OK here are some exercises you can do on your own or as a couple if you are living with someone.

Hopefully if you’ve danced tango for a little while you can recognise the beat and are able to step on the strong beats. This is an important thing but it is only the beginning of ‘dancing to the music’. Let’s look at the ‘overarching’ musical structure of classic tango.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post a typical tango* is structured as follows:

  1. There are 5 Sections often called ABACA.
  2. Each of the 5 sections has 4 phrases.
  3. Each phrase consists of 4 measures.
  4. Each measure has 2 strong beats (1 & 3).
  5. Therefore each phrase has 8 strong beats.
  6. So each section has 32 strong beats.

The idea is that A is repeated 3 times. Often there is a ‘variaciones’ in the final A which may make it sound like a new section and not A repeated.

Thus a whole song with the ABACA structure has 32+32+32+32+32 beats.

*A “typical tango” say up to the early 1930s – after that additional structures became more common such as ABCABC or ABAB for example.


Listen to Paciencia  Juan D’Arienzo:


This is the warm up or can be the main exercise for recent beginners. The 8 beat phrases are designed so that a phrase of 8 is posed as if it’s a question which is then answered by another 8 beats.

Using the Salida or just walk/change weight by dancing a phrase of 8 beats followed by the answering 8 beats. So wait for the 1st of a set of 8 to begin.


Just listening identify the end of each section.


3.1 Step or change weight on all the beats – dance through but listen for each transition from section to section – there will be 4 transitions.

3.2 Step or change weight but listen for the transition and then pause, wait and start again when you feel. There is no right answer, the idea is to follow what the music is inviting and the first step to achieve that is not to dance across the sections as if they are not there.


Another thing to try (useful if you have limited space):
Dance the salida, at the end collect without the final weight change. This leaves the leaders left free and followers right is free. Now reverse the steps so that the leader does the salida with the followers steps and vice versa. After 16 step you should be more or less back where you started!

I will post some more homework soon – a vals timing video is planned.

Further study with Rui Barroso on music timing on youtube:

TangOnline by Rui Barroso


Rui is running remote study via Facebook as well – see below