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Tango Technique

Tango Posture, Hold and Frame

  • Line up 4 blocks of weight vertically: head, shoulder, rib cage, hip.
    • There is natural crease at the hips, don't lift hip up, don't sit either. Hip girdle area is in line with torso, not inline with legs.
    • 4 blocks of weight are lined up vertically (90' degrees to floor). Spine (tail bone) is vertical to floor.
    • Do not lower too much to start bending forward, do not stick butt out.
    • Use ab muscle to lengthen and hold the upright position.
  • Foot position: 
    • Man: Stand feet together facing wall, keep feet flat, turn 1/8 to L, at the same time slip RF 2-3 inches back so that toe of RF is approximately level with middle of LF.
    • Lady: Opposite of Man. Stand feet together facing center, feet flat, turn 1/8 to L, slip RF 2-3 inches back so that toe of RF is approximately level with middle of LF.
  • Lady's Right arm/elbow
    • Compared to other swing dances (e.g. Waltz), R elbow is held more out and R upper arm more flat.
    • R hand closes with Man's L hand, close fingers, palm to palm, turn wrist out a bit, not in.
    • R shoulder down.
  • Lady's Left arm/elbow: think of "down, up and out"
    • Put L upper arm "down" on Man's forearm.
    • Put L hand "up" from beneath Man's upper arm
    • Put L elbow "out" and really extend Man's elbow. L elbow down, do not point up. Man should feel some "outward" tone from Lady's L arm and hand. 
      • To counter balance this "out" - the lats (muscle under arm) has "in"ward motion - while keeping shoulder down.
    • R arm is "in front of" body, while L arm is more inline with body. R arm should  never go behind the body.
    • Lady's L arm is Man's arm extension. Man doesn't need to make his R arm as wide as other dances. Man needs to be able to feel Lady's L hand is taking him outward.
  • Lady's Left hand:
    • Four fingers together forming a plane of hand, and plane of hand is perpendicular to ground, thumb sticking out from hand parallel to the ground.
    • Thumb is placed under the man's right bicep, if possible (depending on arm length) the hand is positioned such that the fingertips are just touching the man's armpit. Sometimes, it is more comfortable for Lady to move arm lower in order to not lift left elbow.
    • The feeling is to press up and out, do not pull Man "in", want to go "out" to make it "big".
    • Hand position should not change/slide throughout the figures.
  • Lady's head: face where her left wrist is (head does not need to pass elbow). Head is a little more picked up to give it Tango attitude.
  • Man's upper arms and elbows should make a smooth line, elbows in line with center of body.
    • Man's Left arm is bent at 89 degrees (smaller than right angle) to allow lady space to move further to her left than in swing dances.
    • Technically, the Man's R hand will be placed slightly further across Lady's back. Tips of his fingers reaching slightly beyond Lady's spine. Line of forearm sloping slightly downwards, achieved by rotating downward around the upper arm without breaking the line of the shoulder.
    • In practice: The main point is that the point of the man's R elbow should be in the crook of the lady's elbow. The lady's elbow should extend the man's frame. 
    • In the context of the Promenade close, the lady should stay on the man's right side at all times. If Lady ever loses contact with his right side, Lady has no lead.
  • Lady posture:
    • More strongly out to left, fill in Man's arm.  Lift left side up to Man. But don't pull left shoulder back. Left shoulder needs to be more forward.
    • Left arm: Left elbow down (do not point up). 
    • Left thumb lift up from underneath Man's upper arm. slight upward pressure. Other four fingers together, perpendicular to floor, tip of fingers is at about Man's armpit.
    • Left hand styling: use slightly upward curve at wrist below Man's arm.
    • Do not pull Man in. If anything, it should be an outward feeling.
    • Stay "forward" with weight on foot, bend knees (send knees forward, not down, legs would feel burning after a while), use glute muscle sending hip more forward, connect with partner. Lady's R thigh touches Man's R thigh.
    • 'Normal' position need more extension.
    • Avoid the look that the position is "too held", stretch the body more. Have strong energy, but it doesn't mean body is tense and stiff everywhere.
  • Frame: more compact than "swing" dances.
    • Body are slightly offset with your partner to keep 4 lanes for stepping.
    • Man and Lady are offset further than in swing dances. The compressed legs (slightly flexed) tends to decrease the size of the frame, the added offset compensates for this change.
    • Body weight should be just over the toes. Don't lean back and make weight off the toes.
    • Connection is more solid in the hips in Tango than in the swing dances.
    • Hold should be kept consistent throughout the dance. 
      • Places where it's easy to loose hold: Promenade close. Lady turns body to close with Man, keep the tone in R arm.
  • Inviting Lady to dance: (one option)
    • Man step LF forward at full height (it helps to keep good alignment - get head over LF)
    • Draw lady in to dance position
    • Let Lady produce the line she's comfortable with, then Man's R arm molds around Lady's shape.
    • Then, transfer weight to Man's R foot and lower to get into Tango dance frame.

Tango "Slow" Timing

The "Slow" has two beats (1 2). There are three ways to step on a Slow:
  1. Step on 1, hold on 2. e.g. Man move LF forward in Tango Walk:
    • LF forward on 1. RF is brought quickly to next to LF and hold to make movement sharper.
  2. Hold on the 1, and step on 2. This is the timing for Tango closes (e.g. end of Tango Closed Promenade)
  3. Step on 2, with the moving foot moving smoothly through the whole step, like in Foxtrot. Don't do this one in Tango.

Tango Positions

  • Outside partner position:  Rotate around spine and lift the R side to Man. Each person is individually balanced, head stays very left, R side connected to Man.
  • Whisk position: Lady stays behind Man, Lady's center is dancing "at the edge" of Man's right side, head weight back. Keep rib cage forward toward Man. 
  • Promenade position: Lady's body needs to be more back into Man's arms. Lady's weight on back foot. Always stay behind Man. See Promenade link technique. 

Tango Movement

Tango has a lower base. No Rise and Fall. Very flat. Footwork is staccato, body movement is legato (smooth, flowing).

Tango uses rotation, no side extension as in other swing dances.

Leg action should include the hip for longer strides; also, if you break at the hip, it looks like you are "sitting".

Tango movement falls into four categories: walks, swivels, kicks and flicks, line moves. 

  • All swivels: keep head strongly to the left, swivel action should be smooth
  • Powerful swivel action: take a large step, use rotation/torque

Steps Preceding Promenade Figure

  1. Progressive Link   
  2. Walk on RF and place LF to side without weight turning Lady to PP, count &
  3. Natural Twist Turn   
  4. Natural Promenade Turn   
  5. From Closed Finish: keep feet in place and turn Lady to PP at end of last step, count &
  6. From Open Finish: as #2 above
  7. Four Step
  8. Fallaway Promenade
  9. Fallaway Four Step
  10. Oversway ending 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7
  11. Chase and endings 1, 3 and 4
  12. Five Step
  13. Contra Check