"Kickstart Tango" workshop for beginners - Workshop Notes

Section 1: The Basics

We started off by walking, in "practice hold" (hands on each others' shoulders), around the room to the music.


  • Leaders, chest lead: don't move your arms / feet first.
  • Followers, wait for the lead: if there's no lead, do nothing.
  • Always keep in contact with your partner
  • Ensure you have a "forwards intention" - for both leaders and followers. Don't lean back - if you do, your partner will feel off-balance as they'll have to lean forwards too much.

Weight changes

Both leaders and followers should only ever stand with weight on a single foot - the other foot ("free leg") should simply be resting on the floor. The only time your weight should be distributed across both feet is when you're transferring weight from one foot to the other.

We spent some time working on clearly leading and following weight changes, and differentiating between a change of weight and a step (forward step and side step).

Key points:

  • Leaders, it's essential that you always know what foot the follower is on. The best way to ensure this is to put her on that foot to start with.
  • Followers, it's essential that you don't change your weight without it being led. Don't "mark the beat" by shifting from one foot to the other, for example. If your weight is on one foot, keep it there.

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Section 2: Close and Open Embrace

There are two types of tango "embrace" (hold): close and open.

The close embrace:

The close embrace is like an airport hug where you are meeting someone special after a long break.

Posture is fully upright, with weight over balls of the feet. But you have contact with your partner along the torso. Note that it's important to have space between your legs and your partner's legs; the more you have "forward intention", the more space you'll have.

Key points

  • Close is close - yes, it's intimate, but if you don't press against your partner, it doesn't work.
  • If you do it right, close embrace makes leading and following easier, because you have more contact.
  • Don't force (pull) your partner into a close embrace - he/she may not be happy with that. Invite it, don't force it.

The open embrace:

Key points

  • In open embrace, followers get both tactile contact (from the arms) and visual clues (looking at the leader's chest) to understand the lead.
  • Leaders, don't pull or push your partner into position. Align yourself correctly, and your follower will align herself to meet you.

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Section 3: Pivots

We covered using pivots, focussing on ochos and then giros.


Leaders, without moving your feet:

  • Lead an "inside" pivot (as last week), then lead a forwards step. This is a forwards ocho.
  • Lead an "outside" pivot (as last week), then lead a backwards step. This is a back ocho.

Key points:

  • Leaders: always lead the pivot first, then the step. Don't try to do both at the same time.
  • Leaders: the step is in the same direction as the pivot.
  • Followers: pivot first, then step. They are two separate motions - don't rush into one before the other.
  • Followers: keep your chest facing towards your leader (that's the "dissociation" thing).

There are two simple ways to change from a forward ocho to a back ocho and vice versa.

  • Reverse the pivot: lead a pivot in the reverse direction, then lead a step in that direction.
  • Reverse the step: lead a step in the reverse direction, then lead a pivot in that direction.

Easy :)


A "Giro" (pronounced "Hero") is a turn. Typically, the leader stands in place, and the follower is led to walk in a circular path around the leader (either clockwise or anticlockwise).

We did a couple of exercises, separately:

  • Follower exercise: "walk around chair"
    We grabbed some weights, and used the "walk around a chair" exercise, to practice doing the grapevine movements in a circular pattern.
    Forward -> pivot (180 degrees) -> Side -> pivot (180 degrees) -> Back -> Side -> Forward -> etc.
  • Leader exercise: Be The Ball...
    Leaders, holding a gym ball in front of you, slowly rotate your upper body around a 360-degree turn, letting your feet "catch up" with your chest. Ensure that the upper body is always ahead of the feet in turning.

We then partnered-up and worked on the giro in couples.

The lead is to start rotating around. This can be done from any point, in either direction.

Key points:

  • Followers, don't overtake leaders - take your time on the walks
  • Leaders, wait for the pivot to be done, before leading the step. Don't try to lead both at the same time.
  • Followers, as always, follow each step as it is led. Don't try to anticipate the next step.

Mix and Match: ochos and giros together

We briefly discussed using giros in combination with other steps, mixing and matching.

Key points:

  • Giros can be done in either direction - simply by rotating in that direction.
  • Giros don't have to be full 360-degree, 4-step patterns - it's perfectly OK to just lead a few steps.
  • You can reverse a giro from a pivot step - turning that pivot into an ocho movement, then reversing the rotation direction.
  • Followers, please don't anticipate that the next step will be part of the giro pattern - it may not be.

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