Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lyrics and translations

I have an adapted, borrowed theory. To dance well, you need to have some kind of understanding about the lyrics. Go to any workshop (good or bad) and the Spanish speakers will always extol about the importance of the lyrics in tango. When I attended a workshop with Los Disparis (a good workshop by the way) they spoke of how the tango lyrics were the ordinary man’s poetry and show us his dreams and fears [See my entry on their class here].

My Spanish is pretty basic but I’m trying to make it a habit to get a translation of at least the title of some of my favourite tangos. Obviously, the whole song is ideal but the title is a good starting point. I also think it’s quite important to learn a few words/phrases that come up in a lot of tango songs. I’m starting simple, ‘corazon’ (heart), ‘mi vida’ (my life) ‘penas’ (pain, sorrows) and then sometimes when I’m dancing I’ll hear one of these words sung out over the melody and I’ll suddenly feel something shift inside me as I understand just a little bit more about what I am dancing to and why.

Well that is my theory. I’ve now told it to two leaders on separate occasions and both have argued against it and said that understanding the English version wouldn’t help their dancing in any way (and one even speaks intermediate Spanish). Perhaps you need to have a certain mindset to go with this idea.

NB: If you are interested in finding translations, lyrics and music, then go to Planet Tango (for translations) and Todo Tango for music and lyrics plus articles.


  1. All I can say is knowing the lyrics to many of the tangos changes how I feel about the music - and how I dance to it. The lyrics have become very important to me - even though learning is pretty slow going since I speak very little Spanish. Just my two cents. (I get shot down with that theory too.)

  2. As a leader who is a Spanish speaker, knowing, hearing, and understanding the lyrics definitely makes a huge difference. You dance with corazon. And when you dance to a song you particularly identify with, you might be overwhelmed with emotion. It is something that no amount of technique can replace. That's why I much prefer to dance to tangos with vocals.

    By the way, I occasionally post lyrics and translations on my blog... stay tuned!

  3. Another good source of translations is TangoDC.