What is up with the back step?

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.

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