Tango

tango books

10 tango books that answer every question you have for tango


At different times during our tango journey we’d have different wants and needs: advice on improving techniques; knowledge on tango music for better musicality; tips for planning a tango trip to Buenos Aires and learning Spanish, the language of the dance. We may also be curious about different topics such as the history of the tango; the códigos (unspoken rules) in a milonga porteña (a milonga in Buenos Aires). Sometimes we may want fun read of tango, of the dance we all love.

Here we provide our top pick of 10 books that will answer all kinds of questions you have of tango, for you to sit back and enjoy with a coffee, tea or a glass of wine!

Book on Tango music and lyrics

​1. Tango Stories: Musical Secrets by Micheal Lavocah

A must-read for all tango music lovers. Written by Michael Lavocah, a tango teacher, and DJ, the book introduces tango orchestras of different periods of time while focusing on those important ones in the golden period, and highlights the characteristics of the music of different orchestras so to help you recognize them in a milonga (“tango balls”). It also comes with a playlist including the most representative songs from each orchestra so you can listen to while reading the book.

If you are into music by golden age orchestras, check out his “Tango masters” book series—offer in-depth analyzes of the music of Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Carlos Di Sarli.

2. Tango words (Letras de tango) (Written in English and Spanish) by Manuel Garber

If you are looking for enriching your understanding of tango lyrics and advance your Spanish, “Tango words” is the book you will love. The author, an Argentine milonguero (tango dancer) who grew up in Buenos Aires and is now living in Australia, offers his meticulous and beautiful translations of 20 classical tango songs. You can listen to the songs on his website while reading the book.

Book on traveling to Buenos Aires

3. Happy Tango—SallyCat’s guide to dancing in Buenos Aires by Sally Blake

This book is written by a British artist and tanguera (tango dancer) who follows her tango dream and travels all the way from United Kingdom to Buenos Aires. It is an entertaining book yet filled with sage advice and useful tips. You will get advice from how to attract dances in milongas, to planning a week of milongas and classes in Buenos Aires. Though the latest version was published in 2013 which means you will need to double check the information of milongas and tango schools in the book, it still offers timeless insights for tangueros who will set foot on Argentina soil for the first time.

Book on learning Spanish for tango and traveling to Buenos Aires

4. Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires travel tips  by Jeanie Tsui and Micaella Digenio

This book is for those of you who have been thinking about learning Spanish for tango. It is also a must-read for those who will visit Buenos Aires for a full tango experience. Instead of being an ordinary Spanish learning book, the author Jeanie Tsui, a tanguera, and her Spanish teacher Micaella Digenio introduce a fresh approach for learning Spanish tailored for tangueros for learning the basic of Spanish for tango in only 3 months.

The book goes into details of explaining how Argentine Spanish is unique from European and Latin-American Spanish. It also provides essential information and practical tips on how to save money and bargain for discount; strategies of tango class taking and unspoken rules in local milongas, which are essential for a successful tango trip.

5. Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for tango class (and language guide for tango shoe shopping) by Jeanie Tsui and Micaella Digenio

If you are planning to go to Argentina for learning tango, this book is for you. Many non-Spanish speaking tango visitors who travel to Buenos Aires for the first time would be shocked to find out many teachers teach group classes speaking mostly in Spanish, and struggle to catch up.

This book offers a comprehensive collection of Spanish words that are frequently used in a tango class: body parts; figures and techniques; actions and movements and common dialogues between students and teachers, plus vocabularies and phrases one would need for tango shoe shopping—a must-do for every tanguero visiting Argentina. You’d learn the name of parts of shoes, asking for the right size, and bargaining for the best price.

Book on History and culture of tango

6. The meaning of tango by Christine Denniston

If you would want to learn about the history of tango, this is the book you should turn to. The author of the book, Christine Denniston, is the first non-Argentine tango teacher in Buenos Aires. It traces back to the origin of tango and walk readers through the development of tango. From there you can learn about the golden age, and the dark period of prohibition of tango from Argentine government. The book also talk about the success of Broadway show “Tango Argentino” that led to the renaissance of tango in the 1980s which eventually made the dance becomes a global phenomenon. Apart from the history part, the book also offers a section on tango techniques.

Tango Technique

7. Secrets of the embrace (Secretos del abrazo) by Rubén Véliz (English, Italian and Spanish versions available)

This book is for those who need insights on improving posture and dance technique. The book author, Rubén Véliz is a world-renowned Argentine tango master who has been performing and teaching with his wife Sabrina Véliz since 1998. He is passionate about tango teaching and has taught tangueros all over the world. He wrote this book to help tangueros to understand how their body works, and how to shape it into the best form for dancing via regular practices.

Tango memoirs

8. Tango passion and the rules of the game by Margareta Westergård (English and Spanish versions available)

Tango is not purely a performance art, but also a social activity that involves complex human interactions. The author Margareta Westergård is a Swedish milonguera who has a sociology background. She offers her observation about the códigos (unspoken rules) and behaviors of tangueros in Buenos Aires milongas. You may also gain insight about how a life of a devoted tanguero would look like, and how to survive the roller-coaster ride of tango—from being at the height of intense joy and delight, to the rock bottom of tango depression and feeling like a pariah. Read the book for a fascinating glimpse of the happenings inside the tango world of Buenos Aires!

9. Tango lesson by Meghan Flaherty

An enchanting memoir on author’s tango journey in New York in her late twenties, and how these “tango lessons” taught her about life. Being a young lady daunted by past traumas and frightened by male touches, tango was an unlikely choice for her. But as she felt the needs for transformation and the urge of digging up a long-lost dream, she gave tango a try.

A well-researched book interlacing tango history and personal memory written in lyrical prose, you will find it both a pleasurable and enriching read.  

10. In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango by Beatriz Dujovne

By an American-Argentine author, this book serves both as a textbook and a memoir which presents a study of tango history and culture, and personal experience of the author. It covers a broad range of themes: from the anthropology of tangueros; the psychological effects of tango on dancers to the socio-economic factors that popularize tango. An eloquently written book recommended for readers who are looking for a deeper understanding of the dance.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss our posts (plus you can find a load of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a 30-minute trial class for only USD7 with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips
Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

6 Tips on enjoying the first Buenos Aires milonga and getting more dances

Buenos Aires El beso

I always remember my first Buenos Aires milonga at El Beso 4 years ago. I sat in the third row of the lady section like a wallflower for hours, watching my neighbors being invited over and over. I never succeed in catching the eyes of any gentleman. Every time after my neighbors were out on the dance floor, I felt very exposed with only empty seats surrounding me. I left disheartened. Walking on the busy Avenida Corrientes, I kept thinking what was wrong with me.

Fast forward to 2 months ago, I went to the same milonga and things changed. I was still sitting on the third row, but I became the few tangueras who always got onto the dance floor first every time a tanda (a set of tango music) start. I left the milonga early not because I didn’t get invited, but because my feet were sore and the floor’s got too crowded to move. 

What has led to this transform? ​I have many hard-learned lessons over these years. I wish someone would have given me the following 6 tips earlier so I’d get a head start in milongas and saved many disappointed nights. 

So here I’m sharing these tips for having fun and getting more dances in Buenos Aires milongas, which some of them also apply for milongas, festivals and marathons in other places where you are new and don’t know a soul.

1. Go early/make reservation

I can’t stress enough the importance of the location of your seat. It affects how much you are seen and the ease of cabeceo (the use of sight for dance invitation) with others, especially for ladies. (For men, in Buenos Aires milonga you are allowed to stand up and walk around the room to widen your search for partner ). So try to make a reservation before the milonga, or go early.

2. Attend the class before the milonga

In Buenos Aires there’s often a tango class which the fee is included in the ticket of the milonga. Taking part in the class before the milonga is a good way to make friends, so at the start of the milonga it will be a cinch to get dances. The class will also help you warm up and know the place better and reduce the anxiety of dancing at a venue for the first time. 

3. Don’t take the first invitation

This may sound counter-intuitive, but what I am suggesting is not to take the invitation when you’ve just arrived the milonga and got an invitation from an unknown person. I often got the worse tanda of the night because I was rushing to the floor and didn’t observe the dance of my partner before taking the invitation. This might impact the invitation you get later on as milongueros would observe the dance of a new face before deciding to dance with him/her. If your first tanda is unappealing, and you are seen dancing in bad posture, you may end up getting fewer dances that night. 

 

4. Interact with your neighbors

In Buenos Aires milongas you’d often need to share a table with other milongueros/as. Be friendly and say “Hola! Cómo estás?”  (Hi, how are you?) or “Todo bien?” (Everything’s good?). Engage in small talks with them when they are not busy for cabeceo. Their friendliness and the advice offered to you would often surprise you. I have got many suggestions of the best milongas in town from my neighbors. They would be more likely to dance with you too- I have once danced with my neighbor who was a female leader, and that was the best tanda of the night. 

5. Dress for success

In Buenos Aires milongas people would usually dress classy to milonga. Even in an afternoon milonga such as Nuevo Chique, you would see old ladies wearing their satin or velvet dress and hair arranged in elegant updos, and old gentlemen dressing neatly in their suits. Keep your jeans and T-shirt in wardrobe and match into the dance hall in your best attire! However, it may not be a good occasion to show off your newly bought Comme il faut, as ​people might see you as a nouveau and rich tango tourist. It’s best to wear shoes that have been worn for some time, as they are more comfortable for your feet and would show to the others you are a seasoned dancer. 

6. Thanks the organizers before you leave

This is a point which many people may overlook. Organizing a milongas requires a lot of planning and coordination. By thanking the organizers you show your appreciation for their hard work. It’s also a good way to establish connection, so that when you return the next time, they may offer you a better seat.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss our posts (plus you can find load of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

 

Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

Taking tango class in Buenos Aires

4 ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires

Planning to go Buenos Aires to learn tango? In this blog post we will walk you through 4 common ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires. Finally we will offer a few tips on getting the best result of your learning in the mecca of tango!

4 ways for taking tango classes in Buenos Aires

1. Before milonga

Many milongas in the city would offer a free group class included in the ticket. This provides a great opportunity for learning. In August during the Mundial season you will find many of these classes taught by world renowned masters- a great bargain as it would be more expensive to take their classes elsewhere.

You can look for milongas with group classes on Hoy Milonga. For more accurate and updated information of the class, check the Facebook page of the milonga you are planning to visit.

2. Tango school

There are many tango schools in the city which offer tango classes back to back everyday. The 2 most well-known are DNI and Escuela Mundial de tango. It would be a more expensive option than the one before a milonga, but the classes are more commonly attended by tango tourists so the teachers are more prepared to teach in English.

3. Tango festival

If you fancy taking classes with big names, tango festivals would be a convenient choice. There are many festivals held in different period of time in the year, offering an intensive schedule of multiple classes everyday within one or two weeks by a variety of masters of different styles, so that you can take all your classes in one place without the need of traveling around the city.

Two regular Tango festivals that are held every year are: Cita (March) and Tango Salon Extremo (August).

4. Private classes

If you are very keen to learn with a particular master/couple, and have a bigger budget, taking private classes would be very beneficial for your learning—you will have full attention of the teachers, and they will be giving more specific advice on improving your tango.

One way to contact the teachers for private classes is to look for them on Facebook and send them private messages. However, some very popular teachers may have their inbox overflowed with messages . Another way would be approaching them after their group class or in milonga after their performance.

Final tips for the best result of your tango learning

1. Ask your “home teacher” for advice

Before your trip it may be a good idea to discuss with your teacher(s) in your city for recommendation of Argentine masters. Many tango teachers would have the experience of learning tango in Buenos Aires so they are good resources for advice.

2. Follow your favorite master(s) on Facebook

Many Argentine teacher would have a Facebook account dedicated for publicity where they would post information about their group classes and milongas in which they are performing, making it easier for you to approach and learn with them.

3. Try a group class before booking a private class

Many times a fabulous dancer might not necessarily be a good teacher, and vice versa. Before committing to a private class with a new teacher, it’s always good to take at least one group class with him/her so to experience the teaching and see if it suits you.

4. Don’t take too many classes from different masters

Very often foreign tangueros would find it difficult to resist the temptation of taking many classes with different masters, as the class fee is always a big bargain compared to that back home. However, taking too many classes with different masters often results in confusion, as each master has a different technique. It is not unusual for one master teaching one technique and another master teaching the exact opposite. It’s usually good to focus on learning with one or two master(s)/couple(s) at a time.

5. Set a realistic goal

Many people would go to Buenos Aires thinking the trip would help them to become advance dancers. While intensive learning would definitely be helpful, it will be unrealistic to expect the change to happen overnight. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new technique. The best approach would be taking notes (or videos, if the teacher allows) of the classes, and take time to practice the skills regularly so that they are incorporated into your body and become habitual.

Like our blog post and want to read more? Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss any new post (plus you can find loads of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!)

Want more Spanish practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

 

Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

 

5 big questions to consider before going Buenos Aires to learn tango

5 Big Questions To Consider Before Going Buenos Aires for Your Tango Classes

Finally you are taking one step further in your tango learning—visiting Buenos Aires, the mecca of tango. You want to learn with the top Argentine masters, get the most out of the trip and come back with shiny skills and techniques—but wait, have you made a plan for your tango classes? Unless you have the luxury of staying in Buenos Aires for months or even years, otherwise the shorter the time you stay, the better the planning you should have made beforehand.

I remember 4 years ago in my first visit to Buenos Aires, I didn’t make any plans and just went with the flow. I rushed to the first tango classes I saw. I ended up wasting precious time on classes of wrong level or wrong topics which made me more confused. If I had known better how the tango learning works in Buenos Aires and planned more thoroughly, I would have made a better progress.

In this blog post we will first throw you some big questions to consider so to help on your planning.

5 big questions to consider

1. What is your goal?

Goal-setting is crucial for achieving a satisfactory result for any learning. It’s also a question that you’d probably be asked the first time when you are taking a private class with any master, so it’s worthwhile to ponder upon this question. Are you trying to become a better milonguero/a so that more people will enjoy dancing with you? Or you are working towards becoming a stage dancer? Or maybe you will be competing in Mundial de Tango (World Tango Dance Tournament) soon? Having a clear goal will be helpful for you to set up a plan for learning, deciding on the master who you’d take classes with, and for your master to understand your needs and work out a suitable plan for training.

2. When will you go?

If you are going after the big names, the best time to visit will be July-August when the Mundial de Tango takes place, as many renowned teachers and past champions who are always on tours in foreign countries would come back  to be judges in the competition. Another good time would be December-traditional time for family reunion in Argentina when many masters would return from abroad.

For the rest of the years there will still be many Argentine teachers around, they may be fabulous dancers and dedicated teachers but less well-known internationally, and are waiting to be discovered in various group classes in the city.

3. How long are you staying?

The period of time of your stay is another critical factor for deciding the approach of your class-taking. If you are staying only 2-3 weeks, the most efficient way to learn is to take many private classes with one or two masters. However, if you are staying a month or longer, you can afford to spend the first one or two weeks exploring—taking group classes with different masters experiencing their teaching styles and skills, then in the later period focus on your favorite one or two.

4. Do you speak Spanish?

Many foreign tango students are shocked to find out almost all group classes in Buenos Aires are conducted in Spanish, even in tango festivals which are mostly attended by foreigners. In fact, it’s natural to expect Argentine teachers teaching in their mother tongue on their native land, and it may also be difficult to find an exact English translation for some Spanish expressions. Some teachers may offer some English explanation, but often less complete than the original Spanish teaching.

Before your Buenos Aires trip it’s always a good idea to know some basic Spanish, as it will be crucial for your tango learning, as well as for your daily life and getting along with the locals. However if you don’t have enough time to learn, taking private classes would be more effective for your learning.

5. Are you going solo? Or with a partner?

Those who have a dance partner have an edge over the singletons: they have a regular class and practice partner, and can share the cost of private classes as well as other travel costs such as transportation, studio fee, etc. It’s also good to have a company to adapt to a new routine in a foreign city, which can be both exciting and unnerving.

However don’t be disheartened if you go by yourself-you may still be able to team up with other singletons you would encounter in group classes, plus there are many solo techniques classes which don’t require a partner. You can also take advantage of the cheaper private class than your own country. Anyway, the trip will be a great occasion for polishing your skills.

In our next blog post we will be covering four common ways for people to take tango classes in Buenos Aires. Like our Facebook Page so you won’t miss that (plus you can find loads of FREE resources for learning Spanish for tango!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping)

Cover for book Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tip
Cover for Tango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class

Want more practice? You can book a class with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

tango

A choosy lover

Tango doesn’t choose everyone.

 

Every year I walk into the master workshop, I see a new crowd of beginners with bright eyes and full of wonders about the dance. They are eager to try every new step. Girls are fascinated by the feeling of their leg whipping high up in the air; men beam with a satisfactory smile when they succeed at leading a new sequence. In the milonga they dance every song with everyone and they are never exhausted. The next year, the crowd disappears and is replaced by another. The beginners come and go like waves progress to the shore, then recede to the middle of the sea, vanish. I approach my Argentine masters, their eyes brim with joy. They open their arms and throw me a hug: “So good to see you again.”

 

Tango is a demanding art. Once you get hooked it devours all your time and energy. In the beginning every milonga is pure joy- you dance to every song, feeling your body carried by your partner and the music, until your feet are swollen. But soon you would realize your lack of technique- your legs wobble in the heels; your body arches back when you are doing the back ocho; your partner complains about you pulling and pushing his/her arm…you sign up for every workshop, take private classes with all masters, and sky’s the limit for the money you would spend on  improving your skill.

 

You see your progress starts leveling off and this is the moment your self-doubt kicks in: Do I lack talent in dancing? Why would I still repeat the error after practicing for so long? Should I continue if I see no improvement? In the milonga you watch others dance with elegance and ease with envy and self-pity in your eyes. You always feel you are not good enough.

 

You would likely have experienced some rejections too-maybe someone who always turns the face away every time your glance meet; or another person who is eager to dance with everyone in the milonga – except you. Your cheeks burn and you feel like a pariah. You hide at the dark corner until you can’t take it anymore and slip away from the door.

 

All the demand of money and time, emotional strain and insecurity about oneself push people away which make tango a choosy and hard-to-please lover. Only a handful of people with a wealth of patience and love can stay.

 

It might take you years to realize learning tango is a lengthy process, and accept bottleneck a stage which every dancer would have gone through. You would start to accept and respect the limits of your body, or you may invest in sports such as yoga and pilates to train the flexibility of your body, the strength of your core and muscles, and your body will thank you later.

 

You might start to see tango beyond purely aesthetic movements – an art that embodies the history, the thoughts, the sorrow and the dreams of Argentinians. If you don’t speak Spanish, you may start learning the language so to understand the poetry of the lyrics and to reach the essence of tango.

 

You may also realize the beauty of movements can sometimes be an illusion- a lady may have been on her autopilot and her partner might in fact, be confused about the dazzling embellishments she adds on her own; the man might have done all the fancy sequences at the expense of the lady racing around him. These dances are merely a showing off of techniques, a set of superficial movements void of connection, emotion and musicality.

 

The longer you stay in the community, the more respect you would gain from the others. People would see your persistence, the effort that you have invested on honing your skill. People who have been giving you cold shoulders may start to fancy dancing with you when your technique is more mature and your balance has improved.

 

Then you, with this newly gained confidence and understanding about the dance and yourself, become a real tanguero, the one chosen by tango.