The Four Principles of Tango

Susana Miller, world renowned master Milonguera of Argentine tango, presented a workshop in the “Four Principles of Tango”. She asserted that if you followed these four principles, that you would not need to know any steps. (Susana Miller has taught the tango to more people in the world than anyone else.)

This recap is written as a review and reminder for those who were present. It is not meant to be a way to learn the information. There is no substitute for seeing Susana demonstrate these principles – indeed, they are part of her daily life, and everyday movements. I learned much just from watching Susana as she moved about in her relaxed, limber, lithe body-of-a-young-woman; her strength and power projecting her concepts around the classroom; and her gentle intimacy in the tango embrace. Susana has a unique and powerful presence.

These notes were made from what I remember, and Susana has reviewed them for accuracy.

  1. EYES of a FOX. Let your eyes study the salon ahead of you and around you, and project your energy forward. Project your presence forward to dance in the space 10 feet in front of you. Leader drop the hip and bend the knees slightly, gathering power, then launch forward forcefully. Continue forceful forward motion until you stop (don’t lose energy in the last forward step, anticipating the stop). When bending the knees, keep the body straight, pelvis tipped up (don’t bend at the waist; don’t stick your butt out).

Don’t look at the floor when you embrace her because you are going to lose connection and will cause a slight delay in your response, and feel, to your partner, like a disconnect.

  1. FEET of an ELEPHANT. Let your feet relax, your toes spread, and become soft like a sponge, caressing the ground, flowing into the floor. Tense feet will rebound from the hard floor, lifting you up. Soft feet will flow into the floor, and become part of the floor, lowering your center of gravity, and giving you stability and solidarity.

Don’t try to be correct. Don’t avoid mistakes, or your feet will be ready to move any direction at a moment’s notice, and have tension. Rather, make mistakes freely, and enjoy them. Step wherever you step, boldly and confidently. Walk forward on heel, then toe, like normal walking.

  1. KNEES of a CAT. Soft knees. Catlike walk. Eyes remain at the same level while walking: no bounce, no up-and-down; no “signal” for starting or ending a step. Step forward or back in a straight line, not moving side-to-side, with feet under the body, not bending the body.
  2. CHEST of a LION. Chest up and forward, projecting energy. At the same time, shoulders are not pulled back to make the chest hard, but relaxed forward to make the chest soft, and the embrace inviting. At the moment of contact in the embrace, the leader should invite the follower, and let her come to him. Tango is a physical expression of your feelings. How do you feel? What do you feel? What feelings do you have? Examine your feelings, and consider what feelings you have. Then express your feelings through your chest. Project your feelings into your tango.

Jay Aland, Atlanta, May 9, 2010