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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Tango

The story of tango started with the gauchos of Argentina. They wore chaps that had hardened from the foam and sweat of their horse’s body. Hence gauchos walked with knees flexed. They would go to the crowded night clubs and ask the local girls to dance. Since the gaucho hadn't showered, the lady would dance in the crook of the man's right arm, holding her head back. Her right hand was held low on his left hip, close to his pocket, looking for a payment for dancing with him. The man danced in a curving fashion because the floor was small with round tables, so he danced around and between them.

The dance spread throughout Europe in the 1900's. Originally popularized in New York in the winter of 1910-1911, Rudolph Valentino then made the Tango a hit in 1921. As time elapsed and the music became more subdued, the dance was finally considered respectable even in Argentina.

Styles vary in Tango: Argentine, French, Gaucho and International. Still, Tango has become one of our American 'Standards' regardless of its origin. The Americanized version is a combination of the best parts of each.

Phrasing is an important part of Tango. Most Tango music is phrased to 16 or 32 beats of music. Tango music is like a story. It contains paragraphs (Major phrases); sentences (Minor phrases); and the period at the end of the sentence is the Tango Close.

"The Tango is the easiest dance. If you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just Tango on." (Al Pacino in "The Scent of a Woman"). Other movies that featured tango dancing include Madonna's "Evita" and "True Lies" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger & Jamie Lee Curtis.

Some Styling Tips for Tango:

  1. No rise and fall.

  2. In closing steps the knee of the closing leg/foot should angle in toward the supporting leg.

  3. Man leads with right shoulder. This will cause forward walks to curve left.

  4. Take steps very quickly with a slight hold before taking the next one. Tango steps should be more staccato and sharp rather than blending and smooth.

  5. Hold lady in the crook of the right arm well to man’s right.


A Figure Tip: TANGO DRAW – Take a wide side step to give room for a long draw.

Walk 2 and a Tango Draw is considered the “Basic” figure in American tango. The Tango Draw is similar to the “Change of Direction” in waltz or foxtrot but without any rise or fall. Stay in closed position, and the man steps forward and then takes a wide side step leading to the final drawing step. Note that the Tango Draw is done in the last two beats of the measure and is thus fairly quick. In fact, take the first step very quickly so as to give more time for the side and draw.


Tim Eum originally prepared these Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA). Additional material from some of Tim's contributions to the Weavers discussion list. Reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, July/August, 2011.




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Past DRDC Educational Articles by
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