Argentine Tango Encyclopedia

Every step in tango, like every move, is marked in two sequential parts: intention/projection and transfer.

The intention/projection is just information. It’s sufficiently subtle (1-2mm) that the revel does not move her arc. She intensifies the position of her arc, and begins to extend her free leg in the direction indicated.

The transfer of weight is a larger movement, in which the mark moves the whole arch of connection from her old base leg to her new one. (And possibly his own as well.)

The transfer is everything that happens from the moment we start to leave the old base / sending leg to the moment when we are fully arrived on the new base / receiving leg.

The process of transfer is a continuum of positions. The transfer should not be inexorable. We can change the direction of the step, or turn it into a parada or rebote at any point.

The control system which allows for play during the step is deliberate control over the flexion and extension of the joints of the old base / sending leg. We also keep some gentle muscle contraction with the peroneal muscles and quadriceps in both legs at any time they are carrying weight.

The procedure
  1. In all three steps, hip flexion of the base leg intensifies slightly at the start of the transfer, and the new base leg must have hip flexion as soon as it bears weight. In the back step, the new base leg requires a lot of hip flexion.
  2. During the transfer of weight, the old base/sending leg’s knee joint extends fully as part of the control system of the step. In front and side steps, the ankle also extends. In front and side steps the old base /sending leg’s knee joint extends first, followed by the ankle joint. In back steps the ankle joint is not very helpful. Some dancers flex the ankle joint so as to push off with the heel into the back stepat the final moment, but with full extension of the knee joint, this is optional.
  3. Any leg which is bearing weight must have hip flexion. As you arrive to the new base / receiving leg, its hip must already be in flexion. In the back step, from projection with the free leg’s knee extended, contract the quadriceps intensely, and flex the ankle, placing the heel onto the floor. The power of the quadriceps will pull the receiving leg’s hip into the correct place and flexion.
  4. The position of the receiving leg’s knee varies with the size and power of the step (and personal aesthetics). If the step is small and gentle, you can step onto an extended knee. If it is large and gentle, you will need to arrive with knee flexion.
  5. Flexing the ankle of the receiving leg works with the new base leg’s flexing hip and extending knee to help lever your body onto the new base leg. In side and back steps, the toes reach first and the heel is the last part of the foot to arrive to the new position. When transferring weight into a front step, some dancers flex the ankle to allow the heel to touch the floor first. This optional method is easier for maintaining the arch at a difficult moment of the step and creates a more natural looking aesthetic. But other dancers prefer to step directly onto the ball of the foot. You can manage this by increasing the old base leg’s hip flexion, extending the knee and then extending its ankle to start the transfer of weight. (In a very small step, this is not necessary, you can step directly onto your toes).
  6. The Revel does not yank the old base (newly freed leg) to join (“collect”) the new base leg prematurely. Instead, once the old base leg is freed, she continues to extend its knee and ankle, pointing toward its former position. This is the second projection, maintained until she receives the next intention.
  7. The second projection should have external rotation relative to the orientation of the step it is ending.
Arrival to the new base leg
  1. The Revel establishes her arc and points it toward the Mark’s center.
  2. The sublime Mark helps his partner to arrive to the new leg by creating the arch of connection. Indeed he should think of nothing else until he has tenderly secured her into the new position of the arch. To do this, he needs to ensure that he has arrived with a good arc: external rotation of the base leg, hip flexion, external rotation of shoulder joints, and gentle triceps contraction. If his new base leg is internally rotated or his vertical shoulder-flexion has inadvertently changed, neither he nor she will be able to smoothly arrive to their new base, so the next step will be heavy and out of control.
  3. As the Mark masters arriving to his arc and maintaining the arch of connection throughout the transfer of weight, he will increase his ability to link one movement to the next, to make smooth transitions, and to dance faster.
  4. At the moment of arrival, the Revel’s second projection invites the Mark to play.

Variations of Each Element


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