Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Milonga thoughts and etiquette

I’ve been a bit quiet lately, as I’ve been completing a tango marathon (in my language, 6 days on the trot of tango classes/milongas!) I am now thoroughly exhausted, have incredibly sore feet but feel that I am now so tangoed out, I won’t mind not dancing for over THREE weeks (ie: the average Xmas break for tangueras not in London for the festivities - LOL).

Anyway, my marathon included a number of Christmas Milongas and so here are a few milonga etiquette thoughts:

What I especially like at a milonga:

  • Leaders who escort me to the side of the room after a dance. If I’ve been totally absorbed in the dance, I may be slightly disorientated and it is pleasant to have a guide rather than start walking halfway across the room and then realising my drink is on the other side and having to do an about face.
  • Tangueros and tangueras who introduce me to their friends, we all want to meet more people!
  • Men who bring a change of shirt/t-shirt for those occasions when it gets a bit a sweaty inside.
  • If I’m chatting with someone (leader or follower) and someone asks them to dance, then I appreciate the courtesy if they acknowledge me/ask if I mind if they leave rather than leaping up without a backwards look.
  • Good dancers who dance with inexperienced dancers in a non-patronising manner and don’t make them feel out of place (a good dancer can have fun with anyone! and you did ask ...)

What I dislike at a milonga:

  • Leaders who approach me, do not say a word and then HOLD OUT THEIR HAND to dance. You are not a mysterious stranger come to whisk me off my feet – say the WORDS!
  • If we happen to bump into another couple (regardless of fault) leaders who do not acknowledge the other couple, especially the follower who may have been bumped and is certainly not to blame.
  • If I happen to clash heels or jar another couple while dancing, the leader who grips me harder and zooms off, not allowing me to acknowledge the bump unless I physically man-handle myself from their grip.
  • Leaders who decide to ‘teach’ me a move on the dance-floor – now is not the time to proportion blame and demonstrate how a move should be done.
  • Dancing half-heartedly if you dislike a particular song - I’d prefer it if you just cut it short.

Things I’m unsure about at a milonga (opinions welcome!):

  • Is it rude to make eye contact/catch the eye/smile at a friend when dancing with someone else. It seems a bit formal to say yes but on the other hand, isn’t it quite disrespectful to my partner if I’m looking over his shoulder and looking ‘outwards’ rather than ‘inwards’ into the dance?
  • What to do if a leader asks me to dance when I know the friend next to me was hoping they were coming over to dance with them?
  • If I’m dancing with an unknown leader, can I tell them I don’t like colgada/volcadas/soltadas[delete as appropriate] or do I just accept that as part and parcel of dancing with an unknown?
  • If someone comes up and asks me to dance when I’m sitting with a leader who I sense is just about to ask me to dance, what should I do? Is it just a case of first dibs?


  1. I hear you on those likes and dislikes! My 2 cents about the others:
    - I usually close my eyes while dancing, but if I notice my leaders gesturing at someone I'll open and look. Also, if I'm dancing with a friend and another friend just came in or is leaving, I'll often give a little wink or wave. I try not to do things like that while dancing with anyone else, though.
    - If you want to dance with him, I would accept the dance but at the same time ask if he has met the friend. Or if it's obvious that they have met, find some other excuse to acknowledge her.
    - I like some of those, when done appropriately, so I am inclined to tell you to wait and see. If, after the first song, he is doing those moves in a way that bothers you, mention that you prefer a simpler dance or make up an excuse (bad back, etc) to not do those moves.
    - If you don't want to dance with the leader who asks, you could politely turn him down and note that you are talking with someone. If you do, you could excuse yourself and tell the leader you were talking to that you would enjoy a dance later.

  2. Such a great post!! Totally agree on the likes and dislikes and I'd like to echo what ModernTanguera wrote as well.

    I've had a gentleman stop dancing in the middle of a song to step off the floor without a word to me, and hug someone goodbye, then come back and resume dancing. He's a sweet man and a friend (which is the only reason he didn't get an early thank you) but sometimes people just don't think.

    And I've used the "bad back", "I'm really sore" etc etc (sometimes that's completely true) to get someone to settle down on the acrobatics. I was recently very surprised though by a nuevo dancer who led one of the most gentle dances I've ever experienced. Ya just never know.

  3. 1. I have no problem if I happen to make eye contact with others on the floor for a few seconds. Sometimes I get a wink or a smile.

    2. Don't worry about your friend. There is always another tanda. It's her job to make herself noticed.

    3. If you don't like his style of dancing, don't accept the invitation. It's all or nothing, in my opinion.

    4. I'll wait for the better dancer to invite me rather than accepting just any invitation that comes along.

  4. 1. I do say hello to or greet friends in between songs. While dancing, however, I would not make eye contact with others or would feel offended if I sense my partner do. There is plenty of time to catch up friends off the floor. On the floor our attention should be with our partner.

    2. Don't worry about your friend. Dance with him if he is a good dancer.

    3. Don't accept his invitation if you don't like certain things he does, in the milonga, unless he is extremely handsome and cute. :-) In practica, sure, if he opens to feedback.

    4. Depends. If he is a very good dancer. Of course Yes. If he is average, or lousy one with good spirit "maybe I'll catch you later." If he is a lousy one whom you try to avoid, "no. thank you."

  5. Very interesting views. There seems to be a general consensus on certain things while others I guess it is purely subjective and probably dependenet on the milonga. Glad that no one disagreed with my dislikes!

  6. I'm interested in your perspective regarding not liking a song, and preferring the leader cut it short. I'm often at a loss with this. We have a DJ that mixes tandas in a way that is hard for me, and sometimes a song just won't flow with the others. It is so hard for me to continue a tanda, but I often feel badly about cutting it short. Do you cut it short if the music is no longer working for you?

  7. I have to admit I have an awful fear of offending people but if a song comes on that I just can't dance to (or if they really can't dance to!) and we are stumbling about, then sometimes I will just say, 'this is a really challenging piece of music - I just dont get it, would you mind if we maybe end it early?' Normally, thats fine with my partner and we leave the dance floor - I then try to hang around with them just for a min or 2 so it doesn't look like I was disgusted with their dancing or vice-versa! So far, its not caused too many problems and I still get dances from these men although there is 1 leader who has never asked me since so I guess he did take it personally.