That’s right.  You heard it here first.  Spread ‘em!

This post follows our previous posts “Weight in Your Heels”Stick Your Butt Out, and Stick Your Butt Out – Part II concerning specific techniques that we believe are important concepts evolved in Tango and specifically in women’s Tango.  Read it if you like.  Believe it if you like.  Comment if you like :)

Almost every tanguera out there can relate to K’s utter confusion when she was told to stop collecting her feet/knees/thighs.  However, that is exactly what she was told and it was exactly what she stopped doing.  The idea of collecting your feet (specifically in the psychotic and obsessive way women have been told to do in North America) is completely unnecessary and often kills the movement (and lead) coming from the leader.  It likely stems from the proliferation of ballet dancers that came to Tango.  What one dance requires a woman to obsessively keep her thighs together?  BALLET!

K was told one pivotal statement (in Spanish) that helped create the change in her mind… and her legs.  “Stop squeezing your ‘chichi’!!!”  Certainly you can figure out the translation of “chichi” :)

We challenge you to find a milonguera who is squeezing the bejeezus out of her thighs… or “chichi” for that matter.  No, you will not find one.  You are likely to find a milonguera bringing her ankles together, but otherwise, her legs are falling straight down from her hip joints.  Nada mas.

As for men… men need to stop squeezing their packages as well.  It is so common to see really tight “culos” among North American tangueros.  Men, if your pants are being eaten up by your butt, you have got a problem.  RELAX!  There is supposed to be room between your thighs, your butt should be relaxed, and your knees should not be locked (i.e., pulled up thighs).  You will most often see gobbled up pants in tight-“culo”-men when they are paused with their feet together or during giros/enrosques.

Now K was not only told to stop the collecting and squeezing, she was told to keep her legs as far apart as possible… as often as possible.  It’s not an easy concept to put into practice after spending the past couple years doing the exact opposite.  However, the result is not only beautiful, it also provides another groundbreaking concept for the woman’s dance.  We are not ballet dancers trying to dance Tango (although many of us may have been ballet dancers once upon a time)!  Then why are we keeping both legs under our body and trying to keep our balance on one foot?  Does this not reflect the image of a ballerina balancing on one point shoe exactly?  And why should the woman provide so little distribution of weight for the man to feel?


When a woman spreads her legs she distributes her own weight across a larger area (not because she has any weight on her spread foot, but because her free foot is far away from her standing leg) and she can begin to understand and feel the concept of being truly grounded.  In order to separate your foot as far away as possible, you will need to relax the thighs and hips, and actually relax into the standing leg – thereby becoming grounded.  This is how the woman gives her free leg/foot to the man.  At this point the man can really feel the woman’s free leg in his hands (specifically his left hand) and lead that free leg.

The big question is: When?  When do you keep your legs apart?  The answer is: during pauses, during paradas, during giros, and during ochos (to name a few).  When a woman squeezes her thighs together and collects her feet, she removes any option of a man entering/stepping between her legs (the speed at which a woman collects also contributes greatly to the problem).  Not to mention that she is also neglecting the music that her free leg could be dancing (we are not even referring to adornments, but rather to the idea that when a woman closes or collects her feet, she should be doing so to the music – Tango Pilgrim shares the idea well HERE).

The main issue is that the majority of female dancers have been taught or have learned to collect their feet (obsessively) by squeezing their thighs together.  If you have learned with the “squeeze-the-thighs” concept, it carries through in all your dance.  This means, for example, when you are doing giros, you are not opening your legs enough during all your steps and you are probably hurrying to get your feet together.

Here are 3 videos to get an idea about what we’re talking about:

Andrea @ about 1min 51sec

Stella @ about 40 seconds

Geraldine at almost every “parada”

Although we are only showing 3 young dancers, you can also find the same concept danced among some of the older tangueras and milongueras.  Once you know what you’re looking for, you will spot it often among many of the great dancers.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

8 responses to “SPREAD ‘EM (YOUR TANGO LEGS)

  • tangopilgrim

    Sorry, J&K, but these women on youtube are show tango dancers. They are no milongueras! :-) ;-) :-P

    Figure I will get that out of the way first. LOL

    —When? When do you keep your legs apart?—

    Also walking back for the woman. It helps with the natural hip movement. The sensation from this way of walking kills the man…well I shouldn’t speak for every man. :-)

    • movementinvitesmovement

      Oh we know!!! They are definitely STAGE dancers ;)

      You’re right about women’s legs being relaxed/apart while walking backwards too. Many women are squeezing their “chichis” while walking backwards and this causes some women to walk almost on one track instead of two. It is also very important for natural hip movement as you mentioned.

  • tangoyte

    The idea of forcing the thighs together is a misinterpretation of something that is actually super important: maintaining muscle tone in the adductors. You are absolutely right: the action of collecting the feet, as it is done and understood KILLS the flow of movement that is a most beautiful musical element. Also, it implies a wrong concept of (body) AXIS and COMPLETION (of weight transfer). This is still the single most destructive misconception in tango education today, imo.

  • Margo Romero

    OK, got it. Thank you guys!

  • elosseva

    This article makes total sense to me! I learned (the hard way) that collecting my feet/legs all the time results in (a) killing momentum and energy of movement and (b) preventing some of the potential leads.

  • Bill Serve

    I completely agree on dancing ‘Open to Open’ and the concept of ‘Happy Asses’ (these are the phrases I use to describe what you are talking about here).

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