Argentine Tango Syllabus

This section describes the syllabus (topic list) for Argentine Tango classes.

Generally speaking, all Learning Tango classes will refer to areas within this syllabus.


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section A: The Embrace

This section describes the key LearningTango principles taught for the Embrace.

(See the Syllabus page for a list of the other topics in the syllabus.)

A1: Embrace variations

Embraces typically vary, depending on factors including:

A2: Some common types of embrace

This section describes a few common embraces in Tango, and how each is best used.

Variation 1: Close parallel embrace: "Airport hug"

Variation 2: Open: "Looser hold"

Variation 3: V Embrace: "Angled"

Variation 4: Practice

Note: there are many other variations (and variations of variations) possible.

A3: Deciding which embrace to use

There are different philosophies for how to determine which embrace will be used. But for the purposes of this syllabus, we will assume that the embrace type is offered by the leader, and is then accepted / rejected by the follower.

A4: Getting into the embrace

An example sequence of events for setting a close embrace might be:

  1. The leader connects with the partner's chest first
  2. The leader places his right arm lightly around her back, while raising his left arm
  3. The follower raises her right arm, and the leader's left hand joins with it
  4. The follower reaches around the leader with her left hand to set the embrace (depending on the height difference, the follower's left hand can go around the leader's neck shoulders, or back)

Key principles:


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section B: How to Stand

(Note In Argentine Tango, the topics of Posture, Axis, Groundedness, and Balance are interdependent; I've grouped them all under the heading of "how to stand").

B1: Balance

Our balance relies on a combination of our inner ear mechanism, feedback from our body, and response from muscles.

There is also pivoting on the ball of the foot and this is something that both leaders and followers have to practice in order to achieve balance through the movement to achieve a degree of control; so that we are balanced through whatever amount of pivot we do.

B2: Posture

B3: Groundedness ("stability")

Definition: Being grounded means focussing your energy downwards into the floor - being stable. So being less grounded means being less stable.

B4: Axis

Definition: "Axis" is a notional vertical line through your centre of gravity; lying somewhere between your navel and your spine, running up through your neck and head, around which the body can twist eg chest relative to hips. Below the navel, the axis will continue and arrive, for example into the foot of the supporting leg.

B5: Isolation, free leg and collection


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section C: Lead and Follow

(See the Syllabus page for a list of the other topics in the syllabus.)

C1: Connection

C2: The Leader's Role

The leader should:

C3: The Follower's Role

The follower should:


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section D: Core movements

(Note In Argentine Tango, the topics of Posture, Axis, Groundedness, and Balance are interdependent; I've grouped them all under the heading of "how to stand").

(See the Syllabus page for a list of the other topics in the syllabus.)

D1: Forward / back step

The sequence of events for leading and taking a step is: Lead -> Follow -> Follow.

A more detailed explanation:

  1. The leader signals his intention by moving his chest (centre) forwards
  2. The follower extends/moves her free foot back
  3. The leader starts his step, into the space that the follower has made available
  4. The follower transfer her weight onto the foot

An even more detailed description:

  1. For the leader, intention to move forward can be expressed by allowing the upper body to move but delaying the leg movement by touching the thighs together. The foot is then moved forward so that the lower legs are in an upside down V shape
  2. The leader then pushes off from the back foot & straightens the back leg, transferring his weight & axis to the front foot (and the followers weight onto her placed back foot)
  3. The follower responds to the leader's intention & projects her non weight bearing leg backwards starting the movement form the core - "squeezing" thighs en route and straightening the leg without transferring any weight onto it.
  4. The leader transfers the weight of the follower onto the foot of the projected leg.
  5. Although the follower is moving backwards, her energy is projected forwards towards the leader. Her backward movement is from the leader's "stronger" energy and not from a self-generated step.

D2: Weight Change

Change weight from one leg to the other.

D3: Sidestep

This is a step to the side, and uses the same Lead-follow-follow technique as the forward / back step.

The order of movement is:

  1. The leader signals his intention by moving his chest (centre) to the side; usually also lowering a little by flexing the knees
  2. The follower extends/moves her free foot to the side in the same direction as indicated by the leader
  3. The leader starts his step, in the same direction that the follower has just moved her foot
  4. Both transfer their weight

D4: Rockstep

Small forwards-and-back rock-step.

D5: Pivots

Pivots are typically performed by the follower, either clockwise or counter-clockwise, based on the lead.


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section E: Common Patterns

(See the Syllabus page for a list of the other topics in the syllabus.)

E1: The Cross

Referring to when a dancer (most often the follower) crosses one foot in front or behind the other.

The most common use of this is when the follower crosses steps back and crosses her left leg over her right. The sequence for this use involves:

  1. Leader leads the follower to extend her leg straight back as the first part of a back step
  2. Follower transfers weight to the back foot
  3. Leader leads the follower's free leg to transfer (diagonally) in front of her back leg, into a crossed position. (Note that followers need to keep their hips facing the leader at this point)
  4. The follower then transfers her weight to the front leg, ready to move back with the back leg

E2: Forward Ocho

Commonly done by the follower, conceptually this involves a pivot plus a forward step (or, a forward step then a pivot)

E3: Back Ocho

Concept: Pivot + backstep (usually led in crossed-system)

Commonly done by the follower, conceptually this involves a pivot plus a back step (or, a back step then a pivot):

E4: Giros (molinetes)

Leader pivots, Follower steps around the leader, in a grapevine step/pattern around the leader: Back -> Side -> Forward & Pivot -> Side & Pivot -> repeat

E5: Track variations

Diagram illustration:


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section F: Dancing

("dancing" topics refer to general information regarding social dancing)

(See the Syllabus page for a list of the other topics in the syllabus.)

F1: Line of Dance

F2: Basic Tempo Changes

Basic changes of tempo include:

Other variations are possible of course - half-time, and so on.

Timing changes of steps are the basis of dancing with musicality, as they allow you to interpret the differences in the music using your dancing.

F3: Improvisation

Argentine Tango is an improvised dance. There is no "Basic Step" like in ballroom dancing - all Basic Steps or Patterns are simply drills, or teaching exercises.

F4: Basic Etiquette

Definition: Tanda - a group of 3 or 4 songs (occasionally 5) of the same style or artist

Definition: Cortina - a brief clip of non-Tango music, used to separate the Tandas

  1. The "3 dance rule" - Normally, you would dance the entire Tanda (three dances) with the same person
  2. "Thank you" indicates that we are done (not a good thing in the middle of a Tanda)
  3. The mirada - cabeceo: Eye contact used to ask for a dance, and the nod to accept it (or look away to refuse).
  4. During a song, don't walk straight across the dancefloor, or stand and talk on the dancefloor for an extended period.
  5. If there's a bump, both couples apologise and check no-one's hurt.
  6. Try and be fresh for your partner - showers, deodourant, breath mints etc. - but don't bathe in aftershave/perfume.

Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section G: Milonga and Vals

G1: Milonga

G2: Vals


Argentine Tango Syllabus: Section H: Tips for leaders and followers

H1: Good Floorcraft for leaders:

H2: Don'ts for Leaders

Leaders, do not:

H3: Good Floorcraft for followers

H4: Don't For Followers

Followers, do not: