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Quote

American Tango—

4 beats/measure; 30-32 meas/min

Tango originated in Argentina during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and of course this was the Argentine Tango. It reached Paris ballrooms in 1909 and quickly became popular in England and in America prior to World War I. Vernon and Irene Castle were especially successful in popularizing an elegant and polite form of tango, and a craze developed for "Tango Teas," held at many fashionable hotels.

American Tango adopted features of both Argentine and International or English Tango. It is the simplest of the tango styles. Hollywood gratefully adopted the style so that leading men would have some chance of looking good. Rudolph Valentino, 1921Rudolph Valentino danced the American Tango in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in 1921, and Arnold Schwartzenegger sort of did it in True Lies in 1994.

Where International Tango is highly structured, American (like Argentine) is more loose. We make greater use of loose closed, semi-closed, banjo, sidecar, butterfly, shadow, even open position. We are apart from our partner more.

On the other hand, when we are in closed position, the hold is a close one. His right wrist should be placed on the woman's left shoulder blade, the fingers and thumb together and pointing down her back toward the floor. Her left arm wraps around his right arm and the ridge of her hand presses against the lower side of his upper arm. She might try to lock her left thumb into his right armpit. Bodies are offset to the left so that left legs can swing freely past your partner, but you are close, tight at the hip. Both look to the left.

Where International Tango emphasizes the use of quick steps and uses slow counts for contrast, American Tango uses more slow steps and uses the quicks for contrast. The basic timing is slow, slow; quick, quick, slow; over two measures. In most Smooth rhythms, we use the whole slow count to take the step. Movement flows steadily from one beat to the next. But in Tango, we take the step more sharply on one beat and then hold on the second beat. Place each foot and then stop; step and stop. There is no flow, no flight, no swiveling on the balls of the feet. In the other smooth rhythms, the body is always in motion, in smooth and graceful arcs. In tango, the body doesn't move past the foot. The foot and the body move together. When the foot stops the body stops. It is like a great jungle cat slowly stalking its prey.

In Tango, we walk with a little right-side lead. The man steps forward on the outside of the left foot and rolls to the inside edge, on the inside of the right foot and roll to the outside edge. The steps are a little bit crab-wise and curved a little to the left. The right-side lead does this. Walk heel to toe, skimming the floor.

Tango is sometimes described as the "Groucho Marx" dance because we flex our knees, and we stay down there as we move. However, you do not have to strongly flex your knees. Only maintain whatever degree of flex that you choose—there is no rise and fall. And above all, if you happen to think of Groucho, do not think humor, slapstick, or farce. Tango is usually pretty serious. You want to try to conjure up feelings of pride, distain, maybe anger. Put some passion into those fans of the leg, flicks of the foot, those flares, dips, and lunges. At the end of a slow count, when you are frozen in stillness, it is because you feel so intensely that you can do nothing else.


Figure Name, Roundalab Phase Level, & Timing

q=quick, 1 beat
s=slow, 2 beats
&=1/2 beat; a=1/4 beat

Steps and Actions That Make Up the Figure

Each description focuses on the man, with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance positions and steps, actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring in a single beat.

Here are some sequences to help you visualize the figure in context.

Straight Basic

ss; qqs;

In closed position facing line of dance, step fwd L (woman bk R), -, fwd R, -; fwd L, fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;

This is not a Roundalab Standard, and we rarely hear it cued. Instead, we hear "walk two and tango draw." The basic can also be danced in banjo position.

In the classic Tango Mannita by the Smiths, part A begins with a walk two; tango draw; in semi walk two toward COH; maneuver tango draw; corte and recover;
Walk Two

phase III

ss;

In closed position, step forward L (woman bk R) curving slightly to the left, -, fwd R, -; In Remedy by Woodruff part A begins with walk 2; tango draw; walk 2; gaucho turn 4;
Run Two

qq

fwd, fwd,

To make any forward step sharper, dance each "quick" as a q/& with the quick the step and the & bringing the free knee forward so you're ready to take the next step — step/knee, step/knee.


Tango Draw

phase III

qqs;

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R), sd R on inside edge of foot and rolling onto flat of foot, draw L to R no wt, -; In Schöner Gigolo by the Scherrers, the dance begins with a walk pick up; tango draw; reverse turn; closed finish;
Promenade Basic

ss; qqs;

In semi-closed position facing line of dance, step fwd L (woman fwd R), -, thru R, -; fwd L (W fwd R and turning LF to face man in closed position), sd R on inside edge of foot and rolling onto flat of foot, draw L to R no wt, -;

This is not a Roundalab Standard either. The cue might be "walk two pickup tango draw."

Tango Mannita begins in open position with walk two; pickup tango draw; and then into part A as described above.
Pickup Tango Draw

qqs;

This figure allows us to do a tango draw from semi-closed position by incorporating a pickup-like action into the first step. To allow for the pickup, the man's first step will be shorter than in a standard tango draw.

In semi-closed position, step fwd L (W fwd R and turning LF to face man in closed position), sd R on inside edge of foot and rolling onto flat of foot, draw L to R no wt, -;


Maneuver Tango Draw

qqs;

Again, we begin in semi-closed, but this time the man turns to closed. Since momentum will be moving the man back, his side step will be more comfortable if it is back and side, rather than straight side.

In semi-closed position, step fwd L turning RF to closed position (W fwd R), sd R on inside edge of foot and rolling onto flat of foot, draw L to R no wt, -;


Back Basic

ss; qqs;

In closed position facing line of dance, step back L (W fwd R), -, bk R, -; bk L, bk & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;

Again, this is not a Roundalab Standard, and the round dance cue might be "back two and back tango draw."


Curving Basic

ss; qqs;

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R) beginning to turn LF, -, fwd R completing 1/2 LF turn, -; fwd L, fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;
Promenade Turning Left

ss; qqs;

In semi-closed position perhaps facing LOD, step fwd L (W fwd R), -, small fwd R (W sd & fwd L turning 3/8 LF to face M and RLOD), -; fwd L (W bk R), fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;

Notice that we have encountered two different figures that include a pickup and a tango draw. This figure is a walk, pickup, tango draw (pickup on the second step, before the tango draw). The promenade basic described above is a walk two, pickup tango draw (pickup on the third step as a part of the tango draw).


Promenade Turning Right

ss; qqs;

In semi-closed position perhaps facing LOD, step fwd L (W fwd R), -, sd & fwd R turning 5/8 RF to face W and COH (W small fwd L turning), -; fwd L (W bk R), fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;

As in the case of the promenade turning left, described above, we have two different sequences that include a maneuver and a tango draw. This figure is a walk, maneuver (overturned), tango draw (maneuver on the second step, before the tango draw). Alternatively, we might walk two, maneuver tango draw (maneuver on the third step as a part of the tango draw).


Continuous Basic

ss; qqs; sqq; qqs;

This is a walk 2 (ss), tango draw without the "draw" (qq), walk 2 (ss), tango draw without the "draw" (qq), and finally a tango draw with the "draw" (qqs).

In CP LOD forward L slightly across the right, -, forward right slightly to the side, -; (W back right slightly behind the left, -, back left slightly to the side, -;) forward left, forward and side right, forward left slightly across the right, -; (W back right, back and side left, back right slightly behind the left, -;) forward right slightly to the side, -, forward left, forward and side right; (back left slightly to the side, -, back right, back and side left;) forward left, forward and side right, draw left to right with no weight, -; (W back right, back and side left, draw right to left with no weight, -;)

Again, this is not a RAL Standard. It might be cued "walk 2 run 2 walk 2 run 2;;; tango draw;"

In El Choclo IV by the Sears, there is a whisk; slow pickup; tango draw; continuous basic;;;; 2 left turns;;
Running Step

ss; qqs; sqq; qqs;

In brief, this is a walk two, run two, walk two, run two, tango draw, very like the continuous basic above.

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R), -, fwd R, -; fwd L, fwd R, fwd L, -; fwd R, -, fwd L, fwd R; fwd L, fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;


Tango Close

qqs;

Above, we can see that the "tango draw" is a fundamental component in many american tango figures. The tango close is the same fundamental component, but it leaves the trail feet free instead of the lead feet.

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R), sd R on inside edge of the foot and rolling onto flat of foot, draw L to R and change weight, -;

Turning Tango Close

phase IV

qqs;

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R) beginning to turn LF, sd R on inside edge of the foot and rolling onto flat of foot continuing to turn up to about 1/4, cl L to R, -;
Criss Cross

phase III

ss; qqs;

In SCP facing LOD, step sd & fwd L (W sd & fwd R), -, thru turning in, -; swivel to reverse step thru L (W R) to rev, sd to closed wall, draw lead foot to trail no weight change, -;
Hesitation Step

ss; qqs;

In closed position facing line of dance, step fwd L (W bk R), -, rock back R, -; recover L, fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;
Maneuver

s

In semi-closed position, trail feet free, step fwd, man turns 1/2 RF to closed position, -,
Pickup

s

In semi-closed position, step fwd on trail feet, woman turning 1/2 LF to closed position, -,
Pivot Four

phase IV

ss; ss;

In closed position, reverse line of dance, soften knees, step back L (woman forward R), turn 1/2 on ball of foot. Stay in tight closed position. On the second slow, the man steps forward R and turns 1/2. Repeat for a total of two full turns. It helps if the one stepping forward R does so with some power and that he or she makes sure to drive down line well under his or her partner. If you don't drive and turn as one, you will fall behind and not make the full turn. If you do focus on taking each step down line, you can pivot over and over, with smooth progress.
Corte

phase III

s

In closed position, step back & side (woman fwd & sd) on lead foot lowering, -, Do a tango draw; corte recover; tango draw;
Side Corte

phase III

s

In closed position, lead feet free, step to the side, flex the supporting knee, and turn RF (woman LF) to reverse semi-closed position. Leave trail leg extended, toe pointing to the floor.
Single Corte

ss; qqs;

In closed position, step side and back L (W sd & fwd R), -, recover R, -; tango draw;
Double Corte

qqs; sqq; ss; qqs;

In brief, this extended figure is a pivot two, corte, recover, pivot two, corte, recover, tango draw.

In closed position, step fwd L (W bk R) turning LF, bk R completing full turn, step back & side L (woman fwd & sd R) lowering, -; recover R, -, step fwd L (W bk R) turning LF, bk R completing full turn; step back & side L (woman fwd & sd R) lowering, -, recover R, -; fwd L (W bk R), fwd & sd R, draw L to R no wt, -;


Advance Corte

phase IV

qqs;

In closed position, step back and side L (woman R) and lower into the lead leg. On the second beat, draw the trail foot to the lead and turn to semi-closed position. On the slow, step thru with the trail foot.

Note only two weight changes.

In Tango Bongo by the Adams, part B begins in semi-closed facing COH with a walk face; vine 3 to semi; lunge recover; side, cross in front, side (W spin LF) to closed position; advanced corte; tango draw facing LOD; advanced corte; tango draw;
Outside Swivel

s

In contra banjo, step back L and turn a little RF (woman fwd R swiveling RF and drawing L to R no weight), -, ending in semi-closed position trail feet free

This is also cued as a Flare.


Outside Swivel Twice

phase IV

ss;

In banjo position facing LOD, step bk L (woman fwd R) swvl RF to semi-closed, -, thru R (woman thru L) swvl to bjo, -;
Vine Three

qqs;

In a facing position: sd, both XIB, sd, -; In Tango Bongo by the Adams, part A begins in semi-closed, lead feet free, with a walk and face (to closed position); vine 3 to semi; lunge thru recover; to a side cross in front side (woman spin); corte recover; tango draw;
Twisty Vine

qqqq;

In butterfly position facing wall, step side L (W sd R) turning RF to momentary sidecar position, XRIB of L (woman XLIF of R), step sd turning LF to momentary banjo position, XIF woman XIB;

If you begin facing the wall with the man on the inside of the circle, he will stay on the inside of the circle. The figure may be danced in other orientations and with either foot free.

In Don't Cry For Me Argentina by the Palmquists, there is a tango draw to face COH; forward L (W bk R) and twisty vine 5 to banjo position facing DRC; back (W outside swivel) to semi-closed position facing reverse;
Wheel

qqs; qqs;

In banjo, step fwd turning RF, fwd, cl; fwd, fwd, cl; (complete turn stay in bjo throughout)
Serpiente

phase III

qqs; qqqq;

In loose closed position facing the wall, step sd L, behind R (woman behind L), fan L counter-clockwise no wt (woman fan R CW), -; bhd L, sd R, thru L, fan R CCW (W fan L CW) no wt;

Actually, the serpiente is used with a variety of thru, side, behind, rondes. Another pattern is sd L, XRIB, flare L CCW (woman mirror image), XLIB of R; sd R, XLIF, flare R CCW, thru R; Notice that this sequence leaves the lead feet free.

Yet another pattern that is used is a sd L, tap R, sd R to RLOD, flare LIB of R; behind L, sd R, thru L, flare R CCW;

In Tango Mannita by the Smiths, part C begins with a walk 2 run 2 walk 2 run 2;;; walk and face wall; serpiente (of the third type described at left);; rock fwd 3; pickup tango draw;
Right Lunge

phase IV

s

In closed position, trail feet free, lower into the left knee and step side and forward onto the right, keeping the left side in toward your partner and your body upright. Don't lean over your partner. As you take weight on the right, lower into the right knee and turn slightly LF to close her head (she should look strongly left). Look at her. In Gardenia Tango by the Parkers, we step forward to a right lunge; rock turn;; walk 2; telemark to SCP; and thru to a serpiente;;
Leg Crawl

phase IV

ss;

From the right lunge position, step back L keeping R leg extended to side (she steps fwd R & lifts left leg up his outer thigh, her L toe pointed down). On the second slow, take a small back step to closed position.
Spanish Drag

phase IV

s

From right lunge position recover L with soft knee and R extended, rise drawing right foot in and stretch right side to change sway, (one wt change)

The spanish drag can be done over a whole measure, even a measure and a half. She looks down her nose and a little askance at him, distainful, "no you don't, buddy." Then at the end of the drag she might relent a little and look directly at him -- "well, maybe."

In closed position, step forward L (W bk R) and right lunge; spanish drag to a leg crawl;
Rock Forward 3

qqs;

In closed position, rock fwd L (W bk R), rec R, fwd L, -;
Rock Back 3

qqs;

In closed position, rock back L (W fwd R), rec R, bk L, -;
Rock Turn

phase V

qqs; qqs;

In closed position diagonal wall, step bk L turn RF, rec R trn RF, bk L trn RF, -; bk R trng LF, sd L, cl R to DLW, -;
Gaucho Turn

phase III

qqqq;

In closed position, rock fwd L (W bk R) turning 1/8 LF, bk trn, fwd trn, bk trn; Do a whisk; thru face close; underturned gaucho 4 to face LOD; walk 2; fwd sd bk to BJO W quick outside swivel; thru face close;
Open Reverse Turn

phase IV

qqs;

In closed position DLC step fwd L (W bk R) trng LF, fwd R trng (W sd L), bk L (W fwd R) to BJO RLOD, -;
Reverse Turn Closed Finish

phase IV

qqs; qqs;

In closed position facing line and center, step fwd L (W bk R) trng LF, sd & bk R cont trn to face RLOD (W heel turn), bk L to closed position, -; step bk R (woman fwd L) turning LF, sd & fwd L, close R to L ending in closed position facing DLW, -;
Reverse Turn Open Finish

phase IV

qqs; qqs;

In closed position facing line and center, step fwd L (W bk R) trng LF, sd & bk R cont trn to face RLOD (W heel turn), bk L to closed position, -; step bk R (woman fwd L) turning LF, sd & fwd L, fwd R ending in banjo position facing DLW, -; In Gardenia Tango by the Parkers, we walk pickup; walk 2; reverse turn open finish checking;; back twist 3 & both ronde to banjo position; step fwd W develope;
Reverse Fallaway

phase IV

sqq;

In closed position, line of dance, step forward L turning LF 1/8 to 1/4. Step side R, and then cross the L in back of R (woman R in back of L) to end in semi-closed position facing reverse. The "fallaway" is actually the last step; fallaway is stepping back in semi position.

May be done from semi position: step thru R (woman L) beginning to turn LF, -, fwd L turning LF, recover back on R to semi reverse;


Reverse Fallaway From Semi

phase IV

sqq;

Where the reverse fallaway from closed begins with the lead foot, the reverse fallaway from semi begins with the trail foot. The amount of turn is usually about 3/8 LF, so in SCP DLC, we would step thru R (W thru L) beginning to turn LF, -, fwd L turning LF (W bk R), recover back on trail feet to SCP RLOD;
Reverse Fallaway and Slip

phase V

qqqq;

In closed position facing line and center, step forward L (woman bk R) turning LF 1/8 to 1/4. Step side R, and then cross the L in back of R (woman R in back of L) to end in semi-closed position facing RLOD. On the last "quick" turn LF and slip R past L small step on toe ending in closed position facing line and wall or LOD.

May be danced sq&q; or sqq&;


Ronde and Slip

phase VI

sqq;

In closed position facing wall, ronde the left leg counter clockwise and cross behind R with left sway and no weight change (woman ronde R CW and XRIB of L), -, back L and rise turning LF with no sway (woman bk R turning LF), slip back R (woman fwd L near man's R) to closed position;

Amount of turn may vary.


Rudolph Ronde

phase VI

s

In closed position, lower and step forward R between the woman's feet as if you are beginning a RF pivot, and she will step back L. But stop your rotation by flexing the R knee and keeping the L leg back. As a part of this step, you might tap the inside of her right knee with your right knee, leading her to lift her R leg from the hip and ronde it CW. Leave the left leg side and back and the right leg soft, but lift and rotate the upper body RF to suggest something about the height of her ronde. The lady's head should follow her foot and so move from closed position to strongly right.
Rudolph Ronde and Slip

phase VI

sqq;

In closed position, lower and step forward R between the woman's feet, and she will step back. Leave the left leg side and back, but lift and rotate the upper body RF to lead her to lift her R leg from the hip and ronde it CW. On the first quick, rise from your chair-like lunge and recover back on the left, and she steps back R beginning a LF pivot on the fall of the right foot. As she pivots, she keeps her thighs locked and her left leg extended. On the second quick, he steps back R rising, and she steps forward L in a slipping action, both rotating a bit LF (up to 3/8).
Develope

phase IV

sqq;

In sidecar postion, the man steps forward L, checking, and holds. The woman steps back R and stretches her body up, -, raises the L up the right leg to the outside of the right knee, and extends the left leg forward in a controlled kick as high as is comfortable. One weight change.

The develope action is the raising of the knee and the kick. It can be done in banjo, beginning with the trail feet. It is done from other positions, the woman swiveling into position before the develope. Sometimes both develope.


Stalking Walks

phase V

ss; ss;

In semi-closed position, step sd & fwd L, -, draw R face ptnr and point toe thru, -; thru R in semi, -, draw L and pt, -;

There are two different views on styling. Some picture a jungle cat moving down a tangled path, stepping over fallen branches as each free foot comes forward. Others picture him gliding down a more open path with that free foot just skimming the surface. But make it cat-like.


Contra Check

phase V

s or q

In closed position, the man lowers on his right foot and steps forward on his left or actually slides his left forward and the woman steps back on her right to contra banjo. Turn the toes of the left foot out a little for stability. The word "contra" means that as you step forward with one foot (the left here), you turn your body so that the opposite side is leading or going forward (here the right side). That is what contra is: the left foot goes forward, but the right side of the torso goes forward. A contra action twists the body a little so that the legs are not side by side, but the thighs are crossed. Keep your body upright; don't lean over your lady. By the way, the word "check" means that you will stop your forward movement and get ready for the next step, which will be back or recover. "Check" means to stop and get ready to move the other way.
Contra Check and Slip

phase V

sqq;

Lower, rotate a little LF, and step forward L into a contra check, as described above. On the two quicks, recover R (woman recover L), and slip the left past the right turning a little LF to closed position.
Contra Check and Switch

phase V

sqq;

Lower, rotate a little LF, and step forward L into a contra check, as described above. On the two quicks, recover R (woman recover L) beginning to turn RF and leaving left foot in place, and step back L with soft knees throughout. End in closed position; amount of turn varies.
Reverse Pivot

phase VI

s or q or &

In closed position facing RLOD, step back R (woman fwd L) and spin 1/2 to the left on the ball of the right foot. Stay low—no rise or fall and no sway. Amount of turn may vary.
Natural Pivot Turn

phase VI

sqq; s

In semi-closed position facing LOD, step side & fwd L (woman sd & fwd R) down line, -, fwd R turning RF to closed position facing RLOD, side and back L pivoting RF to closed facing LOD; fwd and side R with a slight lunge to end in closed position, -,

This figure begins in semi, turns 3/4 to 7/8 RF, and ends in closed.


Twirl

qqs;

Step forward L to semi-closed position (woman fwd R turning RF 1/2 under lead hands), fwd R (woman back L completing underarm turn), both close to face; In Tango Bongo by the Adams, part C begins with walk 2 in closed position down line; the man does a small crabwalk toward line and wall and twirls the woman toward COH; man crabwalks back toward COH and reverse twirls (LF) the woman back toward wall to end in semi-closed position; lunge forward on lead feet, twist hips toward reverse; step behind side thru;




dingbat




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