Aug 01, 2021

Like mostly everything in Tango analyzing any single element opens an avalanche of possibilities.

From a tango perspective, sacada means displacement. Action wise one of the partners is displacing the other partner’s free (trailing) leg and takes over the space that was previously occupied.

As with many things in Tango – the displacement is of course a visual illusion. And like in any illusionistic tricks – they have to be set up correctly to work.

64 possibilities of sacadas.jpg

Sacadas fundamentals

The most difficult thing that is sometimes hard to understand when you are first introduced to Sacadas is that there is no real collision, no real force.

Although - you are right - when looked at from setting up perspective and trajectories of the movement – the paths of partners are crossing as though they were going to collide. Space is taken over by one of the partners who is invading it by pushing - kicking - removing - displacing the leg of the other partner, that for now owns that space.

However, when you analyze the movement carefully, you will notice one peculiarity: both partners are traveling in the same direction, around the circle, but in the same direction.

The circularity of the lead, trajectories, and movement itself can be addressed separately, for now, let’s assume that it is a known subject even for a Beginner Tango dancer.

What kind of accidents is the most common on the roundabout, where everyone travels in the same direction? Right! – the speed caused, and non-proper or unexpected line changes. And that is pretty much the key to understanding the sacadas.


If the distance between the two is the same, in order for two partners to move in the same direction – they have to be moving either at the same speed or one of them has to be very slightly slower. Why?

Let’s go back to the cars’ reference.

If you are in the car that is behind your friend’s car and you start moving first – you are going to rare-bump him or her. That’s pretty obvious.

If your friend in front of you takes off at a higher speed than you – you will not be able to keep the same distance.

Then there is a possibility of moving at the same speed. That could potentially be the answer if not the fact that tango is an improvised dance and therefore only the Leader knows what is about to happen, while the Follower needs to be informed about the expected action through continuous leader/follower feedback, sort of a ping action. In other words – the speed could be the same, but for the illusion to work, the action of the person being in front of the movement needs to start earlier.

Translation? The person in front of the movement moves slightly ahead, freeing the space that the person behind the movement simply takes over. Since the delay is minimal, both actions slightly overlap distorting or modifying the normal trajectories for the legs – and that’s the displacement effect.



There are actually 3 different movements in Tango that are based on the above principle: sacada, entrada (a milder version of sacada), and gancho.

Ugh? – you say – gancho is a completely different element than the sacada. It’s closer to boleo, not to the sacada. And you are right! But…

Set up wise they are the same: Partners traveling around the same roundabout, taking over space. Here though occurs what can be illustrated by the line change on two lines roundabout – you are on a specific line (outside) to exit and on a specific line (inside) to stay. In other words, if we step towards the standing leg (inside our imaginary circle) rather than the free one (outside our imaginary circle) – we will get a gancho.

Like Hernan says – it all has value. It simply depends on what you are trying to achieve.



There are many ways to interpret sacadas. Just to name a few common classifications:

1) Forward sacadas and back sacadas
2) Open or cross-step sacadas
3) Follower’s sacadas and Leader’s sacada

To give a comprehensive picture let’s combine all of the above with the direction of the giro.


Directions of the giro

I really, really love – even though I heard it like million times already – when Gustavo Naveira during his workshops says something along the lines >>>when I discovered that ocho is a change of direction and essentially combines two parts of the giro, I couldn’t sleep all night<<<<

Did you know that? Not that Gustavo Naveira is one of the greatest teachers ever, but that you can look at the ocho (doesn’t matter ocho back or ocho forward) from the perspective of change of direction and the giro? If you can see it – this is like the discovery of the century.

Giro consists of 4 steps: 2 crosses (one forward and one back) and 2 open steps. They alternate cross – open – cross – open. Right, you knew that.

The other way of seeing is: forward – side – back – side. Or to make it more exact: forward (cross) – side (open) – back (cross) – side (open).

The giro can travel to the left – meaning the crosses will always be done with the left leg and the opens with the right. The opposite is true when it travels to the right.

Did you get that? All of the initial 6 tango steps (2 forwards, 2 backs, and 2 sides) that you learned during your Beginner Classes are included here.

So where is the ‘EURECA!’ moment?

On each of the 4 steps traveling to one side, the direction can be changed and start traveling in the opposite direction. For example - you do full giro starting with forward cross, and on the 5th step, when you are again on the forward cross – you change the direction through… the forward cross going the opposite direction. I’m not listing all the possibilities here to avoid confusion, but of course, you know that you can start the giro from really any of the four steps…

The point is – that if you eliminate the initial four steps, and you start right away with step number 5 (or step 1 – since, as you see, it is the same thing) and change direction – you will get a forward ocho! That’s right – to make a full figure eight – ocho needs 2 crosses going in opposite directions. Essentially by repeating ochos – you are generating continuous changes of direction. You are traveling one step to the left and one step to the right. Or - one step to the right and one step to the left. (It sounds like paradoxical absurd straight from Gombrowicz…)

What we need to take from here for our sacadas is that the direction of the giro can be changed at any given step either through either a typical change of direction or through alterations:

  • Forward to forward

  • Back to back

  • Side to side

  • Forward to back

  • Back to forward

Through any of these possibilities, we can change the direction in which we travel.

Sacadas – 64 obvious possibilities

We will take into account 2 partners (sacadas from Follower to Leader and from Leader to Follower), 2 directions of the giro (to the left or to the right), 2 legs (left and right), 4 types of steps (2 crosses and 2 opens) and 2 directions of the steps (forward or back(the side step is automatically included as we are analyzing open and cross).

2 partners x 2 directions x 2 legs x 4 types of step x 2 directions of the steps = 64 total possibilities.

We are going to call a person receiving the sacada – a receiver, and the one executing it – the giver. The sacada can be received in 4 possible steps: forward cross, forward open, back cross, and back open. And given with the same 4 possibilities.

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