Projecting steps


Well-Known Member
Recently came across this helpful text:
  • Dana Frìgoli’s big breakthrough and emphasis is that the beauty of the free leg comes from the base leg. The main work of the follower is organizing the muscles of the base leg (and the core).
  • Do not respond to the lead by stepping, but by projecting: The follower’s free leg belongs to the leader. We give the free leg to the leader by stretching it with the psoas muscle (see drawing below) in the direction indicated.
    • That stretch is anchored to the floor and powered by the work of the base to keep you in the projection and not already stepping. The leader should feel almost as if they have little elastic bands attached to your free leg foot and your core so they feel direct control of your body.
    • The muscles of the free leg and all of its joints must be totally relaxed, so as to move fluidly. (With one exception which is that you are using the foot muscles to point the toe as beautifully as possible.)
  • Spirals start in the core: When your direction includes a pivot/spiral, take the leader’s energy and turn your core first. Push down through your base leg through your metatarsals to the floor, pivoting your base leg so that it is in “turned out” position relative to where you will be projecting. The free leg should move toward its new direction after the core and the base leg have arrived to the position ready for the new step. When you feel your movement is awkward or not pretty, it’s almost always because you have sent the free leg spiraling ahead of the core and base leg.
* Turned out means that if your heel is the center of the clock, your hips should be looking at at the 12 on the clock and your base leg’s toe should be pointing at about 10 o’clock if it’s the left leg and 2 o’clock if it’s the right leg – regardless of which direction you are stepping.​
  • We don’t need leaders to grip, shove, or yank us around. It’s the follower’s responsibility to maintain the connection we need to perceive the leader’s energy, with both handspositioned to perceive energy moving in any direction. Use the entire surface of the hands, all the way to the finger pads, with the follower’s left hand in contact with the front of the leader’s arm as well as the back (in open embrace), or touching the muscles of the leader’s back as close to the spine as possible (in close embrace). No tension is held in the arm muscles and shoulder joints, as this creates unnecessary noise. The follower matches compression created by the leader with the whole body, not just the arms, and relaxes it when the relevant movement is complete.
The Psoas Muscle is one of the hip flexors but it is also part of the core muscles.
It enables very soft movement of the leg to come directly from the core.

  • Forget about stepping. It’s not your job. Focus completely on projecting and then getting your base when you find you are on a new foot.
  • Leaders are not responsible for follower’s axis, only for not messing with it. We know where it is, they don’t. So it makes more sense for the follower to take care of their axis, and the leader to keep arms relaxed so as not to disrupt it.
  • “Collect”. During every step, there is a moment when the natural movement of the legs causes them to pass through this position. It should be a natural part of motion with a relaxed free leg. It is not a destination. Aiming your body at collect creates two problems, tension in the free leg that prevents soft projection, and it kills all your energy so you are not ready to move dynamically.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
I find the "Myth-busting" section particularly dificult to parse for what the author is trying to say. I need to keep that in mind in my own writing.


Active Member
I totally agree with Peaches. Knowing this type of thing once you've been dancing awhile because it seems like something basic you should be taught from the start, and being able to actually do it (and being ready to hear you need it) are different things. I can tell you from experience that actually trying to convince a beginning dancer that this is what they need to know...will only get you an empty classroom....


Well-Known Member
I don't think think all of this is universally applicable advice - this advice seems geared towards (for lack of a better word) nuevo followers. I for example prefer followers who step and activly take space - i think the energy of the dance comes from the follower and she is the one moving activly, and i feel very much not only that the leader is responsible for the followers axis, but also that the follower is responsible for the leaders axis. There are a whole bunch of different underlying techniques that are used in tango, and most differences between styles seem to me to be traceable to the proportions of the different mechanics used. This is one of the things that is so interesting when for example watching chicho dance - he seamlessly moves between different principles, and it seems to me that he is in some ways a fairly traditional salon dancer who is switching into a different framework whenever he leads something that is not achievable in that framework. It always feels like he is expanding, opening up the frameworks,and then tightening it up again when doing things that work better in a different way. He never looks trapped by trying to do something that does not work very well in the framework he is using.



Well-Known Member
With a slightly change of topic: If the leader is stepping on a stright leg with a normal, confortable steplength - the technique at page - what could the follower responce be?
Since I dance/walk with extended leg, i will try to do my best. ;)
The follower should only projects the leg, and the leader will push her with his chest.
The follower should feel when the leader is about to land his foot, so she can fully extend her leg.
This way she would always have appropriate step length.
The leader could play with step length and the step will be always synchronized.
Note: I land on the heel, and bend a knee while walking a bit to keep same height, rise only when stopping.


Well-Known Member
I wonder too if the leg follower has the wight on is flexed and if so how much?
It supposed to be free leg. Follower shouldn't control it. The leader controls free leg.
The initiation and leading is up to leader.
The follower may refuse the lead if sth is led not appropriate.
The leader should feel free leg moving.
It happened to me that I could feel that. ;)


Well-Known Member
With a slightly change of topic: If the leader is stepping on a stright leg with a normal, confortable steplength - the technique at page - what could the follower responce be?
This is a trick question :)

There is no followers response to a leader stepping on a straight leg with a normal comfortable steplenght (well, except for yelling at him and leaving the dancefloor).

The leader stepping on a straight leg with a normal comfortable step length is the leaders response to the follower stepping back a similar lenght before.

The leader marks a step by creating compression. The follower takes up the energy from the compression and steps backwards (my preference would be that she also steps with a straight-ish leg, using opening the pelvis and not contemporary dance style turnout to create the movement - something closer to the salsa body mechanics, as if the leg is not hinged at the hip, but at the lower egdge of the ribcage). This causes a the embrace to start to decompress, and the leader follows the follower into the space she opened up to maintain the compression. If he doesnt follow the follower she will notice the decompression, and hang in the middle of ther movement and not find a new base.
Once the embrace is established the movement of the couple is a give and take of both maintaining the compression and the each others axes.

I don't think the leader should control the free leg - the leader has some control over where and if the follower will find a new base, but this is more in the way the compression is maintained or not. When the follower has gotten some insight into what the leaders length of step is she can use her free leg however she wants as long as she establishes a new base somewhere close to where the leader expects it. The leader can not actually "hang" a follower for arbitrary amounts of time or mark any step he wants - he has to give her the opportunity to step on the music, and has the responsibility to have a definition of what "on the music" means that is interpretable to her. I think in some extent the music has more control of the free leg than the leader has.

Detour: I really think the music needs to be much more part of these technical nitpickings - a lot of the more compex things like saccadas, rebounds, volcadas and even simple things are to some extent based on the leader trusting the follower to listen to the music and moving accordingly. It is possible to time a followers stepping completely based on feel, but i don't think i am really sensitive enough for that - timing a follower stepping after having established a rhythm is much, much easier. Walking does not actually work by marking every step, but by marking the first few, and then letting the music mostly take over - this to some extent frees up the compression/embrace for leading more stuff - the compression - decompression - grounding- compression pattern is not repeated every step, but it turns into a continuous medium compression that is maintained equally by both, and that allows for very subtly exchanges of energy adjusting what the couple (that is in synch and where both activly maintan the synch with the help of being able to read each others minds to some extent because both are listening to the same music) as a whole does.)

When leader's leg does not flex during the step his/her hip is doing a slight up/down movement during the step. My working hypothesis is that the follower's response is to flex the standing leg /knee and move the axis backwards until she/he feels that the leader's downward movement stops. Then the follower let her foot to land and reaches the highest point of hip on a straight leg.

With other words when they are in the middle of a step, both having straight standing leg - leaders hip start to go downwards without flexing the standing leg and the follower's response is to flex her standing leg until leader's hip reaches the lowest point during the step.

(I am mega frustrated because of not finding any detailed information about follower's caminata. There is lot of postings about leader steps.)


Well-Known Member
I think this working hypothesis puts too much emphasis on how much the leaders movement determines the followers movement. I think the exact timing of walking only works because both the leader and the follower dance to the rhythm of the music. The follower lets her foot land on the beat (well, or the half beat, or the traspie, or after two beats, or a bit before the beat to get a driving energy, or a bit after the beat to get a taffy like slowing energy in the dance, and so on, and so on).

I share your frustration about not finding detailed information about the followers walk - and i additionally feel there is not enough thinking about the leader steps either. Most discussions are centered on the leader with an "ideal no-friction, no inertia, no agency" follower, which means a follower who actually does not dance, and disregards what the followers contribution to everything is. In some ways the tangoandchaos page is an example - in the video i think we can see the follower having quite a part in shaping the leaders step - as the text describes the leader "falls" into the first step, but what happens at the same time is that the follower counterbalances this fall and has a large part in determining how fast and forceful this fall is, and when the foot comes down, and so on. The leader can only move into the space the follower has given to him. And (unless you are willing to be a real brute) it is not possible to run over a grounded follower. A lot of followers who dance very "up" do not provide this, and it is possible to run them over, and consequently the dance changes (i think it leads to a emphasis on the rebound/boleo kind of movements because the couple still wants to feel a shared physicality, and if the compression does not provide it we are looking for other places).

I often think that we somewhere have a little bit lost sight of the followers part of the dance. Now of course is is easier to do this kind of theoretical nitpicking with leaders steps - leaders can learn a lot from dancing with sticks
, but it is not exactly the same thing as dancing with a follower who dances. I think a lot of the leaders walk (and step) discussions have about as much to do with the couple walking as the "in 4 steps around the chair" exercise has to do with dancing a giro.



Well-Known Member
...I often think that we somewhere have a little bit lost sight of ...
I tend to think all this technical description both goes too far and generates confusion, and goes not far enough because it can't really describe dancing. I think good technique is very important, but describing it is not the way to achieve it. A student must discover for themselves, within their own body, what works better and what works worse. Deliberate practice allows each person to realize what their own best technique is.

We've lost sight that we're just humans, with various bodies and various partners, and after all, it's just a dance.

...leaders can learn a lot from dancing with sticks.
Can't recommend this strongly enough. I learned a great deal by doing it. A couple of PVC pipes, about 5 feet tall, with rubber tips, provides a very good practice partner. No anticipation - only does what is lead.


Well-Known Member
..The leader marks a step by creating compression. The follower takes up the energy from the compression and steps backwards...
If you´d change energy to information then I would agree. There is no physical impact and the follower is far from beeing a bouncy ball.



Well-Known Member
If you´d change energy to information then I would agree.
(love the smiley!)

I agree that there is no impact, but i think it is to a large extent the follower who makes sure that there is no impact by starting the compression/decompression cycle. I have danced with beginners who just let their embrace collapse when i marked a step, and that was very much a "bouncy ball feeling" - or similar just loosing their balance, falling backwards, and catching themselves. Weird experience...

I don't use that technique much, but it seams like there has to be intention or else the follow wouldn't know which direction to step.
I don't usually think that way about intention - the followers shoulders are parallel to my shoulders, and her hips are parallel under her shoulders (except when she uses dissociation to "over-follow" something that i as a leader don't provide enough dissociation for myself). If there is one thing that is obvious it is the direction i think the follower will step.


PS: I love the limitations of talking about tango - energy/information/intention - the funny thing about the AT forum is that i never quite know if i am deep down agreeing with everybody, or disagreeing with everybody :)

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