Dances with beginners

13th November 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

"Why do you want to dance with beginners?" ~ a recent conversation


So... your friends start a new venue, and so you helpfully show up on the opening night to offer some support (plus the DJ has excellent taste in music and chocolate was mentioned).

Some of their family have also turned up .So you ask one of the sisters if she'd like to dance? Thing is she's done no tango whatsoever and her dancing experience is that she's "done some aerobics". What do you do?

Well to be honest you take your shoes off and resign yourself to stepping on her feet a lot.

And you think to yourself (because you dance with beginners a lot) there must be a better way!

A tale of two parts

This was a discovery of two parts. The first part is science (though if you look closely you'll see a lot of guys who dance milonga do something similar to this) The second frankly was luck. But it works which is the important thing. Its been tested on beginners who put bluntly could not follow at all.

To really test it, an experienced follow was asked to dance as if she were a terrible beginner. In fact the very worst she could come up with. (The results of which was so bad as to be comic.) It still worked, much to our amazement.

It works in both close and open embrace.

"Well ok you can do this....but why would you want to?" George Garcia discussing the leader continually walking with the follower on his right without resolving to a cross.

It's based largely on elements of ways to lead the cross

The Science Bit

A way to lead the cross in close embrace is for the leader to only partly off-set himself such that his right foot is now in the same track as the follower's right foot. His left foot goes in the track where his right foot would normally go. This creates three tracks rather than the normal four.

The leader's first step is a small one with his left foot and it's to this third track.

Basically no matter how long it takes the follower to step back, or if she steps diagonally out to the side, there's no way for you to collide. In open embrace she could actually step forwards!

An adornment leader's sometimes do when leading the cross is to place their right foot behind their left, sometimes in an actual cross position, sometimes just slightly behind. This is your second step.

Again it's safe and collision-free.

And that was the beginning. You can repeat it for the whole dance.

Throw in some pauses, and voila.

The Luck Bit

Do the first two steps as above.

Here's the weird thing. Instead doing step 2 you can now step forwards to where you would if you were walking normally with your right foot.

And then you can step forwards as if you were walking normally with your left foot.

At this point you can walk normally

And it keeps working as long as you lead continuous steps.

Warning: as soon as you collect / stop / pause etc it breaks and you have to go back to step 1 again.


While I'm not entirely sure how this works, what I do know is that it relies on the person being a bad follower. The better a follower is the faster it falls apart.

As George Garcia rightly pointed out although it can be done, it really doesn't make sense in a tango context. The beginner doesn't have enough experience yet to know this. The more experienced dancer wonders what you're doing?!

But it works. It's stable enough that beginner's can't pull me off balance and it will get you around the dance floor in a calm, orderly fashion without disrupting the other dancers.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 12th November 2009

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