Some Thoughts on Learning to Walk

To learn tango walking you need good teachers who can coach and guide you progressively from the outset

There is a lot written on the internet about how to walk in Tango.  Walking is one of the key parts of Argentine Tango, you can’t really develop this vital skill by just reading about it.  But we hope that this article can give you some valuable ideas about what to look out for, and perhaps act as a reminder for you after learning the basics in your classes.

There are no short cuts – everyone needs to learn walking from day one, and practise regularly, even, or especially, if you have a dance background in other styles.

Learning sequences of steps, especially in the early weeks, can lead to a misguided belief that you’re learning to walk. Your mind will inevitably be focused on what movement comes next, rather than paying full attention to just walking, pure and simple.

However, neither do you want to just stride around the hall class after class.  At any social event, the chances of taking more than 3 steps is remote, but nevertheless you do need the skill.

Walking in Tango is one of the hardest things to do in this dance – but a fundamental discipline that everyone needs. You cannot hope to get this perfected from your first lesson, so it’s important to be patient.  It’s all too easy to have unrealistic expectations, either of yourself or your partner.  After all, walking is something we all do every day – what can be so hard about that?

You both need to learn the individual art of walking in your own balance and axis – gentlemen walking forward, ladies walking backwards – and in time with the music.

Gentlemen – it’s very unlikely your natural way of walking is landing on the toe first.  This way of walking was fashionable in Tango some years ago but is now rather discredited.  Landing toe-first can encourage you to ‘bounce’ as the ankle and knee tend to flex.  There aren’t many strict rules when it comes to Tango style, but one we hold dear is – BOUNCING IS BAD.  A quiet upper body is what you’re aiming for.  When walking forward, the most natural and elegant walk is with a “soft foot,” landing gently heel first.  The soft heel landing is followed by rolling forward on to the front part of the foot. This will encourage you to have a very quiet upper body.

Ladies – you not only have to walk backwards in balance and axis, but to keep the line.  It’s also your responsibility to learn how to do it in a way that completely avoids you being trodden on.  There are quite specific techniques to accomplish this, which require demonstrating and coaching rather than just reading about.

Walking is natural to everyone, but walking with a partner, and in the salon style, needs careful coaching.  All teachers will do this differently, but if you find you’re experiencing difficulty, pain or not making the progress you had expected, again, please feel free contact us.

Choose your footwear with care:
Gentlemen using heavy outdoor shoes will impact the way you walk and how you dance with a partner.  Dance shoes give you “feel.”  Outdoor shoes essentially remove feel as they protect your feet.

Ladies – as most of our dancing is backwards, unforgiving outdoor shoes will prevent your feet from moving correctly.

There’s more details on shoes – here

Getting anything into your muscle memory requires a certain amount of commitment. Try to do a little walking on your own each day.  You don’t need to be in a dance studio to do this!  But when you can, also practise walking in time with Tango music.

Getting the right music to dance to can be another unexpected challenge in the early days of your Tango journey.  Hearing the beat in Tango the music, and moving in time with it, is often difficult for people.  Hearing and interpreting the music is an essential part of the beauty of this dance.  Listen to it as often as possible – have CDs in the car, but also listen when you can giving the music your undivided attention.

© Jennifer Hudson, Tango Nomads, 2017