“Understanding the Structure
of Argentine Tango Dance”

Walking Together

Combining It All

The following table gives an overview of all possible combinations for the case when both dancers each perform one step simultaneously.

Leader's free leg: left or right -- Leader's step type: cross or open -- Leader's step direction: to the left or to the right of the embrace
|   |   |
Follower's free leg: left or right -- Follower's step type: cross or open -- Follower's step direction: to the left or to the right of the embrace
|   |   |
Couple's walking system: parallel or crossed -- Couple's step type: similar or different -- Couple's movement: opposite or along

This remarkable table has an interesting property: all rows and columns are constrained, meaning you can choose independently only 2 out of 3 items. All in all there are 9 variables and 6 constraints with 1 of them redundant. 9-6+1 = 4. This means you can choose any 4 items you like independently, as long as they don't contain 3 items from the same row or column, and as long as those 4 items don't fit in a T-shape or L-shape.

Giros, sacadas and walking in line are limit cases.

  • For giros, two items in the second and the same two items in the third column are undecided, because one dancer doesn't step.
  • For sacadas, they can be very close to being undecided, because one dancer steps towards the other, but normally the dancer doing the sacada chooses a side of the foot that is in the way.
  • For walking in line, the same applies, but the dancer going backwards always will cause four items in the two rightmost columns to be undecided. It really is the most special case.

There really is nothing else you can do in tango ;-), except when you allow for the breaking of the connection. An example would be the follower doing some pirouettes in modern tango.

The Secret of Navigation in Argentine Tango

The real use of this table is that a beginning dancer will control the two leftmost colums and be surprised by the outcome, whereas a more experienced dancer will be able to navigate freely by controlling the last column directly.

Link between Movement, Walking System and Step Types of the Couple

As an example, consider the bottom row of the previous table. You can only choose two of these three variables if you both step at the same time! In practice you'll be in a walking system (which you could rapidly change if you would want so with a traspié, but let's suppose you don't), you decide to go opposite or along, and now whether the step types (crosses or opens) will need to be similar or different can't be chosen anymore.

Couple's Movement Couple's Walking System Couple's Step Types
along (if close to partner's old foot: sacada or walking in line) parallel Similar, both cross (front or back) or both open
crossed Different: one dancer cross (front or back), other dancer open
opposite (if close to partner's old foot: sacada or walking in line) parallel Different: one dancer cross (front or back), other dancer open
crossed Similar, both cross (front or back) or both open
limit case: giro Not applicable (parallel or crossed implies stepping together) Special case: only one partner steps

 

 

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