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Specific Figures

Argentine Tango—

4 beats/measure; 26 - 33 meas/min

The word tango is of African origin, meaning drums or dance, and it has has referred to many different styles of South American dance since the late 1700s. The Argentine Tango, done in closed dance position, developed in Argentina and Uruguay between 1860 and 1890.

There was nothing proper or high-society about this rhythm. It was an earthy, emotional dance that has been associated with the gauchos (cowboys) of the pampas, African slaves who had been brought to the country, the bars and brothels of working-class neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, and even criminal sub-cultures of the city. It began as a male duet or duel. Each tried to outdo his partner's skill, perhaps make fun of him, and so attract the attentions of a woman. The tango later evolved into a rough, sexually suggestive mixed couple dance. Pope Pius X banned tango dancing in 1914.

The tango traveled from Argentina to Spain in the late 1800s, to Paris in 1907 and to London in 1912. It was considerably cleaned up and in the process converted from a Latin to a Smooth rhythm — International or English Tango. The dance came to the United States, where some Latin features were reinstated, producing American Tango. It's been said that "the American Tango is like the beginning of a love affair, when you are both very romantic and on your best behavior. The Argentine Tango is the next stage when you are in the heat of passion and all kinds of emotions consume you. The International Tango is like the end of the marriage, when you are staying together for the sake of the children."

But through all these developments, the Argentine Tango remained, and it may be that it accomplishes what no other dance rhythm can do as well. More than any other style of dance, the Argentine Tango is an expression of the relationship between a man and a woman. A teacher once quoted Argentine Tango choreographer, Juan Carlos Copes, who said,

The tango is a man and woman in search of each other. It is the search for an embrace, a way to be together, when the man feels that he is a male and the woman feels that she is a female, without machismo.

She likes to be led; he likes to lead. Disagreements may occur later or they may not. When that moment comes, it is important to have a positive and productive dialogue, fifty-fifty.

The music arouses and torments, the dance is the coupling of two people, defenseless against the world and powerless to change things. This is the best definition of the tango as a dance, I think.

This is a dance that expresses most of the emotions that might exist between a man and a woman: passion, excitement, love, romance, tenderness, sadness, anger . . . even silliness. Argentine Tango does not have to be somber.

Embrace PositionThe expressiveness of Argentine Tango comes out of its unique styling. More than in any other dance rhythm, there is variety in our positions. In the closed or embrace position, we use a relaxed upright stance. The woman has a little forward poise, with her weight on the balls of her feet. We do not have the raised rib cage, stretched torso, and contact at the hips of Waltz or Foxtrot. Our eyes are not up but are level, or even cast down. He focuses on her right shoulder, she on his left. She concentrates on and follows his left chest and shoulder, and it is this visual following of the movements of his torso, as much as the tactile lead through the frame, that provides lead and follow in Argentine Tango.

The man's right hand is lower than in the Smooth rhythms and farther around, in an embracing hold. He should try to reach the middle of her back and even somewhat to her right side. Her left hand is on his shoulder or even higher on his neck, again embracing. Lead hands are held about at the level of the woman's mouth. We use this relaxed (not extended) closed position, banjo, sidecar, and semi-closed, but with variations that range from unusually tight to loose. This variability in position is necessary to execute comfortably the characteristic movements of Argentine Tango.

Points of Contact in EmbraceForward steps are taken toe-heel but largely on the flat of the foot. Heel leads may be used for more travel. Knees are soft. There is little rise and fall. With each step you collect the free foot and brush the knees and ankles together as they pass in a smooth, slinky, level glide. One teacher asked us to develop the feel of a "great jungle cat."

The progress of the dance is interrupted with a great many in-place interactions between the man and woman. These "conversations" involve body rotation, swiveling (ocho), catching partner's foot between yours (trap), foot flicking or pushing (leg sweep), leg hooks (ganchos), various leg crawls, rocking (gauchos), swiveling and flicking (boleos), body twists or shakes (zarandeos), and various cortes. Argentine Tango is very much in the feet and legs — twinkles, locks, kicks, and flicks.

There are unusual head positions — downward gazing, meaningful glances, looking away. You may look at your partner and smile — you would never do such a thing in International Tango.

We may even go so far as to say that, while in most rhythms the emphasis is on correct execution of the figures, in the Argentine Tango we strive for emotional involvement, creativity, and improvisation.

Watch a Hurd figure clinic (mp4) on Argentine tango dance position (at 42:45) and an amalgamation of basic figures to music (at 55:00).

Figure Name, Roundalab Phase Level, & Timing

q=quick, 1 beat
s=slow, 2 beats
&=1/2 beat; a=1/4 beat

Steps and Actions That Make Up the Figure

Each description focuses on the man, with the woman's footwork in parenthesis. If a woman's step is not given, it is the natural opposite or follow of the man's. Help: basic dance positions and steps, actions, directions, and abbreviations. Non-standard punctuation: a comma separates two beats of music, a semi-colon marks the end of a measure, and a slash (/) indicates a split beat, two things occurring in a single beat.

Here are some sequences to help you visualize the figure in context.


ss; ss; ss;

In closed position facing line of dance, point L to the side (woman point R), -, draw L to R, -; step side L, -, fwd R blending to banjo (woman back L), -; fwd L, -, close R to L in banjo, -;

Notice that there are 4 weight changes in 12 beats of music.

Backing Basic

ss; ss; ss;

In CP facing line of dance, step back L (woman fwd R), -, back R, -; side L, -, fwd R to banjo line and wall, -; fwd L, -, close R to L in banjo, -;
Right Foot Basic

phase IV

ss; qqs;

In closed position, step back R (woman fwd L), -, side L turning LF to banjo, -; fwd R outside partner (woman bk L), fwd & sd L, close R to L (woman cross LIF of R), -;

It is a little more left-side lead on step 4 that causes the woman to lock in front. To continue forward, perhaps to dance a tango close, remove the side lead to unlock her feet, and she can then comfortably step back R. It is even more important to unlock her crossed feet if the next step is back. Her free R foot is crossed behind her weighted L foot. Again, a little LF upper-body rotation will signal to her that she must free her lead foot.

An interesting piece of styling calls for the woman to touch or to only press on step 5 and to take weight only when the man unlocks her feet and lowers slightly for the next figure, thus "putting" her onto her left foot. Her tango close would then have a timing of &qqs, the "&" representing the last step of the previous right foot basic.

In the Cunninghams' Tango D'Amor, part A begins with a right foot basic to closed position facing line and wall;; corte & recover; tango draw;

Hurd figure clinic (mp4) on right foot basic (at 46:30)

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), dance position and right foot basic review (at 35:40); and here (mp4), (at 40:10, and more at 44:15)

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), dance position and right foot basic at Fontana (at 0:00)
Left Foot Basic

phase IV

qqs; qqs;

In closed position, point L to the side and slightly fwd (woman point R), touch L to R with no weight, step side & fwd L to banjo, -; step fwd R, fwd L to closed position, close R with slight LF turn to banjo (woman XLIFR), -; In the Moores' Fenestra, there is a turning tango draw to closed position facing center; left foot basic;; back to man's ganchos (sqqs) cross swivel to lady's ganchos (ssqqs) reverse cross swivel (s);;;; ocho & pickup; turning tango draw;

Hurd figure clinic (mp4) on left foot basic (at 52:15)

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), right and left foot basic review (at 45:30)
Double Start

In CP side L small step w/ partial weight (lady sd R partial weight), draw L to R no weight, side L, -;
Note: only one weight change.
In Chalita by Goss we dance from BJO LOD a closed wing , ; ,, twist vine 6 BJO RLOD , ;; simple ocho y besos; double start; la parada; R foot resolution;
Triple Start

In CP point sd L (W point sd R)/draw L to R, point sd L/draw L to R, sd L, -;
Note: only one weight change.
In Una Notte A Napoli by Goss we dance a tango draw to CP LOD; triple start side draw with lead foot; and again with trail foot; walk 2;

In CP DLW ld ft free step in place L (W in place R), step R, small side L, -;

Media Luna


Trace a half circle on the floor with the toe. No weight change. In Nina by Garza we dance a rock turn to DLW;; cadencia; R foot basic;; lady 2 slow fwd ochos;;
La Piz (the pencil)


Trace a circle on the floor with the toe. No weight change. In Illusion Of My Life by the Nobles, the dance begins in an embrace position, right feet free, and both lá piz and close; point side twice;; step side; finish a left foot basic;;

(This dance is a tango vals; hence the unusual timing.)



Tap toe on floor behind supporting foot. In My Heart Belongs To Daddy by the DeChennes, there is an open reverse turn with ladies golpe (qqs&); back walk 2 with ladies golpe ( s&s&); to an open finish with gancho; double gancho;
La Parada or Stop

Means "the stop." The man stops the motion of the lady by placing his foot against hers. May or may not involve a weight change.
In Verano by Hurd we dance a small back twist vine to BJO LOD; swivel lady to SCP, step back la parada (his R against her L), leg sweep (he pushes her L in aerial ronde); cl wing;

In Chalita by Goss we dance a twist vine 6 LOD to end BJO RLOD ,;; bk to ocho & pick up; dbl start; la parada (M fwd R W bk L swvlg to SCP RLOD and then bk R to sit); R ft resolution (M trns RF, steps sd L crossing in front of W and leaving R against W's L);

Note that la parada can be quite dramatic. In the first example there is no weight change, but she is not only stopped; her leg is swept back into an aerial ronde. In the second example, there is a weight change, she is not only stopped but led back to a sit, and the "stop" continues into the next measure.
Mordida or Trap

The man places both feet, one on either side of the woman's foot "trapping" it. For instance, suppose we dance a la parada without taking weight in the previous measure. The woman's L is stopped with the man's L. To dance mordida or trap, the man takes weight L, -, and then in a small ronde moves his R to the other side of the woman's L trapping it between his feet, -;

May be performed with either foot, and the lady may trap the man.
In Bahia Blanca by DeChenne we dance a quick wing in 4; circle 2 (LR for both); fwd ronde to stop; lady trap; circle 2 (RL for both); fwd ronde to stop; man trap; outside swivel & PU;
Back Travelling Trap

This is a figure in 3 slows where the lady traps the man's L foot briefly. We might start CP LOD ld ft free.

In the first slow count, the M steps bk L leading the lady to a fwd ocho. The lady steps fwd R outside partner swiveling RF, keeping feet together, to SCP LOD. To allow the lady to step outside partner from CP, the man must rotate his frame RF, taking his R hip back to a contra-body position -- R hip moving back as L foot moves back.

In the second slow, the M does a close/point. The closing of the right foot actually occurs on the &-count of the previous slow, and the pointing of the L foot fwd and across the lady's line of dance, perhaps toward DLW, takes the entire second slow. So the man's L foot is in front of the lady as she steps fwd L to a second fwd ocho. Her toes gently touch the R side of the M's L foot, she swivels on her L LF until her weighted L foot is parallel to the M's unweighted L. She brings her R around to the L side of the M's L foot and "traps" his foot between her feet. It can involve a gentle squeeze, like a little hug. Don't take weight.

In the third slow, the M simply holds, enjoying the trap. The lady can hold her trap a moment (one beat) and then flick her R back, ending the figure in a loose CP LOD, lead feet free, as we began.

Again, the figure takes 1 1/2 measures. We don't have as much time as my leisurely description suggests.
In Santa Maria by Hurd we dance a right foot basic;; bk trav traps (2X);;; start a back trav trap (2 slows instead of 3); walk 2; tango draw;

Hurd showcase of Santa Maria


In a loose closed position, use strong upper body rotation to swivel W 1/8 RF, and then 1/8 LF, no weight change. The woman might lift her free leg at the knee so that the swiveling waves the lower leg side to side. In La Neige Tombe by Ito, in part C, we dance a R Foot Basic, moving LOD;; slow ocho with tap; pickup 1 slow CP LOD & zarandeo; reverse turn lady leg line; bk wlk 2 lady leg line; twice;


The woman bends the free knee so that the lower leg is parallel to the floor and then swings that foot to one side and then the other. It can be done by the man. It can be done solo or together. In Illusion Of My Life by the Nobles, part B begins with two steps of a right foot basic, the woman does a left foot boleo, thru swivel, forward, and finish the basic.
Tango Draw


In closed position facing line, step fwd L (woman back R), side R, draw L to R, -; Only two changes of weight.

You can turn this figure up to 1/4 LF on the first step.

In the Moores' Tango Clarice, part A begins in closed position facing line and center with a right foot basic;; turning tango draw to banjo facing reverse and center; back twist vine 4; outside swivel pickup; turning tango draw to face wall;

Hurd figure clinic (mp4) on tango draw, tango close, and the tango close to right foot basic (at 50:30)

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), turning tango draw & tango close review (at 42:35)
Back Tango Draw


In closed position facing line, step back L (woman fwd R), side R, draw L to R, -; Only two changes of weight.

You can turn this figure up to 1/4 LF on the first step.

Tango Close


In closed position, step forward L (woman bk R), side R, close L to R, -;

You can turn this figure up to 1/4 LF on the first step.

Hurd figure clinic (mp4) on tango draw, tango close, and the tango close to right foot basic (at 50:30)
Back Tango Close


In closed position facing line step back R (woman fwd L), side L, draw R to L and take weight, -; This time three changes of weight.

You can turn this figure up to 1/4 LF on the first step.

Side Corte


In closed position step sharply side L (woman side R) and lower into the supporting knee, -,

A Corte should be relatively sudden, a quick pose.

In Fenestra by the Moores, the dance begins with a circle walk lady transition to closed position facing wall, side corte recover draw;;;; to a forward step to banjo and twisty vine toward LOD and a reverse ocho;;
Back Corte


In closed position step back L (woman fwd R) lower into the supporting knee and turn upper body slightly LF, -, In Libertango by Lamberty & Frias, part A ends with a forward step in wrapped position, -, face, -; lower and rise with no weight change;; corte and recover to face line and wall;; and walk to a rock turn;;
Corte Lady Lean

This is a variation on the back corte. Start in a closed position, lead foot free. The man steps back L. The lady does not take a step or change weight; she simply tips with the M's movement to an incline. The M supports the W, creating an isosceles triangle with a small base, that is, the M does not step very far back, but do discuss the kind of shape you'd like to make -- the deeper the corte, the more dramatic the line. Men, be sure you'll be able to recover and return the lady to an upright position. Ladies, keep your head up. The head is heavy, and keeping the head upright, rather than forward, will reduce your pressure on the man.
In Chalita by Goss, we begin in a modified CP, M facing COH. The man turns his upper body LF and presents his R side to the lady. The lady is weighted on her R foot with the L crossed behind at the ankle. As the M steps back, she  leans forward onto the M's right side and lifts to the toes of her R. The M recovers R and closes L, leaving trail feet free, and we dance a basic end, moving toward DRC.

In Santa Maria by Hurd, we begin in a cuddle embrace, M's hands on W's shoulder blades and W's hands on his shoulders and her elbows tucked into the curves of his elbows. Here, partners are square to each other, lead foot free. He steps back L lady slow lean, head up. This lean stretches to 3 slows, not just 1. She is supported by her hands pushing on his shoulders and her forearms pressing against his toned biceps muscles. He recovers on a fourth slow count to a La Piz/Lady Embellish; tango close; R foot basic;; The lady's embellishment is a little flick, a golpe, maybe a boleo or zarandeo, or anything else she can do with her R foot in one measure. Hurd showcase of Santa Maria
Advance Corte


In closed position, step back & side L lowering into the knee and turning a little LF (woman fwd R), draw R to L and turn to semi-closed position, step thru R to semi, -; Only two weight changes.

This figure may turn up to 1/2 LF and it can end in closed position rather than semi.

Medio Corte

qqs; sqq; ss;

In closed position, rock fwd L (woman bk R), recover R, rock back L lowering into knee, -; recover R, -, rock fwd L, recover R; back L lowering, -, recover R, -;

This figure is done in place -- the trail foot stays on the same spot throughout. May turn 1/4 to 1/2 LF.

Argentine Walks

ss; qqs; sqq;

In closed position facing line of dance step fwd L (woman back R), -, fwd R, -; fwd L, side & fwd R, fwd L, -; fwd R, -, fwd L, side & fwd R;
Stalking Walks

phase V

ss; ss;

In semi-closed position, step sd & fwd L, -, draw R face ptnr and point toe thru, -; thru R in semi, -, draw L and pt, -; In Orchids In the Moonlight by Lamberty & Halbert, there is a dip, recover; turning tango draw to semi-closed LOD;stalking walks;; fwd, thru, swvl to BJO;
Gaucho Turn


Also called Rock Turn. In closed position, rock fwd L turning 1/8 LF (woman bk R), recover R turning, fwd L turning, back R turning;

You may begin this in banjo and blend to closed on the first step, and you may end in banjo if so cued.

Progressive Tango Rocks

ss; qqs; qqs;

In closed position step fwd L (woman bk R), -, fwd R, -; rock fwd L, recover R, fwd L, -; fwd R, recover L, fwd R, -;
Curving Progressive Tango Rocks

ss; qqs; qqs;

Same as Progressive Tango Rocks above but turn 1/8 LF on each fwd step for a total turn of 3/4. Dance curving progressive tango rocks;;; and a tango draw turning to complet a full turn;

ss; ss;

In closed position, step forward L turning slightly LF, -, tap R behind L (W tap LIF of R), -; bk R, -, tap L in front of R (W tap RIB of L),-;
Reverse Turn

phase IV


In closed position diag cntr step fwd L trng LF, sd & bk R cont trn to RLOD woman heel turn, bk L to closed, -;
Open Reverse Turn
In closed position DLC step fwd L trng LF (W bk R trng), fwd R trng (W sd L), bk L (W fwd R) to BJO RLOD, -;
In Nina by Garza we dance a curve 2 to CP DLC; rock fwd rec bk rec; open rev turn; open finish chkg; slow outside swivel twice;;
Open Finish

In CP RLOD back R trng LF, side L trng, fwd R outside partner BJO DLW, -;
A standard sequence is rev trn; op finish;
Closed Finish

phase IV

In CP RLOD back R trng LF, side L trng, close R to L CP DLW, -;
Leg Line

ss; ss;

In closed position facing RLOD, step back R with left shoulder lead (woman fwd L looking left), -, bk L with right shoulder lead (W fwd R flick bk L looking right), -; bk R with left shoulder lead (woman fwd L looking left), -, bk L with right shoulder lead (W fwd R flick bk L looking right), -;

The Leg Line is actually the woman's flick back, bending at the knee, and the cue often refers only to that action.

In Tango Misterioso by the Immuras, part D begins with a reverse turn; leg line;; open finish with gancho; to a double gancho;

In The Kiss by DeChenne we dance a tango draw LOD; walk 2; reverse turn W leg line (she flicks L foot back); back walk 2 W leg line; open finish;


In closed position facing RLOD, step back R (W fwd L) turning LF, sd & bk L (W sd R) sharply turning LF, slight rise and lower into L knee pointing knee toward wall and R leg toward RLOD (W slight hop back L turning LF to face RLOD kick R fwd lower into L knee sitting on man's L thigh and cross R leg at L knee, -;

End in an L-position, right foot free for both. The Sentada is actually the "sit," and the cue sometimes refers to a single step, sit, and flick. She may sit with legs parallel or even with both feet in the air, but the sit is brief and stylized; don't lounge or otherwise relax. May be done from other orientations.

If we dance the sentada from a same foot lunge line, man facing wall, then he will take 3 steps. He steps sd L (W fwd L trng LF), behnd R (W sd R), sd L lowering and again pointing R to RLOD (W XLIB of R to her sit position), -;

In this second example, the man is doing a "vine" to sentada. It helps the figure if, instead of progressing the vine LOD, he curves it LF to DLC. His final side step becomes DLC, his L knee is DLW, and his R leg is pointing DRW. This curved path nestles her into her sit more smoothly and with less of a bump. One might then "vine" to a right sentada. He steps sd R (W fwd R trng RF), behnd L (W sd L), sd R lowering (W XRIB of L to sit), -; With a curved path, his third step is DRC, his L leg is pointing DLW, and she is nestled onto his R thigh more comfortably.

In Tango Clarice by the Moores, there is an outside swivel pickup; tango draw; reverse turn; back to sentada; natural pivot 4; to a tango close;

In Burlesque by the Garzas, there is continuous same foot lunge with flicks;;;; vine to lady sentada L&R;; pick up man close; double reverse;

ss; qqs;

In closed position facing wall, step side L (woman side R) turning to semi-closed position, -, thru L turning 1/4 RF (woman 1/4 LF), -; step thru L toward reverse in reverse semi-closed and turn 1/8 LF back to closed position, side R, and draw L to R no weight ending in closed position wall, -; In the Bonds' Spanish Shawl, part A begins with a criss cross;; whisk; pickup; two left turns to face line;; and tango draw;
Doble Cruz

sqq; qqqq;

In semi-closed position facing LOD, step fwd L (woman fwd R), -, thru R, sd L turning RF to closed position facing wall; XRIB of L (woman XLIB of R), ronde L no weight, XLIB of R, bk R turning LF to CP LOD;

May be done in other facing orientations.

In My Heart Belongs To Daddy by the DeChennes, there is a tango draw; contra check, recover, tap to semi-closed position facing LOD; doble cruz;; and back to left whisk;
Outside Swivel & Tap

phase V


In contra banjo, step back L and turn a little RF (woman fwd R swiveling RF and drawing L to R no weight), -, thru R (woman thru L), tap L side & fwd ending in semi-closed position lead feet free; In Lejos Di Ti by Lamberty, there are curved walks toward LOD; open reverse turn; open finish checking; outside swivel, -, pickup, tap; to forward stairs;


The molinete is a rotation as a couple, with one dancer swiveling on a spot and the other dancing a grapevine around that point, turning the couple up to a full turn. The grapevine might be a forward, side, behind, side, or some other sequence of side and crossing steps describing a circle vine.

The term apparently means or is related to "grapevine." The figure is variable, but usually consists of one or more steps for the man and a three-or-more–step circle vine for the woman, turning 1/2 or more, ending in closed position. (There might be more uniformity than this, but I haven't discovered it yet.)

A three-step variation—in CP, the man might step sd & fwd L turning LF (woman XLIB of R), man ronde R & continue to roatate (woman sd R), fwd R (woman XLIF of R), - (woman swivels to face);

n Otra Nocheby the Clements, there is a right foot basic;; reverse fallaway lady flick in front; lady's LF molinete to CP LOD: S-- (QQQ-); 2X; reverse fallaway; man's LF molinete to CP LOD: QQQQ (Q--Q); start a R foot basic;

In Nina by Garza we dance a R ft basic;; lady slow fwd ocho 2X;; lady RF molinete: S-- ---- (QQSQQS) to CP DLW;; TG Draw;


A giro is a "small turn." The man crosses one foot behind the other, and the woman dances a circle vine or grapevine, unwinding him.

Right Turn—In closed position, cross RIB of L no weight, -, -, take weight on R (woman steps fwd R beginning to turn RF, sd L turning, bk R, sd L completing 7/8 RF turn);

Left Turn—In closed position, cross LIB of R no weight, -, -, take weight on L (woman steps sd R beginning to turn LF, fwd L turning, sd R, bk L completing 1/2 RF turn);

These descriptions are based on ISTD guidelines. Steps and amount of turn may vary.

La Cobra


In SCP LOD step through R (W L) turning RF to CP RLOD, -, step side and back L (woman fwd R between his feet swiveling RF and drawing L to R no weight to SCP RLOD), -, ;

This figure is essentially a one-step maneuver and an inside swivel or ocho. May start in banjo and in other facing directions.

This one-measure sequence is the basic unit of the figure, but I have never encountered a la cobra 2 as this would be cued. The la cobra 4, which a la cobra twice to SCP LOD is probably most common, but any number of steps are allowed. An even number of steps ends in SCP; an odd number ends in CP. Each measure turns 1/2.

This is a recently standardized figure. In the past, la cobra often began with the inside swivel first and then the maneuver, so an older cue might be maneuver to la cobra.

In Tango Misterioso by Immura, the dance begins with a slow cross walk 3 maneuver 1;; la cobra 3 and thru SCP LOD;; M hold W qk circle vine 8 LF to CP DRC; turn LF to tango close; R foot basic to DLW;;
Promenade Wing Spin

sqq; q&q

In semi-closed position facing DLC, step forward L (W fwd R), -, fwd R, fwd L; hold turning LF and leading W to wing/swivel LF on L (W fwd L/R to SCAR swivel LF on R), sd & bk R to end in contra banjo facing RLOD lead feet free,

I like to think of this sequence in four different parts. First, we both take two steps down line together (sq). Next, the man takes one step forward L and the woman does her wing in three steps (qq&). Third (also on the &) we swivel 1/2 LF to banjo—this is the "spin." Finally, we both progress one more step (M bk W fwd).

Timing (e.g., sqq&; qq) and orientation can vary.

In Amargura by Rumble, part A begins with a chase, turning chassé;; progressive link, promenade wing spin;; to an outside swivel to promenade locks;

ss; (qqqq;)

"Ocho" means "eight," and the lady traces a figure-8 on the floor with two fanning foot movements. Starting in banjo or closed position, trail feet free, the man swivels 1/8 RF on his left foot leading the lady to step forward R outside the man fanning the left leg CW in a small circle and turning 1/2 RF to a loose semi-closed position. Then he swivels 1/8 LF and leads her to step fwd L fanning the right leg CCW and turning 1/2 LF to closed position. The man swivels slow, -, slow, -; The woman does a step, fan, step, fan, tracing a figure-8 on the floor.

A more compact form of the figure reduces the arc of the free foot. The lady steps forward, swivels on that weighted foot and collects the free foot next to the weighted foot, ready for the next lead. The "figure-8" is less rounded, more narrow. This "collection" is especially valuable if you are dancing a series of forward and back ochos (see just below), or boleos (above) or other flourishes.

Most of the time, the man leads an ocho without taking a step through rotation of the upper body, but he can strengthen the lead by taking a step and then rotating, much like an outside swivel. However, I must say that an ocho is not an outside swivel. It is closer, more collected, more intimate, more sultry. If the woman holds her attention on his left shoulder as she traces out her figure-8 and keeps herself into him, then we have an ocho. If she looks up and left and perhaps extends her body up and back, then we have an outside swivel.

In leading an ocho with a step, the man might step back L with RF upper-body rotation and then forward R with LF upper-body rotation. Different styling has the man stepping sd & fwd L with RF upper-body rotation and then sd & fwd R with LF upper-body rotation. In either case, it is the upper-body rotation that leads the woman's actions. The first option here gives us a together look and the second an opposition look.

To the extent that ochos are danced like little outside swivels, we will do them with opposite footwork, but we can do them with same footwork too. In Dance In Portugal by Hurd, part C begins with a right foot basic man transition with a touch (R feet free for both);; man rocks and woman does two slow forward ochos;; swivel to 2 back ochos;;

In dancing the ocho with same footwork like this, the man can face the woman directly as she steps and swivels in front of him and not off on his right side. It feels quite intimate, quite "Argentine."

Note the additional variations here: the term "ocho" is used to represent just one fanning movement, and each step-fan occupies a whole measure.

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), ochos, both forward and back, and with lift and tap (at 9:20)

Back Ocho


In banjo position, step forward R with left-side lead checking (lady bk L swiveling RF to SCP with a small ronde of her R leg), -,

Note that this is a cue directed specifically to the lady. It is the lady who steps "back" to her swivel, not the man. We are well used to cues being for the man. We hear "back basic" or "back walk" and the man steps back. "Back to outside swivel" and the man steps back; the lady steps forward. But "back ocho" is aimed at the lady and the man needs to lead her to step back, maybe with a forward step, a side step, or just body rotation, depending on the choreography.
In Fenestra by Moore, part A begins with a forward step to BJO DLW, twist vine 4, reverse (or back) ocho, step back in SCP, to a leg sweep and closed wing.

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), ochos, both forward and back, and with lift and tap (at 9:20)
3 Slow Ocho

ss; ss; ss;

Ocho terminology is not well standardized. If you think of the meaning of the term -- "eight" -- then one ocho should consist of two fanning leg movements by the lady, but sometimes the cue "ocho" refers only to one "step, swivel" action. Furthermore, a slow ocho can take a whole measure -- step on a slow count and swivel over the next slow count. When the tempo is slow, the man has time to do some especially suggestive leg action.

In the Cunninghams' Tango D'Amor, part C begins with 3 stalking walks;;; thru to a basic ending checking; to 3 ochos ending in semi-closed position;;; thru face close & tap;
Ocho with Lift and Tap

ss; ss; ss;
Start in closed position facing LOD and step back L (woman steps forward R outside partner and might fan her left leg in a slow arc CW). The man has left his right leg extended down line, and while she is turning RF, he moves his R leg toward her until it touches her L leg as it comes around. He stops her movement and forces her to step over that leg. As she does so, she can perform a little leg crawl or leg caress (see Lustrada below) with the instep of her L foot. The man takes no more steps, but he leads her with upper body rotation to step fwd L. He will rotate 1/8 LF causing her to rotate LF and to fan her R leg CCW. Again, he moves his R leg toward her and blocks her motion. For the third ocho, she slowly steps over his leg and again fans her L leg CW. In Una Notte A Napoli by Goss we dance a L-foot basic lady leg lift ;; back to lady's fwd ocho M tap; 2 ochos w/ lift & tap; lady step over to bicicleta lady pick up; tango draw;

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), ochos, both forward and back, and with lift and tap (at 9:20)
Doble Ocho

ss; ss;

This figure is two cross swivels with man and woman performing the "ocho" fanning movements.

In sidecar position facing line and wall, step forward L (woman bk R) and slowly swivel LF to banjo position facing COH; fwd R and swivel RF back to SCAR position again;

In Una Notte A Napoli by Goss we begin with la piz; bk corte w/ leg crawl; rudolph to sync fallaway twist vine 5 SCAR checking lady slow flick;; back doble ocho CP DLW ,, (a half-measure not carried forward) L-foot basic lady leg lift ;;
Ocho Para Atras

qqqq; qqqq;

You can think of this figure as four cross swivels, from banjo to sidecar to banjo to sidecar to closed. Both perform these fanning movements.

In banjo position, the man XLIBR, and fans his R CW turning 1/2 RF to sidecar position (woman steps fwd R and fans L CW turning 1/2), XRiBL, fan L CCW turning 1/2 LF to banjo (woman fwd L and fan R CCW); XLIBR, and fan R CW turning 1/2 RF to sidecar position (woman steps fwd R and fans L CW), XRIBL, fan L CCW turning 1/2 LF to closed position (woman fwd L and fan R CCW);



Lustrada is a "shoe shine" and is the rubbing of the toe of the shoe along the calf of the leg. The man might polish one toe on his own calf for a bit of humor, or the woman might polish her toe on his calf (or even above the knee) for a more erotic effect.

Might be done in a variety of positions and orientations.

In Orchids In the Moonlight by Lamberty & Halbert, there is a series of slow swivels with lustrada. For instance, in banjo, the man steps back L and the woman steps forward R and swivels to semi. He slides his right foot to the right to tap her right foot, and she responds by shining her left shoe on his right calf, and then steps over his right leg and swivels to banjo. These swivels seem to be ochos (we haven't danced this one). On the last swivel, she "polishes vigorously," and Lamberty suggests that "M may look with disbelief at W."


The sweeping of the foot to one side or the other. In a series of Ochos, the man might sweep his free foot back and forth, playing with the woman as she dances her swivels.

In a facing position, he might place his foot next to hers and then step and slide her foot, pushing with his.



Gancho means "hook," and the gancho is a flick of the lower leg back and around the adjacent leg of the partner. Sometimes the cue represents the flick only, and sometimes it represents a step with one leg and a flick with the other. The move is quick. Wrap your leg around that of your partner and just as suddenly, remove it. It is flame-like, "limbs licking limbs, as if embracing with arms offered not enough heat." (from Tango, Thompson, 2005)

In a hip-to-hip banjo position, the man steps fwd R turning LF to give the woman access to the back of his R leg (she steps back L turning and flicks her R foot back and around his R, bending at the R knee)

In this position, he could then step back L and she fwd R turning RF a little and he could flick his R back and around her L for a Double Gancho.

One of our teachers (woman, of course) recently suggested that when we do a woman's gancho, she should hook sharply, "as if she meant to do the man some damage." She probably can't reach high enough to hit anything delicate, but she might suggest or hint that she could. Yes indeed, Argentine Tango is suited to convey a wide range of emotions between a man and a woman, even tongue-in-cheek aggression or self-defense.

In the Goss' Jealousy Tango, there are slow ochos and a pickup;;;; open reverse turn; open finish with gancho; double gancho; outside swivel thru tap;

Note that this sequence contains both uses of the term gancho. In the open finish with gancho, the gancho is only the flick. In the double ganchos, each is a step and flick.

Hurd figure clinic (mp4), open reverse turn with gancho; double gancho (at 46:00 and more at 48:05)

Doble Gancho

sqq; s

In a side-by-side BJO position, M fcg DLC & W fcg DRW, ld ft free, step back L (W fwd R) trng LF to present your back to the lady and lift the R leg to hook the back of the W's R leg, -, recover R (W rec L) trng RF, trng step sd L (W sd R); swivel RF on R & stp sd & bk L on a soft knee fcg DRC (W bk L fcg DLW) to lift the L leg to hook the back of the W's L leg , -,

We can think of this sequence as a step back to M's gancho and then a twist vine 3 to another M's gancho. This is a man's doble gancho.

In a lady's doble gancho, the figure is mirrored. The man steps forward with inside foot and the lady back to a lady's hook, and then we recover to a twist vine 3 to another lady's hook.
In Dance the Night Away by Worlock we dance a turning right-foot basic to CP LOD;; back to M's gancho and then W's doble gancho;; both ocho to BJO DLC and then M's doble gancho;;

In Fenestra by Moore we dance a L ft basic to CP RLOD;; bk to M's doble gancho ; ,, fwd both ocho , ; fwd to lady's doble gancho ; ,, bk both ocho , ; W ocho & pick up to CP DRW;


The trick to this figure is to get into position, not to perform the action (which is supposed to mime the pedaling of a bicycle). So, begin in contra banjo, trail feet free, woman's L leg extended back, and man's R leg pointed between her feet (behind her supporting R foot and in front of her free L foot. The figure is simply the raising of the man's R leg such that he lifts the woman's L ankle with his instep. Raise her L foot until his R thigh is horizontal, and then lower her foot back to the floor. There is no weight change.

I suspect that this figure could be performed with either foot and that it could be repeated for stronger effect. smile

Some material from this page was reprinted as
“Tango, Argentine and International,”
Roundalab Journal, 32:2, p.17–18, fall 2008.

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