Details in Argentine Tango dance.

How to dance Tango: An introduction to the most important details.

Argentine Tango classes San Francisco Bay Area and Buenos Aires Marcelo SolisLearning to dance Argentine Tango requires passionate dedication and practice.

Here we offer you indispensable information on details regarding Argentine Tango, and a series of exercises that will help you improve your dancing skills.

Whether you are a beginner without any dancing experience, an intermediate dancer looking to polish your dance, or an advanced dancer in search of perfecting your moves, practicing these exercises as often as possible will take your dance to the next level.

During our Argentine Tango group classes and private lessons at Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires we focus on posture, walk, awareness, connection and musicality.

In this article we offer you important insights and effective exercises to help you in your goal of becoming a great Tango dancer, a true milonguera or milonguero.

Practicing them often will improve your technique, making you able to express your emotions and achieve a superb interpretation of the music.

To learn more about Argentine Tango music, please refer to our dedicated page…

Posture

Definition:

Our upright posture manifests extraordinary qualities.

We, humans, are unique among all known species. Our upright posture manifests extraordinary qualities. By the way we stand up and present ourselves, we tell our own story, who we are, what we strive for, our dreams, our ideals, our thoughts and emotions. Through working on our posture we work not only on our body but on our entire persona. Therefore, from the perspective of a milonguero, good posture is not merely instrumental, achieved and developed only for the purpose of dancing well, but, in addition to our dance, the way we exist, presented to ourselves and everybody. What we can see in our posture (whether it’s the same or different from what everyone else sees) informs about us and shows what we can improve about ourselves.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Legs and feet together, your weight distributed equally between them.
  • Shift your weight to one foot, displacing your vertical axis in the direction of the foot that holds your weight.

  • Keep the inside edge of your foot that is free of weight in contact with the floor (“inside edge position”).
Argentine Tango dance important details. Classes and private lessons at Escuela de tango de Buenos Aires.
“Inside edge position.”
  • Maintain your weight comfortably on the standing foot by conducting the weight of your body through it to the floor.
  • Knees close to each other. Your knees maintaining a constant connection to your axis, which passes through the center of your body, from the top of your head to the center of the base of your body in regard to your weight distribution on one foot or between both feet.
  • Hips level, your ilia (hip bone) parallel to the floor, aligned with your transversal plane.
  • Torso aligned with your vertical axis, head rests on your torso, which rests on your legs.
  • Neck and head aligned with the same vertical axis.
  • Alignment of all your body parts to your central axis becomes essential: head, neck, torso, hips, legs, feet.
  • Eyes looking forward. Sight aligned with the floor, looking to the horizontal line.
Details about Argentine Tango dance. Head position. Classes and private lessons.
“Eyes looking forward. Sight aligned with the floor, looking to the horizontal line.”

Walk

Definition:

As with our posture, our human walk is also unique.

As with our posture, our human walk is also unique. In the case of dancing Tango, we are required to develop a way of walking which, remaining natural, serves the purpose of walking in the intimate company of our partner, embraced by each other, among other couples, creating a silent poetic dialogue with our bodies and in connection with the cadence of Argentine Tango music. This kind of music was devised to serve such a purpose, and always guides us on how to move in such situations.

Technical details and exercises:

  • After shifting your weight to one foot, move the leg that is free of weight forward and backward like a pendulum, maintaining light contact with the floor, using the “inside edge position” when passing through the “collect position” when both feet are together.
  • Then move the leg that is free of weight to the side, keeping your foot in touch with the floor, always using the “inside edge position”.
  • Last, make small circles while keeping your foot in touch with the floor, using the “inside edge position” while passing through the “collect position” when both feet together, and when stepping into the side position.
  • Keep your ilia at the same height, parallel to the floor, aligned with the transversal plane.
  • The movement of your leg is rooted in the ball and socket joint, which connects your femur to your hip.
  • Release both your knee and ankle joints so they can move freely.
  • The knee of the supporting leg is in a relaxed, ready state, neither bent nor locked.
  • Walk naturally, swinging the leg that is free of weight forward, extending it a little, letting your axis move in the same direction and maintaining it vertically through the transition, pushing gently from your back standing leg, and transferring your weight to the front leg at the end of this process, keep your foot in touch with the floor, softly, without dragging it.
  • Reverse the process to walk backwards. Pay close attention to the back of your foot by pointing it backwards when extending the leg that is free of weight, keep your foot in touch with the floor at all times, softly, without dragging it.
  • Maintain all details regarding your posture as described before.
  • At every step, take a back and forth step movement, changing your weight between feet. Practice this exercise going forward and backward.
  • Use this element to change directions when walking forward to backward and vice versa.

Pivot

Definition:

Rotation of your body’s axis as it passes through the ball of your standing foot.

Rotation of your body’s axis as it passes through the ball of your standing foot. To pivot, rotate your torso in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, producing a torque which gently pulls your lower body into a rotation that follows in the same direction as your torso.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Maintain the “inside edge position” when you pivot.
  • Step forward after pivoting, aligning your foot that is free of weight with your lower sagittal plane.
  • Direct your step forward in a circular trajectory around your partner. Orient the center of your torso towards the central axis of the couple.
  • From the step forward to the next position going forward, in which you will transfer your weight to the front foot, your torso is already rotating towards the center of the couple, so the foot that remains behind, by the pull of this torsion, which takes the shape of a spiral, turns your back foot, first, to the inside edge in contact with the floor, and then, makes it travel to your sagittal line, to the “collect/inside edge position”.
  • After this “collect/inside edge position”, we research these possibilities:
    1. Forward ocho: Pivot more continuing in the same direction of your established rotation and move the foot that is free of weight forward, in alignment with your lower sagittal plane, your torso torquing according to counter body movement, orienting the center of your chest to the central axis of the couple.
    2. Forward-side: Pass the foot that is free of weight behind the heel of your standing/pivoting foot while keeping the inside edge in contact with the floor, and continue to the side around your partner.

    3. Backward ocho: When you reach the collect position, reverse the movement, bringing the leg that is free of weight back to the starting point when it was behind you. At this point you can collect/inside edge position and from there:
    a) Continue pivoting the same direction as your established rotation and move the leg that is free of weight backward, aligned with your lower sagittal plane, your torso torquing according to counter body movement, orienting the center of your chest to the central axis of the couple (backward ocho).

    b) Reverse the rotation of the pivot and return forward with the leg that is free of weight to the previous position (boleo).

NOTE about knees: the knee of the leg that is free of weight passes behind the standing leg, fitting its convex shape into the concave space behind the knee of your standing leg, moving all around the standing leg until getting its concave back in front of its convex shape, making your feet end crossed. Your standing leg needs to be in a relaxed ready position, neither bent nor locked, while your leg that is free of weight is extended with a tension comparable to the tension of a well-tuned musical instrument string. Exercise: Move your leg that is free of weight around your standing leg back and forth.

Boleo

Definition:

A back and forth movement of the leg without changing weight.

Since our legs move like pendulums, a back and forth movement of the leg without changing weight is possible. We call this “boleo”. This pendular movement of the leg that is free of weight is most often combined with the spiral movement of the leg described above in relation to pivoting.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Keeping the leg that is free of weight in the “inside edge position,” pivot back and forth, allowing it to swing like a pendulum, while maintaining the details described above about knees and legs.
  • Do forward and backward ochos and practice the back and forth pendulum in every pivot.

Connection

Definition:

We are supremely gifted with the ability to connect to others.

We are supremely gifted with the ability to connect to others. It is also an intrinsic necessity of our human condition. Our capacity for connection with other human beings predates the appearance of language. Dancing Tango puts this primordial skill into play, connecting us without words.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Partner up facing each other and walk forward and backward maintaining the same distance between partners. One must lead and the other must follow.
  • When the leader walks backward, he places his partner to the right as the follower walks forward (outside partner position).
  • When the leader walks forward, he will walk in front and outside partner position. His left leg will always make the first step outside and in front.

Line of dance

Definition:

All couples on the dance floor move counter clockwise direction.

All couples on the dance floor move counter clockwise direction.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Partner up and face each other on the dance floor, oriented in a way that the leader walks forward and the follower walks backward, the couples travel on the dance floor in a counter clockwise direction.
  • Hands on each other’s shoulders.
  • Walk in outside and in front partner position.
  • Pause when in front of your partner.
  • Lead forward/backward movement when in outside partner position.

Systems

Definition:

There are two fundamental ways to combine movement of the four legs of a couple.

There are two fundamental ways to combine movement of the four legs of a couple:
1. Parallel system: The leader’s left leg moves in sync with the follower’s right leg and vice versa.
2. Crossed system: The leader’s left leg moves in sync with the follower’s left leg and vice versa.

Technical details and exercises:

Walk in front of each other, leaders forward and followers backwards.

  • In parallel system, inside/outside.
  • Change of system technique: leader’s left step, feet together, left again; followers always move the foot that is free of weight.
  • In crossed system:
    1. On the open side.

    2. In front.

    3. On the closed side.

    NOTE about distribution of weight: Leaders always rest their weight on both feet; followers are always lead to rest their weight on one foot.

Embrace

Definition:

It’s a very humane characteristic.

It’s a very humane characteristic, since we stand on two feet and our arms are free.
Social dancing started in Europe during the Renaissance. Before dancing was ritual. In the beginning partners wouldn’t touch at all. Then they took each other’s hands in the minuet. Then the woman was on the man’s arms in the waltz. We can observe the tendency of partners getting closer to each other. Finally the couple dances intimately embraced in Tango.

Technical details and exercises:

  • Hold hands, like an honest handshake.
Details in Argentine Tango. Embrace.
“Hold hands, like an honest handshake.”
  • Center of your chests in front of each other.
  • A vertical axis of the couple passes through this center between your chests.
  • You can imagine a ball bearing as the joint between you and your partner, located in the central axis of the couple, at the midpoint of connection between each partner’s chest.
  • Right hand of the leader in complete contact with the follower’s mid-back.
  • The embrace is neither too loose nor too tight. It must be warm, relaxed, versatile and consistent.

References:

Anatomical planes to learn to dance Argentine Tango
Anatomical planes

argentine tango, Buenos Aires, classes, dancing, how to, investigation, lessons, milonguero, philosophy, san francisco bay area


Marcelo Solis

I was born in Argentina. Through my family and the community that saw my upbringing, I have been intimately involved with the culture of Tango all my life, and have been an Argentine Tango dance performer, choreographer and instructor for over 30 years. I profoundly love Tango dancing, music, and culture, particularly that of the Golden Era. I am a milonguero.

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