How To Dance Argentine Tango Basic Steps

Tango is one of the most passionate and need I say sexiest dance (can you spell sensual?) that has ever been created. Sure, some may argue that the dance doesn’t always have to be romantic but you can’t get that off your head when you see a pair of dancers doing the tango. Well, that was the original message when the dance was created.

We’ve all heard the saying that it will always take two to tango – of course it does. Well, you can practice all by your lonesome but you won’t be able to work the other details of this dance if you do it all alone. Well, at least you can practice the basics.

8 Count Basic

The 8 count basic step pattern is also known as the Tango Close. It combines two slow walks and then followed by a tango close. The count and pattern is called Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow. This covers a total of 8 counts.

Tango Walk

Tango introduces a rather unique way of walking on the dance floor. This walk has a few interesting characteristics:

  • A quick staccato action is employed when each step is taken. That is to say you pick up your feet and then you place them back on the floor quickly.


  • The knees are flexed at the beginning and ending of each walk or step.


  • Note that there is no rise and fall of the body when dancing tango.


  • You are also not supposed to do a body flight or even a sway.


  • Tango walks gradually curve to the left.


  • During a forward walk, the left foot is stepped CBMP. Note that the left foot is placed along the track of the right foot, which basically will require you to do contra body movement or CBM.

Listening to Tango Music

Listening to tango music will help you internalize the rhythm of the steps. It has often been said that you should let the music flow through your body, which will allow you to grasp tango fully. You don’t have to purchase a new album. You can just look up D’Arienzo, Pugliese, Laurenz, Canaro, and Di Sarli on YouTube and start listening.

The Embrace

The embrace is just as important as the steps in tango. You can say that it is the other half of the equation. The embrace is definitely a sensual expression as it gets. The figures that each partner makes during their stances actually mirror each other.

The man raises his left hand and wraps his hand around his partner’s body. The hand should be secured at the woman’s shoulder blades. The woman, on the other hand, raises her right hand to her partner’s left. The hand resting around her partner’s back.

Maintaining good posture is also pretty important in tango. Sure, the dance started in poor towns in Argentina but it has never lost its elegance since then. You should hold your head high and keep your back straight. Your head should be held high as if you are showing the world how confident you are.

Keeping good posture while dancing the tango will do more than just provide plain aesthetics. It actually helps prevent any untoward incident between both partners. Well, looking slumped during a tango will make you look silly. Other than that you will force your dance partner to arch her back which can strain her core way too much.

The Basic Steps

As stated earlier, you can actually practice the basic steps by yourself. It will be a great way to learn tango before you try the steps with an actual partner. This is also important if you are leading the dance. When practicing the basic tango steps, keep in mind the slow, slow, quick, quick, slow pattern.

You begin in the closed position. Position your arms accordingly as if you have a partner.

Here are the steps for the men:

1. The first step is by starting with the left foot going forward – note that it should be CBMP. Footwork involves the heel and the man should be facing the line of dance. This constitutes the first “slow” count.

2. For the second “slow” count or the second step, do the following. Step with the right foot forward leading with the right side. Foot work involves the heel and you should still be facing the LOD. You can make a gradual curve to the left. For steps 1 and 2 (or count 1 and 2/slow, slow, …) you can make a ¼ turn to the left.

3. For step 3 step with your left foot forward doing CBMP (remember that CBMP means contra body movement position – one foot, in this case the left foot, is placed across one foot along the track of the other foot). Footwork involves the heel in this step and you will still be facing the LOD. This is the first quick in the count.

4. For the second quick in the step count (i.e. the 4 count), bring the right foot to the side. The foot work involves the inside edge of the foot. The dancer will still be facing the LOD at this point.

5. Step number 5 is the final slow count. Close with the left foot placing it beside the right foot. You will be moving slightly forward and the step should be taken without weight. The footwork here involves the entire foot. You will still be facing the line of dance at this point. You can choose not to turn at this point or you can also make a 3/8 turn towards the left when doing steps 3 to 5.

Here are the steps for the woman:

1. Step 1 for the woman is the first “slow” count. You should step your right foot backward doing CBMP. Foot work involves ball hell. You should also release the toe of the front foot. You should be backing the line of dance during this step. You should also make a slight body turn to the right. You should be on the right side of the lead.

2. For step 2 or the second “slow” count, step with the left foot backward, again in CBMP. Partner should be outside. Footwork involves ball hell and the release of the toes of the front foot. You should still be backing the LOD.

3. Step 3 is the first “quick” in the step count. Step with the right foot back. You should be squaring off to feet and you should make a slight body turn going to the left.

4. Step 4 is the second “quick” and it should be executed by doing a left foot side. Footwork involves inside edge ball heel. You will still be backing the line of dance.

5. Step 5 is the final “slow” count in tango basic. The woman should close the right foot to the left foot, though without weight, foot slightly back. Footwork involves the whole foot. Dancer can choose to make no turn or just a 3/8 turn to the left when making steps 3 to step 5. Remember that the lead will dictate it there will be a turn or not.

Bonus Video


Interested in other dance styles

Interested in other dance styles:

Ballroom dance styles

How to salsa dance

 Club dance moves



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