Tango Glossary

What is a

Cabeceo
“Cabeza” means “head” in Spanish, and “cabeceo” is the castellano word that refers to the nod of the head that is used to signal the offer and acceptance of dances at a milonga. It could be the raising of the eyebrows or a signal yes to the person you will dance with.

Cortina
At many milongas, the DJ plays a cortina between tandas. One option is that a cortina is a short piece (about 30 seconds) of non-tango music that tells the dancers the tanda is over and a new tanda is about to begin. The next tanda will be a different style of music and is normally danced with a new partner. Another option is that DJ will be a different style of music for the cortina to see if someone likes swing, salsa, lindyhop, etc. If not, he will end it in 30-40 seconds. If someone likes it he keeps on playing.

The beauty of cortinas in Buenos Aires is that absolutely everybody thanks their partner and leaves the dance floor. This means that you can now choose from among everybody present in the room who you will dance with next, instead of limiting yourself to whoever is sitting, or by trying to predict (while sitting or dancing) when your favorite partner will become available for you.

Milonga
A milonga is an Argentine Tango social dance. People come as individuals or with a partner. The dance music will consist of tango, vals and milonga. Each is a different dance form within the family of Argentine tango.

Mirada
This is the response to the cabeceo given in at milongas. The look means they make eye contact with you and want to dance

Practicas
Practice sessions are very important to drill the basic movements and iron out trouble spots so you can just flow with the music and enjoy dancing at milongas more. No formal instruction will be given at practicas. You can always ask the more experienced dancers to help you with the details of a particular step or for exercises that you can practice at home to improve your dancing. It is also okay to stop and discuss what is and isn’t working—to the limits your partner accepts.

Style
There is a lot of debate surrounding the different styles of Tango Argentino. In the broadest terms, one may distinguish between Salon and Milonguero style tango. Salon style is danced in a relatively open embrace, with both dancers keeping their own axis and an upright posture. In milonguero-style tango, the embrace is closer and the dancers share an axis, leaning slightly towards each other. Tango Nuevo style is danced in at an arms length in an upright manner with both dancers on their own axis.

Tanda
The music is typically played in tandas (sets) with three or four songs per tanda. By custom, the music within a given tanda will be of the same genre. Between tandas, there are short interludes of non-tango music known as cortinas. The cortina is a customary time to change partners.

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