Tango Structure: A Solid Foundation for Improvisation

Please note:  This was one of our first and most popular posts here at miguelymichelletango.com.  In celebration of the completion of our first year of blogging we share it with you again.


El Molinete, el Sandwichito and Ochos:  these are some common tango figures, learned and passed down from milonguero to milonguero.  The names are descriptive and metaphorically represent the movement of the couple, the positions of the feet or an outline drawn on a soft floor.

Do you think of them as complete figures?  Or can you decifer them into their components?  Do you have a figure-based or structural perspective of tango?

Did you know that Back Ochos are simply combinations of two back crosses, the first in one direction and the second in the opposite direction?

Tango can be considered a figure-based system, composed of a myriad of specific combinations.  These figures can be performed flawlessly through memorization and repetition, particularly if both members of the couple know the figure.

However, tango can be so much more!!!  One of the delights and defining characteristics of Argentine tango is that it is an evolving, improvised dance.  It is possible to create a truly personal, creative and even original experience with every song.  The path towards tango improvisation involves learning and understanding the underlying structure of tango.

Studying tango from a  structural perspective means focusing on effective leading and following in each step, recognizing the three steps of tango in all of their forms, mastering the turn (el giro) and changes of direction.  It includes the integration of elements such as sacadas, ganchos, colgadas and volcadas.   It is applicable to all styles of tango and respects the differences in each.  Both beginners and advanced dancers alike can benefit from a structural understanding of tango.  Each can grow and improve in her way, embarking on a path towards  improvisation.

Interested in learning more?  Check out our class schedule.  Come join us — you will have a great time!!

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