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Argentine Tango Meetup Group Message Board › Tango Etiquette

Tango Etiquette

Barbara W.
user 8580924
Group Organizer
Rochester, NY
Post #: 19
Tango Etiquette (Barbara's version)
We have had a recent influx of new dancers at DancEncounters, and I have received numerous questions about Tango etiquette. So I have put this together to answer those questions. Copies will be available at DancEncounters during the milongas.


The tanda is a set of 3 or 4 similar tangos separated by a Cortina (a short bit of clearly nontango music). Traditionally one dances the entire tanda with the same partner. If you say "Thank You" after a dance it means "I'm done". More specifically, after the first song of the Tanda it means "I'm done with you", and is considered vaguely insulting. After the second dance it means "That wasn't awful, but really I was just being nice". After 3 it means "I enjoyed dancing with you but I'm tired--my feet hurt--have to hit the restroom--whatever". At the end of the Tanda it means "I enjoyed dancing with you."

At DancEncounters "Thank You" also usually signals that you are done dancing that Tanda, so don't say it if you want to continue with that partner. However, it is far more common to split Tandas than in some other places, especially if there's a large imbalance of leaders and followers. So if someone dances only one or 2 dances with you, don't take it as an insult. I usually play sets of 3; generally those who are splitting the tandas will dance the first 2 with one partner and the last with another.


Traditionally in Buenos Aires, the man is the one who initiates the invitation. He does this by way of the "cabeceo" -- he makes eye contact with a woman, then nods toward the dance floor. If she smiles, gets up, nods back, or otherwise acknowledges the invitation, he walks over to her and they dance. If she avoids eye contact and looks away she has said no.

At DancEncounters and in most places in the US, women are perfectly free to ask men to dance. I rather like the cabeceo; I use it myself. Essentially itgives one a graceful out if they don't want to dance. If you ask someone to danceand they say "No, Thank you" with no explanation, don't ask the again for at least another Tanda or 2. If they say it again, don't ask them again for a long long time. If you have refused someone twice with a "No Thank you (no explanation)" and ever wish to dance with them again you'll have to ask them. If someone asks you to to dance and you say no, then dance with someone else you are saying "You are someone I never ever want to dance with, ever." It is considered rude. On rare occasions rudeness may be called for. Usually it is not.

Rules for asking someone to dance:

1. Do make eye contact first, if possible. If someone is clearly avoiding your gaze, don't ask them.
2. Don't interrupt an intimate conversation (this is a judgement call, so use your judgement).
3 Take "No" for an answer.
4. If someone has her shoes off, it means she (or he) is done dancing. Don't ask. You may express regret ("I'm so sorry I didn't get to dance with you"), if you are prepared for "Oh, I can do one more Tanda" (while putting shoes back on).


The more crowded the dance floor is, the less leeway you have. On very crowded dance floors avoid stepping backwards, passing, cutting across the dance floor, or otherwise disrupting the flow of the dance. As the floor becomes less crowded you can do these
things more, but continue to observe the general counterclockwise movement around the room.


Do not lead ganchos, high boleos, etc on a crowded dance floor. This is another universal rule.


In most places this is considered a serious faux pas. At DancEncounters, where, face it, I make the rules, I have no objection to CONSENSUAL exploration that DOESN'T INTERFERE WITH THE LINE OF DANCE. "Ãn it harm none, do as ye will". If you don't wish to teach or be taught, say so -- "Can we just dance? I'm enjoying it so much" or some such polite no.


If you are not dancing, stay out of the dancing lanes. If the dance floor is separate from the seating area, leave the dance floor. If not, stay toward the edges.


The last Tango played is traditionally La Cumparsita. Generally one dances the last Tango with the person one came with. This is pretty universal, and is the one time it is completely acceptable to leave one partner in the middle of the tanda to dance with another. Of course individual partners can agree differently.At DancEncounters I play 2 Cumparsitas so you have plenty of warning that the last is coming (and can dance 2 last tangos with 2 separate partners if you wish).
A former member
Post #: 1
Thank you for sharing this information smile Sincerely, Susan
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