The traditional tango pedagogy gives great emphasis on walk. In those days, tango masters spend a great length of time teaching walk before they start any figures. There are good reasons for that. First, tango is a walking dance. No other dance does so much walk as tango does in the dance. Second, there is a relationship between walk and dance. Those who can walk well usually dance well. Those who do not dance well, their walk usually sucks. Third, walk is the simplest step of all steps, yet it is the foundation upon which other more complicated steps evolve. If one cannot do the simplest step well, it is less likely that he can do complicated steps well, and his problem usually can be traced back to walk. Finally, because walk is the simplest step, it can be effectively used in training other basic skills, such as embrace, posture, connection and musicality. People new to tango cannot distribute their attention equally well to too many elements while learning complicated figures. They need to develop good embrace, posture, connection and musicality before learning complicated stuffs, not after or at the same time. In order to train basic skills, the exercise needs to be kept simple, and walk is a perfect way to achieve that.
The lack of basic trainings in the tango scene of North America is due in many ways to a lack of sufficient walk training. American culture holds that learning must be fun and painless. Our schools have the most entertaining environment and least homework. Our teachers do not want to bore students with dull drills, and our pupils want to get fancy before they can walk, which they think they can already.
Nothing is farther from the truth. You look normal till people see you trying to learn tango. In fact, everyone looks clumsy and funny in his or her first tango walk. That is because walking in a close embrace is not something you often do. You are uncomfortable to lean on somebody you don’t know. You feel awkward to walk backward. You do not step on the beat. Your leg does not reach back far enough. Your behind sticks up and knees bend too much. You bounce up and down like a grasshopper, or wobble side to side like a chimpanzee. Your body is not flexible enough for the twist needed when walking on the side of your partner. You break the connection with your partner, or drag your partner out of his/her balance… Until you regain your comfortable zone in the embrace, you are not ready for the next step. That is why walk is so important. It is simple. It keeps you focused. In fact it is not just walk, it is about everything fundamental: posture, embrace, connection, musicality, balance, flexibility, communication, elegance, and harmony.