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Tango Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Levels

This article is an exposé of the levels in tango: beginner, intermediate and advanced. It has been compiled by taking the opinions and recommendations of advanced dancers as well as teachers, and seeing what the curricula of a large number of tango studios around the world offer in their beginning, intermediate and advanced classes.

As such, what belongs in each level is a subjective assessment, and should be regarded purely as opinion. This author does not purport to define the levels, rather this article is a collective summary of ideas about what these levels are.

Differences between beginner, intermediate and advanced tango

The differences and division between the levels in tango – beginner, intermediate and advanced – are ambiguous at best, particularly the transition point between beginner and intermediate. This is accentuated by the the fact that a dancer may be a beginner at one type of step, yet intermediate at another, depending on such things as experience, skill, and what their teacher focuses on.

The difference is further blurred by the fact that many aspects of tango and classes are classified as ‘beginner/intermediate’ or ‘intermediate/advanced’. To keep things simple, this article does not include these sub-classifications, though certainly they are appropriate, and reflect the truth that the classification and learning of tango is an infinite spectrum - from beginner ever onwards - rather than distinct levels.

A simple definition of beginner, intermediate and advanced

From a very simple perspective, one could divide the levels into the following:
  • Beginner: basic understanding of the simpler concepts and steps within tango; connection is possible but quite difficult to achieve
  • Intermediate: reasonable level of technical understanding of tango and a good repetoire of steps; connection is attained more readily, but still quite difficult to achieve consistently
  • Advanced: excellent understanding of the technical aspects of tango, technique, and at this level improvisational choreography and connection are major factors.
The next sections attempt to refine this even further, if at all possible.

Tango Beginner Level

  • Forward step
  • Back step
  • Side step
  • Rock step
  • Walking
  • Walking with turn
  • Soft knees
  • Concept of leading
  • Concept of following
  • Requesting and accepting a dance
  • Lead’s floor craft (collision avoidance, line of dance, etc)
  • Open embrace
  • Balance
  • Axis
  • Anticipation
  • Rhythm
  • Beat
  • Posture and frame
  • Connection with partner
  • Weight changes in place
  • Ocho – back and front
  • Parallel and cross system
  • Cruzada
  • Simple embellishments (eg tap)

Tango Intermediate Level

  • Creativity on the floor
  • Use of the follower’s free leg
  • Close embrace
  • Transition between open to close embrace
  • Corrected posture positions (body, arms, elbows, etc)
  • Molinette
  • Giro in the open embrace
  • Boleo - back and forward
  • Media Lunar
  • Refinements of embellishments (eg lapiz)
  • Barrida
  • Sacada
  • Ocho cortado
  • Variations on the ocho (eg with barrida)
  • Parada
  • Vals
  • Milonga
  • Gancho
  • Sandwich
  • Carpa
  • Basic colgada

Tango Advanced Level

  • Spontaneous variation of the steps – eg staccato and legato movements
  • Precision on posture and frame
  • Refinement of the colgada
  • Enganche
  • Planeo
  • Enrosque
  • Calesita
  • Cadena
  • Volcada
  • Refinement of the close embrace
  • Giro (under close embrace)
  • Syncopation
  • Variations of the parada
  • Variations of the boleo
  • Variations of the barrida
  • Variations on the ocho (eg revolving forward ochos and revolving backward ochos)
  • Variations on the sacada (eg back sacada and follower’s sacada)
  • Variations on the colgada
  • Complex and refined embellishments
  • Follower’s 'conversation' (eg resisting/releasing movement, using momentum, slowing/speeding things down)

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