“Understanding the Structure
of Argentine Tango Dance”

Step Directions (Individual's Perspective)

What Is Possible?

Everything described here is relative to the lower body of an individual dancer. The orientation of the upper body can differ up to 135° due to dissociation, which aims at keeping the connection or at least the orientation between the upper bodies in the couple.

There are three possible step directions:

  • forward;
  • backward;
  • sideways.

Actually these each have a small twin brother (a small step of almost zero-length, but body will still move about 10 cm):

  • a forward cross step (almost) in place (outsides of feet end up touching after knee of free leg going before the other knee);
  • a backward cross step (almost) in place (outsides of feet end up touching after knee of free leg going behind the other knee);
  • a step (almost) in place (insides of feet touching), which indeed amounts to the special case of the smallest step sideways possible.

Notice for these small versions that the cross steps make you go a little sideways too, albeit in the opposite direction! After some practice, a backward cross step can actually make you even go a little bit forward and vice versa. To put this differently: you can describe more than an entire circle with your free foot around your standing foot.

Pointing Your Feet

There is no need to point your feet in any other direction than forward (again relatively to the orientation of the lower body): towards the inside is always a big no-no; towards the outside may add stability and prepares for outward turns, but is more ballet than tango, and there really isn't any need to do so.

Stepping Diagonally

You simply don't step diagonally. At least not diagonally relative to the lower body. You are supposed to pivot your lower body very easily and quickly if necessary on the moments your ankles meet (and they always should after every step!). You pivot at most 90° just to make sure your step will be forward, backward or sideways. Followers: if the leader neglects to lead this (often small) pivot in preparation of an oblique direction, you're still supposed to do it quickly by yourself, just to avoid taking an ugly step. Remember the pivot is ONLY with the lower body, therefore rotating easily. Since the upper bodies always remain facing each other, as a consequence the direction of the upper body changes much more slowly.

In Diagrams

All six possible steps are represented in two diagrams to avoid a cluttered depiction of the forward cross and the backward cross.

The three small steps coincide with the positions where the free leg may collect in between steps.

All possible steps when standing on the left leg, except backward cross
All possible steps when standing on the left leg, except backward cross. All step lengths are allowed.
All possible steps when standing on the left leg, except forward cross
All possible steps when standing on the left leg, except forward cross. All step lengths are allowed.

 

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