Buenos Aires basics (Popular tango moves 3)

This is the third (of three) reviews for the moves we worked on in my intermediate tango class these last six weeks. As I have said before, we learned moves that were led on me hundreds or thousands of times on my most recent Buenos Aires trip. All of them are moves that are simple in concept, work in small spaces, can be done in closed or open embrace, and and are fun to do; but that have subtle tricks to make them work better.

Left turn with rebound step

Although I commonly think of this as two separate patterns, they were often combined in Buenos Aires to make a nice, compact turn with a quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow pattern in the music. 


  • Lead a rebound, forward on left, back on right for yourself; back on right, forward on left.
  • The traditional timing is quick, quick BUT make sure you are using the rebound! Don't truncate it to be on time. Remember, to adjust the follower's step size works much better. The magic "la marca" allows you to reduce the size of the follower's step by keeping her/his foot more under the body.
  • Lead a left turn. Make sure you rotate in place and keep the the spiral in your torso so that the follower keeps doing a grapevine.
  • The traditional timing on the turn is slow, quick, quick, slow.

A lot of leaders in Buenos Aires did two rounds of this before exiting, even though we usually  made it all the way around in one set. Of course, traffic didn't move very much on the dance floor. Here in Portland, with leaders zooming down the room, you might want to only do one set so as not to get run over!


  • Do a back on right, front on left rebound. Make sure you complete this movement before beginning the turn around the leader (don't make a triangular movement; return to original spot!).
  • In your turn, make sure that each step is completed by finishing the push off with your toes the way we've practiced. This allows you to arrive on balance so that you can slow down or speed up as the leader asks.
  • For your back cross step, use those hips! This is a swivel and then push off move--don't swing your feet for momentum.
  • Traditional move: four step turn, side step with right, back cross with left, side step with right, front cross with left.
  • Traditional timing: slow, quick, quick, slow. When you add it to the rebound, the entire pattern is: quick, quick, slow; quick, quick, slow.
  • In Buenos Aires, I was expected to deliver this timing. If I waited to be told the timing, dancers felt I was going too slowly. Here, where many leaders lead all-slow versions of turns, it may take some adjusting of this traditional timing.

Adorno for right and left turns for followers

  • Between the back cross and the next open step in a turn (right or left), allow your knees to rebound against each other as your legs pass under you. If you are doing a right turn (clockwise), the free leg doing the adorno is the left; to the left, it is the right leg.
  • This LOOKS like you are doing an ankle adornment, with the free foot sliding in front of the support leg, and then going into the side step, but if you concentrate on the ankles, you may trip yourself (ask me how I know this!).
  • This adorno has the added bonus that it helps you arrive on axis better during your back cross steps in the turn.
  • Remember to keep your hips back while you do the adorno. If you lock your knees while your dance, or bring your hips forwards, you will not be able to make this move look as good, and may trip the leader (luckily, I do not know this from my own experience!).

Walking circles clockwise

Of course, you can do these the other direction as well. And in crossed system. However, the clockwise, parallel version was the one that guys in Buenos Aires tended to lead.

For those of you also in my milonga class that I co-teach with Robert Hauk, this should look familiar: we did it in the winter session of the milonga class! Here in Portland, Robert, as well as Steven Payne,  lead very sweet circles like this, but no one else really seems to. In Buenos Aires, I had this led on me more frequently.

There's only walk technique involved here. Doing the porteno walk (see the Tango Fundamentals review sheet in the right column, top page under PAGES), simply walk in a big enough circle that the follower walks backwards instead of pivoting in place on the dance floor.

Simple way to get going: Take a side step as if doing a salida, and then walk forward. This gets you into the nice, connected twist that will keep the follower from stepping in front of you. Keep herding the follower towards the center of the circle; go all the way around; continue line of dance.