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Seven Argentine Starters

For a lot of people, the idea of Leading a dance in Argentine Tango either strikes fear into their heart, and they psyche themselves out to the point where they believe that they can’t do it. Or they overthink the thing to death and reach the same point of thinking they can’t do it or that it’s exceptionally difficult. Or there are those that believe that they feel comfortable enough with Leading a dance. In all three of these types of Leads, regardless of the role (Leading or Following), there’s a moment of “What’s Next ?” right at the beginning of a song. For the Follower, the moment comes in the form of the Follower asking the question in their mind, “What do they (the Lead) want ?” over and over again in their minds. Even though they’ve settled into the embrace, until there is movement, until there is some kind of signal (resistance and compression based or intention based dancing) the Follower exists in a heightened state of hyper-awareness of asking this question. For the Lead, the question becomes “What am I going to do ?” over and over and over again until they’re either forced to move because they’re holding up the line of dance or they fall into their standard opening. In both cases, the dance starts from a place of confusion and cluelessness of “What’s Next ?”. What if as a Lead or as a Follower that state of confusion, that state of feeling dumbfounded were to completely disappear ? What would happen to your abilities as a dancer if you created a series of Openings (and closings) to the dance. Not a series of intricate patterns, no….but rather, simple ways to start a dance that put both Lead and Follower at ease ? That’s where today’s Tango Topic picks up. It addresses what to do at the beginning of the dance with 7 Ways to Start a Dance, as well as 9 Ways not to Start a Dance. So without further yappment, Tango Topics presents the importance of Seven Argentine Starters!

What Is A ‘Starter’ ? A ‘Starter’ is a bit misleading, no pun intended because one might erroneously reach the conclusion that an Argentine Starter was a specific piece of vocabulary, a pattern, that you can use. Unfortunately that’s not the case. It’s more of a simple primer, actually 7 simple primers, that you can use to create more complex choices. Think of an Argentine Leading Starter as something a Vaudeville dancer would call “Vamping” until you’re ready for something else. Which roughly translates from a Vaudeville perspective of doing the same thing over and over and over until everyone is on the same page, doing what they need to be doing, in the right key, on the right note, singing the right words, in the same steps, and then they can proceed with the next thing. The same thing is true in Argentine Tango to an extent. In it’s simplest form an Argentine Leading Starter is a series of simple movements to begin a dance with. That’s it, that’s all. There’s nothing grandiose about it but there is something calming about it. And that’s the important part. Calming both partners. We desire calm, rational, clearly thought out movement, as well as thought and creating a state of placid, serene, almost tranquil state of mind and body for three distinct purposes: 1.) Getting to a deeper state of integration with one’s partner. 2.) Creating a heightened state of readiness for all that may occur that is as much about awareness as it is about being delightful. 3.) Removing any and all nervousness and confusion because we’re employing simple things that can translate to more complex things later on. This is an Argentine Starter.

Difficulty Rating:  (2 / 5)

Follower’s Notation. It should be noted that if you’re a Follower, just because this topic sounds like “Leading…” whatever, that shouldn’t pay attention. When the reality is that you DO in fact want to pay attention to this stuff for a wide variety of reasons which we’ll get to in the Follower’s Perspective below.


The Nine Non-Starters. Let’s paint a picture.

You finally get the chance to dance with the parnter that you’ve been wanting to dance with all night long. You’ve been waiting for your chance, just the right moment when they’re available, the right tanda, the right…everything. You seize the opportunity with your best Cabeceo/Mirada! The potential partner responds with a hearty nod in your direction. You look around you briefly to make sure that they’re replying to your Cabeceo/Mirada, you look back at them and they smile and nod emphatically that it is indeed you that they’ve said “yes” to. The Lead walks around the dance floor, not across (tsk, tsk, tsk) it, to get to the Follower. The Follower waits for the Lead to get to them, and they stay seated until the Lead gets to them, so that they can extend their hand to the Follower. The Follower, in keeping in the vien of these things, hasn’t jumped up to meet the Lead, because they’re making absolutely certain that this Lead is was the one that accepted your cabeceo for.

They do so, and they then take the Follower by the hand walking to them entry point of the Milonga floor. And that’s when the Lead invokes the very needed and acceptable practice of: The Lead’s Cabeceo! Once the couple has entry to the floor guaranteed, they both embrace each other in their best, delisioso embrace that they can muster. It’s soft. It’s warm. It’s inviting. It’s lite but engaging. It’s inviting yet comforting. They feel their partner melt into them and vice versa. They match every nuance of their arms and body molding together. They’re both glowing from ear to ear. OMFG!!! They feel good to each other. It’s a delight of the senses. The first few bars of the music are finally breaking through their consciousness. And that’s when the Lead is reminded that they want to impress this Follower with their best move. So they whip out their finest Volcada right from the start.


This was a lovely set up to a dance with a lovely partner. Lovely right up to the point where the Lead lost their damned mind and decided to use an Argentine Volcada to start their dance! The embrace setup was nice. The walk to the floor was almost bordering on the magical. Even the Lead Cabeceo was a nice touch. The Follower recognized this as the Lead taking care that they’re not jostled in any way. That they have time. And then….the lead had to go and ruin it with this jarring transition from a lovely experience  to “Here let me try to impress this Follower with my utmost bestest move….”.

MAJOR ‘NOT’!!!!!

This is a monster no-no on multiple levels.

The reality is that as a couple you can start the dance any way you want to do so. But TangoTopics suggests that there are 9 pieces of Tango vocabulary that you do not want to begin a dance with, and the Argentine Volcada is one of those nine! Truth be told all the items on this list of Tango No-No’s all have one thing in common: They’re All Jarring! Meaning that they’ll all transpose from a lovely embrace starting point into OMFG…WHAT WAS THAT!?!?!?!? Poof….wave good bye to the magical moment.

Think of it this way, imagine that you’re waking up in the morning and you’re having the loveliest of dreams and then your alarm clock goes off with blaring loud music at 6 am in the morning! About the only thing that you can say in that instance is that you’re up. But for you peace of mind and the idea of gently waking from sleep….not so much with that. So without further yappment of what not to do, here are the Nine Ways Not To Start A Dance:

1.) Traveling Ochos. The Applied Disassociation, while seeming trivial is work for the Follower, no matter how you slice it. And if the Follower is engaging pivots instead of Applied Disassociation, it is still work.

2.) The Follower’s Molinete. For the same reason that Traveling Ochos are a major no-no. It’s work right from the moment go for the Follower. Even though these are both foundational elements…one of the Seven Basic Moves of Tango…it’s still a valid move, just too much work to start a dance with. Even though it’s very clear as to what has to happen, there are other ways to communicate this idea of clarity.

3.) Sacadas. Any Sacada. It doesn’t matter which one it is. Even a gentle Social Sacada which may result in a lovely backcross for the Follower…not.

Items 4 – 9 are all the same: 4.) Colgada (any). 5.) Volcada (any). 6.) Parada. 7.) Gancho (any). 8.) Boleo (any). 9.) Pasada.

They all jar the Follower from a state of “What a lovely embrace my partner has…” into “JESUS H. KAY-RICE-T!!!!! What on God’s Green Earth is THAT?!?!?!?!?”.

Not something you want to do.

At all.


From A Following Perspective, for you Argentine Starters, if implemented properly should feel like easing you into the dance, like easing into a warm bath. At no point should you be pushed into doing X, Y, or Z. And if you know a Lead that starts the dance this way….here’s a very helpful piece of advice for you which you’re going to completely argue with and then ignore: STOP DANCING WITH THAT LEAD! The reason ? This Lead is focused on vocabulary and not you. This is akin dating someone that’s more interested in being seen with you than you in reality. While they may be lovely people off the dance floor, their vision of dancing is not one that has you in mind. The problem here is that you will keep enabling less than desirable social behavior by continuing to dance with them on a regular basis until you get them to a practica and explain it to them like a five-year-old. Because they need to have it explained them, clearly. This is not to say that you should never dance with this person ever again. But it is to say that you may have to have a few words with them, off the dance floor and/or at a practica and express what you’d actually like. Now to be fair there are some Followers that will view this advice as poppycock because they like jarring transitions. They like being challenged. They want to be pushed. They want to be shoved. They want to be …. whatever it is that they like. That’s the reality. But Tango Topics is willing to bet these same Followers don’t like rough playing 24/7 either but do like a wide variety of experiences. And there’s nothing wrong with that. All we’re suggesting is that there’s a desirable way to start off each and every dance and each and every tanda….and it is not throwing you around the room like a rag doll! To be certain that’s exactly what you’re encouraging each time you accept a dance from a Lead that starts their dances off using one of the methods outlined above.

That said.

There is a reason you do actually want to pay attention to this stuff. Yes, it’s “leading” and that generally isn’t of a whole lot of interest to you but the fact of the matter is that right now you’re hearing one side of a conversation. Ideally, you want to hear the entire conversation. And you can’t do that because you’re only playing with the Role of the Passive Follower. Mind you, you’re executing what your Lead is asking for to the best of your ability but there are times when you hear something in the music that you’d wish a Lead would do, or that you have an idea that you like to play with. It is for these reasons (and nine more actually) that you want to start to pay attention to how a Lead starts a dance with you. The tools that they use or can use to open the dance to greater and greater depths of a piece of music. (See: The Nine Spaces of the Active Follower).

The Follower’s Gotcha. Lack of Awareness. Uuuugh. Trust us. We know what we’re talking about. You just want to turn off, and be led. To exist in that space of just accepting what happens and going with the flooooow. We get it. We’re not blind. It’s a powerful space that is. To close your eyes and just be able to perfect and execute on demand and flow from idea to idea. We get it. That can be ooodles of fun…for about 20 seconds until the Lead jars you out of that state with some crazy fool move that they saw on youtube about 10 minutes before the milonga started while they sat in their car or were on the subway, and haven’t practiced at all in any way, shape, or form except right now in this moment with you…uuuuugh! That lack of awareness of what’s going on right from the get-go can make it appear like you don’t know what you’re doing and worse so you may stumble and never catch up. You’re going to blame yourself for this….when in reality the blame is the Lead’s and not you. But had you been aware, awake, eyes open, cognizant, conscious, active, engaged, instead of passive with your eyes closed just accepting what was happening, then you could avoid that little hiccup and be prepared for the Lead that wants to ‘impress’ you. 🙂

From a Leading Perspective, the one thing that every Lead overlooks is walking with your partner and the importance of it. We take classes on all sorts of vocabulary, and yet all that vocabulary, and musical interpretation of that vocabulary is absolutely pointless if one’s walk is not clean, clear, and consistent.

So as you can see from the video above, the first thing on our list is that we want to start a dance with is: Walking. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting your dance with a walk, each and every time and slowly, gradually transitioning into more complex vocabulary choices. However, the importance of the walk should not be relegated to leading into more complex vocabulary. Why is this so ? This is probably one of the only times that Tango Topics will use YouTube Tango Performances as an example of what you want to do from the start. Look no further than each and every Tango performance. What do they all have in common ? They all start out with a  walk. This is done for several reasons from a performance perspective, most notably it is the foundation of the dance. Secondly, it is done to showcase what the couple’s foundation looks like. Thirdly that if they’re teaching, and they generally are, to show off the elegance of their walk, the gracefulness of it, as well as power and precision of their walk. Those three factors also apply in Social Tango as well but the focus being not performance but an opportunity to showcase what you can do before you do anything else! So starting with the walk is incredibly important. It’s also a way to get comfortable with your partner, to find out who and what they are, as well as to find where and how you fit together as dancing partners. If you can walk well together, then you’re on to something. As a Lead this aspect should not be overlooked in any way, shape, or form but rather you should look for numerous opportunities within the first song to walk with your partner. And to extend this idea even further, from a musical perspective, here’s a free hint…a great place to accentuate the walk AFTER the beginning of the song, is IF the song contains a singer, then walk to the singer. Why ? The singer is there to lull the listener into another place. So, let the singer do their job. This is not a time talk in your partner’s ear. This is a time to dance, listen to the song, and listen to your partner’s body moving in time to the music, and…the singer!

The next item on this list is Item Number Two is You should….oh I don’t know….really consider subscribing Item Number Three is you should really think about subscribing! Item Number Four is Milonguero Ochos. Fortunately for you, you have numerous examples of Milonguero Ochos plus an extensive video on this very topic in: Lead Exercises. Item Number Five wants to be have you thought of possibly ponying up the cash to see what’s here ? . Item Number Six is the only way to see this stuff. Item Number Seven is….drum roll please….. whip out your credit card….That’s the only way to see this stuff. Not to put too fine a point on this but TNSTAAFL. Which, in case you’re not paying attention, is an acronym via the famous author, Robert Heinlein: There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch! The bottom line is that you’re getting a lot of great information for free and while you would ordinarily go to a class and pay for that class, why wouldn’t you pay for that class here ? There’s no guilt trip here, just the fact that if you like what you’re seeing and hearing, and you get something out of it subscribe to the site and take it for a ride for 3 months. You won’t be sorry. Ok, maybe you will be but for .81 cents a day for 3 months…it’s a steal and you might actually get something out of it.

The Hard Part is overriding your instinct to dance big with lots of vocabulary, with lots and lots of changes to keep the Follower interested. That’s a Leading fallacy by the way. The Follower has no more interest to dance complex figures or crazy vocabulary than you do to swallow glass! They simply want a very pleasant, and musical experience that they can feel good about. It doesn’t need to get any more complex than that. That’s it, that’s all. It needs to be simple, clean, clear, concise and musical. What this boils down to is to dance in a more myopic way than you’re used to. It means to keep your vocabulary limited to four simple items: Walking, Ochos, Turns, and Crosses with an embrace that is pleasant. One which doesn’t constrict or constrain their motions. One that does not compress, or requires resistance. The rest of the potential vocabulary choices should be used as an accent, or as spice, or as a way to vary the dance slightly. That’s the hard part.

The Lead’s Gotcha! Truthfully there isn’t a gotcha to this stuff. Except possibly knowing it cold and understanding the Musical Pauses. Which is why we recommend the Dancing In A Small Space video and it’s companion piece Dancing In A Small Space – The  Addendum. We also recommend studying up on the 5 Pause Types from our Musical Education Course.

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

About The Video. This video is 25m:13s in length in 4 sections. Both lead and follower technique are combined and integrated into the video. Bold items below shown in video sample video above.

Introduction – 00:02:43
9 Ways Not To Start A Dance – 00:06:08
7 Ways to Start A Dance – 00:13:59
Closure With Examples – 00:01:51

Related Videos Mentioned In This Article: 

The Six Ways of WalkingDownload
Dancing In A Small Space – Article
Dancing In A Small Space – The Addendum – Article

this video can be purchased through the tango topics store 🙂

thoughts about tango ?

The Missing Information. Dearest Reader. TangoTopics is glad that you are reading this topic in the hopes that it may get you to question and to dig a little deeper into your foundation, into the music, into the codigos of the dance. However, this topic only scratches the surface. Because you’re only seeing half of the information. You really do need to see all of it. If you had registered or ponied up the kingly sum of $7.95 for your first week, then you’d either see a free tip here, or if you’re a paying subscriber you’d see some detailed notes about the video that were either left out of the video or were an afterthought to the video after it was shot! However, because you haven’t gone and registered at least, you’re missing some helpful information that could give you a tip to making your dance a better experience for you and your partners!

Why should you subscribe for access ?  Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

– The Last Word –

Tango Topics is little reminders and snippets of information that your teachers would have told you about but didn’t have time to or didn’t care to remind you for the umpteenth millionth time. Do you need videos like these ? Yes. Why ? Simple…you need as many reminders as possible in as many forms as you can get. In today’s Tango world it does take a village to raise a dancer. And that means having as many voices, reminders, ideas, concepts, perspectives as possible. This video and the rest of the ones that are sitting behind the Tango Topics paywall are that. While what you’re seeing above is only the smallest hint of what’s contained in the actual video. It should be enough for you to make a reasoned and intelligent choice that perhaps there’s something of value in this site and the videos that are here. Considering becoming a subscriber today.

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