Why learn Spanish for tango?
4 reasons why learning Spanish makes one an advanced tango dancer
When we start learning tango we usually focus on steps and techniques, which are essential for being a good tanguero/a (a tango dancers). However, if being a real advanced dancer is your goal, then learning Spanish will be an essential step for you. In fact, the tie between Spanish and tango is so strong that it is impossible to learn only learn the dance without Spanish, and speaking Spanish would make tango learning immediately easier.
One may argue that in tango many people get by without knowing Spanish. But what if one day you dance with a porteño/a (people from Buenos Aires)? Or if you decide to take a further step to join a competition which is very often judged by an Argentine master? How could you convince them you know the songs, and you are interpreting them through your dance ?
In fact, learning Spanish will immediately take your dance to the next level, and the followings are 4 reasons why:
1.Helps remembering essential tango keywords
During tango class one would often come across names of techniques which are all Spanish words. Many of my non-Spanish speaking classmates have a hard time memorizing keywords like “ocho cortado”, “giro” and “sacada”, and I have seen people dancing for years stumble on pronouncing words such as “cabeceo” and “enrosque”. For someone who speaks Spanish, remembering the words would be straightforward: “ocho cortado” means “cut eight” and “giro” is “turn”.
The same goes for remembering the names of orchestra and songs. For someone who doesn’t speak Spanish, it would be hard to talk about tango music, say, telling people that they like “Esta noche de luna” or “Verdemar” by orchestra Di Sarli.
2. Better understanding of Argentine culture
Tango and Argentine culture go hand-in-hand. Learning Spanish would allow one to understand the unique Argentine culture. A good Spanish teacher from Argentina would be able to point out the cultural influence, for example, the use of Lunfardos (an Argentine slangs) in tango lyrics and explain to you the meaning behind.
Check out our blog post 7 essential lunfardos for tango.
3. Better connection to the music and lyrics
For those who dance to tango music and doesn’t under the lyrics, they would be blind to the context. For one who knows some Spanish, even though they might not understand the whole lyrics, they would be able to pick up keywords such as triste (sadness), te quiero (I love you), mentiras (lies) etc., and this would immediately give them a feeling of the song and make them more connected to the music.
4. Avoid awkward mismatching moves
“You know, I have seen many people dance to sad songs with happy moves, and this looks really funny.”
An Argentine master once told me over a dinner.
Indeed, one of the trickiest things in tango music is that we cannot always accurately judge the mood of the song without knowing the lyrics. Sometimes the rhythm and melody of a song may appear to be light hearted, but the lyrics might tell a completely different story.
An example would be “La bruja” (The witch) (by orchestra D’Arienzo) which is a popular song in milonga. This is a song which sounds bright and lively, but it tells a story of breaking up and revealing of true color:
Ahogando este grito
que sube del pecho,
y llega a los labios carga’o de rencor,
yo vuelvo a tu lado, atadas las manos,
pero pa’ decirte que todo acabó…
(Drowning this scream
that rises up from my chest,
and arrives on my lips charged with malice,
I return to your side, with my hands tied,
but only to tell you that everything’s over…)
So how could we begin learning Spanish for tango?
What would be better than learning with an Argentine Spanish teacher who is a tanguera herself?
Check out the profile of our Argentine teacher Marcela, who is specialized in teaching Spanish for tango, and has been helping many tangueros – including champions in tango contests – learn the language!