the author modifying it as he saw fit (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Sketches depicting storyboard with overall idea for the proposed film.

There is no dialogue on the film, only dancing and acting within the frame of the moving image. This a characteristic feature of Martin Calvino's experimental tango films, in which the story is told through means other than the spoken word. For instance see:

'Dance What You Read' (October 2017)


'Cuatro Palabras' (November 2017)


In all the stories created until now, Calvino has focused on emphasizing the women's perspective of tango because the origins of tango music and dance has prominently portrayed a male-oriented narrative already.

Photography_ (photo credits Martin Calvino)

Genesis & Execution of Idea_

The idea for this film was originated at some moment during the summer of 2018, whereas its refinement and implementation was conducted during November and December of 2018.


The author is grateful for the enthusiasm and outstanding work of the actors/dancers involved in this project.

Film Screenings_

The Lift-Off Online Film Festival - Vimeo On Demand (Feb 17 to February 24, 2019)