Cybertango FAQ - Definition of Tango Terms

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Since this list is still very incomleate, why not take a look at the Spanish-English Dance Vocabulary compiled by Daniel Trenner

* Tango dancing figures (and related terms)
* Gerneral Tango Terms

* Longer definitions and explanation of "Tango Terms"

Last edited Aug. 1999

Tango dancing figures (and related terms)
Terms Translation Short Definitions
English German
abrazo embrace, dance hold Umarmung, Tanzhaltung some articles about the dancing frame
arrastre arrastrar = to drag
barrida a sweep as in sweep with a broom :-)
base basic pattern Grundschritt There are several basic patterns, all called "base".
calecita merry go round, happens at the quebrada
cadena chain Kette
cafe con leche ;-) Something you take for breakfast, perhaps together with a medialuna
caminada caminar = walk gehen
corrida correr = to run run, implies a short sequence of forward steps, rather than a basic
corte cut (Ein)schnitt
cruzada cruzar=to cross kreuzen
enrosque corkscrew Korkenzieher
entrada entrance eintreten, Eingang
firulete embellishment, ornament Verziehrung
freno brake Bremse
gancho a hook Haken
giro a turn Drehung
lapiz pencil Bleistift
llevar to lead, to carry führen, tragen
llevada a carry, happens when the leader uses the upper thigh to "carry" the follower's leg top the next step, needs illustration to understand!
llevada marcar
media vuelta half turn halbe Umdrehung
Milonga dance, mother of tango

also: an 'event' where you dance tango (let's go to the milonga tonight)
dancing hall, where tango is danced
molinete molino = mill, as in windmill molinete = grapevine Mühle a dance move, in A. Tango this is typically in a circle around the leader
mordida (=sandwich) morder = to bite beißen The foot of one partner is "trapped" between the two feet of the other partner. If the legs of this other partner are crossed, then it is a reverse mordida.
ocho eight acht very basic figure, the feet of the follower mark an 8 on the floor
ocho cortado cut eight happens when an 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! Needs a teachers explanation, since I am unclear on all the different movements in this category.
parada a stop Halt
quebrada break Bruch a position where the woman stands on one foot, the other one hanging relaxed behind the standing foot, often seen with the woman hanging with all her weight against the man
resolucion natural natürlicher Abschluß
reverse mordida see mordida
salida exit, go out Ausgang first steps of dancing tango, derived from:
"Salimos a bailar" = Shall we (go out to the dance floor and) dance?
sentada sentar = to sit (hin)setzten

Gerneral Tango Terms
Canyengue Arrabalero, of low social status.
A way of interpreting or dancing tango
A reunion (party) where the people from the arrabal (the slums) dance.
The sound obtained from the double bass when the strings are hit rhytmically with the hand and the bow.
Candombe A type of dance danced by (originally) the descendants of black slaves in the Rio de la Plata region.
A type of african-origin music with a marked rhythm played on a "tamboril" (kind of drum).
The place where the blacks congregated to dance.
Tango Popular music from the Rio de la Plata region dating back to the middle of the XIX century. It was defined by a 2 x 4 beat until the decade of the '20s in the XX century, and a 4 x 8 beat thereafter.
A type of african-origin music with a marked rhythm played on a "tamboril" (kind of drum). dance where an embraced couple perform a series of (sometimes intricate) patterns primarily with their legs, to the rhythm of tango m
Direct descendant of the Candombe, Habanera, Milonga, and (by some tango scholars) the Tango Andaluz.
The place where the blacks congregated to dance to the rhythm of drums.
(Note: entire books and lives have been dedicated to the search for the ultimate definition or origin of the word "tango", i.e., this is only a minimal subset of the available definitions.)
Milonguero A man who likes to attend the milongas.
A person whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango.
Payador pueblero (traveling folk-music singer.)
A title given by other tango dancers to a man who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of the tango.
Milonguera Female dancer (for hire) of the early dance halls, cabarets, and nightclubs.
A woman who likes to attend the milongas.
A woman whose life revolves around dancing tango and the philosophy of tango.
A title given by other tango dancers to a woman who has mastered the tango dance and embodies the essence of the tango.
Milonguita: A woman of loose morals, often times a prostitute.
Tango Liso A way of dancing tango characterized by its lack of fancy figures or patterns. Only the most "basic" tango steps and figures are utilized, e.g., caminadas, ochos, molinetes, etc. Ganchos, sacadas, boleos and other fancy moves (such as leaps, sentadas, and all acrobatics in general) are not done.
Tango de Salon A way of dancing tango characterized by slow measured moves. It includes all of the "basic" tango steps and figures plus some sacadas, giros, and low boleos. The emphasis is on precision. The dancing couple remains at a "proper" distance from each other, i.e., their bodies are *not* in a close embrace. This is what happened to the tango when the French and the English got a hold of it in the early part of the century (pre-World War I) :^) This is the style of dance that most people who run milongas wish people did, and the style most dancers wish the *other* dancers did... :^)
the terms 'Tango de Salon' and 'Tango Milonguero' seem to be interpreted differently by different dancers and teacher, so one should be aware that other people might think of something different when they talk about 'Tango de Salon'
Tango Danza Tango dance (in Spanish).
Tango for Export A way of dancing tango much derided by the milongueros of Buenos Aires. It's a tango without soul. This is a tango that plays well in the cabarets of Paris, New York, Berlin, or Tokyo because most of what made it a Porte~no dance (one that spoke directly to the soul of the Argentino) has been stripped away, leaving only the fancy moves and pseudo passion for the enjoyment of an exotic- loving public.
Tango Fantasia This a hybrid tango. An amalgam of traditional tango steps and 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, and anything else that the choreographer and the performers think they can get away with. The music played might not even be a "real" tango, i.e., it can be Jazz, a bastardized classical piece, etc. Alas, this is the style of dancing most prevalent at the milongas outside of the Rio de la Plata region. Usually badly performed by ill-behaved tango dancers and frustrated tango performers who insist in getting their money's worth at the milonga even if they have to kick, step, bump into, or trip every other dancer on the floor.
Tango Orillero Orillero means "of the outskirts". Thus, this was a style of dancing tango that was "outside" of the prevalent way of dancing. Nowadays, is more defined by its quick moves, kicks, and acrobatics. See "Juan Bruno" for more details.... ;-)
So far, the definitions for these general Tango terms are from Caran Fanfunfa (Thanks for your work!)
You are all invited to add further definitions to this list.

Garrit Fleischmann 5.Jun.96
Email: kontakt(at)