Tango A – Z

  • how does or can its terminology describe leadership?
  • what are the lessons, the inspirations, the aha’s?

 ¿Bailás?    While, at many milongas and prácticas, invitations to dance are offered, rejected and declined through eye contact and subtle gestures (see cabeceo), verbal invitations are possible in some situations,

 Barrida (lit. “sweep”)  A movement in which one dancer uses their free foot to sweep the other dancer’s free foot along the floor. Can be performed in a straight line, or as part of agiro.

 Boleo    A movement in which the leader changes direction to create a momentum which causes the follower’s free leg to swing out along the floor (a low boleo, sometimes called a planeo) or, with higher energy, into the air (a high boleo).

 Caricia    A leg caricia (lit. caress) is a decoration which involves one of the dancers running their free foot lightly up the outside edge of their partner’s leg, usually during aparada. It can be danced by either leader or follower but is more popular with followers.

Close embrace   A way of dancing in which the dancers’ torsos remain touching throughout. Almost all dancers walk and perform simple moves in close embrace. Depending on their chosen style of dancing, they may then open the embrace to enable them to dance specific moves which require a slightly greater distance between the couple. 

Comme il faut  As well as being the name of a tango, this is an expensive, iconic and undoubtedly sexy brand of women’s tango heels.

 Decorations    Movements, usually small subtle movements of the feet, which are not led and followed. 

Dissociation    When dancers move one body part independently of another or, most commonly in tango, initiate a movement in one part of the body, so that movement in another part of the body is delayed.

 Gancho (lit. “hook”) A move in which one dancer’s leg hooks around the other’s leg. This usually happens only when one dancer steps deep into the other’s space

 Giro (lit. “turn”)  A turn in which, most commonly, the follower walks around the leader, who forms the centre of the turn. However, the leader can also walk around the follower or they can both walk around a common centre

Mirada (lit. “look”)  The practice of looking at someone in order to elicit an invitation to dance by cabeceo.

Ocho    A dissociated turning step, performed by both leaders and followers, which is one of the most characteristic movements in tango. The name refers to the half figure eight pattern which the feet trace on the floor.

Orquesta Típica The traditional tango orchestra, consisting of four bandoneons, four violins, piano and double bass. Tango music is usually categorised not by composer but by orchestra. The different orchestras have distinctive interpretive styles. Each orchestra is named for its conductor who may also be a member of the orchestra. 

 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, often with both dancers bending their knees and dipping down. It is frequently led at the end of a giro. Usually, the woman determines when to resume movement 

 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 while the dancer turns. The two legs resemble a pair of compasses drawing a circle, with the free foot the pencil part.

 Ronda (lit. “circle”)   The circle the dancers form on the floor during the dance. Tango is danced anticlockwise and couples usually progress within one or two circular lanes (with some dancers in the centre of the circle or circles). Changing between lanes, overtaking and tailgating are, ideally, kept to a minimum.

 Sacada (lit. “displacement”)  A move in which one partner deliberately invades the other’s floor space, stepping close to or into the place their partner is currently occupying, thus displacing them. 

Salida   A figure often danced as an opening to the dance, or to mark the beginning of a new phrase or section of the music. It characteristically begins with a side step, followed by some walking steps, and ends with the follower in what is called the cross, that is, with feet crossed left in front of right (with weight on the front foot). 

 Tangotonin    The hormonal neurotransmitter which dancers secrete in large quantities when enjoying a particularly wonderful dance. While scientists have as yet failed to identify its chemical structure or locate its receptors in the brain, empirical evidence demonstrates that its effects are powerful, dangerous and habit-forming.

 Traspié    From a word that literally means “to stumble”, traspié describes a quick, short rock step in which, as soon as the dancer begins to change their weight onto the step, they push off from the receiving foot and return to their original position in a pattern of go–return–go.