We may have a modern approach to teaching, but there is no getting away from the tango terminolgy, the Spanish names for the moves and the traditions that came straight from Argentina. There is no need to learn all these, but we felt that a glossary of some of the most common terms you might encounter would be useful.

Tango Terminology

abrazo: The dance hold (embrace).

apilado: The lean towards each other that characterises the tango embrace or hold (from 'stacked').

barrida: One partner's foot appears to sweep or push the other's foot out of the way, although this is frequently an illusion as the lead still comes from the chest connection (from 'to sweep'). See llevada.

boleo: A flick of the leg in a whip-like motion as an accent to the dance, usually behind or around the dancer's own other leg (from 'to throw'). Also known as voleo (from 'to fly).

cadencia: The phrasing of the music, and how you interpret it in the dance ('cadence'). This is often used to refer to the rise and fall of musical emphasis, and the corresponding rise and fall in height, pace, or anything else in the dance itself.

calesita: The follower is led to pivot on the spot by the leader walking around them in a close circle (carousel). This can be with the follower on or off axis.

caminar: The 'tango walk' (from 'to walk').

colgada: An off-axis move where the follower's axis is displaced away from the leader, hanging their weight off the leader's frame (from 'suspended' or 'hung'). See volcada.

corte: This can refer to a break or pause in the dance, either by syncopation or by holding still for a period (from 'to cut').

cruzada: Where one foot is crossed in front of the other in a collected position ('cross').

desplazamiento: Displacing the partner's foot or leg, using one's own foot or leg ('displacement'). Also see sacada.

dibujo: Done by drawing circles or other small movements on the floor with the toe (from 'drawing' or 'sketch').

enganche: Occurs when one dancer hooks or wraps their leg around their partner's leg (from 'to hook' or 'to couple'). Also known as a gancho.

enrosque: To wrap one leg around the other whilst entering or exiting a pivot (to coil or twist). This can be done by the leader or the follower. It may include a change of weight

fantasia: Stage tango, a showy flamboyant style of tango used for performance.

gancho: See enganche (hook).

giro: Any turn or rotation with the follower proceding around the leader (see calesita). The basic version starts with the leader pivoting in the centre and the follower performing a molinette around the outside, but many other variations are used. Pronunciation: like 'hero' (from 'to turn').

llevada: A barrida that includes a height change, usually by lifting the partner's foot away from the floor (from 'to transport').

media vuelta: A half turn, usually done when the leader's right foot and the follower's left foot are free.

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.

milonguero: One who frequents the milongas. Also a style of dancing during that during the 1940's and 50's.

molinete: A sequence of forward and back half-ochos separated by side-steps done in a circle (little windmill or fan).

ochos: Pivoting forward or backward, with the feet together during the pivot, in a figure-eight pattern (hence the name).

ocho atras: Backward ochos.

ocho cortado: An attenuated ocho resulting in the follower ending in a cross (cruzada). This is a rhythmic step often used in milonga.

parada: To move and block a partner's foot by placing your own foot in the way, and in contact (from 'to stop').

pasos: Steps.

Pista: Dance floor.

quebrada: A sudden stop in the dancing used to accent the rhythm or create dynamism (a break).

sacada: Literally to 'take away space' from your partner, where your leg moves or displaces your partner's leg, usually during a step (meaning 'to take away').

Salón: A style of dancing for the milonga or small club, as opposed to stage tango or Fantasia.

sandwichito: One partner's foot is sandwiched between the other partner's feet (a sandwich).

seguir: To follow.

sentada: A sitting action.

trabada: A lock step (from 'fastened')

Vals: A waltz done to tango music in waltz time.

volcada: An off-axis move where the follower's axis is displaced towards the leader, 'spilling' their weight into the leader's frame (literally 'to spill'). See colgada.

voleo: See boleo.


  • axis: The center vertical line around which one's balance is maintained.
  • carousel: The lead steps in a circle around the follower - keeping them on their own axis.
  • change of weight: To move your weight from one foot to the other, changing which is the standing foot and which is the free foot.
  • collect: To bring the feet together without changing weight or splitting the weight between the feet.
  • syncopation: To modify rhythm by a shift of accents on a beat.

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