Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Everything about the dance


Dancing is one of Tango most important way of expression. Its visual beauty is undeniable, and it illustrates the spirit that the music transmits.

This is said that dancing tango, is like “walking with a scribble”. This definition shows the spirit of dance without much theory, but as dancers move one foot on each compass, it is similar to walking. Tango has many choreographic possibilities, and it constitutes a spectacle of incredible visual beauty. It is important to differentiate choreographic dance from improvised dance. In the first one, what is most important is the ability of the dancers, generally professional, who dance to offer a show. In the amateur dance, on the other hand, the figures are not the result of previous rehearsals, but of improvisation, and the dancers want to shine in order to pursue the original spirit of tango, which is seduction. The scribble, which refers to the steps and figures that the couple make as a proof of their ability to ornament the dance and to seduce, is the detail that turns tango into an attractive show.

Tango is not a dance that can be enjoyed individually. The couple is its basic and indivisible unit. The woman seduces and the man conducts. The man gives the woman shelter and guides her; the woman, during the whole dance, evolves under his protection and breaks the balance when she leans on his chest. The woman’s attitude of surrender puts her in a dependent position, and it is the man who decides when, where and at what speed the different movements tango allows will happen. However, woman’s function is not less important: she has to accompany the man’s proposal and understand her partner in a seductive game where the fragility and the delicacy of her performance have a prominent place. This relationship is the base of tango.

The variants allowed by tango make necessary the existence of a fluid communication between the dancers. The same in improvisation as in the carefully rehearsed choreography, each couple creates its own communication code. Generally, the right hand of the man is the one that holds the woman by her back and with which turns and forward movements are indicated. With his hand, the man “accommodates” the woman’s waist to show her the rotation movement she must do. When the man presses on her back with his fingers, he is indicating a counter-clockwise turn; on the contrary, when he presses on the woman’s back with the palm of his hand, the turn will be clockwise. If the man presses his hand on his partner’s back like he is trying to attract her towards him, he is indicating her to start a forward movement. The left hand and both shoulders are used to indicate lateral and backwards glides. They also accompany rotations. An important thing to consider is the tonicity of the free arm; the right in the woman’s case, and the left in the man’s case. The arm ought to have tonicity, this means that it has to offer resistance but, at the same time, it has to stay flexible, so the man can use it as a lever, as a continuation of the woman’s body to indicate her a lateral movement. The arm’s tonicity is also important for indicating the woman a backwards glide: if her arms are firm, her movement will show a natural accompaniment of her partner’s, but if they are loose, he will stumble with her.

Basic figures

Simple Exit

1-Beginning at the initial position, the couple must bend their knees slightly.

2-Both dancers take a step to the side, keeping their knees bent.

3-The man takes a step forward and crosses his right foot. She crosses her left foot while receding. They are not right in front of each other anymore.

4-Keeping the position of his right foot, he goes forward with his left one; while his partner leans on her left foot and recedes with her right one.

5-The man moves his right foot until it is together with his left one, while he turns his shoulder back with a slight movement. This forces his partner to cross her left foot in front of her right one.

6-She is forced to recede with her right foot, while leaning on her left one. At that moment, he goes forward with his left foot.

7-The shove forces them both to take a step to the sides: she takes it with her left foot and he does it with his right one.

8-They both have to put their feet together, she does it by moving her right foot, and he does it by moving his left one.


Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the same as in the Simple Exit.

5-The man stops his pace at the 4th time, and guides his partner in the 5th and 6th time, who crosses her left foot in front of her right one.

6-She fixes her left foot and uses it as an axis to cross her right foot in front of it.

7-She fixes her right foot and uses it as an axis to cross her left foot in front of it, while her partner moves his right foot until it is together with his left one.

8-The 10 times are completed in the same way as the last three steps in the Simple Exit.

The couple should be looking into each others eyes, the shoulders position must be parallel, and the woman’s movement must begin in her hips, without going too far from her partner, and without putting her feet up from the floor.


This movement is used to avoid an obstacle, since the previous figures go to the sides and the go forward, we must recede so we can continue with the Simple Exit or with the Eight.


1–Knees bent

2–The man recedes with his right foot, and his partner goes forward with the opposite foot, both of them have their knees bent.

3–He crosses his left foot over his right one; and she crosses her right foot behind her left one.

4–He recedes with his right foot, while his partner goes forward by moving her left foot.

5–The woman follows her partner, who cuts this cadence with a step towards left, while she does the corresponding step towards right.

6-The last three steps are like the ones in the Simple Exit.



Originally, tango’s choreography had no defined music. A way of dancing was being born, and not a dance. For this reason, Tango, Waltz and Milonga have different musical rhythms, but the same choreography. All these rhythms are included in the repertories of the typical orchestras of all times. In time, different figures of dancing appeared, and they were used as symbols of freedom. This game was very attractive for that time, since the bodies of the dancers were very close most of the time. That is why newborn Tango, which was considered to be a symbol, was only danced in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and in the lowest social classes.


During this period, a symbiosis between Tango and People developed. The choreography became more concerned about the drawing that the feet make on the floor. Drawn pictures were born, such as the half moon and the eight. The movements became more precise. The dancers were not so close anymore, and they danced head to head, perhaps because they needed to see what their feet were doing. This is called “Canyengue” Tango or “Orillero” (“Shore”) Tango, because it was danced at the “Orillas” or “Shores” of the city.


Around this time, the torso of the dancers and their elegance began to be considered important, and the same thing happened with the harmonic lines. “El Cachafaz” (Ovidio José Bianquet) inaugurated the style of dancing in a totally erect position, keeping his torso straight. It was called “Salon” Tango, because it was in those places where this style developed. This new refined way of dancing Tango, because of the European influence, modified the dance attitude. Contests and exhibitions began to be in fashion.


n this period, Tango choreography varied in quantity but not in quality. Tango began to be danced by people in all social classes. To be danced at salons, made tango go up in the social pyramid: the higher the social level was, the more elegant and refined tango was. Anyway, different combinations of Tango were danced at different ambits. This was the period when there was more dancing, writing and filming about tango than at any other time.


This was the last tango evolution. Hooks are added, and feet began to be raised from the floor. Both dancers started using the hooking to the partner’s leg on equal terms. Improvisation was not out of the question, as long as there was enough time.


Tango is a dance and an atypical cultural complex. Popular dances are, generally, originated by cultural descent: they are born on the stages and then, are passed on to the people. With tango, the case was different: it was born in the city suburbs and later on, was adopted by the higher social classes. During this period, Tango found its place among people again, and was danced at night clubs that were not located in the city downtown. The younger generations began to be interested in Tango, which gave this music fresh air, since they became Tango lovers.


Tango settles down in the world biggest cities. With no intention of taking the credits away from singers and musicians, dance is the element which conquers the audience, captivates them and sets the example for the rest of tango artists to succeed.

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