“Understanding the Structure
of Argentine Tango Dance”

Step Directions (Couple's Perspective)

This analysis helps you understand all possibilities of moving with and within a couple while maintaining connection.

What Is Possible?

Everything described here is now relative to the upper body of a dancer, and thus to the orientation of both upper bodies of the couple since these always remain connected in Argentine Tango.

Consider the imaginary connection line between the two weight-bearing feet of partners (each partner standing on one leg). With your free foot you can do:

  • a front cross step: you cross that line somewhere in between you. This is in fact (half of) a front ocho (but it may not look like one if you will step up close to where partner was standing, especially if partner will step in the same direction as you).
  • a back cross step: you cross the extension of that line somewhere behind you. This is actually (half of) a back ocho.
  • an open step: you don't cross that line
  • no step, no weight shift :-). Included because partner may be stepping!

Your partner has the same four possibilities independently of you (although both will be planned and led by the leader).

Cross Is Cross

Imagine your free foot is chosen, say it is your left one. Then a front cross step is similar to a back cross step in that they both will need to be towards your right. An open step will have to be towards your left.

Link between step type, free leg, and stepping direction
step type free leg step direction (seen from upper body, from the connection with partner)
open left to the left
right to the right
front cross or back cross left to the right
right to the left


Individual Steps in the Couple's Embrace

We can now combine this stepping within the couple's embrace with what we know on the directions of steps relative to the lower body.

Let's still suppose we always keep the connection: the distance and the facing of the upper bodies towards each other (no modern tango “soltadas” where you break the connection :-().

If you think about it (or try it), you will see that:

This all should have made clear the difference between an open step and a sideways step. Example: when walking in line (one partner forward, other partner backward) in parallel system and in front of each other (inside partner), you're both doing open steps all the time, but they won't be sideways.


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