Terence I think you are correct. That is a huge problem, and probably always will be. Across the tango styles there are basic elements of movement, and an understood standard of correctness of movement. (Incidentally, this is how I was taught Salsa as well.) This is why my philosophy has been to focus on the very basic elements and build from there.
I can use the OPs question as an example. In this case, OP was asking two questions without knowing it. Question 1: "How do I properly execute an ocho?" and Question 2: "How do I properly embellish an ocho?" I dont want to "bash" OPs instructor, but it would appear that OPs instructor could not make the distinction between an element of movement and an embellishment of that movement. But, to take OPs question further, regardless of style, proper ocho execution would be to pull from the inner thighs, dance on inside edges of feet, maintain weight on supporting foot while rotating... When we come to matters of embellishment, or even discuss the degree of rotation, we begin to get into areas of differences that define style. Unfortunately, this is where you start finding instructors who will tell you X is correct and Y is wrong, when they are addressing issues of style, and not basic movement. Why this is done I do not really know. It could be argued they simply do not know the difference, or perhaps they are trying to market their own special style of tango... The student suffers either way.
A feather step requires that the already challenging large projection of the body required for an outside partner position be generated not from a flat standing foot as in waltz or quickstep, but instead from the toe of a risen standing foot.
On which step of the Feather is this "projection of the body" generated?
PS Obviously, you do not have an amateur partner.
Still, your secret's safe with me. I won't tell anyone else on the board. I promise.
"A feather step requires that the already challenging large projection of the body required for an outside partner position be generated not from a flat standing foot as in waltz or quickstep, but instead from the toe of a risen standing foot.
On which step of the Feather is this "projection of the body" generated?"
I probably should have chosen my word more carefully, as it is ideally "generated" during the downswing of the previous measure. The subject challenge however is to carry that movement energy right through the arrival onto step two so that it can result in projection of the body into an outside partner position over and beyond a risen standing foot during the portion of step three before the third step has been placed. The weaker foot of a newer dancer is not yet capable of this, especially over the lengthy amount of time that this body projection must be sustained to match the tempo of the slow foxtrot.
In contrast, in waltz or foxtrot we would be carrying the downswing's energy into an outside partner projection on step one, where the standing foot supporting the projected body is still in the much stronger position of being solidly flat on the floor.
Practicing this in the waltz and quickstep helps set the idea of what will need to be done in the foxtrot outside partner, while practice dancing a foot rise dance builds the foot strength. Finally, striving to keep the feet acting forward during steps one and two of the waltz natural briefly tests the capability of supporting the body weight in front of the toe of a risen standing foot needed for foxtrot, but without actually ruining the dance when it's not there.
All Emsachez wanted to know was how to start his Waltz. If I were in a competition or on a crowded floor I would most likely start with a Whisk on side two ( the short side ) depending on the width. If I wanted to start on side one I would most likely start with a Travelling Contre. diag to centre. A Quick Open Reverse and leave all the others to struggle out of that side one corner. To coin a phrase. Courses for Horses depending on the situation. Which brings me to. Thats why I would have my groups eight bar phrased. I can choose which one I will used and which to to be followed by. Never become one who has to start exactly on that spot with exactly that routine.
"But isn't that energy "generated" from a flat foot after the downswing of the first step and not a preceding figure?"
Supplemented a little from a muscular push, but no, most of the energy in an upswing comes from the previous downswing or body speed of the previous measure.
"What possible preceding figure would lead into a Feather on a downswing?"
The feather is not on a downswing, it is preceded by the downswing of the previous figure.
Any time we have two figures with rise with an intervening lowering we see this - the actual cycle of a swing is from step three of one measure, down, then back up to step three of the next.
An alternate source is the situation of the prep step, where you descend from standing height while also getting an additional step to gradually contribute movement energy from your muscles.
Choreographically, there would a greater number of clear downswing-upswing energy carry over opportunities for the feather finish and the back feather than for the ordinary forward feather. But regardless of where the energy came from originally, the challenge during step three of the feather action is to sustain that projection forward of the toe of a risen standing foot.
"If one did, you would have no energy for the rise at the end of step one."
The projection and body drift in step three comes from having more energy than is needed for the rise - the body does not stop in waltz, it drifts right on through while only slowing. That this movement continues into a projection of the body into an outside partner position beyond the risen toe of its standing foot is what makes step three outside partner in foxtrot so much more challenging than the step one outside partner encountered in bronze waltz and quickstep.
Waltz & Quickstep: project body into outside partner position supported from a standing foot that is flat on the floor
Foxtrot feather action: project body into outside partner position supported from the toe of a risen standing foot
The energy for steps 2 and 3 of the feather comes from the power generated during the first step.
Also, this "projection of the body" that you describe as part of this difficult movement is really no big deal. The man simply comes out of the first step with a left-shoulder lead. Doing so from a toe (shorthand for "risen foot") is just as easy as doing so from a heel.
"The energy for steps 2 and 3 of the feather comes from the power generated during the first step."
Only if you dance in the "wasteful" way using muscles to do everything rather than letting it come from your downswings. Some people do that because they feel it makes it easier, but it makes the dance look heavy rather than effortless and floating. And it doesn't change the challenge of projecting in the risen outside partner position.
"Also, this "projection of the body" that you describe as part of this difficult movement is really no big deal."
If it was no big deal, then people would get it right. They don't - in large part because they lack the foot strength to do it. You can see the same lack of strength in the temptation to depart step one of the waltz natural sideways from the ball of foot, rather than continuing forwards over the toe, though it's not as drastically detrimental to the flow of the dance there as failing to project forwards from step two of the feather is.
"The man simply comes out of the first step with a left-shoulder lead. Doing so from a toe (shorthand for "risen foot") is just as easy as doing so from a heel."
Doing it from a toe requires that he support the entire weight of his body not just from the ball of his left foot, but ultimately from the toe of it - not because he is going up, but because he is projecting his body beyond the standing foot. In waltz or quickstep he could project from a supporting foot that is flat on the floor rather than risen.
Most newer dancers, males especially, cannot stand on one foot with the ball of the foot slightly off the ground and the toes taking the weight, which is an equivalent challenge even though the application in foxtrot is forward projection rather than vertical rise. But dancing a lot of waltz and quickstep can develop the foot and start to build that capability.
Lighter females, especially those with some childhood ballet background may be able to do it, but unfortunately in the feather they are not asked to project from a risen standing foot, instead they are asked to send their body weight backwards to and ultimately through the standing heel, something that those with either a ballet background or simply reflexes for self-preservation when wearing ordinary high heels tend to be very hesitant to do.
It occurs to me that bronze foxtrot might work better if we had the ladies do the forward outside partner action projected from a risen toe, and the men roll through their standing heel!
I would suggest that anybody who wishes to see rising and lowering in the Foxtrot should Google Luca and Loraine Foxtrot Demo. Click the top one Who on earth started to use as a description of a step the word downswing. You`d finish in a hole so deep you`ll never get out on time. Lets just say lower at the end of, and not that bad shape creating other word.
The amount of turn isn't the point, but in case the previous response (from anymouse) causes confusion I'm not sure what is meant by "the most characteristic version" but the amount of turn achieved in the chart forms of the natural and reverse turn is one whole turn for each figure. This is good technique and is the amount of turn expected in examination. Of course the natural turn is underturned at the corner but not "around the short side" or any other side. One could achieve a sort of arc by dancing three naturals in succession, the first and last each cutting a corner. Cutting corners as a matter of course is frowned upon by examiners, however.
Boundy Taylor. A Chasse to the right in the centre of the floor followed by 4 5 6 of a Reverse Weave works well. We see this one often. I always preceed that one with a Lunge to the Right across the LOD. followed by a Slip Pivot and turn to the centre. As you suggested an Open Telemark in the centre going down the centre with the LOD is an exellent entry into limitless other figures.
Before you take one step in a V. Waltz make sure you know where you should be facing to start the Natural Turn and the Reverse Turn. The Natural Turn should start facing Diag to Centre. The Reverse Turn facing the LOD. This is throughout the dance and especially after a forward change.
In case the previous response (from Polished) causes confusion step 1 of a natural turn is facing line of dance having turned 1/8 to the right between the previous step and step 1. Step 1 of a reverse turn is facing line of dance having turned 1/8 to the left between the previous step and step 1. This is according to the British Dance Council and is the technique also adopted by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) and the United States ISTD.
What is not understood about the V, Waltz is. If I don`t start facing diag to centre I will over rotate the Natural Turn. The same with the Reverse. If I started the Reverse facing diag to centre I will over rotate. Where it sometimes goes wrong is the alignment at the end of the Reverse after the Forward Change. Get that to finish diag to centre and you will be technicaly correct. Try not to do Reverse Turns on the short sides of the Ballroom. If you have to, try not to do heel turns instead of back side together.
In case the previous response (from Polished) causes confusion the alignment of the last step (step 6) of the reverse turn is facing diagonally to wall. The authority for this is as for my previous message.
Where to start or finish a Reverse Turn is facing the LOD. If we decided to do another Reverse we are on the correct line to do so. To go from a Reverse to a Natural our Forward Change should finish diag to centre. If we were to finish our Reverse and Forward Change facing diag to wall we would be cutting across the LOD. I`m sure other couples might have something to say about that about that.