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

romantic spanish phrase

12 Romantic Spanish Phrases for Lovers

Valentine ’s Day is coming, are you looking for romantic phrases to say to your sweetheart? Spanish is known to be the most passionate and sexy language, why don’t you learn a few cute Spanish phrases to spice up your love life; to surprise and win the heart of tu amor (your love), telling him or her “Te quiero” (I love you)?

In this post we have assembled 12 romantic Spanish phrases to say your novio/novia (boyfriend/girlfriend)!

Here comes our top Spanish love phrases:

1.Te quiero

I love you

The literal translation of “Te quiero” is “I want you”, but in fact it is a common way of how Spaniards say “I love you” to their loved one.

2. Te amo

I love you.

This is a more formal way of saying “I love you”.

3. Estoy enamorado(a) de ti.

I am in love with you.

Enamorado means “in love”, and this adjective needs to match with the gender of the speaker. So if you are a man, say “estoy enamorado”; if you are a girl, it would be “estoy enamorada”.   

4. Te quiero con toda mi alma

I love you with all of my soul.

5. Eres el amor de mi vida

You are the love of my life.

6. Cada día te quiero más

Each day I love you more.

7. Eres mi todo

You are my everything.

8. Besarte es como ver las estrellas

To kiss you is like seeing stars.

9.Quiero estar contigo para siempre

I want to be with you forever.

10. Te amo desde el fondo de mi corazón

I love you from the bottom of my heart.

11.Te amo, tu me complementas

I love you, you complete me.

12. Tu eres mi alma gemela

You are my soulmate.

Which romantic phrase you like most? Leave a comment and let us know!

Want to practice and perfect your pronunciation before saying these love phrases to your lover? Book a lesson with our native Spanish teachers!

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!

christmas

Trouble finding the perfect Christmas gift for your tango friends? Check these ideas!

You and your fellow tangueros share one truly special interest: tango. You may know their other likes and interests, but you’re certain they enjoy tango music and Argentine culture.

During the month of December there are tons of end-of-the-year celebrations, and surely, your tango school is having one. Some groups even play Secret Santa and you may need to buy a present for someone you don’t know well…but you do know their taste for tango!

Take a look at these recommendations to buy the perfect gift!

 

History of Tango – CD of tango music

Getting a cd with the greatest tango music in history is a nice and warm-hearted gift for a tanguero. This cd includes 102 tracks that trace the history of tango. The first cds include music from Astor Piazzola and the other two present the best of the Golden Age of Tango. You can buy it through Amazon. Check here.

 

Yerba mate and mate cup 

If you’ve met Argentine tango masters you’ve surely tried or been offered “mate”. If you haven’t, you can read more in this post (with a video explaining how to prepare it). It’s a typical Argentine gift, and your tango friends will love it! If they were hesitant last time they were offered, now with their own mate they will definitely try it! You can find many options on Amazon (like this one), but make sure it includes the herbs (yerba mate), the cup (mate) and the straw (bombilla) so that your friend has all he/she needs to prepare a true Argentine mate!

 

3. Martín Fierro – The most traditional Argentine book

This is the most well-known Argentine book, written by Argentine author José Hernández.

It’s a unique story about the life of gauchos in the Argentine pampas.

This is the review you can find on Amazon:

“The two poems which, together, are popularly known as the Martín Fierro form what is often regarded as the greatest single Spanish American work in creative literature. Appropriately, it draws from Spain the language and verse forms which have long been the vehicle of improvisation, the didactic folk wisdom of old Spanish proverbs, the Spanish interest in law whether formally codified in the fueros and the Siete Partidas or informally mocked by the pícaros in its practical application, and the Spanish emphasis upon individual worth and independence. Even more directly, the Martín Fierro is national in feeling, portraying the Argentine rural scene and the social aspirations, institutions and events of a great transition period of Argentine history. … Rooted in Spain, Argentine in content, universal in interest, the Martín Fierro is one of the world’s great books and should be more widely known abroad. … This edition is improved by the availability of original and translation on facing pages.” ― Madaline W. Nichols in Inter-American Review of Bibliography

We recommend this version as it includes the English translation, so you can give it to friends who speak Spanish, are learning or don’t speak Spanish at all!

 

Tango Spanish Books

These three Tango Spanish books, written by Jeanie Tsui, a tanguera, and her Spanish teacher Micaella Digenio cover tips and phrases for different situations a tanguero/a may need to face when taking tango classes, going to milongas or travelling to Buenos Aires. These are the best language guide books for tangueros, as they cover all the necessary tools to not only survive, but take full advantage, of a tango trip to Buenos Aires. Even if your friend is not traveling any sooner, he/she will be benefited from learning the essential Spanish phrases for tango classes and for appreciating the music at home.

  • Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips
  • Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for tango class (and language guide for tango shoe shopping) Coming Soon (on Amazon)
  • Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for understanding tango music and lyrics Coming Soon (on Amazon)

Tango Spanish Skype Lessons

If you’re thinking of getting a really original and valuable gift for your tanguero friends you can consider buying a package of Tango Spanish lessons via Skype with a native Argentine tutor who is also a tanguera. Master Spanish Now is specialized in providing these lessons to tangueros around the world who want to enhance their knowledge of tango culture and get ready for a tango trip to Argentina.

 

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.

 

gendernumber

Gender and Number in Spanish Grammar

Gender

Being an English speaker you’re probably not familiar with this classification of nouns into masculine and feminine forms.

When nouns refer to living creatures, it’s pretty easy to choose the correct masculine or feminine form of the noun, based on the gender of the creature. Usually, nouns ending in “o” are masculine and nouns ending in “a” are feminine. See below:

English word Spanish word (Masculine) Spanish word (Feminine)
The dog El perro (The male dog) La perra (The female dog)
The cousin El primo (The male cousin) La prima (The female cousin)
The teacher El maestro (The male teacher) La maestra (The female teacher)

However, other nouns referring to places, things, etc. are also feminine or masculine.

Below are some common Spanish nouns and their gender:

English word Spanish word (M=masculine / F=Feminine)
The shoe El zapato (M)
The guitar La guitarra (F)
The accordion El bandoneón (M)
The woman La mujer (F)
The man El hombre (M)
The CD El disco compacto (M)
The coffee El café (M)
The pizza La pizza (F)
The meal La comida (F)

As you can see, as a general rule words that end in “o” are masculine and words that end in “a” are feminine. There are many exceptions to this rule, but, to get started, taking this into account might help you a lot! Words ending in a consonant or in other vowels may be feminine or masculine (you’ll have to memorize them at first!)

Some exceptions to this rule:

English word Spanish word
The problem El problema
The language El idioma
The hand La mano
The libido La libido

Other exceptions are words that end in “a” and whose ending cannot be changed. As the noun does not change according to gender it is very important to pay attention to the preceding article to see if the noun is masculine or feminine.

English word Spanish form (masculine) Spanish form (feminine)
The gymnast El gimnasta La gimnasta
The journalist El periodista La periodista
The artist El artista La artista

 

Number

In our previous section we described how words change depending on their gender. In this section we will explain how to change a noun depending on whether the word is singular or plural.

As a general rule, when a word ends in a vowel, its plural form will have an “s” by the end.

English word Singular form Plural form
(Male) The dog(s) El perro Los perros
The artist(s) El artista Los artistas
The house(s) La casa Las casas
The coffee(s) El café Los cafés
The mum(s) La mamá Las mamás

There are exceptions to this rule. Nouns ending in “í” or “ú” usually have two accepted plural forms. One in which only the “s” is added, and another one that ends in “es”.

English word Singular form Plural forms
The scalpel(s) El bisturí Los bisturís / Los bisturíes
The hummingbird(s) El colibrí Los colibrís / Los colibríes
The hindu(s) El hindú Los hindús / Los hindúes
The rhea(s) El ñandú Los ñandús / Los ñandúes

When a word ends in a consonant, we need to add “es” to the noun to make it plural.

See the examples below:

English word Singular form Plural form
The city(s) La ciudad Las ciudades
The accordion(s) El bandoneón* Los bandoneones
The Paper(s) El papel Los papeles
The sun(s) El sol Los soles
The lemon(s) El limón* Los limones

As you can see in “bandoneón” and “limón”, the written accent marks are lost in the plural form. The reason is that by adding these letters and forming a new syllable, the stress of the word changes place.

If a word ends in “z”, the “z” is replaced by a “c” and then the ending “es” is added.

The pencil(s) → El lápiz → Los lápices

The partridge(s) → La perdiz → Las perdices

There are words that remain the same in the singular and plural form. The only way of knowing whether it’s singular or plural is by paying attention to the article that precedes it:

 

Nouns ending in “s” in the singular form

The analysis → El análisis → Los análisis

The ecstasy → El éxtasis → Los éxtasis

 

Compound nouns

The can-opener → El abrelatas → Los abrelatas

“Abre” comes from “abrir” (to open) and “latas” means cans.

The lavatory → El lavamanos → Los lavamanos

“Lava” comes from “lavar” (to wash) and “manos” means hands.

 

Foreign nouns

For many foreign nouns,  only an “s” is added after the last consonant in the plural forms.

English word Singular Spanish word Plural Spanish word
The ticket(s) El ticket Los tickets
The film(s) El film Los films
The surplus El superávit Los superávits

We hope this lesson has helped you to understand more about gender and number in Spanish. For more help, book a class with one of our private tutors

 

More Slangs to understand Argentines!

As you have probably realized from our recent posts Argentine Slangs you’ll never guess their real meaning and 6 phrases to communicate with locals in Argentina understanding Argentines is not an easy thing, if you consider the long list of lunfardo (slang from Argentina) words that people use everyday for conversation.

 

We have covered many so far, and in this new post we have compiled 6 more Argentine slang words or phrases for you to continue learning and becoming more familiar with the way true Argentines speak.

1. CHICANA

This word is used to refer to a trap, scheme or trick. It has nothing to do with the Mexican word “chicano”, as it comes from the French “chiqué”, which means trap.

In politics, it is used to refer to a speech that lacks content and whose goal is to attack the adversary.

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2. CANA

Although one meaning is “grey hair”, it is used to refer to the police. Nobody’s sure of the origin but it might be connected to the Italian word “incatenare” which means to imprison someone, or to the police from Verona called “canna” (referring to the color of their uniform). There’s another Italian expression called “mettere in canna” which means to put someone in prison.

Another lunfardo to refer to the police is “yuta” (sounding like “shoota”) that comes from a Spanish adaptation of the word “giusta”, which is an Italian word to refer to who applies justice.

Expressions with the word “cana”:

– ¡Ahí viene la cana! = There comes the police!
– Te van a meter en cana = They’re going to put you in jail
– Batir la cana / Mandar en cana = give away someone
– Araca la cana = Expression used to alert when the police is coming.

3. FLASHERO

This word “flashero/a” was at first used to describe people having hallucinations under the effect of drugs. Later, it started to refer to someone says something crazy, weird or that has nothing to do with what’s being said.

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4. LA PREVIA

When friends get together, usually at a house, to share some drinks before going clubbing, it is called “la previa”. So if a group of friends have arranged to go out together they may ask: “¿Dónde hacemos la previa?” (Where are we doing the “previa”? The teens may do it to save money on liquor as buying drinks at the supermarket and sharing them in a house is cheaper than buying all the drinks at the club, or they may do it because they are still minors and they wouldn’t be allowed to buy drinks inside the club. Others just do it to share more time with their friends, as clubs in Latin America usually start very late (some people may get inside after 2am)

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5. POSTA

The expression “¿Posta?” is used to mean “Really?” when you’re surprised about something you’ve heard, and you want to confirm if that’s true. You can reply to this question by saying: “¡Posta!” which means Really! To confirm that what you’re saying is indeed true.

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6. CUALQUIERA

When you want to reject what someone’s saying because it’s stupid or doesn’t make sense, or just because you want to dismissively tell someone is wrong, you can tell them that what they’re saying is “Cualquiera” (it literally means “anyone” but in this expression it is more similar to “nonsense” or “whatever”)

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this post! 

Want to learn more Argentine Spanish? Book a class with a professional Argentine tutor from our school. 

 

Argentine tango

An essential element for becoming an advanced tango dancer

We all want to become an advanced tango dancer. Who doesn’t want to dance like the Argentine masters we watch in the festivals and on Youtube? Many of us would spend lots of effort and time in honing our technique and skill, but there’s one element that we often overlook which is crucial for us to become a real tanguero- Spanish.

 

Tango is a dance originated in Argentina, and with all the expressions, technical terms and lyrics in Spanish, it is impossible for anyone who doesn’t speak the language to fully understand the art.

 

In this video, Stella Missé, an Argentine tango master, will tell you why it is important to learn Spanish for tango:

 

There are at least 4 reasons for why learning Spanish is essential during your tango journey:

 

1. Jump-start your tango learning

 

 

I always remember how speaking Spanish helped in my earlier stage of tango: in the first month the teacher taught us how to do “ocho” and “lápiz“. Knowing the 2 Spanish words helped to form vivid images that sticked to my mind-“ocho” is the tracing of a “8” on the floor, and “lápiz” is drawing circles with your free leg imaging it is a pencil.

 

Later we were taught more complicated terms like enrosque and ocho cortado, and I saw that many other students had great difficulty memorizing them and they would stumble over the pronunciation even after years of dancing.

 

2. Essential for visiting Buenos Aires

 

Many devoted dancers would visit Buenos Aires-the mecca of tango, so to experience the tango culture and perfecting their skill. If you are one of them, then you should make sure you have learnt some basic Spanish before going.

 

Dancers who don’t speak Spanish often experience a lot of daily inconveniences traveling in the city: you would find everything – from directions in public transport to the menus in restaurants- are in Spanish. Most of the group tango classes would also be in Spanish. Even though some teachers may offer some English translation, it would usually be brief and not cover the whole teaching. Many times I would see  some fellow students coming to the class eager to learn, but left disappointed because they couldn’t follow the teaching.

 

3. Connecting to the mood of music

 

Many non Spanish-speaking dancers would find it easier to dance to instrumental tango because they have difficulty connecting to the emotion of a vocal tango. In fact, dancing to a song which you can’t understand the lyrics can be confusing. Some people may guess the mood of the song from the rhythm, but many times a rhythmical, seemingly lighthearted song may come with sad lyrics. So listening to the music without knowing the meaning of the lyrics may not always give the right judgement.

 

4. Crucial for interpreting of tango

 

What makes a performance by a couple of Argentine masters stands out from the others is often not only the technique, but the way how they interpret the song. In order to understand the sentiment of the song, you have to be able to understand the Spanish lyrics and sometimes the history and story behind the song.

 

This video shows Alejandra Mantinan and Aoniken Quiroga dancing to the song “Tormenta” (Storm). What makes their performance powerful and moving is that they have expressed the emotion of the song wholeheartedly through their movement and facial expression.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOfMquXfwy4

 

*“¡Aullando entre relámpagos,

(Howling between the lightnings,)

 

perdido en la tormenta

(lost in the storm)

 

de mi noche interminable,

(of my endless night,)

 

¡Dios! busco tu nombre…

(God! I seek your name …)

 

No quiero que tu rayo

(I don’t want your lightning)

 

me enceguezca entre el horror,

(blinding me in the horror,)

 

porque preciso luz para seguir…

because I need light to go on …

 

So how could we begin learning Spanish for tango?

 

One way to start is by taking Tango Spanish Skype classes  with Argentine teachers who are tangueras from Buenos Aires. They are experienced in teaching foreign students at all levels and would understand the special needs of tango dancers in learning the language.

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips

Also check out the book “Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel tips” in which you can find a method tailored for tangueros to learn Spanish, as well as tips and useful Spanish phrases for your next tango trip!

 

*Lyrics and English translation adapted from https://letrasdetango.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/tormenta/