Salsa vs. Tango: What's the difference?

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Difference between Salsa and Tango

Dancing is a favorite form of art and self expression for so many people. Whether you’re clubbing, slow dancing, swaying on the dance floor or spinning in your partners arms, dance frees something inside of us as we let our energy move through our body in the most exquisite ways. Reality dance shows have inspired a new generation of dancers in America and dance studios are packed with kids and adults who want to look good on the dance floor. Two dances that are popular by demand by all sorts of people are the salsa and the tango. These two dances have some similarities but have a lot more differences then you may think. Major differences abound between these two styles of dance and the way they’re done, as well as by whom their done with. While one can be done alone, the other needs a second person to be considered the right dance. The tango is done in swift motions across the floor while the salsa is done in fast spins and twirls.


Fast or Slow

Music and beats come in all forms as well as tempos. While one may be a soft, high beat tempo the other is a downy and low tempo. With tango you have a very slow, instrumental full of sorrow or depression to some people. The salsa on the other hand is a very high, fast and exciting tempo that keeps going as it gets faster. The differences in rhythm and speed are the differences in how the dance is done. Salsa is done at a very fast pace while tango is generally done at a slow pace, although sometimes they most a little fast across the floor.

Fun or Serious

The salsa is almost a never serious kind of dance. It’s done by many Spanish and Latin Americans at parties, clubs and even birthdays. The music is very fun and upbeat, while some try and make up their own salsa moves. The tango on the other hand is pretty serious and done with a partner at a slower pace. The steps have to be learned and you can’t just follow the rhythm when doing the tango. You can have fun with the tango if you enjoy doing it, but lessons are necessary if you want those watching to understand the drama unfold in a familiar way.


Socially the salsa and tango are very different dances from one another. The tango is known to be a very intimate and sensual dance because you’re holding your partner close as you glide across the floor. The salsa on the other hand, consists of only hands touching while you spin yourself or you and your partner around, moving your hips to the music. You can do the salsa alone if you’re at a party and need to shake it up, but the tango is a social statement and has to be performed by two passionate people. Usually it works best when there is a strong chemistry between the two or a strong sense of dramatizing the give and take story of the dance.


  • The salsa and the tango are two dances that are practiced in many countries and enjoyed by many Latinos, Hispanics, North and South Americans and other groups.
  • The tango is a dance that is very intimate and sensual between two partners, usually done in a slow gliding style across the ball room or dance floor.
  • The salsa on the other hand is a dance that can be done alone or with another person, full of spinning and hip movements to a fast musical beat.
  • The tango is done to slower music that many people find depressing or intense, and is akin to an Opera and is truly a masterpiece.
  • The salsa is done to a very up pitched instrumental that keeps a smile on peoples faces


comments 2 Comments

  • Dudu . 3+ yrs. ago

1. the photos in the article are grossly misleading

to be honest, you should replace the "tango" photo with an image of a typical overcrowded tango milonga

2. the tango is not limited to the "tragic, slow" traditional songs; in the milongas about 30% of the songs are either fast milongas either valses (waltz rhytm)

anyway, a tango dancer will learn very fast to dance salsa, whether a salsero will have a hard time (no wonder salsa is more popular, as it is WAY more easy to learn)

  • Brian . 3+ yrs. ago

Maybe you should compare "the Salsa" to the Quickstep, the Waltz or the Foxtrot while you are at it. The Tango you are describing sounds like the Ballroom dance where "the steps have to be learned and you can’t just follow the rhythm when doing the tango." Tango (note that I'm not using a definite article here) is an improvisational dance where musicality is just as important as it is in Salsa or Swing.

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