How to Dance Ballroom Tango

how to dance ballroom tango feature


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The tango is a dramatic, fiery dance that is derived from the Argentine tango.

It features head snaps, sharp movements, and cat-like steps in 4/4 time with a marching rhythm.

This dance originated in Spain or Morocco and it was introduced to the New World by Spanish settlers.

Ballroom tango comes from the slums of Buenos Aires in the late 19th century.

Gauchos and prostitutes enjoyed this passionate dance, and high society shunned it.

However, the music and dance brought people together and united people from many different cultures.

Men took pride in becoming accomplished dancers because there was a shortage of women and the women wanted to dance with the best dancers.

In the 1900s, the tango gained popularity in Europe, and in France in particular.

It became popular in New York in 1910 to 1911 and there were a number of tango dance halls that opened up.

In 1921, Rudolph Valentino performed the tango in a silent film and it was a hit.

The American tango takes the best parts of the different tango styles, including Argentine, French, Gaucho, and International.

It is a lot of fun and people enjoy it.

Read on to learn how to dance the tango.

Characteristics of the Tango

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The tango has a close hold with a low center of gravity.

The man will have his right arm lower on the lady’s back than in other smooth ballroom dances and it is further around the back as well.

His left arm should be bent at a ninety-degree angle close to the lady and she takes his hand.

The lady’s left hand should be behind her back and below the man’s upper right arm.

The tango has a walking motion but there is a sneaking or stalking characteristic to it, with stealthy cat-like steps that are full of drama and purpose.

The movements vary from slow and subtle to sharp and quick.

The head snap is another feature.

The tango shares the counter-clockwise movement of other ballroom dances but it is more dramatic and defined.

Basic Tango Steps

basic tango steps

When you first start the tango, you will learn the basic steps.

It is made up of five steps done to eight counts of music.

You will follow the slow- slow-quick-quick-slow rhythm, where each slow step takes two beats while the quick steps take one beat of the music.

The music itself is written in 4/4 time so the pattern will extend for two sets of this time.

The position is closed and you will stand closer than in other ballroom dances.

The man will hold the lady’s right hand with his left hand and his right hand will go on her back at the bottom of her ribcage.

The lady will place her left hand on the man’s right shoulder and both partners will have their knees bent.

The partners’ steps should mirror each other.

The man will follow this pattern, moving forwards:

  • Left foot forward (slow)
  • Right foot forward, further than left (slow)
  • Left foot forward, further than the right (quick)
  • Right foot forward and to the right (quick)
  • Left food alongside right (slow)

The lady will mirror these steps, moving backward as follows:

  • Right foot back (slow)
  • Left foot back, further than right (slow)
  • Right foot back, further than left (quick)
  • Left foot back and to the left (quick)
  • Right foot alongside left (slow)

The steps should be stealthy and cat-like, and they should be very definite.

When you move, you will step on the toe first, lowering your heel as you move your body forward over the foot.

Side steps are normally done on the ball of the foot or the whole foot.

You will not rise and fall in the tango; your body should remain at the same elevation throughout the moves.

When you tango, you will move gradually to the left in a counter-clockwise circle.

You should pick your feet up and place them down in a quick, staccato action. Your knees are bent throughout the entire dance.

How to Dance Ballroom Tango: Other Versions

how to dance tango other versions

Once you master the basic steps, there are variations that you can do.

The 6-count tango is the same dance without the final close.

Instead, you continue moving forward.

The 16-count is two 6-count patterns followed by a 4-count close.

You can find many different variations that are a lot of fun once you master the basic steps.

One fun move that you can learn early on is the back Corte.

In this move, the man will lean back on his left leg in almost a backward lunge; the lady will lean into him and bend her back over his arm.

She will lean back with her head, neck, and shoulders, almost as if she is doing a backbend.

The Promenade

the promenade tango

For the promenade, the man and the lady will travel in the same direction.

There are different forms of a promenade but the most popular is the left swivel.

The man and the lady will walk forward for two steps and at the end of the second step, the man leads the lady to swivel left on her left foot, which returns her to the closed position.

They will then proceed with the basic tango steps from the closed position.

They call the shape a “V” shape because each partner is turned slightly toward the other in the shape of a V during the promenade.

They should look forward in the direction that they are traveling.

The promenade with a right turn is another variation, where the man will turn to the right close to the lady.

This is a more gradual turn and the partners will proceed with the basic tango steps after.

Learn Basic Tango Steps (Video)

Final Words

The tango is a lot of fun and people enjoy it as a dramatic, fiery dance.

The basic steps aren’t hard to learn and you can add in promenades and other fun moves as you gain experience.

Start by mastering the basics and it will be easy to add in more advanced steps.

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