The tango walk is the first thing that you are taught when you start learning tango. You are told to slide along the floor and push into it. If you go to a milonga del centro, in which dancers exemplify tango milonguero, this walking technique is not viable. So, with very few exceptions, no one moves like that. So why is it almost universally taught, even by teachers of tango milonguero?
Tango milonguero has become a technique characterised by a close hold. However, the technique of the tango long walk has been imported into close embrace tango as a style being taught alongside salon style tango. The long tango walk concept instills the idea that dancing tango is that kind of movement. It is an image that is implanted in the minds of the students. The result is that they develop a blindspot and a resistance to tight movements in tango dancing. They feel that if they are not skiing they are not dancing tango.
Since tight movements are excluded, the technique of swivelling is required in ochos and turns. In tango milonguero there is no categorical distinction between the different kinds of movements, because they are all an improvised variation on the basic movement technique. With the tango power walk technique, on the other hand, you are either walking or doing an ocho or a turn. The movement is divided and compartmentalised in that sort of way. To do the ochos and turns you have to stop walking and start swivelling. Without the power walking technique these distinctions are no longer necessary. Also, the associated naming of the figures makes much less sense.
The space requirement of the power walk, as well as the associated swivelling technique, make it very difficult to maintain a close hold. Consequently, the dancers feel that they need to shift to an open hold in order to feel that they are able to execute a greater variety of steps and figures. As a result, the close hold position attains the status of a temporary figure rather than a hold technique for the dance as a whole.
The open hold technique that is normally utilised requires the dancers to embrace each other on the sides. This creates further tension in the arms and a push-pull technique for the transmission of lead and follow. This turns the dancing into a workout and makes connection between the partners, and with the music, all but impossible. The result is that the dancing looks more like a physical activity or a workout than social dancing.
Once the technique of tango walking is eliminated, several other techniques, such as the technique of swivelling and the push-pull partnering technique, can also be eliminated. Then the scheme of steps as distinct units will naturally fall away as well. Rather than the idea of a close hold, tango milonguero is characterised by tight dancing that does not depend on the tango power walk. Instead, it utilises a completely different movement technique that I call the “ki of milonguero” which transmits the energy from the centre of the body through the underarm towards the partner.