A Girl’s Guide to Tango Etiquette


popularly known as:

A Girl’s Guide to Tango Etiquette:

by that infamous Tango Tramp

Roxy Montana!

1) A man wearing a cell phone on his waist or hip pocket in a milonga is either a taxi-dancer or a taxi-driver, or both!

2) It is rude to excuse or leave a partner before the end of the tanda. Unless there are tears running down both party’s cheeks, each must endure the suffering of their choice in partnering. That’s what ya get when you accepted their offer to dance just ‘cause they were cute — and you didn’t observe their dancing before the proposal.

3) One should NEVER offer or accept dance “advice” at a milonga. It’s OK at a practica. There is a distinct difference between the two events. Don’t say “thank you,” express your feelings, or accept another dance. Just put on your best poker face and move on. A real Tanguera will just stare and throw daggers with her eyes and motionless brow.

4) BE in the HERE and NOW while dancing.  Focus on the moment, the music, the connection: the essence of Tango. Chit-chat conversations are verboten! Save it for the cortina. If easy conversation isn’t your forte, impress me with your knowledge of the orchestra, the singer, the musicality, or the era.

5) A gentleman always carries a cotton handkerchief to remove persperation on his brow — developed, of course, during his dances with moi.

6) Walking a lady back to her seat, or wherever you found her, is a courtesy, and also to remind you of where to look for her again.

7) Floorcraft is an art — it requires practicing patience and stationary movements in a tight frame, without passing the rest of the dancers on the floor. Leaders who continually bump into others are extremely rude to say the least!

8)  A “gentleman” is not born — it is the way he presents himself.

9)  Cabaceo is not just a word — it is a tradition that acknowledges a willingness to accept a certain partner or saves face for a refusal – and both responses are just between two people. A lady waits seated until the gentleman comes to her and stands directly in front of her, offering his hand. An exception is possible when the path is extremely crowded, but you do risk mistaking a cabaceo intended for another – it happens all the time!

10) There is a difference between not returning the cabaceo and avoiding it: People do not always want to dance one tanda after another — it ain’t an aerobics contest — and they might look at you but do not nod acceptance. Try later? Perhaps. Once.

11)  Sometimes, dancers have their milonga partners, waltz partners, specific orchestra partners, etc. and they are looking for that person’s cabaceo. You don’t have to take it personally! However, if they do not look at you, and they turn away from you no matter how you attempt to reposition yourself in front of them … take a hint!

12)  If a woman is sitting with a man at the same table, ALWAYS acknowledge the man first before reaching for her hand, after she’s accepted your cabaceo, regardless of whether or not they are a “couple”….  This is a respectful gesture, even if you know they dance with other people. Seriously, this is a Latino macho thing and can otherwise be the cause of grief!

13)  Americans shake hands. Argentines kiss acquaintances on one cheek, close friends and family twice. French kiss twice (northerners) or four times(southerners).  Italians and politicians are always kissing!

14)  A gentleman wears a jacket.  He may take it off for a milonga, but always has it on for a vals. If you are a chronic perspirer, for Pete’s sake, bring an extra shirt!

15)  Greeting and thanking the milonga organizer and DJ is an appreciated courtesy.

16)  If you are a gentleman and realize that two men are before the woman at the same time and she takes your hand, a courteous response to the other man is “Forgive me.”

17)  Catching the eye of a potential partner is acceptable, but exchanging words while dancing is not polite.  Focus on your partner and the dance.

18)  Tipping the lounge attendant is good luck.

19)  If you make a misstep, it is up to the leader to adjust, so just wait for a moment for them to pause and start again.

20)  No need to make excuses for yourself during the dance. Even the slightest word can be distracting; it doesn’t matter whose fault it is and your partner has already moved onto the next sequence. At the end of the dance, you can smile and say, “Perfect.”

21)  “Thank you” is curt and may imply that you do not care to dance again, especially before the tanda is over!!! Instead, “I liked that”, or “I appreciate your lead” or “You really dance well” are very nice things to say.  “Your instructor taught you well,” or “I just had the best tanda of the evening” are nice alternative responses which imply you might look their way again sometime.

22)  “Would you like to go out for coffee?” does not mean Starbucks!!! (Drink up and brush your teeth before the milonga!) Remember that dancing more than two separate tandas with the same partner is a pretty strong indication that an invitation for coffee is brewing.

23)  If you inadvertently bump another couple, it is gracious to look their way briefly if it was more than just a tap. It is also appropriate for either the leader or the follower to reach behind or around their partner to protect them if you see another couple way too close for comfort. However it should not be such a strong defense that it becomes an offense!

typical crowded floor at La Viruta

24)  It is much appreciated when partners move quickly back to their “posts” in order to cabaceo for the next tanda. It is rude to dawdle on the floor. The 30-second rule applies between songs.

25)  Respect the tradition of the cabaceo! It is an Argentine tradition and should be upheld every bit as much as the tanda. If a man blatantly asks, “wanna dance?” smile and ask them if that is their “best cabaceo?” You might add a wink if you would like to accept, as a reminder to them that you respect the cabaceo. A real Tanguera will either look right through you or give a pickle-faced frown if she does not want to dance without the cabaceo … don’t bother the queen of the floor again!!!

26)  If your leader is placing you in an uncomfortable position, the follower has the right to reposition their embrace, hand level, or point of discomfort. If a follower is feeling rushed, she can move her left hand up to create space between them, and apply pressure to slow him down.

27)  Not all dancers are created equal … some have back or shoulder issues or other limitations. Perhaps their styling is completely different than yours, or they are at a different skill level.

28)  “No cabaceo” does not mean that a person does not like you. It is also okay to socialize during the tanda, but do not limit your friend’s ability to catch a cabaceo. Tangueras will sit next to each other and have a conversation while continuing to look around the room.

29)  At a milonga, it is a party: dress your best and enjoy. Casual clothing – especially jeans for a woman: may mean that you are just there for the exercise.  [however, the editor of this blog emphatically recommends: Never tell a woman what to wear!]

how to choose?

30)  You don’t have to dance every tanda – it is not a popularity contest. Save your energy – dance to the music that moves you the most, with partners that appreciate you.

31)  A milonga is the best opportunity for men to be gentlemen and women to be gracious … even if you are not a great dancer, they will remember you as “pleasant.”

Tete & Silvia

32)  Ladies – be mindful of your decorations: big bobbly beads dangling on your bosom are not inviting, and flowers in your hair might scare off those with sensitive smell or ticklish. Perfumes and colognes should be barely noticeable. Tucking a clove of garlic into your bra has been known to ward off the devil and/or vampires – jajaja, just kidding! A little black dress is always correct tango attire.

33)  If seated at a table, a fan, a glass of water, and a tin of breath-mints mark your territory as a serious Tanguera.

34)  In BsAs, if a gentleman escorts a lady outside, it is courteous to hail a cab for the lady and give the directions to the driver. The locals know the best routes to the next milonga or destination area.  No need to ask her exact address: she can give the exact number to the driver en route.

35)  If you come as a mixed group and your party is seated together, a gentleman still always acknowledges the gentleman seated close to the lady, even if they are not a “couple.”

36)  Attitude is everything!!!

THE GOLDEN RULE: If you are manifesting ANY symptoms of illness, regardless of whether or not you are contagious – STAY HOME!!! You don’t want to limit anyone’s Tango time, yours included, and you will be blamed if any partners come down with your condition!

copyright 2012 Roxy Montana

We can’t get enough of that Tango Attitude!!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

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