5 Words You Should Know If You’ll Take Argentine Tango Lessons

Picture of couple dancing tango in front of the 'Casa Rosada' in Buenos Aires. Next to the picture there's a blog post title that reads: 5 Words You Should Know If You'll Take Argentine Tango Lessons.

Taking Argentine tango lessons is a captivating adventure that immerses you in the world of rhythm, passion, and elegance. As you step into the realm of tango, you’ll encounter a unique vocabulary that adds depth to your understanding of this mesmerizing dance form. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore five essential words that you should be familiar with as you dive into the world of Argentine tango. However, let’s answer the most important question first: ¿Qué es el tango?

What Is the Tango?

A while ago, my colleague Marco Fierro from Latin ELE interviewed me about “el tango.” In this video we cover these questions:

  • ¿Qué es el tango? ¿Qué representa para los argentinos? (What is the tango= What does it represent to Argentines?)
  • ¿Dónde surge este estilo musical? (Where does it come from?)
  • ¿Quiénes son algunos de los grandes artistas del tango? (Who are some of the greatest tango artists?)
  • ¿Hay expresiones idiomáticas argentinas relacionadas con el tango? (Are there any Argentine idioms related to the tango?)
  • ¿Cuál es la situación del tango hoy en día? (What’s the current situation of the tango?)

Don’t miss this incredible interview!

5 Tango Words You Should Know

1. Milonga – Social Dance Event and Style of Tango:

A cornerstone of tango culture, a *milonga* refers to both a social dance event and a style of tango music. It’s a place where dancers gather to share their passion for tango, practice their moves, and immerse themselves in the enchanting world of the dance. Milongas provide a warm and inviting space for tango enthusiasts to connect and dance the night away.

2. Abrazo – Embrace:

In the Argentine tango, the connection between dancers is emphasized through a close embrace known as *abrazo*. This embrace is not just physical; it’s a connection of souls and emotions. The abrazo is at the heart of the dance, allowing dancers to communicate and interpret the music through their movements while remaining closely connected.

3. Cortina – Musical Interlude:

Between sets of tango music at a *milonga*, you’ll often hear a *cortina*, which is a short musical interlude. This signals the end of one tanda (a set of dances) and the beginning of the next. During the cortina, dancers return to their seats to await the start of the next tanda, giving them a brief moment to rest and reset.

4. Tanda – Set of Dances:

A *tanda* refers to a set of consecutive songs played during a milonga. Typically, a tanda consists of three or four songs with a common theme, such as a specific orchestra or style of tango. Dancers traditionally dance with the same partner throughout a tanda, creating a mini-storyline within the music.

5. Ochos – Figure Eights:

*Ochos* are a fundamental movement in Argentine tango. This word means “eights” in Spanish, and it aptly describes the figure-eight-like movement that dancers make with their feet. Ochos are a versatile and elegant step that adds fluidity and grace to the dance, allowing dancers to navigate the dance floor with finesse.

Tango Resources for Spanish Class

Here are some of my favorite resources to learn Spanish and tango at the same time:

1. Tango Spanish Reading Passage: Within these worksheets for learning Spanish, students will work with a blog post titled “Tango: Argentina, Uruguay y La Cumparsita”of 500 words.

2.Tango: Argentina Spanish Reading and Listening Practice: Students will work with a blog post titled “Tango: Argentina and the Song that Best Describes the Country” (Tango: Argentina y la canción que mejor describe al país) of 500 words.

3. Tango Piazzolla Spanish Articles to Read: To discuss famous Argentinian tango musician Astor Piazzolla. Students will work with a blog post titled “3 curiosidades del músico Astor Piazzolla”of 465 words.


Embarking on Argentine tango lessons is a journey filled with excitement, elegance, and cultural enrichment. Understanding the terminology associated with this dance form adds depth to your experience and enables you to fully immerse yourself in its nuances. 

Whether you’re stepping into a milonga, embracing your partner, moving to the rhythm of a tanda, or executing graceful ochos, these five words are your guide to embracing the enchanting world of Argentine tango. So, put on your dancing shoes, and let the passion of tango sweep you off your feet!

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