Authors' Introduction and Overview

Intermediate Tango Vals (Tango Waltz)
by Kelly Ray & Lesley Mitchell (Philadelphia, Pa.)

An expanded version of the introduction
to Argentine Tango Waltz 1

The practice of dancing Tango steps to the fast waltzes that were composed alongside Tango in Argentina in the 1930s through 1950s is a relatively recent development in Argentine Tango. The result is a fast, smooth dance that joins the seductive and rhythmic melodies of Waltz to the complexities of Tango. Tango Vals utilizes almost the same vocabulary as Tango, the biggest difference perhaps being that in response to the music the dancers tend to choose more turning steps, and also to choose not to pause as they frequently do in Tango.

So, how do we take Tango, a 4/4 time dance and fit it to 3/4 time waltz music? Most of the waltz music used this way is fast enough so that stepping on all 3 beats of every measure would be exhausting. One popular and relaxed solution is to step only once per waltz measure, on the accented beat 1 of 3.

Step on 1, no step on 2 or 3, step on 1, no step on 2 or 3

Syncopated step patterns in Tango and Tango Vals: In Argentine Tango it is very common to move more quickly than the normal cadence simply by double timing, or stepping twice per 2 beats of music instead of the more basic once per 2 beats. This practice is widely referred to by dancers as syncopating*. Syncopating steps is also popular in Tango Vals. It is accomplished by stepping on one or another of the two unaccented beats in the measure in conjunction with the first beat, for example on 1 and 3, or on 1 and 2. The next step in either of these situations would be on 1 of the next measure, so that the pattern of steps over two measures becomes:

Step on 1, no step on 2, step on 3, step on 1, no step on counts 2 or 3 of the second measure.

We値l refer to this rhythm pattern as 1, 3, 1

In the text you will notice that we describe and most frequently dance our syncopations in this 1, 3, 1 rhythm pattern. However, this can be modified to the 1, 2, 1 rhythm pattern according to individual preference and musical interpretation:

Step on 1, step on 2, no step on 3, step on 1, no step
on counts 2 or 3 of the second measure, which we値l refer to as 1, 2, 1

which we値l refer to as 1, 2, 1.

Some waltzes emphasize, in addition to the downbeat 1, a strong secondary beat on count 3. Others emphasize a strong secondary beat on count 2. Still others are so rhythmically complex that they sometimes emphasize 2, and sometimes 3. (Listen to Francisco Canaro痴 version of Corazon de Oro for an example of a piece of music where the emphasis shifts according to the theme.)

A faster, more challenging, and less common rhythm pattern is a run of four steps over two measures which we値l refer to as 1, 2, 3, 1 Step on 1, step on 2, step on 3, step on 1, no step on counts 2 or 3 of the second measure.

You値l see many instances of these various rhythm patterns in the figures below, and you may note that the step on the unaccented beat (2 or 3) is often literally a shorter step, landing next to or just beyond the previous step.

Although some dancers never syncopate, stepping on only beat 1 of the measure, the reverse is not true. No one syncopates every measure in Vals. The syncopations are occasional invidual expressions of the music and are always combined with some slow steps.

So, let us proceed to the first figure.