Tango Technique

Tango, Posture and Hold

General Posture

    • Line up 4 blocks of weight (head, shoulder, rib cage, hip).

      • Line up vertically (90' degrees to floor). Spine (tail bone) is vertical to floor.

      • 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.

      • Use ab muscle to lengthen and hold the upright position.

      • Do not lower too much to start bending forward, do not stick butt out.

    • 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.

      • "Feet together": it is not absolute. They don't have to touch, an inch or two gap is ok (and maybe more natural)

    • Frame: more compact than "swing" dances.

      • 3 tracks: Lady's RF and Man's RF are on the same track, toe to toe.

      • 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 (back-weighted).

      • Connection is more solid in the hips in Tango than in the swing dances.

      • R thigh rolled in, L shoulder rotated to R.

      • 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.

    • Prepare legs faster, gives room for Man to move into. Body keeps continuous move. Body does not stop moving.

Lady's Posture

    • 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", with tone

    • 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 "inward" 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 parallel to ground, thumb sticking out from hand, 90 degrees, also parallel to the ground.

      • Thumb is placed under the man's right bicep, "lift up" (slight upward pressure. 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".

      • Left hand styling: use slightly upward curve at wrist below Man's arm.

      • 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), chin slightly lifted.

    • Do not just turn head horizontally left. Instead, shape it from sternum area, head is extension of spine, don't break that line in an attempt to achieve bigger shape.

    • Head is a little more picked up to give it Tango attitude.

  • More strongly out to left, fill in Man's arm in the space Man created. Lift left side up to Man. But don't pull left shoulder back. Left shoulder needs to be more forward.

    • 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 needs more extension.

      • Avoid the look that the position is "too held", stretch the body more. Have strong energy with tone, but it doesn't mean body is tense and stiff everywhere. Lady responds with same level of tone/energy as Man gives.

      • The arms should have consistent tone, fwd and give to Man, not pull Man, especially in back walks and Tango Close.

    • During movement, especially changing to Closed Position from Promenade, make sure to maintain arms/shoulder parallel to floor.

      • Because the body/spine is curved to Left, in order for shoulder to stay parallel, Lady's L side needs to be more stretched (6) than her R side (4).

Create Bigger Top and Bigger Movement

  • To create bigger top and bigger movement, Lady has to "free" the hips, which can free the top to create bigger shape.

  • Respect the natural arch/curve in lower back, do NOT try to straighten it by sucking tummy in, which makes the front shorter and back longer.

  • Do not extend belly out to stretch front either.

  • "Pull center back" "pull hips back" "pull hips back as much as putting knee fwd" are too simplified.

  • Center/lower belly does need to be tucked in, in a way front is long and supported. Front is more stretched and longer than the back. Do not shorten front. Back has natural curve, keep it. Hip has crease, hip can move freely.

  • Shoulders have to be able to fall back, relax.

  • While moving, keep the natural arch. Maintain the good arch through strength in lower belly that goes all the way up. The part that has to move happen in the lower area than where you hold your core.

  • Moving back and in the meantime, stay with Man. Middle of body is with Man, Top and bottom away from Man.

Man's Posture

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.

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.

Diagonal Option:

  • Man one step forward with is LF, presenting LH to Lady. His left side is diagonally forward. His weight is on his LF.

  • Lady connects her RH with Man's LH. (Don't rush. Wait till Man's hand "finishes inviting")

  • Man draws Lady in. Lady's weight on her RF. Lady's R toe to Man's R toe. RF straight, not turned out.

    • In Tango, Lady is even further to the left. 3 tracks. Lady's RF and Man's RF are on same line.

  • Lady's step LF forward. Keep both feet parallel (to Man's feet).

    • Typically the direction the foot is pointing to aligns with where knee points to. Think about pointing knee straight to help line up foot direction so foot doesn't turn out.

    • Do not turn out LF.

  • Man changes weight to his RF, Lady to her LF. Then, torque to left.

  • Aiming end result for a set up: torque.

Tango Movement

Tango Character

Waltz/Foxtrot is about continuity of movement, Tango separate each step.

  • In Tango, each step is enough energy to last one step. QQ (1 effort on first stronger Q, 2nd Q is reaction.) 1 effort does not last entire figure. Four step: 4 Qs, 2 efforts, not 4 efforts, not 1 effort.

  • In Swing dances, 1 effort often carries through the phrase (e.g. 123).

Character of the Tango dance is expressed in movement, musicality, sharpness of the lines (not in elbow height). The less one uses arm independently from torso, the more harmony they are with their partner. The sharpness comes from first a delay, then punch fwd the last second when it can't sustain anymore.

Tango has a lower base, has grounded look. The grounded look comes internally, pressure foot into the floor. No Rise and Fall. Very flat. Tango is about stopping. Footwork is staccato (leg quick release), body movement is legato (smooth, flowing).

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

Tango: constantly wind up (torque, CMBP) and unwind (side leading). The wind up creates the power (it's not in arm muscle that creates power.)

  • Feet maintains parallel to each other, square to the hips. Feet will not turn out to the direction of travel (hips and body may rotate).

  • Upper body should not be limp, waving front and back. It should be toned and moving as a block following the center while lower body/hips does all the work (rotating, moving)

  • Waltz/Foxtrot/Quickstep mix foot rise and body rise most of the times (body rise and foot rise happen at the same time); in Tango, it is either body rise or foot rise, you don't do both body and foot rise together at the same time.

Longer strides: extend and stretch the leg; 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.

It is very important (especially in Tango) to have the clarity in changing body positions:

  • Closed Position: inside partner or outside partner

  • Open Position: Promenade or Fallaway


See Tango Walk technique.

When the knees are tangled up, check the following:

    • Lady's and Man's feet should not be placed too close to each other

    • Do not bend at the hips. Instead, both Man and Lady should be keeping hips forward.

    • Feet should not be turned out, should be parallel.

Tango Open and Closed Box

How does one know to close the foot (Closed Finish) or passing foot (Open Finish):

  • When Man applies torque, (Lady would rotate to L) Lady closes feet. When you close feet, you'll transfer weight in International Tango.

    • In International Tango, it's partial weight on the standing foot (the side step), so when trailing foot comes in, you transfer weight to it.

    • In American Tango, the standing foot has full weight, so trailing foot is dragged in without weight transfer.

  • If Man rotates toward Lady to R, Lady keeps passing feet.

Practice with Open and Closed Box (could be half Closed and half Open as well.)

From Closed Position, Lady weight on LF:

  • Q: Lady RF back

  • Q: LF side and slightly back

  • S:

    • when Man leads by rotating to the right, it's invitation to step forward outside partner with RF. Lady's hip needs a bit rotation to R. (Tango Open Box).

    • when Man leads by rotating to the left, Lady closes her RF to her LF and switch weight. (Tango Closed Box).

  • Q: Lady LF forward

  • Q: Lady RF side and slightly back

  • S:

    • If Man leads by rotating body to left, it's to close feet, Closed Finish (Tango Closed Box).

    • If Man leads hip/body to rotate to right, then it's outside partner Open Finish (Tango Open Box).


  • All swivels: keep head strongly to the left, swivel action should be smooth

  • Previous step setup (often Open Finish): Lady's LF back, do not put heel down. do not put too much weight back and got onto heel. Keep weight forward, on ball of the back foot, it's easier to switch direction.

  • Powerful swivel action: take a large step, use rotation/torque

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. (Not just rotating the body, but hip will rotate as well.)

    • 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 Footwork - "X" Exercise

"X "exercise trains the awareness of IE and OE of foot and the impact of center of gravity, it helps to increase footwork clarity.

  • Stepping on the edges of a giant "X". stand facing "north" which is Wall. Feet parallel. Start with weight on LF.

  • RF is going to step diagonally right, toward "North East" section of the "X". (S)

    • RF is going to first land on the IE of the heel first; then as weight is being transferred forward, it's going to roll off IE of ball of the LF (peel), and land on IE of ball of RH. (Into IE of RF, out of IE of LF)

    • One does not land on IE of "whole foot". When doing that, that foot is "dead", one can not derive anything out of that foot. It will be landing on either ball first then heel; or heel first then ball; not at the same time.

    • In Swing dances, you land on center of heel. In Tango, you land on IE of heel. (No square steps.)

    • Do not turn the foot in direction of travel. Foot is pointing toward North, while traveling along North-East diagonal.

  • Adding a rocking action before next step (QQ)

    • The back heel should not touch the floor (that will make weight go back too much). When heel drops to floor, it's like a parked car and would take a lot more to move.

    • Practicing rocking helps to get more in tune and in connection with center of gravity, which is the "most sensitive timing device". Time things using center of gravity.

    • When rocking back, absorb the rock with knees and ankle and try not to have back heel come down (or as little as possible). The moment the heel comes down, it changes the structure (don't do that). The body is moving back/forward, but structure should not change.

    • If it's a regular back walk step, the heel will come down. (But it could be just a rocking step, never assume.)

  • LF step forward and across RF, (S)

    • Land first OE of heel, as weight transfer onto LF, it rolls onto OE of ball of LF. RF rolls off OE of ball. RF should not sickle. Think about keeping both knees close together (imagine with a light theraband), RF doesn't need to do so much, it shouldn't collapse and sickle.

  • Toes of front foot is only going to lower when rest of the body weight arrives at front foot. The heel of the standing foot is only going to peel as the weight is leaving the foot.

Always use IE and OE edge of foot in Tango movement, practice walking in all 4 directions of the "X"

    • traveling NE direction is simulating all Promenade steps

    • traveling SW is Fallaway steps

    • traveling NW is outside partner forward

    • traveling SE is outside partner backward

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