Absolute Beginner Workshop
(Courtesy of Tejastango)
Arrastre– to drag
Amague — (from amagar – to make a threatening motion) 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 (frappé) before taking a step.
Barrida – A sweep; a sweeping motion: One partner’s foot sweeps the other’s foot and places it without losing contact. Barridas are done from either the outside or the inside of the foot of the receiving party.
Boleo (Voleo) – 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.
Cadena – The chain; enchainement: An athletic and very theatrical turning figure which moves rapidly across the floor turning left or right, in which the couple alternate amagues (cuatros) or ganchos. Another variation involves the man stepping outside left or right in crossed feet and leading the lady in a change of direction to keep her in front of him as he turns, 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.
Calesita – 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 when the lady’s leg is lifted in the cuatro position.
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.
Carpa – The tent postion: A figure created when the man leads the lady onto one foot as in, or at the end of, calesita 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.
Colgada – A spinning move executed by a couple at the end of an inside barrida in which both dancers lean out away from each other and spin rapidly until the man leads out with a back step.
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 lady’s 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.
Corrida — (also: corridita, a little run) from correr: to run. A short sequence of running steps.
Enganche — Hooking; coupling; the little hook: Occurs when a partner wraps a leg around the other’s leg, or uses a foot to catch and hold the other’s 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.
Furulete (Adorno) – An adornment; a decoration; an embellishment: Complicated or syncopated movements which the dancer uses to demonstrate their skill and to interpret the music.
Freno — To stop and hold; brake.
Gancho – Hook: Occurs when a dancer hooks a leg sharply around and in contact with their partner’s leg by flexing the knee and releasing. May be performed to the inside or outside of either leg and by either partner.
Giros – Turn: A turning step or figure.
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.
Llevada — From llevar – to transport; a carry; to take with: Occurs when the man uses the upper thigh or foot to “carry” the lady’s leg to the next step. Barridas interspersed with walking steps in which the man takes the lady with him across the floor.
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 lady’s leg. May be used to bring the lady to an inside gancho.
Media Vuelta – Half turn, literally: Usually done when the man’s right foot and the lady’s left foot are free. The man steps forward outside right (3 of 8-count basic), leading the lady to step back left and collect, then side right across his center, 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 ½ 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.
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. This is a very common figure in tango which challenges both the man and the lady to maintain good posture, balance, and technique in order to perform it well. One of the central codes of tango.
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.
Ocho – Eight (pl. ochos); Figure eights: A crossing and 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 lady’s 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 lady’s 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: change of direction: Occurs when a molinete or an ocho-like movement is stopped and sent back upon itself. Typical in club-style tango where many such brakes are used to avoid collisions. Describes a movement done on either foot, pivoting forward of backward, and going either left or right.
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 lady’s 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).
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 man’s 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.
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 dancer’s upper body and hips are rotated in opposition to each other with the working leg flexed inward creating a broken dance line.
Sacada – The most common term for a displacement of a leg or foot by the partner’s 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 partner’s leg.
Sandwich – One partner’s foot is sandwiched or trapped between the other partner’s feet.
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.
Volcada – from Volcar – to tip-over or capsize; a falling step: The leader causes the follower to tilt or lean forward and fall off her axis before he catches her again. The process produces a beautiful leg drop from her. The movement requires the support of a close embrace.