End of Season SALE!

Save 20% in all tickets. EnterTANGOTIX at checkout. Great Seats! Free Cancellation!

Small talk on the tango dance floor

Photo credit and copyright Rebecca Travaglia


Having made it through the cabaceo and the first song of the tanda, I was feeling proud of my achievements until I was faced with the awkward seconds that hang between each song in the tanda. Facing the tall man I had danced with, my senses were running high as I tried to discern whether he was a local or a traveller and whether my broken spanish would need to be retrieved immediately. This slightly wild eyed look gave me away, and my dance partner smiled before saying, "Don't worry, we can talk in English".

Spanish for travelers usually covers all the usual basics - ordering food, practicalities like accommodation or shopping, safe travel and social interactions. A great place to practice your social interaction spanish is in-between the songs as you dance a tanda with someone.  There are a great many people out there dancing tango from all walks of life and of all ages. A great many people speak English, but since you're coming to Buenos Aires, it's respectful to have a few phrases of the local language up your sleeves. It also allows you to enjoy the moments between songs with ease and who knows who you'll meet!

The subject of the small talk is generally all the same unless you have danced with the person more than once. I remember reading somewhere once that asking someone's name is generally not the first question you ask, and may be exchanged at the end of the tanda. Other general topics include the climate, milongas, and superficial information. That said, talking is not necessary. Some dancers prefer not to break the connection with small talk so do not be afraid to simply smile and stand quietly until the music starts and dancing begins again.

Here are some questions to listen out for (formal 'you' included in the bold brackets):

Hablás (habla) español?

People will generally make an effort to talk to you in English if you do not know any spanish. The replies "No puedo hablar mucho español' (I can't speak a lot of spanish) or 'No hablo español' (I don't speak spanish), initially were my most practiced sentences. To my amusement, people usually replied with 'Pero, hablás muy bien!' (But you speak very well!) as if this one sentence were an indicator for my level of spanish.

Answer: No hablo español. Hablo ______ (your language e.g. ingles) - I don't speak spanish. I speak .....

De donde sos?

This question 'where are you from?' is very common and usually the first question asked if you look slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of speaking spanish. People are also genuinely interested to hear how far you have travelled simply for tango and their city.

Answer: Soy de ___________ (insert your country) - I am from ....

Cuando llegaste (llegó) en Buenos Aires/Por cuanto tiempo vas (va) a quedar en Buenos Aires?

Carrying on from the above question, my experience has shown me that since I'm the foreigner, I usually have to answer the question of 'when did you arrive in Buenos Aires' or 'How long will you stay in Buenos Aires?' rather than have any time to fire away with any questions of my own. People are interested in how much time you are here for and if you are enjoying it.

Handy sentences:

Llegue hace x (number) semanas (I arrived x weeks ago).  

Voy a quedar por x dias (I'm going to stay for x days)

Hace cuantos años bailas tango?

Continuing on with the numbers theme, be prepared to answer about 'How many years have you danced tango?'

Answer:  Por x años/meses (For x years/months)

Tenés Facebook?

It pays to be aware of the intention behind the questions being asked especially when it comes to social networking ('Do you have Facebook?'). Some people may be interested in meeting up as a friend for a milonga during the time you're here, and some may be interested in something other than friendship. Keep safe and take care of your own personal information - never feel pressured to give out personal details.


As tempting as it may be, do not say Gracias after the song until the end of the tanda, even if you have enjoyed it immensely. This indicates to the other person that you have finished dancing with them and would prefer to return to your seat. There are other ways of saying that you enjoyed the dance such as 'bailas bien' - you dance well. Of course if you say Gracias in response to a compliment, it will not be perceived as you wishing to end the tanda.


There are no comments yet

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up