Ask Arlene…About my views on dancing to non-Tango music

What are your views on dancing tango to other than tango music (such as  swing, blues or zydeco)?
I enjoy dancing to most tango music (I have always felt a fraud with Piazzola and Pugliese!);  I find tango lends itself to improvisation and love dancing to more simple, regular rhythms.  I don’t understand most of the Spanish lyrics and love to interpret  Cole Porter and Van Morrison in tango.  Their songs  have a much stronger resonance for me.  I like taking a pause, which other dances don’t allow.
I need to persuade tango followers to come to Jitterbugs!


Dear Bob,

You must not have been reading my blog for very long, because if you had, and you knew me, you would know what a traditionalist I am and that I prefer a close embrace when it comes to dancing Tango.  Saying that, I have been known to dance large to ‘Tango inspired’ music, such as Gotan Project and the like.   I can’t for the life of me dance it in a close embrace.  However, I find those songs too long to enjoy dancing to and prefer to listen to that type of music.  I do not usually dance to Piazzolla or Pugliese for the same reasons and also because I cannot find a leader that can do the music justice (but mainly because the songs are too complicated and too long).  I have been known to dance large to Kevin Johansen, who has about three Tango inspired songs that I know of.  Other than that, I am not a big fan of dancing Argentine Tango to non-tango music and cannot remember ever having danced a Tango to any other contemporary music.

I also like to dance Salsa and Ceroc and really appreciate a Salsa break during a night of Tango dancing.  Sometimes at The Crypt they will do a  Salsa and Jive break.  Unfortunately, not many leaders that come to dance Tango do these other forms of dance and sometimes I am left on the sidelines for these breaks.  😦 When I went to Sevilla in 2008, they had a break of other Latin dances, which went down very well with the non-Tango dancers.

I can’t imagine dancing a Tango to a Salsa or a Jive to a Tango.  I think it all boils down to what came first, and that is usually the music and the dance evolved from that.  That is why we have different dance styles.  For me, I fell in love with Argentine Tango music and then the dance.  I have already had an issue at a Salsa venue where the DJ was playing mostly ‘Latin inspired’ music when there is a huge amount of authentic Salsa music available.  It turns out that the DJ has a Jive background.

I don’t think it really matters if you can understand Spanish in order to appreciate the music.  My Spanish is limited, but I have a feeling for the music, not the lyrics.  Listen to the music and let that guide your dance.  If you want to know the lyrics to certain songs, there are some websites on the internet that can give you translations. Planet Tango has translations of numerous Tango songs.  I have discovered that the music that moves me the most has very poignant lyrics.

I try to have a few different dance styles under my belt so I have something to do on my travels.  Also, there is no Tango in Eastbourne, so I am happy to Salsa and Ceroc just to keep my body moving.  It helps that I actually like Salsa music and Ceroc can be danced to pretty much anything, except Tango inspired music (I tried and it didn’t work for me).

There is an argument going on at the moment on one of the Tango group forums about playing non-Tango music at Milongas.  Personally, I really don’t like it when that happens.  It isn’t even ‘Tango-inspired’ music.  When I go to a Milonga, I want to dance to Tango music, preferably the older stuff.  When I go to dance salsa, I want to dance to salsa music.  When I go to Ceroc, I can expect to dance to anything, except I won’t dance to rap music.

I take it that Jitterbugs is a Jive evening.  I don’t know how you can persuade Tango dancers to go and dance to something else.  There is a group in Hove that has three rooms for dancing, one being dedicated to Tango music.  I haven’t gone to that yet so I can’t give an opinion.

So, that is what I think about dancing Tango to non-Tango music.  If anyone else has an opinion that isn’t rude or insulting, I welcome your comments.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ChrisJJ
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 17:15:28

    Translated lyrics also found here .

  2. Alberto
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 03:20:57

    Bob, with Arlene’s permission I would like to suggest that if want to dance tango taking advantage of the infinite possibilities that the tango offers, take the time to learn.

    Learn to understand the music, forget the lyrics.
    Learn to tell the difference between the Pugliese orchestra of the 1980s with the 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1970 Pugliese orchestras.

    It is my problem, I know, but I find it offensive the way Pugliese is lumped with Piazzolla in the too long, complicated, etc. list of excuses for little homework.

    Take the 1940 orchestra, and you’ll be exposed to some of the best examples of the golden era of the Sexteto Tipico.

    About a year later, go for the 1950 orchestra. OMG!

    Last but not least, tango is not what you want it to be, it is what the people who created, nurtured and shared with the world. It’s tango y nada mas.

    Don’t give up, it’ll make you want to be a better man.

  3. Bob Stafford
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 09:05:49

    Thanks for you gentle censure. I’ve been delving into the Pugliese catalogue. It is amazing. So many beautiful songs. I liked this (Aquaforte, 1955)

    Y pienso en la vida:
    las madres que sufren,
    los hijos que vagan
    sin techo ni pan,
    vendiendo “La Prensa”,
    ganando dos guitas…
    ¡Qué triste es todo esto!
    ¡Quisiera llorar!

    …a good reason to study Spanish!

  4. tangobob
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 14:07:36

    I entirely agree, I love to dance and will jive Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, even sequence dance, but if I dance Argentine tango it must be to the right music or it just does not work for me. I have been known to take a lady back to her seat when something non tango is played, I will appologise and ask if we can resume later, but will not spoil a partnership by dancing to something that simply does not rock my boat.

  5. σχολη χορου
    May 01, 2010 @ 17:05:53

    In a few words, you can dance tango with the following music:
    Tango Electronico
    Alternative Tango

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