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Rasche Notation

Notation system for Argentine Tango

Welcome to the homepage for
Rasche Notation.
You can write Argentine Tango steps!

What is Rasche Notation?
Rasche Notation is a sophisticated dance notation for Argentine Tango that makes it is easy to write your dance steps and dance phrases. You can write steps of two dancers, in detail, as dance phrases and with music. The notation uses familiar text symbols to describe the destinations of each step, so that you can write them by hand on screen. 

Rasche Notation is available in the pocketbook Rasche Notation 2 (new July 2010). Earlier versions  were published in the book Rasche Notation (with background information), and the first publication in the book  Argentine Tango - Class Companion. Each new version has improved the notation!

Click here for a Rasche Notation 2 reference sheet ->

Rasche Notation 2
...this is a pocketbook with the most current version of the notation.
Published July 2010. This book teaches you how to write your Tango steps!
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Rasche Notation
The full description and thinking behind the notation.
Published March 2009. This book teaches you how to write your Tango steps!
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Class Companion
About the culture of Tango. Also the first version of the Notation...
Published July 2007.
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Tango Companion eBook
A companion ebook with the notation fully described.
Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

What does Rasche Notation look like?
Rasche Notation is written across the page on a stave (see above)

In this example, you can see:
- The four lines that make up the stave, labelled C, D, M and W:
         The Compás line (top line) counts the music phrase,
         The Description line (second line) for the dance phrases and notes,
         The Man's line, for the description of his steps and movements,
         The Woman's dance line, for the description of her steps and movements.
- The Compás counts 1 to 8 on the Compás line.
- The phrase label A1 which indicates which section within the music this phrase occurs.
- The step symbols of the man and woman, which describe the steps in detail.
- The dance phrase summary, using the {  } brackets. it is labelled as a 'walk' step.
- The symbols are compared vertically, to describe timing.
- The dividing line separates context and general descriptions above, and details below.
- The above uses Rasche Notation 2 symbols.

Rasche Notation uses a series of assumptions to reduce the amount of writing further. This means that only essentials need to be written down, leaving the page uncluttered. The notation is a clear, efficient and powerful system to represent Tango dance movements.

A short summary of Rasche Notation:
As a quick summary to help you understand Rasche Notation, here are some essential bits:
-The notation describes destinations of movements.
-Words and sentences are abbreviated using symbols, with the syntax 'what goes where'.
-Common text symbols are used to describe steps and movements.
-It is written across the page, describing the music, information, man and woman's steps.
-Assumptions are used to reduce the quantity of symbols written on the page.
-Steps are classified as follows: either as a forwards cross-step, back-cross step or side step (also called an open step). Then, the steps can be described as towards/away from the partner, or as big/small/trabada steps (trabada is feet touching with legs crossed). Finally, the steps are adjusted if they are incomplete or accented in some way.
-Since steps are written economically, it becomes possible to describe the dance phrasing!

How can I write my own steps?
Rasche Notation is designed to be easy to write. It uses normal text symbols and is written across the page. This makes it possible to write it by hand, or as text on your computer, phone or device. To help you get started, you can also use the pre-printed staves in the new pocketbook Rasche Notation 2 or in a Notebook.
Here are some examples of the notation.

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Discuss and Publish... #TangoRN
You can discuss and publish your notation on social media.
Use the hashtag #TangoRN.

C   A1  1             2             3             4             5             6             7             8
D          { walk                                    }                                                                  
M          L             R            L             s                
W         R             L            R             s

A range of A4 sized notebooks, suitable for writing Rasche Notation...
Leaves. Publisher page for the Notebook
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A range of A4 sized notebooks, suitable for writing Rasche Notation...
Ice prints. Publisher page for the Notebook
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A range of A4 sized notebooks, suitable for writing Rasche Notation...
Sand prints. Publisher page for the Notebook
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A range of A4 sized notebooks, suitable for writing Rasche Notation...
German language. Publisher page for the Notebook
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More information about the above books

The NEW Rasche Notation 2 pocketbook: the current and complete guide for Rasche Notation. It contains all the information you need to learn, understand, read and write your steps and dance phrases!

The  book features:
-40 page book, in pocketbook format (4.25x6.87in),
-written in English, with summaries in Spanish and German,
-The book is easy to read, with diagrams, text, examples and pages of practice staves,
-Examples include steps, step combinations and dance phrases.
-This book is suitable for all:
     Dancers: whether beginner, improver, advanced or professional, leader or follower.

The Rasche Notation book is the original guide for Rasche Notation. It contains all the background information you need to understand the thinking behind the notation!

The  book features:
-100 page book, in perfect bound Royal format, written in English,
-The book is set out in a clear and easy to understand way,
-Clear explanations of concepts and the thinking behind the notation,
-Diagrams, to explain symbols and concepts,
-Many examples, from individual steps, to step sequences and a full choreography,
-This book is suitable for all:
     Dancers: whether beginner, improver, advanced or professional, leader or follower.

The Argentine Tango - Class Companion book is a valuable companion for all students of Argentine Tango, as it introduces the reader to the history and cultural context of the dance, together with key insights.

Written in a clear and accessible style, this makes an excellent and enjoyable compliment to dance classes at every level of ability.

Prologue by Damián Esell, from Buenos Aires.
See the Damián Esell & Nancy Louzán website at

This Tango Companion eBook is an invaluable resource, combining choice content from the books Class Companion and Rasche Notation and Rasche Notation 2. It is a companion to students of Tango.

The chapters include:
History ¦ Music History ¦ Poetry and Lyrics
Understanding music ¦ Musicians ¦ Music played in a salon
Dancing to music ¦ Embrace ¦ Elements of a step
Leading and Following ¦ Types of leading
Step Combinations ¦ Dance Styles ¦ Style Developments
Going Dancing
Rasche Notation ¦ Appearance ¦ It's easy to understand!
Philosophy ¦ Assumptions and generalisations
Rasche Notation summary of symbols

The Rasche Notation Notebooks contain pages of  blank staves, ready for you to write down your steps. They will help you to keep your notes neat, tidy and together, whether you are writing down new steps or creating a full dance choreography to a piece of music. They even have a summary of the Rasche Notation symbols for quick reference !

The  notebooks feature:
-32 pages in A4 format,
-Organised so that  a typical piece of Tango music will fit neatly onto a few pages,
-Sufficient pages for eight full choreographies,
-Pre-printed staves, left blank for your notes,
-Pre-printed Compás counts, including counts of 8 and 12,
-Compás counts are spaced equally and sufficiently apart for writing dance symbols,
-The notebooks also contain a quick-reference summary of all notation symbols.
-The notebooks are available with a selection of different covers:

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Developments and news about
Rasche Notation
The current version of Rasche Notation is available in the pocketbook: Rasche Notation 2

Animation of symols (posted on 03rd january 2011):
Here is a web animation, to help understand some symbols of RN2: Animation of step symbols.

Colgada symbol (posted on 01st November 2010):
There is a new symbol that can be used to describe a colgada. Normally, it's assumed that steps are balanced, with each dancer on their axis. A colgada is different to a normal step: a step is taken towards the partner's standing foot, btoh sharing the same axis, leaning away from each other. This symbol describes a step to the standing leg of the partner, hence a colgada. The symbol is similar to = meaning contact and Ø meaning leaning axis.
An example of its use is   L%≠   meaning Left foot (L) steps between partner's feet (%) towards standing leg (colgada) (≠). The symbol previously meant 'not the same as...', but this is a better use of this symbol (and context can distinguish these).

iPhone/ ipod Touch (posted on 30th August 2010):
To set up a home-screen image on your iPhone/ iPod Touch for this webpage:
First, click on the '+' at the bottom of the display. Then, click on 'Add to Home Screen'.

Rasche Notation 2 pocketbook (posted on 21th July 2010):
The newest version of the notation Rasche Notation 2 is now available in the pocketbook: Rasche Notation 2

YouTube deep links (posted on 22nd March 2010):
It is possible to deep link into a YouTube video, whereby the video can be started at a specific moment in time.  To do this, the YouTube URL address should have the following extension (e.g. time= 16 minutes and 05 seconds):         #t=16m05s
This enables you to describe a step and have the exact time within a video associated with it. To include the time into the Notation, simply put 16:05 on the Description line!

Software (posted on 04th March 2010):
Software is now available  to animate dance steps using Rasche Notation (free to download):
Software: Dance step software. See tab 'Tools' > and click on 'Rasche Notation').
Developed by Fred Bolder, Het Dansblad (The Dance Magazine).

eBook (posted on 08th October 2009):
The new eBook: Tango Companion eBook is now available. It consists of selected extracts from the two books 'Argentine Tango - Class Companion' and 'Rasche Notation'. It is an epub document, suitable for eReaders.

Unicode/ASCII symbols (development posted on 08th October 2009):
Some symbols used in Rasche Notation are in Unicode and not in ASCII, which means that they are too specialised to be read by programs and devices that can only write ASCII symbols (e.g. MS-Notepad and eReaders). For this reason, new ASCII symbols are required. Note that these are alternatives, not replacements for the symbols used in Rasche Notation:
k   Legs (was an omega symbol. Now a 'kicking' k).
r   Partial weight transfer (was an upside down ‘U’ symbol, now, an 'r' is visually half an 'n').
n  Full weight transfer (was and upside down ‘U’ symbol with sharp corners, now the most similar ASCII symbol: 'n').
d   Dynamic movement (was similar to an italics ‘d’ symbol, now just a normal 'd').
µ   Axis of rotation (was a phi symbol, now a mu symbol can also be used).
Superscript and subscript are used to reduce space. If  these cannot be supported, it is possible simply not to use them.
The other Unicode symbols are less frequently used and can be described as further information: longhand and in brackets.

Facebook (development posted on 22nd April 2009):
When writing or posting messages on Facebook (and probably other internet postings too), repeated blank spaces are reduced down to one space. This can shrink and then confuse the vertical alignment used between the different lines of notation. An effective method to adapt is to use repeated full stops (e.g. 1...... 2...... ). The notation has full stops defined as separating punctuation between different steps, so using repeated full stops in this way fits the system of notation. Different fonts represent dots and letters with different pixel widths, so this can also change the vertical alignment. A similar font to that in Facebook can be represented using 'Trebuchet MS', 'MS Reference Sans Serif', 'Lucida' or 'Veranda' in Microsoft-Word.

Video subtitling with Rasche Notation (development posted on 30th March 2009):
It is possible to notate a video with captions or subtitles, using Rasche Notation. This is a slightly different circumstance to writing on paper, as the dance is visible on the video, together with the music. Furthermore, there is limited space on screen for writing. Therefore, the best method to notate is to write the Man and Woman step symbols, only as they appear, on two rows. This can be done with different software, but an example is to use a YouTube video, and subtitling it with Overstream.

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Read reviews of Rasche Notation


Review of Rasche Notation
by Eran Braverman, June 2010. (a Tango information website).

"It is the opinion of the owner of Tango Info that the Rasche Notation system succeeds in what it seeks to do: to record, simply and succinctly, the steps and body positions of the lead and follower relative to the music. It cannot, nor does it purport to be a, a substitute for lessons, nor can it record every subtlety and nuance of every movement. However compared to all other dance notation systems that I have seen (such as Labanotation) it is infinitely easier to use and understand."

Review of Rasche Notation
by Fred Bolder, January 2010
Het Dansblad (The Dance Magazine),  read the article: Dansblad 116.
The website has dance step software DcWin which uses Rasche Notation.

"...Rasche Notation is quick to learn and the writing of steps does not take much work. Obvious information [within the dance] need not be included, so that a compact format remains..." (translation).

Review of Rasche Notation
and workshop

by Ruth Zimmermann, March 2009
Tango Oblivion, Totnes, Devon, UK (
Ruth is the organiser of the very popular Tango Mangos.

 "Thomas Rasche - notation workshop:

Where would you start if you had to write down Tango movements in a way that will enable you to do it fast, concise, containing as much information as possible in as few symbols as necessary? And once you have written it down, would other people be able to decipher it? Would you yourself remember what it meant some weeks down the line?

These were the thoughts that went through my head prior to Thomas' workshop. As a Tango teacher, I have many note books full of long hand descriptions of my class preparations and movement ideas that I have collected over the years. My notes made sense when I wrote them, but often they don't anymore. I thought that from this perspective Tango notation would be of immense help. Another part of me was skeptical - how can you write down the feeling of Tango, why would I want to write down what is essentially an improvisatory dance for me? And if you managed to write down the movements, how much or how little does this capture of the essence of Tango anyway?

Thomas Rasche has devised an astonishingly comprehensive and concise system, using easily understandable signs and reducing information down to the absolutely necessary. His presentation is equally pithy and to the point: within two hours he introduces the system in its entirety and people are able to start using it. I guess it will take some time of playing around with it to become proficient in reading and writing it, just like with any other language. Beside the advantage of acquiring a tool, people who will use his system will be challenged to gain insight into the precise nature of a movement that encompasses both the leader and the follower. The system also has inbuilt space for one's own improvements and additions.

And what about the essence, the feeling, can it be captured by the notation? I don't think so, but then this is also the case with the written word or with music notation, and yet, with practice we find it possible to read feeling into a text or a piece of music. So maybe it is a good thing to stay away from trying to notate everything.

The concise nature of the Rasche notation makes it userfriendly. I certainly bought one of his prepared note books and will start using it."

Review of Rasche Notation
by A.W., March 2009
attending the workshop at Tango Oblivion, Totnes, Devon, UK.

 "Quite an ingenious system -very useful for choreography- also very useful for 'improvers' like myself to have the movements broken down into parts- so that I remember all the individual components (techniques) of the steps."

Review of  Rasche Notation
by Richard A. February 2009, UK.
review of the book 'Rasche Notation'.

"Thomas has produced a true shorthand that is very neat, clean and powerful for noting Argentine Tango steps. For anyone who's ever forgotten a move they loved in class, here is the answer!"

Review of  Rasche Notation
(as originally appeared in the book 'Argentine Tango - Class Companion')

by Damián Esell, ( international teacher and performer.
review of the book 'Argentine Tango - Class Companion'

"...The author [of the Argentine Tango-Class Companion book] has...endeavoured to find a way to write down the dance of tango; with astonishment and happiness I can say that he has achieve it well: described with clarity at the end of the book, a system of notation to read-and-write which is usable with a bit of practice..." 
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See examples of Rasche Notation


Example of Rasche Notation 2
Posted: 23rd August 2010
Dancers: Matias Facio & Claudia Rogowski
Performance: Comme Il Faut, Warsaw, December 2009
Video:  video of Comme Il Faut
Rasche Notation 2: Notation of Comme Il Faut

Example of Rasche Notation 2
Posted: 18th July 2010
Dancers: Nicole Nau & Luis Pereyra
Performance: La Cumpersita, Apollo Varieté, 2007
Video:  video of La Cumparsita
Rasche Notation 2: Notation of La Cumparsita

Example of Rasche Notation
Posted: 12th June 2010
Dancers: Damián Esell & Nancy Louzá
Performance: Derecho Viejo in Taipei 2009
Video:  video of Derecho Viejo
Rasche Notation: Notation of Derecho Viejo

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FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
The current version of Rasche Notation is available in the pocketbook: Rasche Notation 2.

Is weight represented  in Rasche Notation ? (posted on 22nd April 2009):
Yes, weight is represented in Rasche Notation. However, weight is assumed to be part of every step, so that a dancer's step will include full weight transfer onto each placed foot, and to allow the steps as described. Therefore, only if this is not the case will weight be represented (for example if a foot is placed but the weight is not placed fully onto it, or if only a weight transfer happens without a foot movement).

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You can contact Thomas by emailing:  

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