Let's talk about Tango Etiquette
If you are new to tango, you will find that tango is not like any other dance, and one of the reasons it is so unique is that it has its own culture. Tango's culture developed an "etiquette" to protect the dance experience from those who would ruin it -- those who hurt others on the dance floor, those who demand dances or pester others. Many do not like Rules and Laws. So let me introduce you to "Etiquette" the little sister of her bigger brothers, "Rules" and "Laws." Get to know Etiquette, IT will make sure you dance more with the people you want. If you leave etiquette at home, I promise you are sure to ruin not your fun but everyone elses too. But Let's first look at some of the terms of the Tango language that you will keep on coming across.
Some useful Tango terms!
Milonga: is a term for a place or an event where tango is danced. People who frequently go to milongas are sometimes called milongueros. The term "milonga" can also refer to a musical genre or a style of dance related to tango. The music played is mainly tango, vals and milonga (as the musical genre). Most milongas are held on a regular basis (usually weekly), and they often begin with dancing classes and sometimes demonstration dances.
Pratica: Práctica is a term for an informal event where Argentine tango or Salsa is danced. It is similar to a Milonga. However while a Milonga is rather a formal event where dancers socialise, on a Práctica dancers focus on practicing the dance.
Cabeceo: The literal translation of cabeceo is 'nod of the head'. In simple terms it is a non-verbal invitation to dance the tango from man to woman. The man looks at the woman and indicates with a movement of his head that he would like to dance. if she accepts the cabeceo, she will move towards him and they will tango; if she refuses she will look away.
Tanda: A tanda is a turn of dancing in a milonga, and by association, a set of pieces of music, usually between three and five, that is played for one turn. The most common style is to play four pieces in the tango tandas, three in the milonga tandas, and three or four in the vals tandas.Most commonly the music is tango, milonga or vals. Between tandas is played a cortina (Spanish for "curtains"), a musical pause to allow dancers to leave the floor and to serve as a short break between tandas.
Cortina: A cortina (curtain) is a short piece (20–60 seconds) of music that is played between tandas at a milonga (tango dance event). The cortina lets the dancers know that the tanda has ended. The partners can then thank each other and return to their own tables, to find a new dance partner at the next tanda. Cortinas are used at many of the milongas in Argentina and Uruguay and increasingly elsewhere.
The Do's and dont's of Tango Etiquette
Before the Dance...
1. Personal hygiene is essential.
Bad breath, body odor and excessive perspiration are common offenders. Be sensitive to your fellow dancers. Excessive use of cologne, perfume or any chemical can be just as offending, and never a replacement for bathing.
2. Show your interest to dance. Use the Cabeceo.
If you are with a group or at a table, that might prevent others from approaching you. Do not expect someone to interrupt your conversation with another. Try not to carry on a prolonged conversation if you are close to the edge of the dance floor, give room to those looking to dance. Since so many people still seem confused about how cabeceo works, here is a brief guide: The first step is to establish eye contact. This may take longer than you think. Use judgement and discretion but be aware that people need time to respond.You are both looking at each other? Great. Men (or, at some milongas, leaders of either sex) indicate your interest in dancing. This is usually done by cocking your head to one side and raising your eyebrows, but choose whatever gesture is clear and unambivalent
3. It is ok to say NO to a dance request.
The best way to decline an offer is to not get one in the first place; stay engaged in activities, like conversation, that deter others from asking. If you reject It is not an offense to sit out a song or two. Sitting out a song means never to accept another invitation for the same song that you have declined from someone else. It's rude to decline one offer and then accept another within the same tanda.
4. It is OK to be rejected.
If the same person denied your offers several times within the same event, take the hint that the person may have no interest in dancing with you. One’s presence at a dance event is not an obligation to dance with everyone. To avoid feeling awcard and walking back to your place after a rejection try to apply the Cabeceo instead of walking all the way to the person to ask him/her to dance with you.
5. Dress appropriately for the event.
For a milonga, dress up a little. You cannot go wrong with black; tango is an elegant dance. For a practica, dress comfortably and sensibly. Be tasteful; avoid displaying any body parts not generally acceptable in public. Wear shoes with heels to help properly distribute your weight forward; they should also allow you to turn on the ball of your foot with ease – this applies to the gentlemen as well. If you wear accessories or jewelry, make sure they do not turn into assault weapons while dancing.
6. The leader escorts the follower onto the dance floor. Regardless of who initiated the offer, the leader usually escorts the follower onto the dance floor. It is also customary for the leader and follower to meet up by the edge of the dance floor, mostly from a non-verbal invitation.
7. Enter the dance floor with caution.
Dancers on the dance floor always have the right of way. Never walk across the dance floor while other people are dancing.
During the dance...
1. Avoid talking whilst dancing
Customarily, talking is inappropriate while dancing tango. Talk between songs or when off the dance floor. If you must talk on the floor, keep it to a minimum. It is especially inappropriate to talk on the floor while a live band is performing.
2. NO teaching on the dance floor
One can only correct one's partner during a class or practica; and then, only if requested. It it never acceptable to correct someone in a milonga..If you must show someone a step, never do so on the main area of the dance floor; find a side area that does not obstruct the other dancers. Under no circumstances should youcorrect or critisize your partner .
3. Avoid leaving the dance floor during the dance
One never terminates the dance pre-maturely, unless there is significant reason. A person dancing below your expectation is not a significant reason. If you must pre-maturely terminate a dance, do so without making a scene.
5. Respect your partner
Social dancing can be a compromise when partners of extreme differences in dancing style dance together. One should always be willing to compromise. Respect your partner’s level of dancing. If you are the more experienced dancer, compromise by dancing at your partner’s level.
6. Be conscientious and courteous to your fellow dancers.
Experienced dancers should give novice dancers the room they need. Novice dancers should stay closer to the center of the dance floor to give experienced dancers their space. Experienced dancers wanting to perform steps that interrupt the dance flow should do so toward the center of the floor. Proceed cautiously to avoid bumping into other dancers. If you do, apologize and try to slow down, recollect yourself, and be more careful. Only execute steps that do not violate other dancers’ space. Avoid any steps that could potentially hurt others; this is the time to use one's milonguero knowledge.
7. Thank your partner at the end of the tanda
The proper response to “thank you” after a dance is “thank you,” not “you’re welcome.”
Credentials and Sources: