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Tango Terminology

Not sure about a particular Tango term?...find it here!
  • abrazo: embrace (as in dance hold).
  • amague: from amagar. lit. "to fake". To make a threatening motions. 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 (frappe) before taking a step.
  • barrida: sweep. A sweeping motion. One partner's foot sweeps the other's foot. Also called llevada.
  • barrio: a district, neighborhood.
  • boleo: from bolear. To throw. A boleo may be executed either high or low. Keeping knees together, with one leg in back, swivel on the supporting leg.
  • calesita (means 'carousel'):  The leader walks circular around the follower who pivots on one leg (or between two legs split axis) to stay connected with the leader as he circles her.
  • 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.
  • caminar: to walk. The walk is similar to a natural walking step but the ball of the foot touches before the heel. The body and leg must move as a unit so that the body is in balance. Walks should be practiced for balance and fluidity.
  • colgada: both leader and follower lean outwards, away from each other, off axis. They support each other from falling by maintaining their contact with their arms.
  • corte: cut. In tango corte means cutting the music either by syncopating or holding several beats.
  • cruzada: cross. A cruzada occurs anytime a foot is crossed in front or in back of the other.
  • desplazamiento: displacement. Displacing the partner's foot or leg using one's leg or foot.
  • dibujo: drawing, sketch. A dibujo is done by drawing circles or other small movements on the floor with one's toe.
  • enganche: hooking, coupling. Occurs when partner wraps leg around the other's leg.
  • entrada: Leader's leg replaces partner's unweighted leg position. Entrada doesn't influence movement of the follower's leg. This movement is called entrada or sacada in Spanish depending on instructor, and is often called a shallow sacada
  • enrosque: from enroscar. To coil, twist. While woman executes a molinete, man spins on one foot, hooking other foot behind the spinning foot.
  • gancho: the noun of enganche, a hooking move with the leg
  • giro: A circular walk  which creates a 360 degree turn. Either the follower satellites around the leader or both leader and follower satellite around each other at the same time.  
  • lapiz (s) / Lapices (pl) lit. "pencil": A decoration in which the free foot draws a circle on the floor.
  • llevada: from llevar. To transport (see barrida).
  • lustrada a.k.a "shoe shine: the follower gently runs the top of her foot up the leader's calf (this is not lead but an optional decoration)
  • medialuna: half a giro (See giro)
  • media vuelta: half turn. Usually done when man's right foot and woman's left foot are free. Man steps forward with his right leading woman to take a back step with her left and then leads he to take two steps while turning a half turn.
  • milonga: may refer to music or the dance which preceded the tango, written in 2/4 time; or may refer to the dance salon or event where people go to dance tango (see below).
  • milongueros: refers to those frequenting the milongas and considered tango fanatics.
  • molinete: fan. Molinetes are forward and back ochos (figure 8's) done in a circle.
  • mordida: same meaning as sandwich
  • ocho: eight. Figure eights usually executed with feet together (ankles touching) instead of one foot extended.
  • ocho atras: ochos backward
  • parada: (lit. "stop")  In this movement, the follower is brought to a standstill, usually with at least one foot touching the leader’s extended free foot. 
  • pasada: lit. "passing over". This is where the leader invites the follower to step over his leg following a parada or sandwich. The lady may, at her discretion, step over the man’s foot or trace her toe on the floor around its front.pista: dance floor
  • planeo: A movement performed by the leader, or led for the follower, which uses momentum to cause the free foot to describe a wide arc on the floor as the dancer turns. The two legs resemble a pair of compasses drawing a circle, with the free foot the pencil part.1
  • punteo: A decoration where you tap the floor with the point of your foot. Varying from little taps low to the ground, or in such a way that the leg bounces high off the ground afterwards. 
  • rulo: The rulo - also known as lapiz (pencil) or dibujo (sketch) - is executed by drawing one or more circles on the floor with the free leg, either as part of a movement or during a pause in dancing.
  • sacada: this can be either a shallow or deep sacada. For shallow version see 'entrada'. A deep sacada causes displacement of partner's unweighted leg.
  • salida: Exit, or start. It's interesting that the word for the basic step (a place to start) should be a way to get out of a figure as well.
  • salida cruzada: the beginning of a pattern with a cross; i.e. side left crossing right foot behind left, or side right crossing left foot behind right.
  • sandwich / sandwichito: One partner's foot is sandwiched between the other partner's feet.
  • sentada: a sitting action.
  • sacada: see desplazamiento 
  • soltada:  lit. "dissolved' or 'released'. Any move where the couple release the embrace either completely or partly. 
  • trabada: fastened. It is a lock step - the step that the woman takes when man steps outside with his right foot and then straight forward left, together right. At this point the woman crosses and this cross is referred to as trabada
  • volcada: a move which involves the follower deliberately going off her axis and leaning towards her partner, who sustains her and prevents her from falling. 
Have we missed any? Please feel free to contact SO TANGO to suggest additions to this list.

(adapted by So Tango from: ToTango)