Tango Extensions course, Week 4 class notes

19th April 2010

Week 1 Notes | Week 2 Notes | Week 3 Notes | Week 4 Notes


I played three quite different tracks, and we danced to those tracks, with the concept of listening to the music, and attempting to dance to the music.

The aim was to demonstrate the differences and variations possible within tango dancing, and to think of fitting your movements to the music you hear.

What is "Musicality"?

"Musicality" is the skill of dancing to the music. That means you need to understand the music, and to use that understanding to drive the steps you take: the size and timing of those steps, and the types of steps (and, by extension, the embrace you adopt).

Bear in mind that in a traditional tango track, there are usually several rhythms going on, depending on the instruments and/or vocals of the track. It's possible to dance to any of those rhythms; so in other words there's no "One Right Way" to interpret the music - it's all quite personal.

Musical structure

The fitst stage is to understand - and be able to walk to - the main beat of the music (in traditional tango, this will usually be driven by the "bandoneon" - basically a big accordion).

Each tango track, typically, will have musical "phrases", grouped into sets of 8 "beats" - after you've been dancing a while, you'll start to recognise this structure, and you'll know where the pauses are, and when you can vary the tempo of your walking.

Vals and Milonga

In a milonga (the social event), you should be able to distinguish the differences between a Tango, a Vals (Argentine Waltz) and a Milonga (the dance) track.

We'll introduce Vals and Milonga dances next week...

More details


Interpretation and musicality do affect the flow of the dance - in fact, that's their purpose.

Follower - elongated ochos

We did a demonstration for follower-interpretation - slowing down an ocho step - then worked on this as an exercise.

Leaders: wait for the follower to finish the pivot, before leading the next step.

Followers: don't abuse this; only elongate the pivot if it makes sense within the music, and only do this occasionally, and be aware that this can cause problems to the leader if you interrupt his "flow".

Both - giro

We examined the different tempo possibilities for a giro step - taking the non-pivoting parts of the full giro sequence at double-time.

Leaders: Simply rotate at a constant speed.

Followers: If you're walking at double-time, you should make each step half the size, to avoid "overtaking" your leader.

Using Adornments

Adornments (or "Embellishments" or "decorations" - all the same thing) are general actions which make the dancing look and feel better - they're the icing on the cake.

By contrast to musicality, a key point about decorations is exactly that - they're icing, they're not the cake. So these should not ever interfere with the connection or the basic step. If you're not comfortable doing the basic step, then don't do decorations.

Follower - hook step ("Amague" / "Saludo")

For any forward or back step, followers can "hook" their feet into a back or forward cross position, before taking the step.

We worked on this with:

  • Forwards steps
  • Back steps
  • Forwards ochos
  • Back ochos

(Gives 8 possible variations)

Leader - giro enrosque

"Enrosques" are nice ways for the leader to adorn a giro.

We worked on enrosques for anti-clockwise giros (right leg) and clockwise giros (left leg).

The "enrosque" is simply a spiral. You turn on one foot and leave the other foot in place, allowing you to twist one leg around, then untwist it to allow effect.

A good trick is to have feet placement "twisted" in advance of a giro. So, for example, we did anti-clockwise giros with the right leg starting placed over the left.

Here is Osvaldo Zotto and Mora Godoy's enrosque:


Again, remember that decorations should not change the dance tempo, they should simply add to it.

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- David Bailey, 19th April 2010