The other day, one of my beginner male students entered the class, started his dance with some walking steps and side steps and getting confused. When I asked why he does not use the tango basic to warm up and ease into other patterns, he replied that someone at a practica told him it is not appropriate to do a back step! He was trying to avoid -any- back step and getting totally lost.
I then remembered a beginner class that I observed in Buenos Aires where a young unexperienced instructor was trying to teach the “baldosa” pattern to beginners, starting it with a side step, ending up with a five step count, then asking them to continue by adding the back step and repeating it with a six count; of course he lost the class right at that moment!
The leader’s back steps are essential in tango training, especially at the early stages:
– It keeps the basic as eight count, which fits an eight beat musical phrase.
– It allows the basic or the baldosa pattern to be repeated exactly for practice purposes.
– it clarifies the salida and its musicality, as tango musicality with pauses and improvisatory dance phrases is a very difficult concept to grasp for those who initially learn other dances.
– It forces a follower to learn to take a forward step towards the leader, which might not be straightforward for a beginner on high heels.
Once a leader becomes comfortable with various patterns and their design, it is trivial to start the dance with a side step if necessary, as it is prudent in crowded spaces. However there is nothing wrong with generally using back steps in tango, during training, social dancing and performance.