My tango lessons: The trick with the left arm

My tango lessons: The trick with the left arm

Many Argentine Tango dancers specially among those who consider themselves traditional dancers, seem to think it to be important to keep their left arm held in a very strong, even rigid way, to “give a stable hold to the ladys arm”.

Well, this may look okay and I don´t claim that it´s entirely wrong. At least if the man adapts his hand to the shoulder height of the lady and doesn´t drag up her arm uncomfortably.

A lady who has learned to stand in her own axis however doesn´t need that “support”.

Anyway, every Tango dancer should definitely strive to stand in his/her own axis (apart while performing figures which require to give up the own axis intentionally).

That means the „rigid hand” is not really necessary. Yet it has a real disadvantage. Actually it is blocking the movement of the dancers.

This starts already when doing simple things, like walking in front of each other in parallel system.

You ask me why? Well, I´ll explain it.

When we walk naturally our right arm always swings forward together with our left leg, while our left arm swings forward together with our right leg.

That´s not different when we are dancing Tango, also dancing Tango we want to move naturally and relaxed. But dancing Tango we are walking together with our partner. And here is the problem. If the left hand of the man is very rigid it happens quite often that the natural swinging of arms and legs is blocked.

Thus dancing together is less comfortable, many moves become unneccesarily complicated or even impossible.

So, and here is the trick:


  • Relax your left arm. To relax doesn´t mean though to get wobbly rubber arms all at a sudden. You still need to maintain a minimum of tension.
  • Keep your hand not higher than the height of the lady´s shoulder (Consider to hold it even a little lower, to make it more comfortable for her).
  • Everytime you step forward with your left leg,           swing your left arm slightly backwards. Remember I said slightly, okay? If you drag the lady out of her axis, making her falling towards you, you´ve done something wrong. By this slight backwards swing your body will be turned a little around your vertical axis and you get into the desired natural move together.
  • Everytime you step forward with your right leg, swing your left arm slightly forward. This movement however normally should be even smaller than the backward swing.
  • The good thing about this move is that you have to concentrate only on your left arm. The rest of your body will be turned almost automatically.
  • Of course you can and should apply this also, when you go backwards (Please go backwards only after making sure that there is free space and possibly not against the line of the dance.).

That means:

  • Left leg steps back   >> Left arm swings forward
  • Right leg steps back >> Left arm swings backwards
  • Important: I am only talking about the left arm. Your right arm provides a safe and comfortable embrace for the lady and doesn´t need to be moved intentionally.

That´s it. Try it and ask your partner what is most agreeable for her and how she understands best your signals, or better your invitations.

About Wolfgang Sandt

Mostly nice, patient, humorous, ecoconscious, good tango dancer and tango teacher
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