The first thing you’ll want to do is learn how to communicate with another dancer.

In this lesson you’ll learn how to show your intention to create a direction.


Concept 1: Your arc

In tango we need to position the body so that we are always ready to balance under difficult conditions, create motion, and absorb power from our partner.  Since most of the time we need to do this while balancing on one leg, we need to learn to always structure the body for maximum stability. To do this, choose a standing/base leg. Put the front of the corresponding rib cage directly above the knuckle of the big toe. Now pull your tailbone backward about 2 cm so that your hips flex. Hip flexion activates your quadriceps – the strongest muscle in your body.

The arc from your heel to your ass to your rib cage is a piece of architecture well-suited to absorbing force coming from your partner and creating joint balance.

Exercise 1: Finding the arc after every step

Put on some music you like. Walk around your room taking front, back and side steps. At the end of each step put your body into the arc.

Concept 2: Communicating intention for a direction

When you dance with a partner, you are the creative. You are going to decide everything that happens! She might sometimes make mistakes and go to the wrong place. but she will try as hard as she can not to do her own thing.

What’s most sublime about tango is that we transfer our weight into the music at the same time, meaning that we finish the step at the same time. Tango has a unique technology for making this possible, which means that we actually start the step very differently.

The first responsibility is yours, you must communicate a direction. There are only three directions:

  • Away from your own body
  • Toward your own body
  • Lateral (left or right) to your own body

After you give this communication, she responds by preparing her body, but she doesn’t move yet!

Then it’s possible to go together.

Exercise 2: 3mm direction

If the revel’s arc is connected to yours, it will take less than 3mm of movement to tell her the next direction. If you move too much, you may overpower her arch and she may fall prematurely in the new direction, so it’s important that your communication is only information, not motion.

Put your right palm against your chest and walk around the room, taking steps in various directions. Before each step, you’ll stand still for a moment with most of your weight on one leg (that’s your base) and use your body in place to show your intention for that direction without starting your step yet. How do you show intention?

  • Away from you (so you can then step forward): Flex your base leg’s hip joint more (by pulling your tailbone backward in space) to lever your chest forward.
  • Toward you (so you can then step backward): Again, flex your base leg’s hip joint more but use this to pull your chest backwards.
  • Left or right/lateral: Contract the left external obliques a little to rotate your torso a little toward the left. Or right obliques to rotate right.

After you’ve made the intention for a movement, then complete the step.

Concept 3: Clean steps on a grid

There is a tradition in tango of making a very clean straight forward walk. It’s one of the most basic, and also hardest things that we do. Side and back steps can be oblique but front steps must be very straight and clean. This means that you walk as if you have only two small floorboards to walk on, and they are touching. Your ankles should brush as one leg passes the other.

Exercise 3: Grid walk

Visualize a grid in your room. Walk on the grid taking front, back, and side steps. Check that:

  1. You show intention before your free leg moves into the step.
  2. You keep your arc the whole time during the whole step!
  3. Your ankles almost touch when you are walking front.
Concept 4: Using your base leg to drive and control the transfer of weight

The leg with weight on it has the post power for moving you through the step. That’s your old base leg.

At the start of every step we slightly increase the hip flexion, which gives more power to the quadriceps.

To take a big step, we will also increase knee flexion.

Exercise 4: Transfer with extension of the old base leg

Continue walking on the grid, paying attention to the role of the old base leg in helping you to move smoothly and with control.

To move from one foot to the other going frontward or lateral, we just extend the old base leg’s knee and ankle joint, levering the body over the new leg and into its arc. Pay attention to be sure you are really using the ankle joint fuly.

The ankle isn’t so helpful in the back step, so we have to compensate with more knee flexion at the start, and extra hip flexion during the transfer. Increase hip flexion and extend the front knee fully to push yourself backward. Make sure you don’t lose the arc at any point!

Variations of Each Element