THE TANGO STRUCTURE AND CHARACTER
DEVELOPMENT OF POSTURE
As in the Swing dances, posture is one of the most important requirements for this dance.
Teaching Tip. To find the correct posture in Tango use the Teaching Tip, described on page 11 in the chapter of
Development of Posture in the Swing dances, of running in place.
From this position swivel on the feet 1/8 turn to left so that the right toe is level with the left instep. The knees are then moved
forwards as full weight is taken on to the right foot. This is not a feeling of ‘sitting’ through the hip line, but of maintaining the
support of the muscles from the groin of the body to maintain a horizontal belt line and therefore a vertical bodyline. The
movement of the knees forward will allow the right knee to end over the big toe of the standing right foot. Therefore with the
centre of the bodyline being held vertically over the knee there is a slight body turn to left compared to that shown in the
The Lady will also find her posture in this dance as described on page 11 in the chapter of Development of Posture in the
Swing dances. Whilst the contact area will be the same as described in the Swing dances, it may also be felt to include a light
upper thigh contact, because the knees of both Man and Lady are held forwards. This posture will allow the Lady to maintain a
constant backward poise throughout the dance. (Please study once again the chapter on Development of Posture on page
DEVELOPMENT OF HOLD
In the early days of competitive dancing the hold was compact, with a lower elbow line and the Man’s right hand strongly
across the Lady’s back towards her right side. Over the years development has raised the level of the elbows to be only a
little lower than that shown in the Swing dances. Therefore the volume of the hold has also increased.
Teaching Tip. To find the exact position of the hold, try this as everyone’s arm length is different and it is important to be
comfortable and stylish.
Take the usual hold of left to right hand, but break the Man’s left wrist line backwards by holding the Lady’s right wrist
straight, with Man’s little finger across her wrist, so the inside of his wrist faces toward the Lady’s head. Now as Lady walks
into hold, Man straightens his right forearm under her arm and against her body. This stops the Lady about 5 to 10 cm in
front of the Man. The Lady should now place her left hand, between thumb and first finger under the Man’s upper right arm,
so her fingertips just avoid touching his body. The back of her hand should be facing away from her. The Man will now move
his right elbow to the side and the Lady will gain contact. The Man will now accept the exact placing of the right hand
required by the Lady, usually just across the line of her backbone, to allow her freedom and comfort in her-posture. Notice
the Lady’s left elbow is an extension of the Man’s right elbow and is not higher than the Man’s elbow, The Man’s left hand will
be just below his eye level.
Teaching Tip. Once again in this dance, think of holding the Lady as if she was on a tray. Always level and always in front of
your body. The Man’s right hand should always move with the Lady’s back, it must not move the Lady’s back. This is
particularly important when creating a Promenade Position.
The volume of the hold will be assessed from the Man’s left elbow to the Lady’s left elbow, Not from Man’s left hand to his
right elbow. For both Man and Lady, as “expressive” a look as possible, whilst maintaining a slight curve across the back, by
making sure the elbows are always slightly forward of the shoulder line.
Please read the definitions given in Foot Position for the Swing dances. It must be understood that in Tango forward walks
with left foot, and backwards with right foot, will curve to the left. Therefore Contra Body Movement, when turning left, will be
stronger than in the Swing dances, causing the step to be taken in CBMP. Similarly right foot forward walks and left foot
backward walks, continuing the curve to the left, are described as the body having a side leading.
Because of the curved track used in this dance, walks will always end with an alignment up to 1/8 to the left different than
the starting alignment: therefore a Direction of movement is given for these walks. To further define the position in the
room for any one movement, sometimes an Alignment and Direction is used.
AMOUNT OF TURN
Although, in the Original Technique, an overall amount of turn is given for each figure, it is thought better because of the
complexity of some of these advanced figures, to break down the amount of turn between, or on each step. It is most
important to place the feet without foot swivel on normal turning actions. For example, between steps 1-2 of a Reverse
Turn. This helps to create the shape and character of the feet and legs in the dance. Where a Pivot or Swivel are used, turn
will normally take place on the ball of foot, with foot flat.
RISE AND FALL
There is no Rise and Fall in the normal weight change in Tango. It is remaining at the same level and using the increased
Contra Body Movement – as described below – that prevents Swing occurring in this dance. Where movements are
described as being on the Balls of feet, usually the knees will compensate to maintain a level in the dancing. The use of
Rise through the legs from a deeper flexion of the knees than usual, for example a Drag from a Line Figure, is described.
Releasing the foot from the floor and placing the foot in its next position creates the main characteristic difference in the use
of the feet in Tango. Therefore, when dancing the usual rhythms of the dance (for example QQS), feet do not remain in
contact with the floor whilst moving from one position to the other.
The expression ‘ball” instead of “toe’ is used to indicate the use of this part of foot and the fact that rise is not used. Toe is
also used, particularly in Line figures, to indicate the shape of the foot without weight. For example – inside edge of toe.
Sometimes when a fashionable advanced figure is danced it is possible to see foot rise. However this should be
compensated for with the use of the knees to avoid a rise through the body.
Teaching Tip. If a step is “slower than a Slow” or “quicker than a Quick” the foot will remain in contact with the floor. For
example, a Drag danced over two or more Slows, the foot glides to the closing position with the inside edge of toe, then
inside edge of ball of foot in contact with the floor. A Lock Step in Promenade Position is counted Q & Q, the balls of feet stay
in contact with the floor.
During normal forward Walks the moving foot remains more parallel to the floor then in the Swing dances. Therefore it has a
more “square” appearance and aids the development of character in this dance. On backward turns it is important to step
back with Toe turned in, to both ease the turn and prevent a swivel on the leading step.
CONTRA BODY MOVEMENT
As described above Contra Body Movement will normally be stronger to create the character of this dance. For example as
Man, the weight is compressed into the standing right leg as the movement commences into step one of a Reverse Turn,
enabling the right knee to turn the legs and body to the left. This creates a new alignment when placing the left foot and
therefore prevents the body moving with Swing.
As there is no Swing in this dance there is no true Sway. Where Sway is indicated in the description of the figures, it is ac-
cepted that this is a body inclination as it is in Line figures in the Swing dances.
As Sway is not described, Head Weight is also not described. Where there is a change of head line for Man or Lady it is
referred to in the Notes. When moving into Promenade Position as Man the head will turn slightly to left of normal standing
position. Into and out of Promenade Position as Lady, the head will turn through the normal line of the neck to right and left.
Therefore it is not felt as a movement of Head Weight, which normally assists Flight during the Swing dances. When moving
into Promenade Position the head movement is usually danced quickly, using the last part of the preceding beat, so that the
head has time to be absolutely still in its new position before commencing the next promenade figure.