Tango Argentino is a passionate, intimate and emotive social dance. And there’s the key point – it is social and therefore has some protocols and etiquette to ensure smooth interactions on the dance floor. Here are some guidelines to get you started in your understanding of the culture of social milongas.
Always dance counter-clockwise around the dance floor. In traditional milongas there is constant movement around the floor with nobody stopping in one place. People move faster around the edge of the dance floor and slower towards the middle. If you need overtake, move to the outside. Do not go in every which direction looking for space.
Leaders, do not step backwards without looking carefully first. Try to avoid any movement counter to the line of dance. Stay clear of the dance floor if you’re not dancing.
Both the leader and the follower are responsible for being aware of other dancers around them. It is considered extremely rude to bump into people, even on a crowded dance floor. If you do bump into someone, apologise immediately and courteously. If you see someone is likely to bump into you, let your partner know subtly or take steps to avoid the collision.
Consider the amount of space available to you and your partner before leading fancy manoevres or making wild and dangerous embellishments. It is extremely unpleasant for other dancers to be speared by flying stilettos, kicked or stomped.
If you want to show your partner a new step or practice a particular step, move off the dance floor out of the way of other social dancers. Alternatively, save practice for practica sessions and relax at the social milonga.
At a social dance, try not to give advice or instruction unless you are specifically asked. Remember that everyone starts as a beginner and an instructive comment, however well-intentioned, can destroy the already fragile confidence of a new tanguero/a.
It is general practice in Argentina for the men to invite the ladies to dance. However, they do not do it without encouragement, so make eye contact with your favoured prospective partner and smile.
It is customary to dance a whole ‘tanda’ (group of similar songs) with one partner. This usually takes about 8 minutes, so even if s/he is an awful dancer it’s not too much of a trial to stay the distance. At the end of the tanda, take your partner back to her seat. It is extremely rude to walk off the dance floor leaving your partner looking like a dork in the middle of the floor.
Cutting in is not on. Invitations to dance happen off the dance floor, not while two people are standing on the dance floor, talking between the songs in a tanda or worse, during a dance. The two people being approached are well within their rights to politely ask the person cutting in to please wait their turn.
The best time to ‘bust a move’? Anytime during the tandas or cortinas that your potential new dance partner is not on the dance floor or about to step on to the floor with a dance partner. This courtesy should also be exercised during classes/practica.
A social dance is for dancing. Some dancers can be offended with talking while dancing. So if you want to talk with your partner, consider doing it before moving onto the dance floor. If you focus on the music, the traffic and your partner’s expressiveness, you’ll have plenty to do!
Argentine tango is an intimate and elegant dance. Try to be considerate with your use of aftershave and perfume some people are sensitive to them. If you perspire, consider bringing a change of top and use a towel or handkerchief to mop frequently. Chew a mint if you’re unsure of your breath. © N. McNamara & V. Nelson
DUTY OF CARE
Tasmanian Club de Tango is committed to maintaining a safe and friendly learning environment for all participants. If you have any concerns or issues regarding inappropriate behavior experienced during classes or Milonga, please contact any Committee Member.