The Ghost Guide to Social Tango 2nd Edition

24th February 2010


This is the second edition of the Ghost Guide to Tango. The original edition is here, for comparison purposes.

Now with video!

"As to what it will become that remains to be seen. I'm going to add illustrations to make the move descriptions clearer." ~ me, 2 years ago.

The original Ghost Guide to Tango had a number of illustrations, which certainly helped make the text clearer, but with the recent improvements in technology it now makes sense to add video.

Let's face it, when demonstrated by teachers, everything looks fluid and graceful. Sadly, when danced socially by good intermediates it often doesn't work out that that way. I've realised that the majority of tango dancers will never reach "teacher / professional" level. Most are quite content to reach "good intermediate" level after a few years and then simply stay there and enjoy dancing and socializing.

So rather than get two teachers to demonstrate the Ghost Guide, instead two "good intermediate dancers" kindly agreed to be filmed to show you what you can expect this stuff to actually look like in reality.

To make the videos clearer, the man has white shoelaces on his right foot and black on his left. The woman has a red ribbon tied to her right foot and a black ribbon on her left.

Social Dancing

"It's a catch-22 situation. You need to practice this move to understand the concepts, but the move itself isn't really suitable for social dancing" ~ Bianca on "Living Dangerously"

So what moves will actually work socially between two good intermediate dancers and what will they actually look like?

The First Edition was the beginning of an exploration of possibilities in tango. The Second Edition focusses on what will actually work socially between good intermediate dancers who haven't met before. The boleos are a good example. They're deliberately kept "safe" and are designed not to cause injury to dancers around you.

For Practice only

Ganchos and back sacadas really don't work well at intermediate level. I've included a practice exercise for each in case you want to work on them with s specific partner or you intend going beyond intermediate level, but they're not designed for normal social dancing.

But I can dance Living Dangerously!

It is possible to lead more complicated moves on dance partners, or people you dance with regularly, especially if you did the same class or workshop.

Likewise you might settle for leading a move not that well. And of course you may simply be a brilliant dancer, or indeed dancing with someone who's a brilliant dancer.

I'm not saying you can't lead the other stuff socially.

What I am saying though, is in my experience and in talking with many other dancers, a lot tango moves are very hit-and-miss as to whether they actually work in social dancing. What's included here should work 99% of the time. If you want to build on that, fair enough.

Any move from any move

The First Edition gave examples of how to dance any move from a sidestep left.

The Second Edition takes this a step further. When you look at the clips you'll see that they're not sequences. There isn't a Basic 8 count in sight, or other convoluted beginnings. The leader literally just does whatever the concept is. Likewise there's no complicated endings.

This is a good example:

Even in the longer clips where the leader does a few steps to maneuver, this is purely to get a different camera angle. There's no "sequence" involved. This means that you can get into and out of any move whenever you want, allowing you to focus on dancing rather than memorizing umpteen sequences.

In fact there's only two possible type of position for the follower to be in:

  • a) With her legs apart
  • b) With her legs together (in case you're wondering, "legs crossed" counts as together)

The clips show a variety of ways to get into the various concepts from both of these positions.

For example:

Cross from legs apart:

Cross from legs together:

This means that once you can do a concept from both these positions:

  • a) You can do any move from any move
  • b) There's no need for sequences
  • c) You don't even need to remember ways to get from one specific move to another
  • d) As the "moves" themselves will also be in one these two positions at any given point in time, you can combine the moves together

For example, here:

What hasn't changed

It's still not designed to teach. The dancers are of good intermediate standard, they're not teachers. What's shown here is intended to:

  • a) act as an aide memoire for things you've already learnt
  • b) give you some ideas to play with and ask you teacher about
  • c) make a clearer definition of what is workable between good intermediate social dancers

A woman's perspective

The First Edition was heavily biased towards leaders. Unfortunately this meant a lot of useful female perspective was missing.

The "twisty" move is a good example of something that I was taught and danced socially quite contentedly without knowing the other side.

To redress this balance, MsHedgehog has kindly added some thoughts (Marked with MsH:) on what it's like from the woman's point of view at "good intermediate level".

Again you'll see from her comments that they're not "how to do the perfect ocho". They will however give both men and women useful insights into the practicalities of social dancing ranging from wayward high heels to wayward makeup.

And finally...

"Do you know what the answer is or are you just guessing?" ~ Marc 'Animal' MacYoung.

We're not teachers.

As far as I know, everything I've written here is right and works for social dancing. But there are many different styles and subtleties to tango.

Your teacher may simply do things in a different way than I've been taught.

Basically find a teacher you trust and learn from them. However hopefully this Guide might help you ask useful questions to get at answers that will help your dancing considerably.

We're not just guessing, but we might be just wrong. :-)

- Christopher O'Shea, 24th February 2010