Them To Like Tango
& Dan Finch
they don’t like tango. That seems so odd -- tango should be the easiest
to dance because the steps are the most like walking. We think the
arises because dancers don’t get much of it. With more early exposure,
see that it can be fun. After all, the name "tango" derives from the
Castilian “tano,” meaning “I play” and the Latin “tangere” meaning “to
Tango comes in
variations, American, International, and Argentine styles. Roundalab
the distinction as to style—we just have tango—but each style is
And therein is
the problem. “Beginning” tango clinics often focus on the beginning
International tango figures, which come into the Manual at phase V. The
beginning (that is often ignored) is tango at the easy and intermediate
done in the American style.
from the dance that took root in the slums and bordellos of Argentina
late 1880s, as waves of immigrants flooded into Buenos Aires. Their
sad, about lost loves and lives left behind in Europe, opportunities
and not fulfilled, aggression and passion. Political upheaval in South
in the early 1900s drove ex-patriots to Europe, and they took their
them. It became the rage of Paris society. The sad overtones were lost
who had not lived through the terror of government overthrows, but a
the sexes” theme survived. Hollywood stylized it for the movies of the
England the more staccato form was standardized in 1922 as the
The late round
leader Eddie Palmquist likened the differences between the three styles
tango to a Lady’s temperament. In Argentine tango, the Lady dances
almost cuddled to her partner, as though “ yes” would be her answer to
request from him. In the International style tango, the Lady is very
and aloof, and the head tics and sharp turns into and out of closed
indicate that her answer would always be a definite “no.”
always been more fun and playful, epitomized by the Hollywood image of
Valentino stomping across the floor with lead hands stretched out in
Eddie characterized it, this tango is danced with the playfulness of a
responding to her partner’s overtures with a “maybe.”
So with all
and variety in how tango can be danced, why isn’t it more popular? In
informal survey of teachers, we found that many do not teach tango at
equate it only with the advanced International style, which has its own
language and the head tics, shrugs, and sharp movements that not
likes. Dancers tell us they don’t have a taste for tango because
teaches it,” or they hate all the head shaking, or they just don’t have
opportunity to do it much.
It is time for
a new way
of thinking. There are only a handful of figures that need to be taught
easy level to get dancers started and interested. And much fun can be
is shown in cuesheets in 4/4 timing, meaning four beats in each measure
music. The most basic rhythm is QQS, which means you dance the first
beat 1, the second “Q” on beat 2 and “S” on beats 3 and 4. In easy and
intermediate levels, amalgamations come in SS QQS sequences. More
figures will run into split measures with timing such as SQQS for the
promenade, often followed by a QQ as in a progressive link.
and foxtrot sections of the Manual are danced in tango, but with tango
and a tango way of moving. This means most figure names and foot
be familiar. You will recognize Argentine style figures by the use of
words—doble cruz, gaucho turn and serpiente—found in phase III and IV.
advanced level, many figures have names borrowed from the ballroom
International tango. Semi-closed position is called promenade position,
and a whole
family of figures includes the term “promenade” as part of the figure
mean walking into and out of semi-closed position.
Progression Manuals for phase III and IV suggest that the
movement of tango be taught from the beginning. Whatever style is
will dance on soft (flexed) knees and feel more solid into the floor.
means forward steps have to be with heel leads. There is an abrupt stop
slows, getting to the foot on the first beat and holding.
supposed to have flight, a continuous smooth flow with rise and fall,
skimming the floor and a swing through the hips. In tango the feet are
up and placed like walking on a sticky floor. Be solid on each foot,
strolling. Feet are never skimmed across the floor. Tango does not have
rise and fall of the other smooth dances, and has no sway, no body
way of moving is a distinguishing characteristic of tango that enables
you to identify
it when someone is dancing even without music.
The tango dance
is more compact than in other dances. Man’s hand is further across her
and lower, than in other dances. Lead hands are joined as in smooth
are brought in closer. When dancing Argentine style, the hold is so
that the Man’s right hand rests almost on her spine. In International
Lady’s left hand will be tucked under his arm with her thumb almost
his armpit. In Argentine style, her left arm might drape around his
start dancers in American style, Lady’s left hand can rest on Man’s
as she already knows how to do. Alternatively, she can cup her left
hand to the
back of his arm.
To Know It
American style, tango is not too staccato, has a more playful attitude,
less technique to teach and more familiar figures. All tango is
because it depicts a story. Unless you relate to the history of the
is only a walk. Think “war of the sexes.” Go with that and make it fun.
(SS) Tango gives the impression that it curves to the left in the walk
of Man’s right shoulder lead. On the first step, your thighs will cross
(see note below), and on the second step, they will uncross. Think of
drawn on the floor in front of you, with Man’s left foot walking on the
of the arc and his right foot on the outside of the arc. We have often
painter’s tape on the floor to illustrate this when teaching.
Draw: (QQS) Try Walk 2 (SS); Tango Draw (forward L, forward and side R,
to R -- QQS). To insert some levity and establish a cadence, have
the letters T-A-N-G-O as they step through the Walk 2 and Tango Draw.
(not a dip) and Side Corte (not a side lunge): (S) One step to the side
to reverse SCP (side corte) or back in CP (corte).
loves a Leg Crawl: (S) This dresses up an ordinary Corte. Try this
Walk 2; Tango Draw; Corte with Leg Crawl (SS). A Phase III+1
will tickle dancers.
Drag (phase IV): (S) Side lunge L and draw right to standing leg. Can
with a Right Lunge. More time can be allowed for the draw for dramatic
Rocks: (QQS) Rocking in place in closed position by rocking forward L,
R, forward L,-; Repeat rock forward R, recover L, forward, R-; to get
lead feet free. Can also be done in semi-closed and shadow positions.
start with a back step for back rocks.
Turn (phase III): (QQ) Rocking in CP but turning left-face, in
quicks, depending on how much turn you want. [Forward, recover with a
(phase III):( QQS QQQQ) In any facing position, for Man (Lady
L, behind R, fan L counterclockwise; behind L, side R, thru L and fan;
be confused with the phase IV Doble Cruz (SQQ QQQQ), which goes to SCP
forward L on the first step and ends in BJO, an exciting alternative.
Cross: (SS QQS) In SCP, for Man: forward and side L,-, thru R swiveling
reverse SCP,-; thru L, side R to CP, draw R to L,-;
the familiar figures:
Turn (or Open Reverse Turn) with Closed (or Open) Finish (phase IV):
Note the change of timing from foxtrot.
(phase III): (QQS) Danced flat with no rise and fall.
(phase IV): (QQS) Lady’s heel turn is not done with swivel but foot
resulting in feet momentarily being turned out.
Swivel (phase IV): (QQS but only one weight change) No rise and fall,
staccato than in Smooth dances, timing change from the SQQ of Smooth
concept is an integral part of tango, beginning with the walk. In the
terms, it means a foot position occurring during a figure where the
is placed on or across the line of the supporting foot and the side of
opposite the moving foot is leading. In the walk, Man’s right side and
foot are leading on the first step.
clinic notes prepared for the RAL Convention, 2013, and
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, October 2016.