Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

If you were logged in, you’d see the full free version of this Article which includes the Follower’s, Lead’s, & Dancing Perspectives! Just sayin’… 🙂 Notation: The video above is only a 22-minute sampler of the full 1hr and 14-minute video. Only Gold Subscribers and above can see the full video with the footwork. However, Freemium Users can read the full article for free!

The 6 Ways of Walking

In today’s Tango world when we talk about the foundations of Tango, we talk about “how” to walk. Or actually the mechanics of how we walk, how we extend our legs, what happens to the knees, what happens to the ankles, what happens to the feet, and how we land our feet as a Lead or as a Follow. These things are vitally important as to how to move efficiently, effectively, and with ease. Suffice it said that these things, the how-we-do parts are a matter of opinion in some cases, an informed opinion in others, and still this stuff is not a settled issue at this point almost 100 years on going forward. The reason we mention these things is because this video is not about how to walk, or how to land your foot, or even how to extend your leg. But rather it’s about the different ways, 18 in fact, in which we walk in regards to Tango. And these things are insanely important for two reasons as it relates to Argentine Tango: 1.) Because these 18 ideas are the foundation of everything that you will ever do with regards to tango. They’re the step into and out of every piece of vocabulary. 2.) These 18 ideas are very nature of versatility and really they’re the foundation of improvisation! If you study and practice these ideas to the point of mindful repetition, then you will have the ability that we all seek: Improvisation. That’s not a sales boast to get you to register. That’s a fact. These 18 ideas comprise the pathway that we all seek as Leads or as Follows, to inspire, enhance, and generate a creative interpretation of the Music, or to improvise to any piece of music regardless of genre, or partner, using nothing more than forward steps and back steps! That said, let’s dive into what Tango Topics calls “Walking Systems for 2019“.

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What are Walking Systems ? These are the many different ways that we can walk in Argentine Tango. Not the how-we-walk but the multiple methods to the ways in which we might want to walk, first canonized by Gustavo Naveira & Fabian Salas, and then expanded upon here for your edification. The ideas comprise a composite or overall vantage point that no matter what situation one is in, there is a walking solution for that situation. One example of this is the Walking Turn. Most Leads, when they hit an obstacle in their pathway, will invoke a Rock Step as a way to solve that problem. It’s their go-to move. A Walking Turn on the other hand, is another more creative way to solve the same problem while at the same time creates far more options and opportunities for both roles to engage in musically as well as from a vocabulary perspective and a navigational perspective. Tango Topics Walking Systems provide a way into any situation and any number of ways out of a situation that does not include a piece of specialty vocabulary (Volcada, Sacada, Colgada, Parada, Pasada, Boleo, Gancho, Calesita, Rock Step/Resolution, Single Axis Turn, etc) as a possible resolution, or for that matter any of the 7 of the 8 Types of Ochos, OR any of the 8 Types of Turns, or for that matter an Argentine Cross as a potential resolution! No. Walking Systems are the Resolution! They’re the solution to each and every issue that you can come up with. Not to mention they also solve an age old problem for most Leads, “What do I do next ?”. Walking Systems is one of the simplest yet most powerful answers to that question! Because not only do Walking Systems answer the question they go far beyond it!

Years ago when Gustavo and Fabian came up with a way of describing Walking Systems, as they pertain to Argentine Tango, it was a way of systemizing or standardization of the dance. Meaning that if you could look at something and describe what was happening with a simple phrase, then you could also repeat it and build on it! Those standardizations became what we now know today as the two predominant ways in which we talk about Tango Vocabulary and the dance as a whole: Either a piece of vocabulary is done in Parallel System, or Cross System.

Tango Topics Walking Systems for 2019 encompasses these two primary ideas and adds a bit more to them each, and then goes far beyond them to encompass 4 other ideas which on the surface may appear to not be one or the other, but in reality is both at the same time as you’ll see especially when you get to the section on “Alternates”!!!

Walking Systems expands on these ideas by using Orientation changes, Changes of the Embrace, and lastly a completely new idea (for some of you) that almost never gets talked about but is in fact quite revolutionary in our opinion!

These are Walking Systems for 2019 going forward as Tango Topics sees them.

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Important Notation: In 2015 we originally shot this video, and because our language has changed, and a few more ideas were added, it was absolutely necessary to reshoot this with the updated content. That version is still in the archive and will remain there as ancillary material for all subscribers of the service. Secondly above we stated that there are 18 ideas here. There are. However, the video’s subtitle is the Six Ways of Walking! So what’s that all about ? There are 6 primary ideas and under each idea, there are 2 or 3 variations on the primary, so 18!


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Why do you need this stuff ? Think of Walking Systems as what you do AFTER you’ve learned the foundations of how one walks as a Lead or Follow. Walking Systems are what you can do with that walk. Hence the ‘ideas’ part above. Another reason why you need this topic in your understanding of Tango is Versatility. And still, another is, and a longer answer, Improvisation. The fact is that you could do worse by just studying this stuff alone. If you did nothing else except studying walking and walking systems, you’d already be ahead of the game but the reality is that most people study the mechanics of walking for about  5 minutes and then move on to the vocabulary that they see everyone else doing, Ochos, Turns, Crosses, and then the specialty vocabulary which is studying all the crazy stuff they think that Followers want so that their Follower’s don’t become bored (Volcadas, Colgadas, etc). This is commonly known as Lead Mindset. This mindset a false belief system that, erroneously, believes that the Lead must perform all sorts of vocabulary and have a dizzying array of said vocabulary that will keep the Follower entertained in the course of dancing with said Lead. This is, of course, not true but no one wants to hear that fact.

Versatility means that these 18 ideas by themselves are just that, ideas. Implying that on their own they’re not going to do much for you. However, when you place one idea behind another and continually swap them out for the next, something very interesting begins to occur: Facility. You begin to have ease, a comfort with exploring the “What If…” realm. At the same time when you put them together, they can form an entire dance all on their own without doing anything else! We know, we’ve spent entire nights doing nothing but these ideas just to prove a point to see how successful or interesting this stuff can get. Versatility means that as a Lead, or as a Follow, you become so conversant with these ideas that variations of these ideas start to emerge on their own! And there are more here that we haven’t even begun to touch on.

Now to the longer answer, is that while no one has said anything about how to put things together, meaning that a Lead must choreograph an entire song on the fly right from the moment they step on the floor. That ‘choreography’ has to come from somewhere, right ? One place it could come from is steps, patterns, and figures. There is a certain comfort in employing steps, patterns, and figures. It gives one a false sense of competency. The real test comes when you run out of figures to employ, lest you repeat one’s self (which we do not want to do), and then you’re stuck with the problem you had when you started. What do next ?!?!?!? Again, you’ve run out of figures and you don’t want to repeat yourself. And this is where Walking Systems comes into play. They replace the need to invoke figures. Completely. It should be noted that another problem with the steps/patterns/figures solution is that somewhere about 10th or 15th figure, and after you’ve danced with every Potential Partner in the room, they all have your number and what you’re capable of doing! Further still is that in order to keep yourself from being ‘stale’ you absolutely must learn new material constantly and pepper in an ever-dizzying array to one-up yourself. How do you spell work ? We spell it “steps, patterns, and figures”. Which is to say, “Not so much with that idea!”.

Improvisation refers to two things: 1.) It refers to creation on the fly of singular or individual steps not a group or pattern of steps or figures but nothing more than walking forwards or backward. But it’s how you do that, hence the walking systems themselves which creates variety. 2.) It refers to the musical interpretation of one note for one step. Which gives you greater levels of granular control over what you’re doing in a dizzying array of possibilities.

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Have you seen our Ocho Transition Series ? This important four-part series covers the four important transitions between the two common type of Ochos (Traveling & Milonguero), and the 2 common types of turns (Molinete/Giro, and Milonguero). Each one is a challenge on its own. And each one can seriously up your dancing abilities.

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The Walking Systems

Before we get into the systems themselves, it’s important to recognize that we walk on paths or ‘tracks’. Meaning that our feet (ankles, and 1st metatarsals) pass very close to each other (slide next to). This is known as “passing through collection”. These tracks do not cross over each other except in very specific circumstances. Think of train tracks, that are very close to each other. Typically there are 2 tracks of walking paths, sometimes there are 3, and sometimes there are 4. Sometimes, as you’ll see, their “Orientation” changes, meaning that in order for some of this stuff to work, either the Lead or the Follower must change their orientation towards or away from their partner in the line of dance. And sometimes that orientation change may invoke an embrace change. That said, on to the Walking Systems:

1.) Parallel System. This walking tool comes in 3 flavors, 1 of which we use all the time. It is the staple of the dance. This system is walking with a partner using opposite feet.

Example: If Follower is led to step backward with their Right leg/foot, the Lead steps into that space that has been vacated with their Left leg/foot, and then continue on with the Lead stepping with their Right leg/foot into the space that Follower just vacated with their Left leg/foot.

This walking system can be done on 2 or 4 tracks without an orientation change and is done without crossing over the body’s natural meridian. As well as on 2, 3, or 4 tracks with an orientation change. However, in the case of 3 or 4 track, these variations can only be achieved by changing the position or orientation of the Follower by use of an “Americana” Embrace either to place the Follower to the side of the Lead or directly in front of the Lead!

The 3 flavors of Parallel Walking are:

Type 1a – 2 Track Parallel walking (with and without an orientation change).
Type 1b – 3 Track Parallel with an orientation change. And
Type 1c – 4 Track walking with and without an orientation change.

2.) Cross System. This complex walking tool comes in 3 flavors, as well as 3 different types of entry variations, and 2 different exit variations. This system is walking with a partner uses the same feet.

Example: If the Lead steps with their Left leg/foot, the Follower is led to step with their corresponding Left leg/foot, and then continues on with the Lead stepping with their Right leg/foot, and the Follower stepping with their Right leg/foot at the same time.

This walking system can be done on 3 or 4 tracks walking without an orientation change (not shown in the video above), and 2, 3, or 4 tracks with an orientation change. 2, 3, or 4 track these variations must use an “Americana” embrace format either to place the Follower to the side of the Lead, or directly in front of the Lead!

The Two Flavors of Cross System Walking are:

Type 2a – 3 Track Walking without an orientation change using 1 of the 3 entry methods below.
Type 2b – 4 Track Walking with an orientation change.

3 Types of Entry Points to Cross System:

a.) Step/Half-Step. (see video) This method can only be used while in motion walking down the line of dance.
b.) Weight-Change/Step. (see video) This method can only be used from a standing position and is ideally used or invoked from one of the 5 Musical Pause types.
c.) Cross Behind Method. (see video) This method is used as the ‘flashy’ version and can be used from a  standing position or while in motion.

2 Different Exits from Cross System:

a.) Step/Half-Step. (see video) In this method, the half-step is on the same side that you entered on with step/half-step.
b.) Inverse Half-Step Method. (see video) In this method, the half-step is on the opposite side of the foot that you entered on with step/half-step.

3.) ‘Lazy’ Ochos. This walking tool comes in 2 flavors, the common Follower’s version, and the less common Lead version. This walking tool is where the Follower (or Lead, self-lead’s themselves) is led to stepping across their natural body meridian with each step.

Example: If the Lead steps with their Right, the Follower is led to step with their Right diagonally across their body meridian at a 45-degree pathway angle, while keeping the foot in alignment with the floorboards and not allowing the hips to rotate in any way, shape, or form.

All 3 types of entry points and both exit types can be used with ‘Lazy’ Ochos. It should be noted that Lazy (sometimes referred as to Milonguero  Ochos) are both a Walking System and an Ocho in their own right.

Type 3a – “Lazy” Follower Ochos.
Type 3b – “Lazy” Lead Ochos.

Surely that’s not all the walking systems, right ? You’re right. It’s not. This is just a taste. 😉 An informed tease. Nothing has been left out of this first 22 minutes of video, including footwork. However, the thing we did leave out was the other ELEVEN walking systems! If you want to read about the other walking ideas, and see examples of them, especially the Type 6 Walking System, which in our opinion is the Bee’s Knees, then you’ll need to register as a Freemium User which costs nothing and you get to read about the other eleven Walking Systems for 2019! If you want to go one step further, no pun intended, and actually Subscribe to Tango Topics, meaning to spend a few dollars/euros/rubles/pesos…then you can see the entire 1hr and 22-minute video on Walking Systems as Tango Topics sees it! Plus you get access to over 400 videos on a wide range of topics and techniques. What have you got to lose ?

Oh and one more thing, a further incentive for you register, is the Follower’s Perspective on Walking Systems, and the Lead’s Perspective on a wide range of “Gotcha’s” and things you need to be aware of with Walking Systems! If you become a Freemium User today at no cost to you, you get access to this valuable resource immediately. 🙂

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Have you seen our post on the Seven Basic Moves of Tango ? Quite possibly one of the more educational pieces of our yappage that really breaks down what the vocabulary is all about. The reason we stay that understanding what the dance is comprised of will give you a greater ability to change it to what you want it to be.
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Why should you subscribe instead ?  Several reasons.  1.) Probably the biggest reason is to save a boatload of money. Buying these things outright isn’t cheap. Besides when you buy you only have access to the one video. Subscribing, on the other hand, gives you access to everything else so you can see the foundational material that goes with this stuff. 2.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 3.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 4.) Because the Dancing Perspectives (Lead, Follow, and Dancing) are hidden to the open user. And that’s where all the information is at, unless you actually subscribe. Until you do, those very important textual descriptions of what’s going on for both Lead and Follow you want to read. 5.) And the real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more! 

Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’  or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of vocabulary there, or how to make things fit. This website is all about those things and more!

You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister.  Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perspective as well as from a Following Perspective!

The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos allows you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.

Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary. 

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