The Four Stages of Competence in Tango’s Primary Technique Clusters






Individual's body awareness is limited to largest structures (legs, arms, chest).

Awareness of more specific body parts (spine, allowing limited spiralling; lower body joints, allowing smoother walking) but core is not yet engaged. Unnecessary tension in limbs.

Fine grained awareness of many body parts, and how they relate, in a variety of novel situations, allow for more subtlety in movement. Growing awareness of relationship between core and the rest of the body occasionally gives dance power and economy.

Extreme precision, and awareness of the body as a dancing whole, lending power and presence to each movement. Inspired movement flows through without obstruction by mind's thinking or body's limits.


Dancers' interaction is inconsistent and lacks cause-effect relationship. Attention is scattered; right/wrong thinking.

Diverse interactions emerge from each dancer's efforts to express him or herself.

Shared interest in expressing the music, and developing an understanding of partner's dance, guides interaction.

Interaction is replaced by pure improvisation: an attuned state of attention in which the source of ideas is less important than inhabiting them fully.


Embrace lacks continuity and creates discomfort for partners.

Embrace is consistently comfortable for partners and adapts to allow room for a variety of movement possibilities which are the main point of focus. Some movements emerge without being mediated by embrace.

The embrace, connecting the leader's invitations and the follower's dance, becomes a point of focus as it mediates the couple's movement and relationship through subtle changes in tone, touch, shape.

Pure intent to unify is realized through mind and embrace.


Movement is mostly without reference to music (with possible exception of song beginning and ending).

There is an awareness of genres, obvious song parts, and regular rhythmic possibilities, but limited ability to sync shared movement with music's specific features.

Able to predict what the song will do and share the full range of pauses and regular and syncopated accelerations and decelerations in all genres and to different orchestras.

Couple's different parts function as one musical system or instrument: they move or are still, in relation to sounds or silences, in ways that have a logic that can be felt though often not analyzed. Couple holds the potential of inhabiting musical passages which have extreme rhythmic complexity, with extreme precision, and uses this power with some restraint.

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