Walking walking

8th September 2010

Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama: So... um... that bum knee of yours is looking pretty good. And the other one's not too bad either.
Lt. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace: Lee, if you want to ask me to dance, just ask.
Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama: You want to dance?
Lt. Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace: Me in a dress is a once in a lifetime opportunity
~ Battlestar Galactica


Let's face it, if you can't walk you've got problems when it comes to tango :(

I think there's a number of fundamental problems to overcome.


"The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."~ Scotty

To put it mildly, walking in tango has become highly specialised to work a certain way. Unfortunately what this means is that small changes in posture can have very large effects. If your hips are so, you stay in balance. Move them an inch this way and you fall over. You'll get away with bad posture in some dances, but to do tango well, you really need to sort out your posture.


"Five by five is the best of 25 possible subjective responses used to describe the quality of communications. The signal quality is reported on two scales; the first is for signal strength, and the second for signal clarity. Both these scales range from one to five, where one is the worst and five is the best. Five by five therefore means a signal that has excellent strength and perfect clarity - the most understandable signal possible."

You're going to have to convey to the woman that you want her to move, ideally with some specifics on what that motion is. The music will help, but the embrace is your primary method of doing this.

Flaws in your embrace muck up your chances of getting your follower to receive 5 by 5. So once your posture's working, (because if it isn't it'll fundamentally mess up your embrace) you need to get your embrace sorted out.


"Well, she's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally stepped on her foot. Actually, replace 'accidentally' with 'repeatedly,' and replace 'stepped' with 'stamped.' " ~ Simpson's Guide to Tango.

There's no two way about it, fear of stepping on the follower is a big problem.

For a start, you're probably not 5 by 5 when you're learning, and to make life even more entertaining, the women you're dancing with will probably respond in a variety of different ways.

What this tends to result in is that first guys are hesitant. But then we realise that doesn't work. So we try being over-confident. But that doesn't work either.

So finally we come up with a variety of fudges. Which often works 95% of the time for social dancing in London. However you're back to the old problem of what about the other 5%? For that you need to be able to walk properly.

Killing Kobolds

"I don't think I can kill a Balor. I'm not in that much favour with my god"
"Ah, but if you killed a Balor, then you would be in that much favour with him. Hmmm it's a catch 22. You can't get into enough favour to kill a Balor without first having killed a Balor. So how else can you do it?"
[Together] "Killing Kobolds!"
~ Fairydragon

So what's the tango equivalent of killing kobolds? Well in this case I'd recommend practicing in socks. Now you can focus on walking properly without being afraid because:

  • If you repeatedly step on her feet it won't hurt
  • You're practicing so you're allowed to repeatedly step on her feet :o)

I'd recommend either wearing two pairs of socks, or a pair of thick wooly socks. You can also buy ballet slippers very cheaply and they work well.


Xander: "Aren't you supposed to be drinking tea, anyway?"
Giles: "Tea is soothing. I wish to be tense."
Xander: "OK. But you're destroying a perfectly good cultural stereotype here."

Perhaps unsurprisingly the result of all the above is an awful lot of tension, and you guessed it, that messes things up too.

While I appreciate that this is easier said than done, try to relax when you walk. A problem a lot of leaders have is that most of the "professional" dancing they've seen is really show dancing and that does have quite a bit of tension in it, especially if they're hoisting the woman upside down and holding her there (I don't know what that move is called, but I bet it ends in "ada" ).

Have a look at this guy, Ricardo Vidort. What I particularly like about this is that he dances like he's dancing socially. He follows the line of dance, stays in one lane, progresses, pauses and not once does he turn the woman upside down. The whole thing is a lot less tense than what you're probably used to seeing in London.


"There comes a point where you just have to rack up some tango mileage" ~ Luis Rodriguez

All the above takes time. It may be that once upon a time tango was a simple folk dance you could pick up easily. I don't know. But I think you have to bear in mind the difference between picking something up and actually being good at it. What "good" means for you, is up to you decide. The two pieces of advice I would give you to keep you reasonably sane along the way are these

  • Keep coming back to these ideas and gradually you'll get better
  • Tango is enjoyable from Day 1. While getting a good walk is a worthwhile goal, don't wait till then to let yourself enjoy dancing.

Faith: "Hey, as long as you don't go scratchin' at me or humpin' my leg, we're five-by-five, ya' know?"
Oz: "Fair enough."

~ Christopher O'Shea, 9th September 2010

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