Many people are surprised when they find out that Tango is listed as one of the Ballroom dances and isn't considered one of the Latin ones. The reason for this is not anything to do with origin, but more in the similarities between tango and the ballroom dances - such as the anti-clockwise progression around the room, remaining in close hold more than working apart, and an emphasis more on footwork and placement than hip movement and single hand leads.
Unlike the other ballroom dances, Tango has little to no rise and fall. (It is danced as though you are in a room that has a ceiling which is about 2 inches shorter than your actual height... keeping your bum under your shoulders and thinking of your belly button being pulled through to your spine in order to keep your bum from sticking out, your knees are bent and all movement is done in a slightly 'stalking' manner. ) The hold is slightly different as well. The Lady's Left hand does not rest on the Man's arm just below his shoulder. Instead, she places her hand behind the Man's shoulder, with the palm facing the floor and her thumb lightly resting under his armpit. (Sometimes it is said that she should think of giving him a karate chop - as that is the right hand positioning!)
Tango is easier done in body contact with your partner (which helps keep you from knocking knees) and counts in Quicks and Slows like Foxtrot.
There is no one 'basic' step in Tango, so I will give you a set of steps today that you can use repetitively for practice. Basically, the sequence will be 2 Walks, a Progressive Link, and a closed Promenade. Even though all that sounds a little scary, trust me, it is as simple as walking!
Are just that! Start facing diagonal to the closest wall and beginning on your Left Foot take two walks forward. (Slow, Slow)
Take a third step forward (Quick), and then a small one to the side with your Right Foot(Quick). As you put the weight on your right foot, sit into your hip and open your shoulders slightly so that you are facing more directly towards the wall you were travelling towards. Try to make this happen only from the waist up... your knees should remain facing your partner. While you do this, you will also indicate for your partner to open her shoulders so that the both of you are in Promenade Position and facing the direction that you are about to travel.
As you have all of your weight on the Right foot, you are going to push forward onto your Left foot (Slow), take another step forward with your Right Foot (Quick), a tiny step to the Left with your left foot (Quick) and close your Right foot together to your Left (Slow). It is over these last two steps that you will lead your partner to come back in front of you again - closing the promenade!
Starting backwards on the Right Foot, take two Slow steps backwards.
One more step backwards on the Right Foot (Quick), and a small side step onto your Left foot (Quick). On the second step, put all of your weight on the Left Foot and sit into the hip slightly. Your partner should lead you to open your shoulders into promenade position (where you are both facing the same direction) but try to leave your knees facing your partner - this will require you to twist from the waist.
Step forward onto your Right Foot (Slow), and take another forward step - guiding your partner's leg forward with your own (otherwise there is no way of staying in body contact... so your leg will be slightly behind his...) - onto your Left foot (Quick), Your next step should be led, but will be taken with your Right foot forward and side as you turn to face your partner in your original hold (Quick), and then close your Left foot to your Right (Slow).
Notes for both the Leader and the Follower:
- Remember to keep your knees flexed and your parter slightly on your Right side, with body contact from rib to hip if you can.
- Always step inside your partner - in the same line as them - even in the promenade... do not try to step around each other's feet. Ladies, use your leg to gently push his forward for the step forward on your Left foot.
- Make all the Quick steps as stacatto as possible. This is Tango! Stalk and pounce!