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Tango Walk
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Body Movement: Tango Walk

If you're looking to develop your awareness of your dance line and your control of it, you'd have to go a long way to find a dance better than Tango Argentino. It tightens up the way you envisage your movement on the dance floor, and your ability to be true to that vision.

Here is an excerpt of my response to a request for technical pointers regarding the Argentine Tango walk, previous published in

Loo Yeo

Walks and your Dance Line

I don't like to see a good post go unanswered.
You are absolutely correct in addressing the tango walk first.

What it is
Nearly any piece of tango's move vocabulary can be interpreted as a walk with single-foot pivots. As a matter of fact, it's important to understand tango's dance vocabulary that way, to ensure that your execution of the dance is smooth. Hence the walk is one of two fundamental elements.

What it's for
The walk is more than just an exercise, more than just a context in which to apply techniques or teaching points. It embodies an important tango principle: that of understanding and commanding your personal dance line.

Here I must clarify two things: "Personal dance line" should not be confused with "Line of dance"; and Principle-based teaching utilises techniques differently to the technique-based teaching prevalent in ballroom studios of the UK (I can't speak for other countries).

Visualising the personal dance line
If you were an ideotypic (as opposed to ideal) dancer, and I coated the soles of your shoes in red paint, then danced with you, at the end of the (wonderful and intimate) dance, we would see on the dance floor:

An unbroken red line
Precisely one single foot-width across
Except for bulges where one foot would pass by (circumvent) the other, the line would be two foot-widths across
The coat of paint would be thickest at the line-side of the bulge, where you had most weight on your foot.
You'd also be a little mad at my abusive treatment of a perfectly good pair of shoes.

Principles of the personal dance line
The ideal dance line travels through your centre of gravity, and is just one foot-width thick so that you consistently take up the least space, without noise or "rattle". This allows your (ideal) partner to position his/her personal dance line as close to yours as possible. "Spraying" your steps imprecisely onto the floor makes it more difficult for your partner to understand your line.

Tango is an intimate dance, performed in very close quarters, and the elegant execution of it lies not in the adornments, but in how a couple's lines unify (notice I did not use the word "super-impose").

As an ideal dancer you would need to be aware of your line, and be able to place your feet on it unerringly. Since your movements will be unsighted, you will need to develop your sense of proprioception, such that your limbs go exactly where you intend for them to. I call this "perfect register" where intent and movement are perfectly aligned.

Finally, absolute command of your line instils a certain confidence in your partner and establishes a greater rapport.

Features of the walk
Feet are as straight as possible, ideally no toe-in or turn-out (for a tight dance line)

Contact is maintained with the floor with the front of the foot (aids balance, acts as blind person's cane for detecting obstacles, prevents you from stepping on your partner's feet, positions your legs for leg-based leads like displacements)

Foot placement is ball flat (ensures the part of the foot that controls your weight is never off the floor, and always ready)

Your centre of gravity should be maintained at the same height from the floor, throughout the dance (for stability, but more for predictability on your partner's part)

Knees are slightly flexed (acting as additional control points, increasing step-size and drive power, absorbing the extra height gain should you need to go on your toes)

About the "bulges"
The trailing foot draws up to the foot of the weight-bearing leg, directly in-line as close as possible.
It then breaks the line, brushing past the supporting foot, maintaining light contact along the length of the leg.
The moving foot swings back into line as early as it is safe. Since the heel of that foot is off the ground, the foot can come into line with the heel over the toes of supporting foot. (Ladies in particular must be careful with this, or you could score the top of your supporting foot with your shoe if you're wearing tango heels)

If your line, feet and knees are right, you should find the knee of your moving leg: tucking in behind the knee of your supporting leg just before the bulge begins; and tucking in, in front of the knee of your supporting leg just after the bulge. These are the ideal positions for the adornments i.e. boleos, ganchos, besos, whatever you want to call them.

Other teaching points
Use your ears, not your eyes:
You should not be able to hear the "clomp" of your heels. A light "swish" of your foot as it just maintains contact with the floor is acceptable.
Listen for the rustle of clothes as your legs brush past during the bulges. (I love that sound from my partner during the course of a dance, it's sensuous)

Think "magnetic knees"
Think "stalk like a cat"

A solid, confidence-inspiring dance line is a tremendous advantage in so many other dances. It helps you stay with your partner in the quickstep, it helps develop flight in the foxtrot, slot-dancing in salsa is a breeze, international Samba lines can be accentuated differently. I won't go on.



1999 Salsa & Merengue Society