Tango, Vals, or milonga?

The 3 rhythms of tango (tango, vals, milonga) complement each other and are what make a milonga night rich and full of flavours.

So we really want you to dance – and enjoy – them!

We know that some dancers tend to skip the milonga and vals tandas because they are not sure about how to dance them: should I learn new steps? Should I walk on the beat? How can I lead on such fast rhythm? etc…

If you are in this situation, first let me reassure you: everyone has been there….

Giving you keys to adapt your dancing:

The trick is that there are no new steps to learn – it’s only a matter of changing the quality of your dancing.

Our goal in this blog post is that you understand how you can adapt the steps you learn in your tango classes to the vals and milonga rhythms.

So, we will focus on:

  • The type of movements each rhythm suggests
  • How to step
  • What you want to express (drama and passion, fluidity and playfulness, or cheekyness and fun?)

Obviously, every song is different, and can be danced differently according to the dancer. So this blog post does not replace a real musicality workshop, or even good knowledge of the music.

Still, if you are at improvers/intermediate level, hopefully it will give you keys to start playing with the different rhythms…

Read this, listen to the music, then decide how you want to dance it!

Because a picture is worth a thousand words: If you want to see what these three rhythms look like ‘in action’, we have recorded three short films of ourselves dancing – with the main elements to remember for each rhythm.

Register in the subscribe form below to receive the video in your mailbox right now



One of the key elements of the tango rhythms is the walk. The tango rhythm is asking us to walk a lot. We ‘show off’ with our walking: grounded, slow, making sure that we unroll the foot and gradually transfer the axis from one leg to the next.

The way we walk on tango: grounded, unrolling the foot, transferring the axis from one leg to the next

Circular vs. Linear movements.

Also, in the tango rhythm, we mix circular and linear movements. Linear movements are movements that make us travel across the dance floor, such as the walk, the cross, the ocho cortado… We dance them when the music is choppy, rhythmical.

When the music is soft (for example with the violin, singer), we do circular movements: giros, half-giros, ochos, planeos…

Long pauses

The tango rhythm is also inviting us to pause a lot (a pause is when we are on one foot, decorating or slowly collecting with the free leg): in the walk, in the parada, after a pivot, etc…. The pause is a wonderful moment for connection.

We, the dancers, want to listen to the phrasing in the music to hear the moments of suspension, of pausing, and take the time to fully enjoy them.

What we want to express when we dance Tango

Though there are exceptions, Tango – the music and the lyrics – tends towards melancholy, love, sadness… In the Tango rhythms, that’s what we want to express: drama, passion, romance…

So you have full licence to get your inner Prima Donna out, and go for your most, and best, dramatic dancing!

II. Vals

Circular movements

By comparison with the tango rhythm, there is less walking in the vals.

The music is inviting us to do circular rather than linear movements: the vals is the time to play with the turns, and show off your beautiful giros! So, play with the giros in the close and open side of the embrace, the cross-system with ochos forward and backwards, etc.

Flexible axis:

With all these turns, you can play with a flexible embrace. Keep a close embrace for the walk, and release the embrace when the woman goes back to her axis (during the giros or ochos for example).

Fluidity/Short pauses

The Vals rhythms has much less pausing than the tango rhythm. So, it suggests a lot of fluidity, and movements that do not require pausing and big embraces. For example, we keep the paradas, the sandwichitos, the long decorations…. for the tango rhythm!

The way we step:

In the vals, we step with ‘soft’ knees – a least softer than in the Tango rhythm. We need to get that soft, light, dreamlike vals feel in our bodies. In Vals classes, we tell our students to imagine that they are dancing on cotton.

What we want to express: 

In the vals, we want to express fluidity, joyfulness…

In the vals, we want to express fluidity, joyfulness…


Small steps

In milonga the steps are much smaller than for both the vals and tango. The embrace is ‘tighter’ than for the other rhythms, which allows only for small steps. The milonga rhythm is so sharp that if we don’t do smaller steps and a tighter embrace, we can lose the connection.

Simple steps

The milonga is so quick and sharp that it doesn’t allow for complicated movements and sequences. A lot of dancers think that milonga is ‘too difficult’ whereas actually it is quite the contrary: keep your steps simple and your movements sharp, and you have a milonga dance!

Linear and sharp movements

In the milonga, we avoid the soft, fluid circular movements of the vals. Our movements are linear and choppy. The ‘basic 6 steps’ and ‘basic 4 steps’ of tango – a simple combination of forward, back and side steps – work well for the milonga rhythm.

The way we step:

Contrarily to tango, we do not slowly unroll the foot and transfer the axis. In milonga, we keep the axis in between our legs, and walk without transfering the axis. Our steps are quick, small and sharp.


What we want to express:

When we dance milonga, we are cheeky, mischievous, playful, fun….

See the differences between these three rhythms: If you want to see what these three rhythms look like ‘in action’, we have recorded three short films of ourselves dancing – with the main elements to remember for each rhythm.

Register in the subscribe form below to receive the video in your mailbox right now.



So there you have it. The main differences in how to dance to Tango, Vals and Milonga.  We hope that this helps you enjoy your milongas even more!

If you have more tips on how to play with the different tango rhythms, please let us know in the comments section below…

Happy tuesday, and abrazo grande!

Pablo & Anne

Are you ready to take your tango to the next level?


Improve the quality of your dancing with our online tango course:

5 weeks to find power and elegance in the embrace

Leave a Reply