Tango Foundations course, Week 1 class notes

18th January 2010

Week 1 Notes


I started off by describing the topics we'll be covering in this course, and demonstrating dancing to music, using the steps and technique that we'll be covering in the course.

(The main practice music played throughout the class was "Bahia Blanca" by Carlos Di Sarli)


Natalie led us into a few minutes of warming up exercises, then we partnered up and simply walked to the music, just to get some feeling for moving to tango rhythms.

Key points

  • Relax whilst you dance; if you don't, your partner will feel it
  • Confidence: Leaders, don't be gentlemen, be clear and definite about what you want. Leaders must continuously project a sure and confident lead.
  • Trust: Similarly, followers must continuously follow the lead, and must trust the leader, and their own instincts.

Connecting with your partner

Connection in Tango is continuous - you need to be connected to your partner at all times.

In tango dancing, there are no "moves" or "patterns" - each single step is led, and followed, individually. So leaders have to lead, and followers have to follow, continuously.


We started off with the followers' hands on the leaders' shoulders ("practice hold"), and working on listening to our partner:

  • Lowering and lifting.
  • Walking forwards and back.
  • Stepping to the side.

This exercise should help getting followers used to listening, and the leaders used to leading, continuously.

We then swapped roles - leaders became followers and vice versa - and repeated this exercise. We did this role-reveral a few times in the course of the class; the idea is that it allows you to feel what it's like on "the other side of the fence".

Key points

  • Connect with your partner at all times.
  • If you lose connection, stop and re-establish it.
  • There's no rush. Take time at the start of the dance to connect. Take time during the dance to connect.

Leading and following a step

For each step you both take, the sequence is:

  1. Leader initiates the lead (chest movement)
  2. Follower starts to move her free leg, based on the lead
  3. Leader starts to step into the gap created by the follower moving her leg back; follower transfers her weight to complete the step.


Leaders: lead the followers to take a (side)step simply using the chests, without moving our feet.

Key points

The key thing for leaders to avoid is to step before the follower - leading with the foot. Don't do this. Lead from the chest - project first with your chest, and wait for the follower to move her feet back before you start to step forward.

Similarly, followers should not take their cue from the leader's feet movement, but from the leader's chest.

Establishing and transferring weight

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 transferring weight - both leading a transfer of weight, and following it.

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.

Sidesteps ("balanceo")

You can use the side step to navigate around obstacles, and to launch into other steps such as ochos. and giros. (We'll cover those steps later on)


Lead a sidestep, in both directions.

Lead a combination of sidesteps and weight transfers.

Key points:

  • Soften your knees to yourself slightly before leading a sidestep - that's one of the differences between leading a change of weight and a side step.
  • Keep the feet together when at rest - for both leaders and followers.

Forwards / backwards steps

Most of the time in social dancing, followers will be walking back and leaders will be walking forwards.


Lead a forwards step, then several.

Combine this with transfers of weight, and sidesteps.

Key points:

  • Take your time with walking, you don't need to step on each beat. Good steps are better than on-time steps.
  • Ensure you walk in a straight line - no diagonal steps.
  • Leaders: when walking forward, place your forward foot at the inside of the follower's forward foot - especially important with the left foot, as otherwise there's a tendency to place the foot on the outside of the follower's fowards foot.



You can use the rock-step to navigate around corners, to pause in the dance, and to decorate / vary the steps.

Like a normal step, it's done either forwards or backwards. And like a normal step, any rotation should only happen after taking the step - so don't step diagonally or to the side.

The forwards-and-back rock-step is similar to the side-to-side transfer of weight used to establish connection at the start of the dance.

Key points

  • You're still walking forwards and back, just smaller (and typically, in double-time)
  • You don't need to transfer your whole weight with rocksteps
  • Rotate at the end points, not whilst walking
  • Keep rotation angles small

For more information

- David Bailey, 18th January 2010