Fundamentals Review (February-March 2010)

This session, we worked on improving technique in the walk and turns for intermediate dancers, while introducing the basics of tango to the beginners.

Walk like a porteno (or "Walk like Oscar")

The body needs to be aligned in order to walk well:

  • Feet relaxed on the floor, slightly turned out (in a V).
  • Knees soft and stretchy (not locked and not bent a lot).
  • Hips released so that the pelvis can tilt slightly to shift weight onto the support leg.
  • Hips back, enabling the hip joint to bear most of the balance work, rather than the muscles.
  • Back long and released to make it easier to twist the torso to lead.
  • Arms and shoulders released to drape over the ribcage: clear but gentle embrace.
  • Contralateral motion of the torso, twisting around the spine (normal walking motion).
  • Pattern of movement: release foot into ground (push off), allow the free leg to respond to the push off (extend), and finish the step by landing on-balance (arrive). The extension does NOT come first :-)

If done correctly, this is a one-track or two-track walk; often, one-track, as the leader constantly uses the walk to shift into other moves.

Salida ("side, walk to the cross")

You can use the porteno walk to move the follower to the cross. One popular pattern for doing this is the salida.


  • Step left with left foot.
  • When on balance, release hip and use contralateral motion to twist lightly clockwise/to the right.
  • Step forward with right foot, DIRECTLY in front of own left foot (one-track).
  • Step SLIGHTLY left diagonal with left foot.
  • As you finish your step, rotate your torso (but not your hips) slightly counter-clockwise/to the left, to lead the follower into the cross step.
  • Switch feet, so that the left is free again (this is optional, but it's the only way we did this during this session).
  • A pause is a nice touch here, but not required.


  • Step side with right foot.
  • When on balance, release hip and use contralateral motion to twist lightly clockwise/to the right. Make sure your hips continue to point line of dance.
  • Step backwards with left foot, DIRECTLY in back of own right foot (one-track).
  • Step SLIGHTLY right diagonal with right foot.
  • As you finish your step, the leader should rotate you to bring your left leg in front of your right, allowing you to switch weight onto your left leg.
  • If a pause is led, you can adorn here with your (free) right foot.

Rebound step

Some people use the work "rock" step or "check" step for this move. I don't. The most important part of this movement is that it rebounds back to the original location/foot. It uses the correct walking alignment (see above) to find the moment that the follower lands on his/her foot, and reverse the direction of the couple, using that rebound.

Rebound step into a turn ("rebound, turn")

On a crowded dance floor, there is often little space to prepare for upcoming moves. This move crosses over in front of the leader, creating a space-saving, easy-to-lead step that beats the pants off of treading in place to the beat!

There are two ways to think of this move: use the one that works for you.

  1. If you are leading a step line-of-dance with your left, you can rebound back onto your right, twist to your right, and lead a right turn until facing line-of-dance again. Try to NOT tuck your foot behind/make space for the follower/etc., because that moves the anchor of the rebound step, and makes it MORE difficult for the follower. S/he does not need more room! So, to recap, if you start the rebound on your left, the turn goes across to your right, and the follower turns in a right turn around you.
  2. If you are leading a step line-of-dance with your left, the follower's right foot goes back, the rebound finishes on the follower's left, and the right crosses through and forward to start a turn with a front cross step to the right, to the leader's right. The same can be done with the follower rebounding left-right, and doing a front cross step with the left, to the leader's left. To recap, use the follower's right foot to cross to a right turn, or the left foot to cross through to a left turn.

This move is symmetrical to the right and left.

Rebound and turn left

This is a often-used, see-it-everywhere move.  It is not really led using a rebound (or rock) step: it comes AFTER the rebound!

  • Do a rebound step with leader's left, follower's right (usually in a quick quick timing).
  • When both dancers have completed the rebound, do a left turn, beginning with the follower's side/open step with the right foot.
  • Do as many steps of a turn as you need.
  • Exit.

One traditional use of this turn takes four steps around the leader: follower's open to right; back cross with left; open with right; and front cross to end (timing: slow, quick, quick, slow). Too much to think about? Just turn until you are facing the correct direction in space, and start walking!

Turns (giros) right and left at the cross

When you walk the follower to the cross, the follower's right leg/foot are free for the next move.

Right turn (clockwise around leader)

  • A right turn turns to the right (clockwise) for the leader.
  • The leader needs to rotate the follower SLIGHTLY to the left to allow the follower's right leg to become freed from behind the left, then rotate to the right (clockwise) to begin the turn. Make sure that the leader's chest starts this movement, not the hips! The hips and feet follow the movement of the torso. Make sure you are not "nose-leading" so that the follower can follow your chest!
  • The follower turns starting with a right front cross, left open step, right back cross, left open step (usually, that will get you all the way around).
  • Traditional timing: slow, slow, quick, quick.
  • Nice ending: add one more step (front cross with right) and pivot it for another front cross step the other direction, making a front ocho in place.
  • While the follower turns, the leader continues to spiral the chest to the right until facing the desired direction; then lets the hips catch up to neutral, and exits.

Left turn (counter-clockwise around leader)

The only difference from the turn above, is that the follower's free foot, the right, is already able to take the first move (open to the right); just start turning!

Well, OK, the other difference: as a beginning or intermediate leader, it is not always easy to tell the follower whether you want an open, BACK or open, FRONT move here. As you become more skilled, this will get easier (as we saw in class). If things are not going smoothly, let the follower do what she does, and adjust accordingly!

If s/he does an open-back-open-front turn (very traditional), the timing is slow, quick, quick, slow. If s/he starts open-front-open-back, the timing becomes slow, slow, slow, quick, whatever.

Next session

We're going to work on an overview of the basics again, but with some other main moves: we'll introduce ocho cortado, rebound steps as a way to change directions side-side, more on improvisation and working on energy to make this dance more elegant, powerful, sexy, etc., and improving the embrace.  As always, we'll work on balance, breath, alignment--all those things that make your tango FEEL good to you and your partner.