The traditional tango pedagogy gave great emphasis on walk. In those days, tango masters spent an extended length of time teaching walk before they started any figures. There are good reasons for that. First, tango is a walking dance. No other dance uses so much walk in the dance as tango does. Second, there is a correlation 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 in all steps, yet it is the foundation upon which other steps have evolved. If one cannot do the simplest step well, it is unlikely that he/she can do complicated steps well, and the problem usually can be traced back to walk. Finally, because walk is the simplest step, it can be used to train basic skills such as embrace, posture, connection, communication, dissociation and musicality. People new to tango cannot distribute their attentions equally well to many elements while learning complicated movements. They need to develop good embrace, posture, connection, communication, dissociation and musicality before learning intricate figures, not after or at the same time. In order to train these basic skills, the exercise must be kept simple, and walk is a perfect way to achieve that.
The low quality of dance in our tango is due in many ways to the insufficient 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 only till people see you trying to learn tango walk. In fact, everybody looks clumsy and funny in his/her first tango walk. That is because walking with a partner chest against chest in close embrace is not something people normally do. You are uncomfortable of leaning on a stranger. You feel awkward to walk backwards. You are stiff, heavy and unbalanced. You do not step on the beats. Your toes are stepped on by your partner because your leg did 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 to be dissociated when walk on the side of the partner. You break the connection with your partner, or drag him/her out of 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 - embrace, posture, connection, musicality, balance, stability, flexibility, dissociation, communication, elegance and harmony. (See Women's Walk in Tango.)