“Understanding the Structure
of Argentine Tango Dance”

Small Steps

Steps Are Weight Shifts

In tango, a weight shift (100% from one leg to the other) and a step are the same thing.

It is very important that every complete weight shift from one leg to the other should be treated as a normal step (being fully led!), even if it is of very small size.

Small Steps

It is interesting that one cannot shift weight without horizontally moving his center of mass, because one can simply not step on the spot he is already standing on. That is, if we take the first foot of the ground only after putting down the second one, which we will always do in tango.

So even the most minimalist slow full weight shift will move your body for about 10 cm horizontally, since that is the width of your feet. Let's call this a step in place.

Small steps and large steps are both “legal” and actually equally important in tango. The length of the follower's step (as well as the direction and the moment) is to be led!

How to Lead and Follow Small Steps, or any Step Length at All

See the section on walking.

The Cross (el Cruce, la Cruzada)

An interesting and elegant example is the so called cross step, which really is such a full weight shift while your feet are together, but with the outsides of your own feet facing or even touching each other.

The cross step does takes practice (even when doing it alone), and should be exercised in slow motion while remaining in balance. The hard part if you go from front to back leg is freeing up space for your back leg by lifting the heel (only) of your front leg, which allows you to get your back knee behind you front knee. You can even overtake your front foot with your back foot for about an entire foot length if you want. Mostly, it will be executed the other way round however (weight transfer from back leg to front leg), but executing it in balance does amount to more or less the same skill level and technique.

The Cross Step in Couple

Again the follower is not supposed to execute this tiny cross step on her own or in a hurry. As any other step, it is to be led on a specific moment, and whether slowly or fast really does matter. There is a school of thought that says follower should cross automatically when leader goes outside to her right. This is just plain nonsense, devised to bypass a deficiency in leading and following skills. Everything is led and followed in tango. It is very nice to be involved together in the process of delicately putting the lady's foot in a cross and then slowly shifting her weight while remaining as together as possible.

Three Crosses

Remark about the word “cross”: it is used on three completely different occasions. Firstly, the forward or backward cross step as described before: a small step with insides of the feet on the outside. Secondly there is the crossed walking system, and thirdly the front or back cross step, which is not about small steps, but about structure.


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