Argentine Tango Steps

The Argentine Tango Basic Step

Also known as:

The Basic Eight

The Eight Count Basic

The Eight Step Basic

Following the Baldosa, the 8 count basic step, which leads the follower into a position known as “The Cross”, is the most commonly taught beginner figure and is a fundamental foundation step to the whole of Argentine Tango.

The 8 step sequence is as follows:

Step 1:

  • Leader takes a small step backwards with his right foot.
  • Follower takes a small step forward with her left foot matching the step of the leader.

Step 2:

  • Leader takes a side step or “Salida” to the left with his left foot.
  • Follower matched the leader’s side step with her own side step to the right with her right foot.

Step 3

  • Leader steps forward with his right foot just to the outside of the follower. The step will feel as if the leader is stepping his right foot directly in front of his left foot and around the side of the follower. To feel relaxed the leader will need to turn his chest a little towards the follower (disassociating the top half of his body from the bottom half) so that they stay comfortably facing each other.
  • Follower steps straight backward with her left foot. To stay in good connection with her partner, the top half of her body will turn a little towards the leader as he moves to her right.

Step 4

  • Leader steps forward again this time with his left foot moving in front of his right foot, again slightly to the outside of the follower and again keeping his chest turned slightly towards the follower in order to maintain and comfortable connection. It is important to lead this step just right because it is the preparation step to lead the follower into the cross.
  • Follower again steps straight backwards this time with her right foot so that it ends up behind her left foot. Follower continues to have the top half of her body facing slightly towards the leader.

Step 5

  • Leader takes a half step forward with his right foot in order to close his feet. At the same time, he turns his chest from facing slightly to the right towards the follower to facing straight ahead. This turn of the chest to face forward brings the follower directly in front of the leader.
  • Follower takes a half step back with her left foot. Because the leader’s chest is turning to the center, follower’s chest and body with follow the leader back to the center and as a result of this movement by the leader, the follower’s left foot will cross in front of her right foot instead of going straight backwards. As a result, the follower completes the cross step.

Step 6

  • Leader steps directly forward with his left foot aiming underneath the armpit of the follower. Chest remains facing straight ahead directly at the follower.
  • Follower step directly back with her right foot.

Step 7

  • Leader takes a side step to the right with his right foot.
  • Follower take a side step to the left with her left foot.

Step 8

  • Leader take a side step to the right with his left foot bringing the left foot together next to the right foot completing the 8 step sequence.
  • Follower takes a side step to her left with her right foot bringing the right foot together next to the left foot ending the sequence.

Here are some really good videos demonstrating the Argentine Tango 8 step basic:

How to Do the Tango 8-Step Basic

Basic Step

Diego Blanco & Ana Padrón show the standard form of the Basic Eight.

Argentine Tango 8 Step Basic with Instructions

By Rusty Cline & Joanne Canalli. Shows not only the the Basic Eight, but also finishes by teaching the six step baldosa.

Basic Argentine Tango

By James & Joanna. James & Joanna take you through the basic eight, windmill and forward ochos. This gives clear instruction on the Basic Eight but then makes a big transition to the more advanced molinete.

Argentine Tango: Cruzada in Cross System

By utsocialdance. Shows changing at position 2 in the Basic Eight to use the cross system to get to Cruzada.

There are some important points to note when carrying out the 8 step basic:

Leader’s Use of the Chest

Most beginners when starting out learning the 8 step basic begin every step by leading with their feet as they try to memorize their steps. The problem with this approach is that the follower cannot feel what the leader’s feet are doing and can only follow if she knows that the leader is going to do. This may work fine when practicing or in a prepared dance routing however is a major problem in an informal dance on a crowded dance floor. The follower ends up having no idea what to do next until it is too late. It is imperative that every move that the leader takes is led first from the chest with the feet following just thereafter. The best way for a leader to do this well is to stand tall with his chest held proudly forward. This allows the follower to connect to and feel every movement coming from the leader’s chest. In my opinion, a mistake many tango teachers make is to teach the importance of the chest leader later after the student has leant some steps. However, I believe this results in a bad habit being developed that has to be undone which is ultimately harder than teaching the importance of the chest lead upfront.

Step 1 – The Lead’s Back Step

On a crowded dance floor at a milonga, a back step could cause the leader to accidently step backwards into the dancer’s immediately behind. Therefore, the 8 step basic is often taught omitting the first step but instead starting with step 2 – the side step or Salida. In fact, some milongas even forbid starting a dance with back steps to avoid the risk of a collision with others.

The Basis Eight is an important foundational step for a number of reasons:

  • Each of the numbered steps is the foundational vocabulary used to describe other argentine tango moves.
  • The Cross (Cruz, Cruzada) at step 5 is used in a variety of different tango steps. It is a unique step not used in other dances like ballroom and feels extremely foreign at first and takes a lot of practice by the leader and follower to work smoothly and easily.
  • The side step (or Salida) at step 2 is the most common way for most tango dancers to start a move.
  • Steps 6, 7, and 8 are the most common way to finish a step sequence in tango.

Basic Eight Variations

There are several easy variations on the Basic Eight.

  • Pivoting counterclockwise at steps 1, 2 or 6, is commonly used, particularly to navigate the dance floor or to navigate away from other couples who are close by.
  • Starting with step 2 instead of step 1 is very frequently used because it’s problematic to go backwards on a crowded dance floor.
  • The rhythm or timing of the steps can be varied, for example going faster from steps 3 to 5.
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