Tango Notes: Tango Terminology

Argentine tango terminology developed in Argentina in Spanish so English speakers use many Spanish terms for tango figures. Here are common terms with a brief description, giving the term in Spanish, English, or both. These are commonly encountered by the beginning/intermediate dancer. Many of these entries have links to pages with more extensive descriptions and instructional videos.

Misc terms

Open side vs Closed side
The open side is the leader's left and follower's right side, and the closed side is the opposite.
Parallel vs Crossfoot
Parallel footwork occurs when the leader's left is moving with the follower's right, and similarly leader's right with follower's left. Crossfoot is also frequent in tango, where the leader's and follower's left feet move together and rights together.

Terms for basic steps

Basic Eight (Eight-count Basic, Eight-step Basic, el Basico)
A very common reference figure taught to beginners.
Baldosa Box
A common 6-count figure. Similar to the Basic Eight but without the Cruzada.
Cruzada (Cross, Cruz)
Position with follower's weight bearing left foot tightly crossed over right. Occurs at step 5 in the Basic Eight.
Front Ocho (Forward Ocho, Ocho Adelante)
Follower steps forward at right angle to the leader and then pivots 180 degrees.
Back Ocho (Backward Ocho, Ocho AtrĂ¡s)
Follower steps back at right angle to leader and then pivots 180 degrees.
Molinete / Giro
A circular grapevine (front+pivot, side+pivot, back, side) done around the leader.
Stepover (Pasada)
Following a parada (stop), the follower steps over the leader's stopping foot.
Americana (Espejo)
Couple in promenade position with the inside feet forward.

Foot play

Parada (Stop)
A leader's foot is pressed against a follower's foot and the follower is led to stop.
Sandwich (Sandwichito, Sanguchito, Sanguche)
The leader's left and right feet "sandwich" one of the follower's feet. Starts with a parada.
Barrida (Arrastre, Drag, Sweep)
Slide the partner's foot.
Sacada (Entrada)
Displacement of partner's leg which is about to move, either low against calf or ankle, or high against thigh.

Intermediate Moves

Gancho (Hook)
The follower flings leg back between leader's legs.
Wrap
The follower wraps a leg around a leader's leg.

Off-axis Intermediate moves

The follower is not balanced on their own axis but is leaning on (volcada) or hanging on (colgada) the leader.

Colgada
Off-axis with (often centrifugal) force pulling the partners apart.
Volcada
Off-axis with the follower leaning into the leader.

Sources for more complete terminology

A Guide to Tango Terminology
An extensive list of terms, especially in Spanish. This is an interesting site with other good resources.
Figures of Argentine tango
The Wikipedia illustrated list of tango figures with English and Spanish names.