Bandoneón — An accordion like musical instrument originally created to provide missionaries with portable pipe organ music for religious services in remote locales which has been adopted by tango musicians to create the mournful and soulful sound of modern tango music.
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 — (from bolear – 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.
Cabeceo — (from cabeza, head): Traditional technique for selecting dance partners from a distance at the milongas in Buenos Aires by using eye contact and head movements.
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.
Cortina — literally, curtain: A brief musical interlude between tandas at a milonga.
Embrace — (from abrazo, hug): Open embrace refers to positions in which partners are connected primarily at the hands as opposed to closer body contact, as in closed position. The connection is through the hands, wrists, and fingers, and relies heavily on frame and the compression and tension of both partners’ arms. Close embrace is a type of closed position where the leader and follower stand facing each other chest-to-chest in upper body contact. The dancers usually stand offset from one another, such that each has his or her right toe in between the toes of his or her partner.
Gancho — literally hook: Occurs when a dancer hooks a leg sharply around and in contact with their partners leg by flexing the knee and releasing. May be performed to the inside or outside of either leg and by either partner.
Giro — Turn: A turning step or figure.
Milonga — 1. music: With a steady 2/4 rhythm, milonga sounds more cheerful and lively in feeling than tango music. 2. Dance: The dance emphasizes this rhythm with a step on each beat; the style of dancing and music is closer to the 19th century precursor of tango, and is still popular in contemporary tango salons. 3. Event: The party or salon where people go to dance.
Milonguero Style — A term originally given by Europeans and some North Americans to the style of dancing in a very close embrace; (also referred to as confiteria style, club style, apilado style, etc.) Because it originated in very crowded clubs, Milonguero Style is danced in a very close embrace with full upper body contact, the partners leaning into each other (but never hanging on each other) while using simple walking and turning steps. This style relies on music of the more rhythmic type as characterized by orquestas like those of D’Arienzo or Tanturi. See also Stephen Brown’s Styles of Argentine Tango.
Neotango — Increasingly used term associated with music and dancing to tango fusion or non-tango tracks. The latest mutation of tango nuevo.
Ocho — eight (pl. ochos): Figure eight, 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. The ocho is thought 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 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.
Practica — a practice session for dancers of all levels. Often one or more teachers may be available to assist. Practicas also offer a place to get feedback from more experienced dancers outside the pressure of a formal milonga.
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.
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 except in extreme circumstances of discomfort or outright rudeness.
Tango — Popular music from the Rio de la Plata region dating back to 1885-95, defined by a 2/4 rhythm until the 1920s when a 4/8 rhythm became common. A popular dance originating in the mid-19th century which descended from older styles such as Candombe, Habanera, Milonga. The exact origins of Tango are a historical mystery. See also Susan August Brown’s Argentine Tango: A Brief History.
Tango de Salon (or ‘salon style’ tango) — A style of tango that emphasizes elegance and is characterized characterized by slow, measured, and smoothly executed moves. It includes all of the basic tango steps and figures plus sacadas, giros and boleos. The emphasis is on precision, smoothness, and elegant dance lines. The dancing couple do not embrace as closely as in older styles, such as milonguero style, and the embrace is flexible, opening slightly to make room for various figures and closing again for support and poise.
Tango nuevo — (music): associated with the tango music (e.g. Piazzolla and later) that came after the golden age era (1930s-50s).
Vals — Argentine waltz music, characterized by a flowing 3/4 time. In the dance, tango steps are adapted to the rhythm, and the emphasis is on creating movements that are smooth and gliding.
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 leg drop from her. The movement requires the support of a close embrace.