Must We Always Use the “The Spanish Gypsy Dance”?

If you’ve ever watched or participated in multiple ballroom events you probably know exactly what to expect when the Paso Doble is announced – big dramatic dancing!

The Paso Doble is a dance which is placed under the “International Latin” category at Dancesport competitions.  It is a stirring and powerful dance based on Spanish bullfighting.  Despite its Spanish name (which actually means “two-step”), the dance actually originated in France during the 16th century, but gained popularity in Spain and Portugal because it became based on the movement and drama of bullfighting.  Featuring beautiful body shapes and sharp, flamenco-like footwork, the lead in the dance represents a matador while the follower symbolizes the matador’s cape. 

The Paso Doble could be considered one of the most dramatic Latin dances.  Using progressive movements, dancers take strong steps and incorporate artistic hand movements.  Everything in this dance is fierce, proud, quick, and has an air of dignity and confidence.  It is definitely very entertaining to watch and an exciting one to perform. 

The music used for the Paso Doble is dramatic, as well.  If you have seen couples perform the dance at competitions, then you will probably recognize the music that is most often used for Paso Doble rounds.  Even if you have never seen dancers perform a Paso Doble, I’m almost certain you will recognize this tune:

It’s that familiar, galloping, and catchy beat at almost every competition.  The song is called “España Cañi” or “The Spanish Gypsy Dance” in English, and it’s the most popular and recognizable Paso Doble song.  It was composed by Pascual Marquina Narro in 1923 and first recorded around 1926.  Not only is it the most recognized Paso Doble song, but it is probably the most known piece of Spanish music ever!  Over time, many arrangements of this song have been made, and various versions of it are played at ballroom competitions.  It is played so often that dancers sometimes refer to it as “the Paso Doble song.”  Dancers almost always choreograph routines that match up with the phrasing and accents of this piece of music, so this is why the same song is typically played at competitions (in the U.S., the dance is very rarely done in social settings or without a previously learned routine).

It’s easy to see why the song is used so often – it works perfectly for the dance!  Paso Doble music usually has 120 – 124 beats per minute, a strong 1-2-1-2 marching rhythm, and very few tempo changes.  A lot of the music contains breaks or highlights where the music is emphasized.  When these breaks happen, dancers hold dramatic poses or do tricks to go with the music.  Using this song almost every time at competitions makes it easier for dancers because they will know what to expect.  Not to mention, it gives off that perfect “bullfighting” feeling!  However, if you are preparing a Paso Doble performance and don’t necessarily feel like using “España Cañi”, just know that there definitely are other options.  As long as your song choice has a strong, dynamic beat, a 1-2-1-2 marching rhythm, and the right tempo it will work perfectly!

If you are looking for a song that still has the classical, orchestral, and Spanish feel, here are a few good ones:

·         El Gato Montes – Banda de Aviación de Madrid

·         Fuego – Bond

·         Malagueña – Edmundo Ros

·         Olé Torero – Empress Orchestra

·         Toreo Fino – The Columbia Ballroom Orchestra

·         Ghost Riders in the Sky (Paso Doble) – Tanz Orchester Klaus Hallen

·         Metropole – Orchester Felix Gary

·         Amparito Roca (Pasodoble Torero) – Unidad de Musica de la Guardia Real

·         Matador Paso – Andy Fortuna

·         Volare – Gipsy Kings


Spanish or Latin-style music will give your Paso Doble more of a traditional look and feel, but if you’re looking for something different you can use contemporary or popular music.  Many modern songs have a strong and steady beat that you can dance to.  Here are some fun ones:

·         Roundtable Rival – Lindsey Stirling

·         Time is Running Out – Muse

·         Bad Romance – Lady Gaga

·         SexyBack – Justin Timberlake

·         Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

·         Don’t Stop the Music – Rihanna

·         The Final Countdown (Paso Doble version) – Tanz Orchester Klaus Hallen

·         Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

·         Temperature – Sean Paul

·         Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes


No other song could really replace the classic “Spanish Gypsy Dance”, but in case you are feeling like doing something out of the ordinary, then some of these song choices may be good for you to try out.  A quick Internet search will yield even more music and playlists.  As always, YouTube can be a great source and quick way to find and sample new ballroom music, should you need it.  So, try dancing to a few of these selections just to see how you enjoy them. 

Happy dancing!  ^_^