The Tango Lexicon


The tango lexicon is the most basic vocabulary of movements available to a dancer.

A few of the movements are in fact sequences, which are simultaneously so distinct and so common that they function as single concepts.

All of these movements existed and were used during the Golden Age of Tango (blogpost on this topic).

The entries below have varying numbers of iterations, variations, and pseudonyms. The KnowledgeBase encyclopedia of movements includes a larger number of entries which systematize the iterations, isolate common variations, and disambiguate the psuedonyms. The KnowledgeBase should contain an entry on every possible term of tango movement and technique. (If something is missing, please let us know.)

This lexicon is categorical. It is intended to help a dancer evaluate the scope of your familiarity. Once you are familiar with the entire lexicon, you are ready to master the iterations of each movement.

Steps / Walking
  1. Front step … Vorwärtsschritt
  2. Back step  … Rückwärtsschritt
  3. Side step … Seitwärtsschritt
  4. Change of foot … Fußwechsel
  5. Molinete lineal … front side back side (Greek wedding dance) … vor seit rück seit (griechischer Hochzeitstanz)
  6. Ocho … step with pivot … Schritt mit Drehung
  7. Sacada … displacement … Verdrängung
Walking on a circle
  1. Double-giro … both walking on the circle … beide gehen auf einem Kreis
  2. Single-giroMark in center of circle, Revel walks around … Mark im Zentrum des Kreises, Revel geht herum
  3. Calesita … Revel in center of circle, Mark walks around … Revel im Zentrum des Kreises, Mark geht herum
Modified steps
  1. Crosses … Kreuze
  2. Parada … stops … Unterbrechung
  3. Barrida (variations: Sandwichito, Pulpeades…) … Mark’s leg sweeps the Revel’s leg … Mark-Bein fegt Revel-Bein
Power transfer
  1. Rebote … elastic step … elastischer Schritt
  2. Alteración … elastic step with pivot … elastischer Schritt mit Drehung
  3. Voleo Circularfree leg is maximized into the air, with pivot … freies Bein ist bis zum Maximum in der Luft, mit Drehung
  4. Voleo Lineal … free leg is maximized into the air, without pivot … freies Bein ist bis zum Maximum in der Luft, ohne Drehung
  5. Gancho (includes wrap, double-gancho, piernazo) … voleo hooks the partner’s body … Voleo umhakt den Körper des Partners
  6. Rebote cadera … elastic move of the hips … elastische Bewegung der Hüften
  7. Patada … kick between the partner’s legs … Kick zwischen die Beine des Partners
Off-balance / leaning / flying steps
  1. Volcadaleaning move toward the partner … lehnende Bewegung zum Partner hin
  2. Colgada … leaning move away from the partner … lehnende Bewegung vom Partner weg
Beyond the embrace
  1. Soltada … release of the embrace … Auflösen der Umarmung
  2. Adorno … decoration with the free leg … Verzierung mit dem freien Bein
  3. Salta & Sostenida …  jump & sustain … Sprung- und Stützfigur

Stop memorizing sequences*
and start improvising from the elements of Tango
*or being annoyed with yourself for not being able to remember them.

Take our Lexicon Self-Test,
then use our Impro Workbook
to structure your development. 

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If you are a Revel/Follower and want to know what you can do to encourage and facilitate more improvisation, read our post on how to be a Divine Space/Time Machine

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