Repetition and Contrast

In tango music, musical ideas of various lengths often repeat themselves. Usually, the repetition happens for two or three times, followed by a conclusive or bridging musical element.

Four is a special number in that the sum of the length of a repeating element (R) times the number of repetition plus that of a conclusive or bridging element (C) is usually 4 times the length of R: If R is repeated three times, C of the length of R follows. If R is repeated two times, C of double the length of R (C_) follows.

RRRC
RRC_

In dancing, when Rs are short, it feels nice to repeat the same or similar steps and then do something else for a C or a C_. When Rs are long, similar groups/flows of steps can be repeated. The key is to notice what are similar and what are different and to match the dance so that it reflects the musical idea of repetition and contrast.

Tango music is usually layered with Rs. Short Rs followed by a short C make a longer R’. This R’ also repeats and is followed by a longer C’ to make an even longer R”, and so on. Ideally, dance should reflect these multiple layers.