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A Guide to Tango Terminology

Sacramento Tango

This list is part of an ongoing effort to educate and assist the friends and enthusiasts of Sacramento Tango in their pursuit of the lovely dance called Tango. It is intended to be used as a tool for students to use when encountering new or conflicting terms in class and should not be viewed as a final authority on the subject. Major sources for this information are Puente al Tango: Spanish-English Dance Vocabulary, Tango Home Page Frankfurt, the Tango Times published by Danel & Maria, Mrs. Barbara Garvey, se–ora Nora Dinzelbacher, se–or Orlando Paiva, Mrs. Gigi Jensen, Ms. Christy CotŽ, Ms. Debbie Goodwin, se–or Mario Poli, se–or Alberto Paz, Mr. Arthur Greenberg, and se–or Salvador Zuccala. This is an ongoing project and one which may never be complete so additions, corrections, and suggestions will always be welcome. Many Happy Tangos. -- Ed Loomis --


Pronunciation Key:

  • In Buenos Aires Īllā or āyā is pronounced Īzhā, almost an English Ījā;
  • a Īquā sounds like the Īcā in cat;
  • a Īzā is pronounced like Īsā;
  • and a Spanish Ījā is a hard, throaty Īhā sound.


8 COUNT BASIC The first figure usually taught to beginning students after the walking steps. The 8 count basic includes elements which are used throughout the dance, although the complete figure itself is not much used socially. The name refers to counts in music, however, the man is not constrained to rigidly mark a step on each count or beat of the rhythm. He is free to hold or to syncopate, or cut the beat, as the music moves him or as space on the floor around him allows. Also the figure may be danced into or out of at various points and is not always entered at the beginning. There are also shortcuts within the 8 count basic. For instance, the man may lead the lady from the cruzada at 5 directly to 2, or he may close his left foot to his right without weight on 7 and step side left directly to 2. So in actuality the positions which the dancers move through at each step are numbered as reference points. In closed dance position, they are as follows;

  1. The man steps back right, the lady forward left. Or, variations: the man settles his weight on his right leg, placing the lady on her left, and holds. Also, the man may settle on his right leg, placing the lady on her left, quickly extending his left leg to his left side to point then closing back to his right leg without weight, as the lady mirrors his action with her right leg. Or the man may step through with his right leg between the partners, leading the lady to mirror his action (espejo) by stepping through with her left leg, remaining in closed position although briefly resembling promenade position.
  2. The man steps side left, the lady side right, with the man stepping slightly further than the lady.
  3. The man steps forward right in outside right position keeping his upper body turned toward the lady in contra-body, the lady back left paralleling the man and also in contra-body. This is a common point of entry to the figure which the ladies should be aware of.
  4. The man steps forward left, the lady back right stretching slightly more and seeking the manās center.
  5. The man closes his right foot to his left with weight and rotates his upper body to face forward, leading the lady to cross her left foot in front of her right with weight (cruzada) as she finishes moving back in front of the man. Many variations for the lady begin from this position.
  6. The man steps forward left inside his partner (to her center), the lady back right.
  7. The man steps side right, the lady side left.
  8. The man closes his left foot to his right with weight, the lady her right foot to her left.

Steps 1 through 3 (sometimes 1 through 5) are known as the salida. Steps 3 through 5 are known as Īwalking the lady to the crossā. Steps 6 through 8 are known as resoluci—n. See Basico.


ABRAZO The embrace; a hug; or dance position.




ADORNO Adornment; embellishment. See Firulete.


AFICIONADO From afici—n - liking; amateur; fancier: An enthusiastic admirer or follower; a devotee or a fan of something, such as tango.


AL COSTADO To the side.


AMAGUE From amagar - To make a threatening motion as a feint: An amague is used as an embellishment either led or done on one's own, and may be used before taking a step. An example of an amague may be a beat (frappŽ) before taking a step. See Cuatro.


APILADO STYLE See Milonguero Style.


ARRABAL The slums.


ARRABALERO A person of low social status. A person of simple and direct ways who speaks plainly and uses coarse language.


ARRASTRE From arrastrar - to drag. See Barrida.


ARREPENTIDA REPENTANT; To change oneās mind: A family of steps which allow a couple to back away from a collision or traffic jam in a minimal amount of space and on short notice.


ATRēS Backward.


BAILAR To dance.


BAILARIN A professional or very accomplished dancer.


BAILONGO A lunfardo word to describe a place where people dance, i.e. a milonga.


BALANCEO A deep check and replace. See Cadencia.


BALDOSA A walking box figure named after the black & white checkerboard tile floors which are common in Buenos Aires. See Cuadrado.


BARRIDA A sweep; a sweeping motion: One partnerās foot sweeps the otherās foot and places it without losing contact. Barridas are done from either the outside or the inside of the foot of the receiving party. The technique is different for the inside and outside barridas. See Arrastre, and Llevada.


BARRIO A district or neighborhood.


BASICO The basic pattern. There are several basic patterns the most common of which is the 8 count basic.


BIEN PARADO Well stood (literally), standing straight up. See pinta, postura.


BOLEO From bolear - To throw: A boleo may be executed either high or low. Keeping the knees together, with one leg back, swivel and return on the supporting leg with a whipping action of the working leg. Sometimes spelled Voleo. See Latigazo.




CABECEO From cabeza; head: Traditional technique for selecting dance partners from a distance at the milongas in Buenos Aires by using eye contact and head movements. See also Codigos.


CADENA The chain; enchainement: An athletic and very theatrical turning figure which moves rapidly across the floor turning left, in which the couple alternate amagues (cuatros) or ganchos. Another variation involves the man stepping outside left in crossed feet and leading the lady in a change of direction to keep her in front of him as he turns to the left, alternately going around her and bringing her around him.


CADENCIA A deep check and replace, usually led by the man as he steps forward left. Useful for avoiding collisions and making direction changes in small spaces. May also refer to a subtle shifting of weight from foot to foot in place and in time with the music done by the man before beginning a dance to give the lady the rhythm he intends to dance and to ensure that she will begin with him on the correct foot. See Balanceo.


CAIDA Fall: A step in which the man steps backward, sinks on his supporting leg, and crosses his working leg in front without weight while leading the lady to step forward in outside position, sink on her supporting leg and cross her working leg behind without weight. Caida may be done to either side.


CALECITA Carousel; the merry-go-round: A figure in which the man places the lady on one foot with a lifting action of his frame and then dances around her while keeping her centered over, and pivoting on, her supporting leg. Sometimes referred to as the Stork.


CAMINADA The walking steps; a walking step.


CAMINANDO (Caminar) Valsiado A crossing and walking step which the man initiates at 3 of basico as he steps forward right in outside right position, pivoting to his right on his right foot and leading the lady to pivot on her left foot, stepping side left (side right for the lady) and drawing his right leg under him with weight (the lady mirroring with her left). The man then steps forward left in outside left position, pivoting to the left on his left foot, stepping side right and drawing his left foot under him with weight (as the lady dances the natural opposite). The man returns to outside right position and either continues the figure or walks the lady to the cross. May be danced in tango or vals.


CAMINAR To walk: The walk is similar to a natural walking step, but placing the ball of the foot first instead of the heel. Sometimes taught that the body and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance over the forward foot. Another style requires stretching the working leg, placing the foot, and then taking the body over the new supporting foot regardless of direction. Walks should be practiced both forward and backward for balance, fluidity, and cat like gracefulness.


CANDOMBE A type of dance originally danced by the descendants of black slaves in the Rio de la Plata region. Music of African origin with a marked rhythm played on a "tamboril" (a kind of drum).


CANGREJO The crab: A repetitive pattern of walking steps and or sacadas in which the man advances turned nearly sideways to his partner.


CANYENGUE A very old style of tango from the 1900s to the 1940s. The music from this era had a faster or peppier 2/4 tempo so the dance had a rhythmic flavor similar to that of modern milonga. A very close embrace was used as well as some unique posture and footwork elements. The tango of the arrabal.

A lunfardo word with several meanings. It refers to somebody or something from the slums, i.e. low class. It also describes a gathering where people from the slums dance. It is also a certain way to perform or dance the tango with a slum attitude. Finally, it is a rhythmic effect created by Leopoldo Thompson by hitting the string of the contrabass with the hand or the arch of the bow.


CARANCANFUNFA (also carancanfun) In the lingo of the compadritos, the dance of tango with interruptions (cortes) and also those who dance it that way in a very skillful manner.


CARICIAS CARESSES: A gentle stroking with the leg or shoe against some part of the partner's body. They can be subtle or extravagant. See Adorno, Firulete, and Lustrada.


CAROUSEL A term used for molinete con sacadas to the manās left, the ladyās right, with ochos and or ocho cortado to exit.


CARPA The tent: A figure created when the man leads the lady onto one foot as in calecita and then steps back away from her, causing her to lean at an angle from her foot to his frame.


CASTIGADA From castigar: to punish; a punishment: A lofting of the lady's working leg followed by flexing at the knee and caressing the working foot down the outside of the supporting leg. Often done as an adorno prior to stepping forward, as in parada or in ochos.


CHICHE (pl. chiches) Small ornamental beats done around the supporting foot with the working foot in time with the music, either in front or in back as desired. See adorno, firulete.




CLUB STYLE See Milonguero Style.


CODIGOS Codes: Refers to the codes of behavior and the techniques for finding a dance partner in the milongas in Buenos Aires. See Cabeceo.


COMPADRE A responsible, brave, well behaved, and honorable man of the working class who dresses well and is very Macho.


COMPADRITO Dandy; hooligan; street punk; ruffian: They invented the Tango.


COMPēS Beat, as in the beat of the music.


CONFITERIA BAILABLE A cafŽ like establishment with a nice atmosphere where one can purchase refreshments and dance tango. A nice place to meet friends or a date for dancing.


CONFITERIA STYLE May refer to a smooth and simple Salon Style as in Tango Liso or to Milonguero Style.


CORRIDA From correr: to run. A short sequence of running steps.


CORRIDA GARABITO A milonga step in which the couple alternately step through between each other, the man with his right leg and the lady mirroring with her left, then pivot to face each other as they step together. May be repeated as desired.


CORTE CUT: In tango, corte means cutting the music either by syncopating, or by holding for several beats. May refer to a position in which the torso is erect over a flexed supporting leg with the working leg extended forward to a pointe with the knees together which the man assumes when touching the ladyās foot with his in parada. The lady moves to the same position from parada as the man closes over her working foot in mordida, and pivots on her supporting foot in this position whenever the man leads an outside barrida. May also refer to a variety of dramatic poses featuring erect posture, flexed supporting legs, and extended dance lines by both dancers, used as a finale. See Quartas.


CORTINA Curtain: A brief musical interlude between tandas at a milonga.


CROSSED FEET Occurs whenever the couple are stepping together on his and her right feet and then on his and her left feet, regardless of direction. The opposite of parallel feet.


CRUZADA From cruzar - to cross; the cross: A cruzada occurs any time a foot is crossed in front of or in back of the other. The ladyās position at 5 of the 8 count basic. May also be called Trabada.


CUADRADO A square; A box step: Used mostly in Milonga and Club or Canyengue style tango. See Baldosa.


CUATRO A figure created when the lady flicks her lower leg up the outside of the opposite leg, keeping her knees together, and briefly creating a numeral 4 in profile. This can be led with a sacada or with an arrested rotational lead like a boleo, or it can be used, at the ladyās discretion, in place of a gancho or as an adornment after a gancho. See Amague.


CUCHARITA The spoon. A lifting of the ladyās foot with a gentle scooping motion by the manās foot to the ladyās shoe, usually led during forward ochos to create a flicking motion of the ladyās leg.


CUERPO Body; torso.


CUNITA Cradle: A forward and backward rocking step done in time with the music and with or without chiches, which is useful for marking time or changing direction in a small space. This movement may be turned to the left or right, danced with either the left or right leg forward, and repeated as desired. See Hamaca.


DERECHO Erect, straight. See Postura.


DESPLAZAMIENTO Displacement: Displacing the partnerās leg or foot using oneās own leg or foot. See Sacada.


DIBUJO Drawing; sketch: A dibujo is done by drawing circles or other small movements on the floor with oneās toe. See Firulete, Lapiz, and Rulo.


EJE (pronounced ay-hay) Axis or balance. See Postura.


ELEVADAS Dancing without keeping the feet on the floor. This was the style before the turn of century when tango was danced on dirt surfaces in the patios of tenements, low-class taverns, and on the street. Once tango went uptown enough to actually be danced on floors (wood, tile, or marble) the dancers fell in love with the floor, thus we now refer to 'caressing the floor'.


ENGANCHE Hooking; coupling; the little hook: Occurs when a partner wraps a leg around the otherās leg, or uses a foot to catch and hold the otherās foot or ankle.


ENROSQUE From enroscar - to coil or twist: While the lady dances a molinete, the man pivots on his supporting foot, hooking or coiling the working leg behind or around in front of the supporting leg.


ENTRADA Entrance: Occurs when a dancer steps forward or otherwise enters the space between their partners legs without displacement.


ENTREGARME Surrender: To give oneself up to the leaderās lead.


ESPEJO Mirror: To mirror the movement of ones partner as in "Ochos en espejo", a figure where the man and woman both do forward ochos at the same time.


FANFARRON A rhythmic tapping or stomping of the foot in time with the music for dramatic and emotional effect. Boisterous behavior. See Golpecitos.


FIRULETE An adornment; a decoration; an embellishment: Complicated or syncopated movements which the dancer uses to demonstrate their skill and to interpret the music. See adorno, and lapiz.


FRENO To stop and hold; brake.


GANCHO The hook: Occurs when a dancer hooks a leg sharply around and in contact with their partners leg by flexing the knee and releasing. May be performed to the inside or outside of either leg and by either partner.


GIRO Turn: A turning step or figure.


GOLPECITOS Little toe taps: Rhythmic tapping done with a flat foot on the ball or underside of the toe as an adorno. See Fanfarron and Zapatazo.


GOLPES Toe taps: With a tilted foot tap the floor with the toe and allow the lower leg to rebound keeping the knees together. See Picados.


GRELAS A lunfardo term for woman. See mina.


GUAPO Handsome: A respectable and desirable man. A compadre.


HABANERA A side together side together stepping action entered with a side chassŽ, commonly used by the man as he leads backward ochos for the lady in crossed feet. An Afro-Cuban dance from the mid 19th century which contributed to Tango.


HAMACA Another term for Cunita.


JUNTA From juntar - to join or bring together (as in, oneās feet or knees); close: In Tango it is essential that the ankles and knees should come together or pass closely by each other between each step to create an elegant appearance, preserve balance, and to communicate clearly the completion of the step to oneās partner. This applies equally to the man and the lady.


LAPIZ Pencil: Tracing of circular motions on the floor with the toe or inside edge of the working foot, while turning or waiting on the supporting foot. These may vary from small adornments done while marking time to large sweeping arcs which precede the lady as she moves around the man in molinete. See Dibujo, Firulete, and Rulo.


LATIGAZO Whip. Describes a whipping action of the leg as in a boleo.


LENTO Slowly.


LISO Smooth, as in Tango Liso: An early term for Tango de Salon.


LLEVADA From llevar - to transport; a carry; to take with: Occurs when the man uses the upper thigh or foot to "carry" the ladyās leg to the next step. Barridas interspersed with walking steps in which the man takes the lady with him across the floor.


LUNFARDO The Spanish slang of the Buenos Aires underworld which is common in tango lyrics and terminology.


LUSTRADA From lustrar - to shine or polish; the shoe shine: A stroking of the manās pant leg with a shoe. May be done by the lady or by the man to himself but is never done to the lady.


MARCAR From Marque; to plot a course; guide: To lead. (la marca = the lead)


MEDIA LUNA Half moon: A sweeping circular motion of the leg similar to a ronde in ballroom but always danced in contact with the floor, never lofted. Usually danced by the lady and often led with a sacada to the ladyās leg. May be used to bring the lady to an inside gancho.


MEDIA VUELTA Half turn: Usually done when the manās right foot and the ladyās left foot are free. The man steps forward outside right (3 of 8 count basic), leading the lady to step back left, then side right across his right leg, and forward left around him as he shifts weight first to his center, then onto his right foot as he then pivots on both feet ø turn with his partner, the lady pivoting on her left foot. Media Vuelta is used by itself to change direction or maneuver on the dance floor and as an entrance to many combinations.


MILONGA May refer to the music, written in 2/4 time, or to the dance which preceded the tango, or to the dance salon where people go to dance tango, or to a tango dance and party.


MILONGUERO (feminine; Milonguera) Refers to those frequenting the milongas from the early 1900s to the present who were or are tango fanatics. A person whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango. A title given by other tango dancers to a man (woman) who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of tango.


MILONGUERO STYLE Term originally given by Europeans and some North Americans to the style of dancing in a very close embrace; also referred to as confiteria style, club style, apilado style, etc. Usually used in the very crowded clubs frequented by singles in the center of Buenos Aires. Milonguero Style is danced in a very close embrace with full upper body contact, the partners leaning into each other (but never hanging on each other), and using simple walking and turning steps. This style relies on music of the more rhythmic type as characterized by orquestas like those of DāArienzo or Tanturi.


MINA A lunfardo word for woman. See grelas, paicas, or pebeta.


ĮMIRA! From mirar - to look; see; observe; take notice: Look at this. Observe.


MOLINETE Windmill; wheel: A figure in which the lady dances a grapevine on a circumference around the man, stepping side-back-side-forward using forward and back ocho technique and footwork, as the man pivots at the center of the figure.


MORDIDA From morder: to bite; the little bite: One partnerās foot is sandwiched or trapped between the other partnerās feet. If the other partnerās feet are also crossed it may be referred to as Reverse Mordida. Sometimes called Sandwiche, or Sanguchito.


MORDIDA ALTO A variation in which a dancer catches a partners knee between both of their own.


OCHO Eight (pl. ochos); Figure eights: A crossing & pivoting figure from which the fan in American tango is derived. Executed as a walking step with flexed knees and feet together while pivoting, ochos may be danced either forward or backward and are so designated from the ladyās perspective. El Ocho is considered to be one of the oldest steps in tango along with caminada, the walking steps. It dates from the era when women wore floor length skirts with full petticoats and danced on dirt floors. Since the ladyās footwork could not be directly observed the quality of her dancing was judged by the figure she left behind in the dirt after she danced away.


OCHO CORTADO Cut eight: Occurs when a molinete or an ocho-like movement is stopped and sent back upon itself. Typical in club style where many such brakes are used to avoid collisions.


OCHO DEFRENTE Ocho to the front: Forward ochos for the lady (i.e., crossing in front).


OCHO PARA ATRēS Ocho to the back: Back ochos for the lady (i.e., crossing behind).


OCHOS CORTADOS Cut eights: A common figure in Milonguero or Club Style Tango which is designed to allow interpretation of rhythmic music while dancing in a confined space.


OCHOS EN ESPEJO Ochos in the mirror: The man and the lady execute forward or back ochos simultaneously, mirroring each others movement.


ORILLERO Outskirts; suburban.


ORILLERO STYLE The style of dance which is danced in the suburbs, characterized by the man doing many quick syncopated foot moves and even jumps. See seguidillas.


ORQUESTA Orchestra: A large tango band like those of the "Golden Age" of tango frequently referred to as "Orquesta Tipica."


OTRA VEZ Another time; repeat; do again.


PAICAS A lunfardo word for girl. See mina, or pebeta.


PALANCA Lever; leverage: Describes the subtle assisting of the lady by the leader during jumps

or lifts in stage tango.


PARADA From parar - to stop; a stop: The man stops the lady, usually as she steps crossing back in back ochos or molinete, with pressure inward at the ladyās back and at her balance hand and with a slight downward thrust, preventing further movement. When properly led the lady stops with her feet extended apart, front and back, and her weight centered. The man may extend his foot to touch her forward foot as an additional cue and element of style or he may pivot and step back to mirror her position (fallaway).


PARALLEL FEET The natural condition when a couple dance in an embrace facing each other, the man stepping on his left, the lady on her right foot, and then the man stepping on his right, the lady on her left foot, regardless of direction. The opposite of crossed feet.


PASADA Passing over. Occurs when the man has stopped the lady with foot contact and leads her to step forward over his extended foot. Used frequently at the end of MOLINETE or after a mordida. The lady may, at her discretion, step over the manās foot or trace her toe on the floor around its front. Pasada provides the most common opportunity for the lady to add adornos or firuletes of her own and a considerate leader will give the lady time to perform if she wishes.


PASO A step.


PATADA A kick.


PAUSA Pause; wait: Hold a position for two or more beats of music. See titubeo.


PEBETA A lunfardo word for young woman or girl. See mina or paicas.


PICADOS A flicking upward of the heel when turning or stepping forward. Usually done as an advanced embellishment to ochos or when walking forward. See Golpes.


PIE A foot.




PINTA Appearance; presentation: Includes clothes, grooming, posture, expression, and manner of speaking and relating to the world. See bien parado.


PISTA The dance floor.


planchadoras The women who sit all night at the milongas without being asked to dance. The main reason for that, is because they don't know how to dance well enough. Yes, it may seem cruel but one of the many tango lyrics actually says something like, "let them learn as a consequence of sitting all night."


PLANEO Pivot; glide: Occurs when the man steps forward onto a foot, usually his left, and pivots with the other leg trailing (gliding behind) as the lady dances an additional step or two around him. May also occur when the man stops the lady in mid stride with a slight downward lead and dances around her while pivoting her on the supporting leg as her extended leg either trails or leads. Can be done by either the man or the lady.


PORTE„O (feminine; Porte–a) An inhabitant of the port city of Buenos Aires.


POSTURA Posture: Correct posture for tango is erect and elegant with the shoulders always over the hips and relaxed, and with the center carried forward toward the dance partner over the toes and balls of the feet. See derecho and eje.


PRēCTICA A practice session for tango dancers.


QUARTAS Poses: Dance lines struck and held as dramatic flourishes at the end of a song. Large dramatic ones are used for stage or fantasia dancing, smaller softer versions occasionally in Salon style, and not used in Milonguero style at all. See Corte.


QUEBRADA Break; broken: A position where the lady stands on one foot with the other foot hanging relaxed behind the supporting foot. Sometimes seen with the lady hanging with most of her weight against the man. Also a position in which the dancerās upper body and hips are rotated in opposition to each other with the working leg flexed inward creating a broken dance line.


RABONA A walking step with a syncopated cross. Done forward or backward the dancer steps on a beat, quickly closes the other foot in cruzada, and steps again on the next beat. Adopted from soccer. See traspie.


RESOLUCIīN Resolution; tango close: An ending to a basic pattern similar to a half of a box step. 6, 7, and 8 of the 8 count basic.


RITMO Rhythm: Refers to the more complex rhythmic structure of the music which includes the beat or compas as well as the more defining elements of the song. See compas.




RULO A curl: Used frequently at the end of molinete when the man, executing a lapiz or firulete ahead of the lady, curls his foot in around the lady and extends it quickly to touch the her foot. An older term for lapiz.


SACADA The most common term for a displacement of a leg or foot by the partnerās leg or foot. Occurs when a dancer places their foot or leg against a leg of their partner and transfers weight to their leg so that it moves into the space of and displaces the partnerās leg. See Desplazamiento.


SALIDA From salir - to exit; to go out: The first steps of dancing a tango, or a tango pattern, derived from "ĄSalimos a bailar?" {Shall we (go out to the dance floor and) dance?}.


SALIDA DE GATO A variation on the basico in which the man steps side left, forward right outside the lady, diagonal forward left, and crossing behind right with a lead for forward ochos for the lady. The lady is led to step side right, back left, diagonal back right, and crossing forward left, beginning ochos on her left foot. This figure enters ochos without using cruzada.


SALTITO A little Jump.


SANDWICHE See Mordida.




SEGUIDILLAS Tiny quick steps, usually seen in orillero style.


SEGUIR To follow.


SENTADA From sentar - to sit. A sitting action: A family of figures in which the lady creates the illusion of sitting in, or actually mounts, the manās leg. Frequently used as a dramatic flourish at the end of a dance.


STORK See Calecita.


SUAVE Smooth, steady and gentle, soft, stylish.


SYNCOPATION Syncopate; syncopated; syncopa: A musical term adopted by dancers and used in a way which is technically incorrect, musically, and leads to endless arguments between dancers and musicians. Musically it refers to an unexpected or unusual accenting of the beats in a measure such as the two and four beats of swing music rather than the more common accent on the one and three beats. Dancers have come to use the term to describe cutting the beat, or stepping on the half-beat, which annoys musicians all to heck. Maybe if they could dance the tango we would pay more attention to them.


SUBE Y BAJA Literally, to go up and down: A milonga step in which the couple dance forward-together and back-together in outside right position with a pendulum action of the hips. See Ven y Va.


TANDA A set of dance music, usually three to five songs, of the same dance in similar style, if not by the same orquesta. The tandas are separated by a brief interlude of non tango music called a "cortina", or curtain, during which couples select each other. It is customary to dance the entire tanda with the same partner unless the man is rude or very disappointing as a dance partner, in which case the lady may say gracias (thank you) and leave. See Codigos, Cortina.


TANGO Popular music from the Rio de la Plata region dating back to 1885-95, defined by a 2/4 rhythm until the 1920s when a 4/8 rhythm became common. A popular dance originating in the mid 19th century which descended from the Candombe, Habanera, Milonga, and (by some tango scholars) the Tango Andaluz. The exact origins of Tango are a historical mystery.


TANGO DE SALON An elegant and very social style of tango characterized by slow, measured, and smoothly executed moves. It includes all of the basic tango steps and figures plus sacadas, giros, and boleos. The emphasis is on precision, smoothness, and elegant dance lines. The dancing couple do not embrace as closely as in older styles and the embrace is flexible, opening slightly to make room for various figures and closing again for support and poise.


TANGO FANTASIA This is a hybrid tango, an amalgam of traditional tango steps, ballet, ballroom, gymnastics, ice-skating figures, etc. This is what most people see when they buy tickets for a tango show. The moves include all of the basic tango moves plus, ganchos, sacadas, boleos of every kind, sentadas, kicks, leaps, spins, lifts, and anything else that the choreographer and the performers think that they can get away with. Alas, this style of dancing shows up from time to time at the milongas, usually badly performed by ill-behaved tango dancers and frustrated tango performers who insist on getting their moneyās worth even if they have to kick, step on, bump into, or trip every other dancer on the floor. This behavior is NOT socially acceptable.


TANGO LISO Literally, tango smooth: A way of dancing tango characterized by its lack of fancy figures or patterns. Only the most "basic" tango steps and figures such as caminadas, ochos, molinetes, etc., are utilized. Boleos, ganchos, sacadas, sentadas, and other fancy moves and acrobatics are not done. A very early term for Tango de Salon.


TANGUERO (feminine; Tanguera) Refers to anyone who is deeply and seriously passionate about any part of tango, such as its history, music, lyrics, etc. In Argentina most tangueros are scholars, of lunfardo, music, orchestrations, Gardel, etc. One can be a tanguero without being a milonguero and a milonguero without being a tanguero (very few milongueros would be referred to as tangueros). And of course one can be an extremely good tango dancer without being either, such as stage dancers, who are quite disdained by real milongueros and tangueros, unless they go the extra distance and become milongueros by going to the milongas, and/or tangueros as well. An aficionado.


TIJERA Scissor: A movement, usually danced by the man, in which an extended leg is withdrawn and crossed in front of the supporting leg without weight so that it remains free for the next step or movement. May also refer to a figure in which the man steps forward in outside position (left or right) caressing the outside of the ladyās leg with his leg (as in 3 of basico), then crosses behind himself which pushes the ladyās leg to cross in front. May also refer to a jumping step from stage tango where the lady swings her legs up and over with the second leg going up as the first leg is coming down (frequently seen as an aerial entry to sentadas).


TITUBEO Hesitation. See pausa.


TRABADA Another term for Cruzada.


TRASPIE Cross foot; triple step: A walking step with a syncopated cross. Using two beats of music the dancer does step-cross-step beginning with either foot and moving in any direction. See rabona.


VALS Argentine waltz: Sometimes referred to as Vals Criolo, or Vals Cruzado, and danced to what is arguably the most beautiful dance music anywhere (editorial bias).


VAREADOR From horse racing; a man who walks the horses but is never allowed to mount them: In tango it refers to a man who dances and flirts with all the ladies but never gets involved with anyone. May also refer to a man who is a clumsy or inconsiderate lead who "might just as well be walking a horse."


VEN Y VA Come and go. See Sube y Baja.


VIBORITA Viper; the little snake: A figure in which the man places his right leg between his partners legs and takes a sacada to first her left and then her right legs in succession using a back and forth slithering motion of the right leg and foot.


VOLEO See Boleo.


YUMBA A phonetic expression that describes the powerful, dramatic, and driving musical accent of a moderate or even slow tempo which is characteristic of the music of Osvaldo Pugliese.


ZAPATAZO Shoe taps: A dancer taps their own shoes together. See Adorno, Fanfarron, and Golpecitos.


ZARANDEO A vigorous shake to and fro; a swing; a push to and fro; to strut about: In Tango it is the swinging back and forth, pivoting in place on one foot, marked to the lady in time with the music.


Last updated: 23 February 2001

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