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Fundamentals essential to effective dance

This is an excerpt from Gotta Tango by Alberto Paz & Valorie Hart.

Focusing on Details


If you are a new dancer, concentrate on what you know. Gentlemen, hold the woman well. Make your weight changes. Use your right arm and shoulder to indicate her movement. Dance in diagonals, bringing her to your left or right side or moving into her right or left side. Break up your movements in building blocks. The salida is one building block moving to your left. The resolution is another building block to your right. Back and forward ochos are direction changes that can be used for embellishing the salida. Giros are used for navigation to your right or left. Think about your foot placement. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Soften your knees. Of course, both of you are listening to the music and responding to it. The music, your partner, and the conditions of the floor will all dictate how the dance is navigated and improvised. Ladies, hold your axis, respond to movement (or lack of it), and let yourself be moved. Mind your foot placement and your focus, listen to the music, and stay relaxed.


As you can see, there are so many details to distract you from the joy of just dancing. It is overwhelming at first. The man might be nervous about navigation. He might be afraid to knock her into someone. He might be worried that he will not know enough to not be boring. He wants to dance his partner well. The woman worries that she might not understand the mark. She worries that he might try to trick her into making a mistake. She does not want to be boring. She wants to give her partner a good dance. All this is normal. It is something every new dancer must experience. The beauty of the thing is that it does not take too long to find a comfort zone that enables you to dance. As you put in the hours, things get easier, and your dancing evolves. The more you dance socially, the faster your progress. The more you work together as equals in a dynamic partnership, the better your enjoyment and the better the quality of your tango. The more each one accepts the responsibility and consequence of each one's contribution to the dance, the faster you will dance freely and with a sense of yourself expressed. It is magic.


The fundamentals you learn and know and own now will serve you every day as a tango dancer. You will always use them. More intricate figures are only the fundamentals pushed to the maximum. Just as musicians and singers need to do scales, and ballet dancers need the same barre work they learned at age six until they retire, tango dancers use all the good and hard fundamental work they do in the first months for all their lives as tango dancers.

Learn more about Gotta Tango.