Since this list is still very incomleate, why not take a look at the
Spanish-English Dance Vocabulary
compiled by Daniel Trenner
[These are postings or parts from posting out of the
Tango mailing list]
- The word derives from the castellano word FLORETA, which refers to some
type of embroidery or arabesque, and also to some specific dance moves.
In the general sense of the word, FIRULETE is an adornment, a
decoration, an embellishment that a person wears or dons to look
prettier, better, more handsome, marvelous, etc.
In the dance of Tango, FIRULETES are the complicated steps that the
dancers execute to demonstrate their skills.
El Firulete is also the name of the Argentine Tango Newsletter
published in Northern California.
- cortes vs. firuletes
- [starting note: I found myself adding small comments between brackets all
the time. To allow for an easier reading I've put those comments as
footnotes. That's why those numbers are standing in the text.]
In the tango-term discussion we have up to now touched upon two different
aspects of the dance: 'firuletes' and 'cortes'. You could say that they are
If we see tango in principle as a way of moving, changing your weight from
one foot to the other in a rhythmic way (caminar?), then 'firuletes'
are extra movements that do not interfere with this principle movement.
They add something extra to the 'principle move'. 'Cortes' on the other
hand are those elements where the movement is stopped for a moment. So a
'corte' takes something away from the 'principle move'.
First to the firuletes . Caran and Steve explained already that 'lapiz'
is a sort of firulete, where a leg is metaphorically seen as a pencil,
drawing on the floor. This is the general meaning, and in this sense
'dibujo' and 'traze'  are a kind of 'lapiz'. But 'lapiz' has very often
got a more delimited meaning, just as Steve explained the movement: as a
men's circular leg-movement in giro . If we discriminate between those
two we can start to bring some structure in the ever longer list of Tango
Terminology (see below). Another firulete is the patada: the kick, that
became famous as a kick from the man between the legs of the woman while
she is doing giro or ochos. In choreographies women are seen doing kicks
between the legs of the men too (This sometimes happens in improvisation,
but I have to say that I know only one woman who did it regularly).
/ | \
lapiz (general meaning) patada other...
/ | \
dibujo traze lapiz (delimited meaning)
I did not include boleo and gancho, as I'm not sure whether I would rate
them as pure firuletes. They both can only be performed properly if the
other partner 'goes with it'. In my view firuletes are something that one
of the dancers can do without 'disturbing' the other. Maybe we should say
that boleo and gancho are 'extreme' firuletes.
Now to cortes. The word 'corte' comes from the verb 'cortar': to cut. It
possibly refers to a cut in the principle movement . It is one of the
central pecularities of Argentine Tango: the constant movement can be
broken, which makes it possible to make real 'dance phrases'. You could say
that cortes are the punctuation of the dance. In one interpretation of the
term 'salida' , you could say that after each 'corte' there follows a
'salida'. After the movement has stopped, you have to start again.
A 'parada' as explained by Ernst is a corte . Mordida (and reverse
mordida) are elaborations of a parada. I would rate the 'resolution
natural' also as a corte, although some might disagree. The 'resolution
natural' is the '678' (for those who count). It is the ending of the eight
, leading to a stand-still. Another corte is the 'quebrada':
a position where the woman stands on one foot, the other one hanging
relaxed behind the standing foot, often seen with the woman hanging with
all her weight against the man .
____________ corte ___________
/ / \ \
parada resolution natural quebrada other...
So far from me. The hardest part is still to come: the terms refering to
various forms of the 'principle movement'. Don't forget the footnotes!
-  'embellishments' is probably the closest english word.
-  is 'adorno' just another word for the same, or does somebody feel a
difference in connotation between the two?
-  explain that last one (traze) some more Caran, I've never heard it, and
I'm not quite sure if I got you right.
-  Steve wrote the following: 'In the counter-clockwise molinete, the
left-foot lapiz comes after the follower has completed a her back step. As
she starts her side step, the leader sweeps his left foot away in front of
her, then draws it in toward his right foot. As she completes her front
step, he completes the his move, placing his left foot adjacent to her left
foot.' Note that this last part is a 'parada' (see note ).
-  any special names for "taps on the floor" or for the "touching of a
foot of the other" (informal those movements are called 'kisses' around
-  the same root is also found in 'cafe cortado'. Some people talk about a
special kind of ocho as an 'ocho cortado'. Maybe some other time I will
talk about that one.
-  see my mail from 28-05: "some more about salida", hopefully soon on
Garrit's server (nice work Garrit!). [Thanks :-), G.]
-  Ernst described a parada as: 'the leader stops the follower with the
inside edge of the leader's right foot touching the outside edge of the
follower's left foot.' I don't think that it is important for the
definition of a parada to name the feet or the side of the feet: all 8
possibilities are possible IMO. I would say that a parada is a 'corte with
touching of feet'.
-  Note that Caran named the eight count basic a 'salida simple'. This
shows again a further metaphorical step in the development of the meaning
of 'salida' as described in my last mail. Here 'salida' doesn't refer
anymore to the start of movement, but to the start of learning tango! the
'salida simple' is the first figure most people learn.
-  any special names for other cortes? For instance making a point, then
starting again into another direction.
-  The verb 'quebrar' means to break/to bend. Does this refer to the
strained position of the woman's back, bended and on the edge of breaking?
Maybe somebody has some better idea about the meaning of the word.
- Here's what some or my teachers taught me. The circular sweeping action is
usually called an enrosque (corkscrew). Lapiz means to tilt the foot almost
vertically & scribe figures on the floor. It can be added to the end of the
Larry de Los Angeles
- Parada, Mordida, Reverse Mordida, Sandwich
- Parada simply means stop, mordida (or sandwich) means
that the foot of one partner is "trapped" between the two
feet of the other partner. If the legs of this other partner
are crossed, then it is a reverse mordida.
Sometimes confusion takes place when people say that
a parada is the same as a sandwich. In my view this is
incorrect. The confusion might stem from the fact that
often you go from a parada to a mordida, e.g. the leader
stops the follower with the inside edge of the leader's right foot
touching the outside edge of the follower's left foot. This
is the parada. The leader continues by shifting his weight
over his right foot and closing the left foot to the
right foot with the follower's left foot trapped in between.
This is the mordida (or sandwich). The name mordida comes
from morder (to bite), it is a metaphorical picture similar to that
of the sandwich. The leader might now consider to go to
another parada by moving his right foot back. When the follower
then steps with her right leg over the leader's left leg and pulls
(in the next step) with her left foot the leader's left foot towards
her right foot, she does a reverse mordida (try it out...).
- Parada, as somebody already guessed is stop.
Mordida is byte.
Sandwich is just that, sandwich.
- In Tango terms, the terms originated in a club located in a blue collar
neighborhood of the province of Buenos Aires. At lunch time, some
workers enjoyed a game of soccer (picado, from pick up game) while
others practiced their Tango. One warm day of summer, a middle age man
named Policarpo was dancing with one of the neighborhood girls while
suddenly he stopped, pulled a sandwich from his pocket, took a byte and
continued dancing without missing a beat. Everybody stopped in their
tracks and applauded.
From that day on, all the other workers tried to imitate but never
equated the singular talent of Policarpo who became known as the
creator of the Parada, Mordida and Sandwich, elements which later made
him a millonaire as every "maestro" developed their variations, paid
him royalties and charged hefty dollars to foreign dancers. :-)
(original info by Jose Movelo)
- When doing a parada (stop) it is not the leader's foot touching the follower's
that leads the parada. That is an optional element, that can only act to add
one more cue to the more important leads. These are:
pressure against the follower's back keeping him/her from continuing to move,
pressure on his/her balance hand opposite to the push on hi/r back,
downward pressure on both points.
This has to be timed just right (a little over hir reaction time to events,
plus a fudge factor dependent on how familiar (or not) s/he is with paradas).
But done properly, a good follower with no exposure to paradas will respond as
the leader intends.
Larry de California Sur
- Salida does *not* mean the end. It means "exit", and it stems
from the verb "salir" which translates as "to exit", "to go out".
It strikes me as funny that what a (supposedly) native speaker
of English terms an entrance move is actually called
an exit move in Spanish. So much for the different conceptions in
- SALIDA (SHALL WE)
- The word originates with the way men invite women to dance.
"Salimos a bailar?" for example uses a variacion of the verb SALIR and
he is saying "shall we dance"?
In Tango BAILEMOS the protagonist says at one point:
"... el Tango ya termina, salgamos a bailar"
Again, the meaningful translation is "the Tango is ending, let's go
When the fad of Tango dancing began to sweep the world, those who tried
to learn "by the numbers" may have wanted a more scientific definition
and portenios dancers faithful to their entrepreneurial spirits coined
the term SALIDA to indicate a sequence of initial steps and from there
on, each traveling "maestro" carried a suitcase full of steps with
their own version of SALIDAS.
Hopefully this will clarify the issue and bring a little sense to the
wonderful of Tango terms.
So, in Tango terms, SALIDA means the beginning of the dance and I would
equate it with the expression "SHALL WE..?"
How to start dancing is irrelevant since we have two feet and four
cardinal points to begin moving. Some men prefer to step to the side
while others will step back, but I have seen people start dancing by
walking straight forward, etc. (I have been experimenting stepping to
the right but I keep banging my elbow against the wall... :-)
Many times the way one begins the dance is dictated by common sense,
courtesy or the lack of it but there is no rule as to how to do that.
- Some more about the meaning of 'salida'
- As pointed out before, 'salida' comes from the verb 'salir', meaning 'to
exit, to go out'. Ernst wondered about this:
It strikes me as funny that what a (supposedly) native speaker
of English terms an entrance move is actually called an exit move in Spanish.
Alberto proposed that:
The word originates with the way men invite women to dance. "Salimos a
for example uses a variacion of the verb SALIR and he is saying "shall we
So, in Tango terms, SALIDA means the beginning of the dance and I would
equate it with the expression "SHALL WE..?"
I don't agree with Alberto here. IMO the word 'Salida' came into tango
through a completely normal metaphorical use of the word. Let's first look
at the meaning of 'salir' some more. It is always very hard to describe the
meaning of a word in abstract terms, but for this case I would like to
define the basic idea of the verb 'salir' as "leaving the present location
and start doing something". The meaning includes:
- the transition from a state into an action
- the state takes place 'here', the action 'there'
- a connotation of 'pleasure' in some uses (e.g. salir a comer)
So 'salir a bailar' means simply 'to go out to dance':leave the house to go
to a milonga (from sitting here go there to do something). This meaning
then is metaphorically used for every dance: from standing still you start
moving, you 'go out on the dance floor'. (In fact I find the word
'entrance' not the best translation, Ernst, because 'to enter' is an action
resulting in a state: 'going in' results in 'being inside'. IMO words like
'beginning' or 'start' are much better.)
I do completely agree with the tango-meaning of 'salida' given by Alberto:
SALIDA means the beginning of the dance
Note: in fact there is only *one* salida in each particular-3-minute-tango.
Only the way you start moving at the beginning of the dance is a salida.
But I think at the moment there is a new process ongoing where this meaning
is again used metaphorically for something different. Instead of naming the
start of a *dance* a salida, the start of a *figure* is more and more
called a salida: every way to start moving anew after a 'resolucion
natural' (another term for the list!).
- New (names for) Styles of dance
(Urquiza style, Almagro style, Naveira style)
- "New Styles of dance generate confrontations and polemics between milongueros"
(Article from "Clarin"
For ten years, the proliferation of teachers and schools have been modifying
the way to dance tango. Although the change is evident, it has heterogeneous
forms. As a result of that, there is a new paradigm: today, anyone can
The static postcard of the milongas today, with its colorful mixture of "hip
youngsters" and "old time historical habitués" united in the "ritual" of
the dance, is not more than that: a flat image that rarely reveals something
more than a repertoire of archetypes. Behind that frozen scene,
nevertheless, an unsuspected and burning world exists where the old can be
new, the novelty can be obsolete, a simple thing can be difficult, and the
excessive is insufficient. And in that, on the other hand, all these values
are in permanent change.
Ten years ago, and in a symptomatic coincidence with the world-wide triumph
of the musical review Tango Argentino, the social dance of tango began to
rise from the ashes in which it had been almost buried for decades.
It is known that throughout these last ten years, the panorama was modified
Today, hundreds of instructors shape thousands of dancers who attend tens of
milongas. In order to have an idea, it is enough to take a look at anyone of
the specialized publications (Tangauta, B.A. Tango), or to consider that at
a single school (Estrella-LaViruta) there is an enrollment of 600 students.
But beyond the numbers factor, the phenomenon of the contemporary milongas
marks a historical change in another sense: a new change of direction in the
continuous transformation of the styles of dance throughout the century.
What is being favored today on the dance floor? If it is what can be
observed with more frequency, one would say that three tendencies are
disputing for supremacy: the Urquiza style, the Almagro style and the
Naveira style, as the fans know them, - implying a neighborhood, a club and
They are not difficult to distinguish. Make yourself comfortable on a stool
by the bar and you will see them move over the waxed surface: a couple that
advances with long steps, touching the floor as if they are wearing gloves
on their feet (Urquiza), is followed by other couple closely embraced and
whose short steps adjust synchronously to the beat (Almagro), and behind, a
third couple that unfolds all the imaginable variety of figures which the
previous couples can do without (Naveira). Adding to that, there will be
another couple schooled in the style of Antonio Todaro and belonging to an
elite with technical formation, that alternates between the social dancing
at the milongas and the professional stage performances.
The fans are simultaneously protagonists and judges of the prevailing
tendencies. In some halls, one or another one dominates. But on several
"pistas" the practitioners of different styles mix with each other, they
watch each other out, they appraise each other, they admire themselves or
they condemn the others. The commentaries can be listened to between the
tables, but they can be tracked all the way down to the Internet (currently
a Tangolist site burns with opinions like: " So and so's dancing, looks like
a cowboy with hemorrhoids ").
Miguel Angel Zotto and Milena Plebs led the first changes at the beginning
of the 90's. When they reconstructed in their spectacle Tango x 2 elements
of style of the popular dance, they revealed to inadvertent eyes of the
public, the wealth of the world of the milonga. Then, the halls, and the
classes of Antonio Todaro, bricklayer and milonguero, with whom Zotto and
Plebs had made their meticulous work of stylistic archaeology, began to fill
with new customers.
A little later, Susana Miller began her classes at the traditional Club
Almagro. Miller (of academic extraction) associated with Cacho Dante (a
veteran aficionado) begun from her classes the propagation of which usually
is known as the Almagro style - very similar to the typical style of the
downtown night clubs of the 40's. Its less demanding requirements gave
access even to those who were less fitted naturally, technically or
sensitively. And it quickly put on the dance floor an enormous amount of new
fans, generating a true leveling off of the dance.
Right now, the influence that registers greater growth is, perhaps, the one
of dancer and teacher Gustavo Naveira. The faithful followers of his method
of combination of steps and figures consider it "the acme of creative
improvisation ". The detractors, who detest the way in which the Naveira
dancers move around the floor looking for space for their movements, define
them as "the patrol cars of the dance floor."
Naveira himself affirms: "a single person cannot be determining in the
evolution of the dance. That's been happening from the beginning of the
tango, and without stop, always because of a conjunction of factors. Now,
what is arising is a system of improvisation of an even greater variety of
combinations. And these changes are also transferred to the marking
techniques to lead the woman".
However, for disc jockey Horacio Godoy the future is in Villa Urquiza.
Teachers Vilma Heredia and Gabriel Angió also agree that many young people
are focusing their attention to the floor of the old Sunderland Club of
Villa Urquiza, where they still can watch the habitués of half century ago.
"Urquiza is what it's coming," prophesies Godoy. "There is a group of kids
that realized that the maximum wealth is there. I am not talking about
figures, it's about the musicality and the quality of the movement. It's
about a wealth of knowledge so subtle and complex that for the ordinary eye
is imperceptible. "
The trends, in any case, hardly draw up general lines: common
characteristics, airs of familiarity. As it has always happened with tango,
there are so many ways to dance as there are dancers (it is what highly
distinguishes it from almost all other forms of popular social dance). And
in the same way, there will be so many opinions on the question as the
number of people on the dance floor.
By Irene Amuchastegui and Laura Falcoff
Sunday, August 8, 1999
Garrit Fleischmann Aug. 1999