As tango dancers, we have the freedom to step in an infinite number of ways, unrestrained by syllabi and exact guidelines for what constitutes a "technically correct" step length. Instead, we can react to the situation at hand, stepping and rotating in response to the demands of the floor around us and the signals from our partner and their embrace.
So why do we so often practice as if we were preparing to take one kind of step, one kind of ocho, one kind of molinete? I see followers practicing long, elegant steps while neglecting to find the same elegance when their step is restricted to a much shorter distance. Leaders practice enrosques, trying to create 360° of rotation when they might be better served practicing the eighth and quarter rotations that they'll encounter on a regular basis.
In a previous post I described the concept of varying a step through measured movement, changing the amount of time taken to perform a step or figure. We also have the ability to adjust the way the step is expressed spatially, allowing for near infinite variation.
Take the most fundamental steps of our dance and practice them with different step lengths. Are you able to find your axis comfortably regardless of the size of your step? Can you rock step different distances? Are you able to choose how far you can rotate an ocho? Can you perform a cruzada even with a short step preceding it?