A Tango Dancer's Playlist

But Not Your Run-of-the-Mill List

A couple dance to tango music
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One of the staples on the ballroom floor is the tango, which has come a long way in the past century to experience a new popularity, wherein it is now composed, performed, and danced to all over the world.

No matter how good a dancer you are, though, you need great music to make the ballroom experience magical. So here's a playlist of tangos from Argentina, Uruguay, and even some other, more unlikely places. This playlist offers a mix of traditional and modern, electronic and just plain eclectic, selected for their strong beats and sensual rhythms. Try these for your next party or competition or just as a great listening experience.

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'El Choclo' ('Kiss of Fire') by Juan D'Arienzo

Couples dancing during tango lesson (blurred motion)
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Composed by Angel Villado in 1903, "El Choclo" means "ear of corn" in English. A theory behind the song's name suggests this may have been the nickname of the owner of Restaurante Americano, where the piece was first performed.

In 1952, with the addition of English lyrics, the tango gained even greater popularity as "Kiss of Fire." Many artists have covered the song, among them Georgia Gibbs, Tony Martin, and Louis Armstrong.

This instrumental version of the track, performed by Argentina's Juan D'Arienzo and his orchestra, sounds simultaneously classic while maintaining a modernity that is sure to persist.

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'Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)' by GoTan Project

The Paris-based GoTan Project mixes traditional Argentine tango instruments with synthesizer to create electronic tango with a contemporary edge.

"Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)" is from the group's first studio release and, while the entire album is well fit for dancing, this track is the one that seems to have caught the attention of Hollywood because it can be heard on the soundtrack of a number of films, including "Shall We Dance?" starring Jennifer Lopez.

This track sounds delightfully French even in the classic Latin style of tango, with the Parisian influence of GoTan Project laced in the synthesized sounds.

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'Pa' Bailar (Siempre Quiero Mas)' by Bajofondo, featuring Julieta Venegas

Bajofondo may have changed their name from "Bajofondo Tango Club" to simply Bajofondo in order to offer more than tango to their fans, but the group, led by Gustavo Santaolalla, still offers lots of tango on their albums.

The name of this track, "Pa' Bailar," lets us know that this is a tango made for dancing and, with its strong tango upbeat, proves as good as its name.

There are two versions of the song on the album, but the one selected here offers lyrics by Mexican rocker Julieta Venegas. There's also an instrumental version for those who prefer a tango without words.

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'Tropilla de la Zurda' by Carlos Libedinsky

Argentine musician/composer Carlos Libedinsky did not start out in the tango world; pop, rock, blues, and renaissance music were where he spent his time until he took tango lessons.

In fact, it was while dancing traditional tango that he started wanting to dance to music that was a little more contemporary. Thus Libedinsky started to compose that type of music, leading to the two volumes of "Narco Tango" he released in 2006.

You'll delight in the danceability of this dancer-created track whose attention focuses on the driving rhythm of the piece.

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'Gipsy Tango' by Earth-Wheel-Sky-Band

The tango may have originated in Argentina and Uruguay, but it has been embraced by just about every country in the world. And when it is performed and composed by artists in other cultures, it takes on the flavor of their native music while (hopefully) retaining the essence of tango.

For an interesting example, the Earth-Wheel-Sky-Band is a group of gypsy musicians from Novi Sad in northern Serbia. You can hear that Eastern European gypsy sound in the instrumentation, but when dancing to "Gipsy Tango," you'll have no doubt about the genre.

For an excellent source for similar tracks in musical styles from around the world, check out the album "Putumayo Presents: Tango Around the World."

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'La Cumparsita' by Julio Iglesias

"La Cumparsita" may be the most famous tango song in the world, originally composed by Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in 1917. The title means "the little parade," and the first line of the song indicates that instead of being a celebratory one, this tango is about a parade of misery.

This version of "La Cumparsita," sung by Julio Iglesias, shines out as one of the best versions because of Iglesisas' soft, original style that's different from other versions that are usually performed.

If you were going to dance to "La Cumparsita" as a performance piece, it would probably be advised to segue into the same tune performed as a salsa piece, covering two popular ballroom genres in one fell swoop.

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'Hernando's Hideaway'

For a change of pace, "Hernando's Hideaway" is from the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical "The Pajama Game," which debuted on Broadway in 1954 and was a movie in 1957. While most people will have forgotten all about the musical, this tango remains in public memory as the name of nightclubs all around the world.

What makes this a truly memorable track is that it has been covered by numerous artists over the years, from Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald to The Everly Brothers and Harry Connick Jr.

Also making it memorable are the strong tango beat and lyrics about a dive in East Dubuque, Illinois, which make a perfect pairing of theme and music for this genre—not to mention great dance music.

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'Jalousie' 'Jealousy') by Alfred Hause & His Tango Orchestra

Coming in neck and neck for the world's best-known tango with "La Cumparsita" is "Jalousie." Another example of tango's global popularity, "Tango Jalousie"—or "Jealousy" in English—was composed by Danish composer Jacob Gade in 1925 for the Douglas Fairbanks film "Don Q, Son of Zorro."

This version, performed by "The German Tango" king, Alfred Hause and his orchestra, features a Big Band, ballroom sound to keep your feet moving.

What's more, the "jealousy" aspect of the piece's mood, tone, and rhythm can truly allow this piece to be a spectacular competition number—especially if the dancers are able to express that tension physically.

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'Oh, These Dark Eyes' by Tango No. 9

Tango No. 9 is a group from San Francisco who started out to explore the works of tango master Astor Piazzolla. This particular tango is an unusual one, not only for the Russian style of the piece but because the melody is carried by the marvelous trombonist, Greg Stephens.

A much slower and perhaps more melancholic tango than most on this list, "Oh, These Dark Eyes" harkens to the masters of Argentinian tango while relying on a notably different set of instrumentation to express the music: violin, piano, and trombone.

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'Mi Confesion' by GoTan Project

How far can a composer go in modernizing tango while keeping the genre's innate structure? Evidently, it's pretty far—at least if you're gauging it by this track from the third GoTan Project album.

"Mi Confesion" seamlessly incorporates rap into the track but never loses the beat and feel of danceable tango. Some say this track may be the inspiration to "Confessions" by Usher, but it may only be in name, as the critical reception of this tango track blew Usher's track out of the water.

Although definitely different and more suited for modern dancehalls than traditional dance competitions, this track is a fun one to dance to, no matter the occasion.