A Dancer's Dictionary

 

 

 

A

 

8-Count Basic / Basico............ Term given to an amalgamation of steps traditionally used as a basic because it uses all of the basic concepts of the steps.

Abrazo...........................The embrace; a hug; or dance position.

Adelante .......................Forward.

Adorno .........................Adornment; embellishment. See Firulete.

Aficionado ....................From afición - liking; amateur; fancier: An enthusiastic admirer or follower; a devotee or a fan of something, such as tango.

Agujas ...........................Needles: An adornment for the man done with the working foot vertical with the toe into the floor while pivoting inside a molinete.

Al costado ....................To the side.

Amague ........................(from amagar - to make a threatening motion) a feint. An embellishment.

Apilado Style ................A style using a very forward lean or posture.

Arrastre .........................From arrastrar - to drag.  See Barrida.

Arrepentida ..................Repentant. A Rock - Step. 

Atrás .............................Backward.

 

B

 

Bailar .............................To dance.

Bailarin/e .......................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 partner’s foot sweeps the other’s foot without losing contact. 

Bandoneón ...................An accordion like musical instrument originally created for missionaries, but is now the essence of the sound of tango music.

Barrio ............................A district or neighborhood.

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

Bicicleta ........................Bicycle: A circular movement of the feet led by the man in the vertical plane with the couples feet pressed together as in a barrida.

Bien Parado ..................Well stood (literally), standing straight up. Elegantly and gallantly presented. See Pinta, Postura.

Boleo .............................From bolear - To throw. When the normal leg swing is interrupted by one's own other leg or body causing a wrapping / unwrapping action of the moving                                                     leg.  More correctly spelled Voleo. 

Brazos ...........................Arms (see Abrazo).

 

C

 

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.  Also  

                                          see Codigos.

Cadena .........................The chain; enchainement: An alternating series of turns by the partners.

Cadencia .......................A deep check and replace (an American 'Corte'). A subtle in-place shifting of weight from foot to foot.  See Balanceo.

Caida .............................Fall: A movement similar to a lunge with the man in a sitting posture, and the lady in a lunge outside partner. (An Outside Corte in American Tango)

Calesita .........................Carousel; the merry-go-round: A figure in which the man rotates the lady on one foot, keeping her centered over her axsi (supporting leg). Called Stork                                                      when the lady forms a cuatro. See Cuatro.

Cambio .........................Change: as in cambio defrente, change of the front or face; or cambio parejas, change the couple (change partners).

Caminada .....................The walking steps; a walking step.

Caminando (Caminar) Valsiado .....................A crossing and walking step in tango or vals.

Caminar ........................To walk.  A natural walking step.  Sometimes taught that the body and leg must move as a unit so that the body is weighted or balanced in the middle of both feet. 

Candombe ....................A Black slave dance in the Rio de la Plata region still danced in modern Montevideo, Uruguay.  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 ...................An old, faster style of tango from the 1900s to the 1940s. A lunfardo word meaning;  from the slums, low class, a slumly dancing place,  a rhythm created                                                   by Leopoldo Thompson.

Carancanfunfa (also carancanfun) ................compadrito lingo for the dance of tango with interruptions (cortes) and also those who dance it that way in a very skillful manner.

Caricias — Caresses ....A gentle caressing with the leg or shoe against some part of the partner's body.  (See Adorno and Lustrada)

Carousel .......................A 360* turn of the lady on one foot.

Carpa ............................Tent: A figure creating the shape of a tent when the partners lean into each other. 

Castigada .....................(from castigar - to punish) a punishment: A caressing the foot down the outside of the supporting leg. 

Chiche ..........................(pl. chiches) Small ornamental beats done around the supporting foot in time with the music.  (See Golpe)

Cintura ..........................Waist.

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

Colgada ........................A spinning movement when both dancers lean out / away from a centered axis.

Compás ........................Beat, as in the beat of the music.  The walking count or impulse of each measure, the simplest element of each piece of music.  (See Ritmo)

Confiteria Bailable .......A café like establishment where one can purchase refreshments and dance tango.  

Corrida ..........................(also: corridita, a little run) 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.

Corte .............................Cut: In tango, corte means cutting the music either by syncopating, or by holding for several beats;  a sitting-like position with the lady or man in a lunge or

                                        lean.

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

Contrapaso ..................A step producing a triple-step or triplet in the rhythm.

Crossed Feet ................Whenever the couple are stepping with the same foot.  The opposite of parallel feet.

Cruces ..........................Cross (See Cruzada)

Cruzada ........................From cruzar   -   to cross; the cross: 

Cuadrado .....................A square; A box step: Used mostly in Milonga, Canyengue and Milonguero- and Club-style tango.  (See Baldosa)

Cuartas .........................Poses: Dance lines struck and held as dramatic flourishes at the end of a song.

Cuatro ...........................A flick of the lower leg outside of the standing leg, creating a numeral 4 shape (usually danced by the lady).

Cucharita ......................The spoon.  A lifting of the lady’s foot with a gentle scooping motion by the man’s.

Cuerpo ..........................Body; torso.

Cunita  -  Cradle ...........A forward and backward rocking step.
 

D

 

Dedo  ............................Toe or finger.

Derecha ........................Right (the opposite of left); used with "la"

Derecho ........................Erect, straight, forward.  See Postura.

Desplazamiento ......... Displacement: Displacing the partner’s leg or foot using one’s own leg or foot.  (See Sacada)

Dibujo ...........................Drawing; sketch. 'Drawing' circles on the floor with the toe/foot.  (See Firulete, Lapiz and Rulo)

E

Eje .................................(pronounced ay-hay) Axis or balance. 

Elevadas .......................Dancing without keeping the feet on the floor. 

Embutido .....................Filler or inlay: a foot swinging behind other foot after an enrosque.

Enganche .....................Unhooking; unwrapping.

Enrosque ......................From enroscar  -  to coil or twist. A spiral.

Entrada .........................Entrance: when a step enters the space between their partners legs without displacement.

Entregarme ..................Surrender: To give oneself up to the leader’s lead.

Espejo ...........................Mirror: To mirror the movement of ones partner.

F

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: 

Freno ............................To stop and hold; brake.

G

Gancho .........................Hook: One dancer hooks a leg sharply around and in contact with their partners leg.

Giro ...............................Turn: A turning step or figure.

Golpecitos ....................Little toe taps: Rhythmic tapping of the toe as an adorno.  (See Fanfarron and Zapatazo)

Golpes ...........................Toe taps.

Guapo ...........................Handsome: A respectable and desirable man. 

H

Habanera ......................Side - together -  side -  together stepping action; a chassé.   An Afro-Cuban dance from the mid-19th century which contributed to tango.

Hamaca ........................Another term for Cunita.

I

Inclinada .......................Tilt, tilting. See Carpa, Puente.

Izquierda .......................Left (the opposite of right).

J

Junta .............................(from juntar) ;  to join or bring together

L

Lapiz ..........................   Pencil: Tracing of circular motions on the floor with the toe or inside edge of the working foot.  See Dibujo, Firulete and Rulo.

Latigazo ....................   Whipping;  a whipping action of the leg as in a boleo.

Latigo ........................   The whip; also used to describe the whipping action of the leg in boleos to front or back, when led with energy and speed.  See Latigazo and 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. 

Lunfardo ....................   The Spanish/Italian slang of the Buenos Aires lower class, commonly used in tango lyrics and terminology.

Lustrada ....................   From lustrar - to shine or polish;  the shoe shine.  A stroking of the man’s pant leg.

 

M

 

Marcar (also Marca) ....From Marque ; to plot a course;  guide: To lead.  'La marca' is '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.

Media Vuelta .............   Half turn.

Milonga ....................... Music, written in 2/4 time;  the dance done to 'milonga' music;  the salon where people go to dance tango;  a tango dance and party.

Milonguero  (fem)....... Milonguera) .............Those frequenting the milongas

 

Milonguero Cross ........Also known as ochos cortados.

Milonguero Style .........A non-Argentine term for the style of dancing in a very close embrace; also referred to as confiteria style, club style, apilado style, etc.  

Milonguita ...................Affectionate diminutive for the milonga.  Also,  young girls brought from eastern Europe and France (Madame Yvonne) with the promise to

                                       marry a rich Argentinean.

Mina ..............................A lunfardo word for woman. 

Mira ...............................From mirar  -  to look;  see;  observe.

Molinete .......................Windmill

Mordida ........................From morder:  to bite;  To sandwiche or trap the partner’s foot. 

Mordida Alto ................Variation of mordida done with the knees instead of the feet.

 

O

 

Ocho .............................Eight (pl. ochos); Figure eights: A swivel (not necessarily an actual figure 8 pattern).

Ocho Cortado ..............Cut eight: change of direction: An interrupted swivel typically resulting in a side-step before a change of direction.

Ocho Defrente .............Ocho to the front: Forward ochos.

Ocho para Atrás ...........Ocho to the back: Back ochos.

Ochos en Espejo ....................... Ochos in the mirror:  man and the lady execute forward or back ochos simultaneously.

Orillero ........................ Outskirts; suburbs.

Orillero Style ..............  The style of dance which is danced in the suburbs, characterized by 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.

 

P

 

Paicas ........................... A lunfardo word for girl.  See Mina or Pebeta.

Palanca ......................... Lever; leverage: A subtle lift (mostly in fantasia [stage tango]).

Parada .......................... From parar - to stop; a stop: typically, but not always done with the foot.

Parallel Feet ................. The natural way of dancing and foot placement. (The opposite of crossed feet.)

Parejas ......................... Couple

Pasada ......................... Passing (over). 

Paso ..............................A step.

Patada .......................... A kick.

Pausa ............................Pause

Pebeta .......................... A lunfardo word for young woman or girl.  See Mina or Paicas.

Pecho ........................... Chest.

Picados .........................A flicking upward of the heel when turning or stepping forward. An embellishment.  See Golpes.

Pie .................................A foot.

Pierna ........................... A leg.

Pinta ............................. Appearance; presentation.  See Bien Parado.

Pisar  ............................. to step.

Piso .............................. Floor

Pista ............................. The dance floor.

Planchadoras .............. The women who sit all night at the milongas without being asked to dance.  

Planeo .......................... Ronde; circle.

Porteño (feminine; Porteña) ........................  An inhabitant of the port city of Buenos Aires.

Postura ........................ Posture. SeeDerecho and Eje.

Práctica ........................ A practice session for tango dancers.

Puente ........................  Bridge; See Carpa, Inclinada.

Punteo ......................... Point; peck: Rhythmic toe taps.  See Golpes.

Q

Quebrada .................... Break; broken

R

Rabona ......................... A walking step with a syncopated cross. See Contrapaso andTraspie.

Resolución .......... ........ Resolution; tango close.

Ritmo ..........................  Rhythm.  See Compás.

Rodillas ........................ Knees.

Ronda .......................... (La ronda) Line of dance.  See Codigos.

Rulo .............................. A curl:  An older term for lapiz.

S

Sacada ......................... A displacement of a leg or foot by the partner’s leg or foot. 

Salida ........................... From salir - to exit; to go out.  Derived from “¿Salimos a bailar?” {Shall we [exit 'to' the dance floor]?

Salto ........................... . A jump.

Sandwiche ..................  To encase the partner's foot between your own. See Mordida.

Sanguchito .................. See Mordida.

Seguidillas ................... Tiny quick steps, usually seen in orillero style.  May also be called corridas.

Seguir .......................... To follow.

Sentada ....................... From sentar - to sit. A sitting action. 

Suave ........................... Smooth, steady and gentle, soft, stylish. 

Syncopation ............... Syncopate; syncopated (to borrow from one best to add to another).

Sube y Baja ................  Up and down. A step in Milonga, when the couple dances forward and back together in an outside partner (or shadow position).

T

Tanda ......................... . A set of traditionally 3 - 4 songs of the same or similar style.

Tango ........................... A stle of music from the Rio de la Plata region.  A mid-19th century  dance which descended  from rhythms and dances including; Candombe, 

                                       Habanera, and Milonga.

 

           Tango de Salon ............... The social style of tango characterized by slow, measured, and smoothly executed moves. 

           Tango Fantasia ................ Tango for the stage; performance style dancing.

           Tango Liso .......................  Literally, 'tango smooth'. Ato dance only the most "basic" tango steps (i.e. caminadas, ochos, molinetes, etc.).

 

Tanguera ....................  A female dancer; a female who is passionate about the tango. A female aficionado.

Tanguero ....................  A male dancer; a male who is passionate about the tango. An aficionado.  

Tijera ............................ Scissor; Several variations of tango movements.

Titubeo .................. ..... Hesitation.  See Pausa.

Trabada ............ ........... Another term for cruzada.

Traspie ......................... A walking triplet, or step with a syncopated cross. See Contrapaso and Rabona.

Truco ............................ Literally, trick or stunt: May be used to describe fancy athletic movements in addition to lifts for stage or tango fantasia.

V

Vals .............................. Argentine waltz. Sometimes called Vals Criollo, or Vals Cruzada, or very incorrectly as Tango Waltz.

Vareador .....................  A man who is a clumsy or inconsiderate lead (one whom “might just as well be walking a horse.”)  *Taken from the secular meaning of vareador.

Vén y Va .....................  Come and go.  See Sube y Baja.

Viboraita .....................  Viper; the little snake. When one partner dances a sacada to, first one leg, then the other in succession, using a back and forth slithering motion

                                       of the right leg and foot.

Volcada .......................  From Volcar - to tip-over or lean. A falling step. To dance the lady 'off-axis'. 

Voleo ..........................  See Boleo.

 

Y

 

Yumba (zhoóm-ba) ........A phonetic expression describing the powerful, dramatic, and driving musical accent of a moderate or even slow tempo.

 

Z

 

Zapatazo ........................ A dancer taps their own shoes together.  See Adorno, Fanfarron, and Golpecitos.

Zarandeo ....................  A vigorous shake, swing, or push forward and back.

Click below for amazing music by

Alejandro Drago, Tango Violinist

(with the Arpeggione Chamber Orchestra

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Copyright © 1990 - 2020 / DanceKinesis / TangoKinesis / Percell St Thomass / All Rights Reserved

Not affiliated with the Tango Kinesis Dance Company. Arg.

 

Music: All Rights Reserved © Alejandro Drago, Acclaimed Violinist

(with the Arpeggione Chamber Orchestra, and the conductor is Mtro. James Brooks-Bruzzese)