Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

7 Basic Moves. There are seven basic moves to Argentine Tango from which the dance is derived. In order, and sequence, they are 1.) Forward Steps. 2.) Side Steps. 3.) Back Steps. 4.) Forward/Back Traveling Ochos (and 3 of the other 7 remaining ochos). 5.) Turns [7 of the 8 turns: a.) The Follower’s Molinete/Lead’s Giro. b.) Milonguero Turn. c.) Rock Step.  d.) Calesitas. e.) Media Luna Turns. f.) Colgada Turns. g.) Anti-Molinete]. 6.) The Argentine Cross (all 256 possibilities). And 7.) The Linear Ocho Cortado / Circular Ocho Cortado. This last one could be construed as ‘fluff’ but it’s used enough that it has become ubiquitous vocabulary, hence the reason it’s included here. One could argue that the Argentine 8 Count Basic is part of this equation as well. And you’d be slightly misguided on that one. The 8 Count in fact derives it’s very existence from the 7 basic moves in fact one them is present in the 8 count – The Argentine Cross (steps 2 thru 5), however we’re talking about ‘movements‘, not patterns as you’ll soon see. 

Usage. These ideas are constantly being put into use, it forms the backbone of 98% of the dance in Open Embrace, Close Embrace (and it’s multiple variations), a Vee-Embrace (and it’s variations), and/or the Berlin Embrace construct.

Walking is back steps for the Follower, and Forward steps for the Lead (mostly). Yes there are side steps, and yes both roles do all 3 steps, however, we’re talking about what happens 80 to 90% of the time here. 🙂

– Traveling Ochos are Forward steps for the lead, and Applied Dissociative back steps for the Follower. While the Lead can (and should) do either Traveling or Linear ochos with their Follower it doesn’t happen all that often. It’s cool when it does. 

Milonguero Ochos are walking back steps for the Follower, and walking forward steps for the Lead. Not shown in the video.

– The Follower’s Molinete is forward, side, back, while the lead engages any number of ideas from standing to turning with them.

– The Argentine Cross is all about crossing the feet and getting back in front of your partner, and the same is true of the Linear Ocho Cortado. 🙂

And anything else you do is a variation on these ideas with 6 notable exceptions. 1.) Volcadas. 2.) Colgadas. 3.) Wraps. 4.) Sacadas. 5.) Ganchos. 6.) Boleos Which are considered specialty vocabulary choices, yet each one contains variations on a theme of the original 7. Don’t believe that statement is true ? Ok, a Volcada is nothing more than a glorified Argentine Cross, it just so happens that this cross is what you think of a ‘off-axis’. Still another ? The Boleo and the Gancho are both based off the foundation of the Traveling and/or Circular Ocho! The Wrap ? Based on the Follower’s or Lead’s Molinete! The Colgada, nearly any variation of one is based off the Follower’s or Lead’s Molinete! It just so happens in that particular instance, you’re ‘off-axis’.

notions of tango

The Elephant In The Room: Before we go any further, let’s address what some will vehemently disagree with – that the 8 Count Basic is being labeled a ‘pattern’ and not a basic movement! The fact is that it is a pattern, a linear series of steps that when done in sequence (that’s the important part is that it is a sequence) form the basis of the pattern, which is in this case not done all that frequently. You could argue that the Ocho Cortado falls into this same category but the Cortado has one thing in it’s favor (actually 2) that the 8 Count does not: Frequency! Remember that we’re including it because of it’s frequency the number of times you see it. You could also include Rock Steps here by that logic. However as you have already seen the dance can get by (and we want it to get by) without the insesent Rock Step Lead (please see the link). The second reason is this: Can the 8 count basic be done any other way EXCEPT for the linear fashion that it’s in and still be called the 8 Count ? No. It can’t. The Ocho Cortado can, you can take it apart and put it back together again in any number of ways and it’s still a Cortado, or cut ocho!

Lead, Follow, or Both ? Both roles.

a few things to ponder

The Tango Topics Opinion: There is an idea, theory, or belief with regards to the dance that wants to be based on steps, patterns, and figures. And that if you know enough figures, if you are familiar with enough patterns, if you have danced enough figures that become second nature for you, your dance starts to take on an air of variance, or variation that it begins to look as though it was completely random, and or musically inspired.

There are a few problems with this line of reasoning. 1.) You require an inordinate number of them in order for that to be true. 2.) Usually, those steps, patterns, and figures can not be disassembled and put back together in any number of ways, they have to exist in a very specific linear progression, thereby making them not all that useful except for in the specific. 🙁 3.) While learning this stuff does create an air of confidence in what you are doing, there is certainty or surety in the application (if not the execution) of these ideas, it does remove all doubt that X will precede Y, and that Y will precede Z, and so on….and that gives comfort to some people that removes the ‘worry’ aspect of the ‘improvised’ or in the moment composition of self-made choreography. The problem is that if you veer from these ideas, in even the slightest, that the effects are usually less than desirable, and usually make most people think you’re an idiot because you can’t dance. 4.) The reality is that dancing this way requires that both parties know exactly X, Y, and Z in exacting detail. Otherwise less than desirable things occur. 🙁

To be clear, this is not dancing – steps, patterns, and figures. It is repetition. It’s regurgitation. It is by no means or reality or stretch of reality creative or choreographic. It is in its simplest form, just copying what someone else has already done, what someone else has already figured out to one particular song, and that sequence may apply elsewhere but realistically it is for that song only. While you can learn an enormous amount about how and why things are done, danced, and to be fair there are enormous benefits to understanding the structure of X, the timing of Y. Absolutely. Unfortunately most people don’t see these things as teaching tools but literal translations of what should happen on a social dance floor.

And some people take it as gospel that ONLY that should happen, and that alone. That if X does not happen, everything is ruined.

There is another way to dance Tango. And it has nothing to do with Steps, Patterns, and or Figures. It has everything to do with understanding the 7 Basic Moves, and then creating a basic palette of movements based on that that is yours and yours alone. This is scary to be certain, because the reality is that you’re going to screw it up, several times, if you’re lucky. You may have some successes, but they’ll be short lived, until you finally understand what message you want to convey with each piece of music, to each orchestra. This is one reason why Tango takes a long, long, long time to ‘get’. That it’s not something that just magically happens. It takes many years if not a decade or two to get to a point where you can rightfully feel some level of simple mastery over these most basic elements. People want the quick and easy path, but that path has more than a few flaws, as you can see from the 4 points above. There is another method and that means learning to dance the foundation of the dance, and learning to dance it very well.  The 7 Basic Moves, think about it! #SocialDance #ArgentineTango #TangoDancing

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