American Style Tango is the most powerful of the ballroom dances. Its staccato actions and strong movements make it a difficult yet very enjoyable dance. Unfortunately, many instructors do not teach the bent knee connection that gives American Style Tango its' unique feeling and style. They either don't know how to teach it or they feel it is too hard for the dancer. This results in a Tango that is more like Foxtrot than Tango. These students frequently never achieve the real feeling of American Style Tango. The bent knee connection feels very awkward and clumsy in the beginning, but once you start getting it, there is nothing else quite like it.
American Style Tango has a very strong pulsing staccato movement. This is achieved by bent knees (touching your partners) and powering from the supporting leg. The knee connection is initiated by establishing a "left side lead Tango frame" while standing straight legged. Screw the partnership down (counter clockwise) into the floor. This results in the bending of the knees to create the knee connection and a right side lead. The leader's knees are slightly offset to the left of the ladies knees. The partnership does not come out of the bent knee position during the dance.
The man takes a progressive step by moving his knee forward (slightly dragging the toe) pushing the ladies leg out of the way then straighten the lower part of the leg to complete the heel step. The ladies leg moves backward to a straight position with the toe extended. The ladies leg is reaching behind her before the man powers from his supporting leg to initiate the weight change. As the step is completed the partnership returns to the bent knee connection. You should feel a lot of thigh connection when both partners' legs are straight.
The lady must not create a heavy connection through the knees. It is like power steering in a car, the man initiates the movement and the lady adds power to the movement but does not loose the connection to the leg. When the lady feels the power from the man's supporting leg, she will instinctively power from her supporting leg giving the partnership four wheel drive (as you would expect with a two- headed four-legged animal).
The biggest problems men have are that they either lean forward with their upper body or they bend backward from only their knees (creating a straight line from the knees to the top of their head). This makes it very difficult to take a step leading with the knee. The man should feel as if he is sitting straight down to cause his knees to bend. This allows freedom of movement through the knees and lower leg/foot.
The lady must feel as if she is reaching behind her with her leg but not allow her body to lean forward. The man's offset connection to the ladies knees will cause her left leg to be pushed out to the side. The lady must train herself to step toward her opposite shoulder to keep her leg from being pushed out.
Most students get a little frustrated when first learning Tango because it feels so clumsy. Every lesson gets easier and more comfortable until it finally feels normal. There is no substitute for time on the dance floor. You just have to have the repetitions to develop the muscle memory. American Style Tango is certainly worth the effort.