The Tango is a dance of passion in which the man is pursuing the woman and the woman hasn't decided whether or not she wants the man. The pursuit should be very subtle; the man and woman don't want to be too obvious about their intentions. Therefore, the Tango should be danced slowly and deliberately. It is not a loud and flashy dance, but very calculated about its intentions.
Most Tango patterns are based on counts of eight. Some are slow counts and some are quick counts. A slow count takes two beats of music while a quick count take a one beat of music. The basic count of Tango is slow (1,2), slow (3,4), quick (5), quick (6), slow (7,8). As the patterns advance and become more difficult, the timing of the patterns will vary. However, the slow-slow-quick-quick-slow timing is the count for most basic steps.
In ballroom dancing, you have what is called a moving foot and a non-moving, or supportive, foot. The moving foot is the foot that you are transferring your weight onto, regardless of how big or small the step is, while the supporting foot is the foot that is supporting your weight while you are in the process of taking a step.
In Tango, there is a slight delay in the movement of the feet, which creates a staccato feeling in the dance. The moving foot will step on the first beat of any slow count leaving the non-moving foot in place. Then the non-moving foot becomes the moving foot taking a step on the first beat of the next slow count. Steps taken on a quick count are taken normally since there is only one beat in the count. The result will be a slight delay in the taking of each step which is what creates the staccato feel to the dance.
This technique is best practiced by learning the Tango forward walks, one of the most basic Tango steps. It will help you develop the technique and create the feel of the dance.
Tango Forward Walks
- Step forward with the left foot, leaving the right foot in place (count 1,2 or slow).
- Step forward with the right foot, leaving the left foot in place (count 3,4 or slow).
- Step forward with the left foot (count 5 or quick).
- Step side with the right foot (count 6 or quick).
Note: Instead of being taken directly to the side, this step should be taken to the side and slightly back, putting it at angle in relation to the left foot.
- Close left foot to right foot without putting weight on the left foot. There should be pressure into the floor with the inside of the left foot (count 7,8 or slow).
- Step back with the right foot, leaving the left foot in place (count 1,2 or slow).
- Step back with the left foot, leaving the right foot in place (count 3,4 or slow).
- Step back with the right foot (count 5 or quick).
- Step side with the left foot (count 6 or quick).
Note: Instead of being taken directly to the side, this step should be taken to the side and slightly forward which puts it at angle in relation to the right foot.
- Close right foot to left foot without putting weight on the right foot. There should be pressure into the floor with the inside of the right foot (count 7,8 or slow).
The steps should be slow and deliberate. The moving foot will move only on the first beat of each step, while the supporting foot remains in place until the first beat of the next step. This delay in movement creates a pause in each step, resulting in a stalking feeling. The idea of stalking may not sound good, but keep in mind that the dance is about the man pursuing the woman in a very subtle way, which is where the stalking feeling comes from.
The upper body should be very straight and tall. Knees should be bent and over the toes, and weight back on the heels. A common mistake is to straighten the knees at the end of each pattern, but the knees should remain bent throughout the dance and never straighten. If the stance is done correctly, you should feel as if you are trying to sneak up on someone without being seen.
The Tango is danced in a closed dance position. The man should place his right hand with some pressure against the middle of the woman's lower back. The lady's left hand will be flat with the fingers straight. She will place her left hand around the man's right shoulder putting pressure with the thumb of her left hand against the lower part of his shoulder. The lady's hand should be parallel to the floor.
The palm of the man's left hand and the palm of the woman's right hand will connect with slight pressure towards each other and be held approximately at eye level. The woman will stand slightly to the man's right side and should remain there throughout the dance. The man can help this by making sure his right hand, even though it's on the lady's back, stays directly in front of the right side of his chest.
Dancing the Tango can feel awkward at first because of the stance and the close proximity of one partner to the other. However, all dancing takes practice and after time becomes comfortable and natural. Once the basic step and techniques are learned, you will be ready to add more advanced patterns like promenades, fans and turns.