What does it mean to dance with 'good musicality'?

IMG_4301 by mhowry, on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  mhowry

Tango dancers often discuss the importance of dancing to the music, having ‘good musicality’ etc.  But what exactly does it mean to dance musically? I tried noting some possibilities, and since some are very basic, while other are more advanced (and should be used sparingly).

I tried to classify them within the usual trichotomy of beginner/intermediate/advanced, thinking that you have to know the very basics, and you should master basically everything in the intermediate before venturing out into the advanced concepts. Some of the advanced concepts should be used with care, such as stepping on the weak beat.

Very basics

  • Dancing when there is music and not when there is not (yes, really)

  • Stepping on the (strong)beat

  • Make your partner step on the (strong) beat.

  • (be able to)Dance double time

  • Make pauses

  • Dance tango to tango music, milonga to milonga and vals to vals (etc)


  • Interpretation of the emotional content of the music (e.g. humorous, sad, tragic, romantic etc)

  • Walk to music with strong walking beat

  • Dance to the phrasing of the music

  • Dancing the pauses

  • Dance smoother to smooth music, more rhythmically to rhythmic music etc.

  • Leading one rhythm while doing another

  • Match something in the music with particular step or ornament

  • Dance the final variation

  • Predict the end of a song and close in time.

  • Cadencia


  • Step on the weak beat (and not on the strong)

  • Moving counter to the music (e.g. slow down when the music is fast)

  • Play with rhythms

  • Fit sequences of steps with the phrases of the music

  • Repeat and make variations when the music repeats with variations

  • Syncopated steps (e.g. suspension or anticipation) that fits the music

  • Something extra :-)

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