Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jumping Into The Debate About the Dreaded 8-Count Basic

The so-called 8 count basic, where the leader starts with a back step, then a side step, a lead to the cross, followed by a forward-side resolution, is taught by many tango teachers to total beginners. I have heard lots of explanations as to why they do this - it gets beginners dancing,  it has all the basic movements of the dance, and so on.

I never teach the 8 count basic. Here is why.

1: It is NOT the basic Argentine Tango step. The basic Argentine Tango step is the walk.

2: Good dancers NEVER use it. Why would you teach something that you, personally, would never use?

3: It includes movements that are socially unacceptable. Starting your tango with a leader's back step is like merging onto a highway and immediately putting your car into reverse. In some places this will result in an immediate request to leave the dance floor.

4: Tango is an improvisational dance. An 8 count choreography is the antithesis of improvisation.

5: It doesn't work. A milonga has a unique ebb and flow of movement among the dancers on the floor. The 8 count basic never fits within that ebb and flow.

6: Once a beginner has learned the pattern it takes a long time to get them to let go of it. Why not just avoid the whole problem and not teach it in the first place?


  1. Many new leaders have no idea what to lead or what is possible or acceptable in the tango community. Like a child learning to walk or swim, they need to be taught basic steps or strokes they can use and from that basic structure they learn to diversify and create new original patterns of their own. Nothing has ever been created from nothing, unless you are God. Teach your students the fundamental movements of dance and show them how they can be sequenced into a fluid and flowing motion we would recognize as a dance form, by example. Then you can ask them to improvise.


    1. There are plenty of basic combinations you can teach which do not involve socially unacceptable patterns. Teaching a new leader to enter the dance floor and immediately step backward is right up there with a drivers ed teacher teaching a new driver to merge onto a highway and back up.

      And to follow that with a side step which intrudes on the next lane just compounds the offence. What is wrong with teaching combinations that respect the ronda, and that the dancer might actually use?