What is Dance Floor Etiquette?

  • Move with the counter-clockwise direction, flow and spacing of the line of dance. On a crowded floor, it is polite not to pass other couples or allow a big gap to open up in front of you.
  • It is customary not to teach on the dance floor during a milonga (a dance). Leave the floor and practice elsewhere. Of course, practicas are the ideal place to work on technique.
  • Moving onto the dance floor during a song is like merging onto the freeway during rush hour: wait for an open space, rather than forcing your way into the line of dancers.

How do I ask for a dance?

  • There is a charming, face-saving convention called “Cabeceo” (Ka-Bay-Say-Oh, originating in Argentina but used in many dance communities), which involves making eye contact. The asker raises the eyebrows and/or makes a subtle head nod toward the dance floor.  The responder answers “yes” by smiling and nodding back, or “no” by refusing further eye contact.
  • At most Milongas worldwide, especially in Buenos Aires, this is the ONLY way to ask for a dance, unless you are sitting at the same table.
  • We discourage walking up to someone, confronting them, reaching towards or grabbing someone, and asking “Would you like to dance?”.
  • It’s OK for either gender to ask someone of either gender for a dance.
  • Wait for the cortina, or interlude, to Cabeceo your potential dance partner.

How do I say “No” to a dance?

  • If you avoid eye contact, the potential asker may realize that you do not want to dance.
  • Say “No, thank you”,  with or without a big smile.
  • You may offer a courteous excuse to soften the refusal.  For example: “I am resting / would rather not dance to this music / want to finish this conversation.” If you are hoping to dance with this partner some other time, be sure to say so.
  • You have the right to refuse to dance, with anyone, at any time (even if you are already dancing together).

Who determines the embrace?

  • Either partner may state their style preferences – open or close.  You may do this verbally or by taking the frame you prefer.
  • Ultimately, the follower makes the decision on an open or close embrace.
  • It is rude to apply physical or verbal pressure to make someone dance in close embrace. For example, the lead should never pull the follower into a close embrace. If the follower wants to dance in the close embrace, the follower will step up to the lead and assume the proper frame.

How do I leave my current partner?

  • To say “thank you” to your dance partner is a coded way of saying, “I want to stop dancing”. Use other phrases of gratitude if you want to keep dancing.
  • The cortina (the non-dance musical interlude between sets of 3 or 4 songs) is a customary partner-changing opportunity. However, it’s OK to break after 2 or 3 songs.
  • It is appropriate to leave the floor after one song, or even in the middle of a song, if you are sufficiently uncomfortable with your partner’s dancing or other behavior.
  • For the courtesy of all, please leave the dance floor during the cortina to permit others to make eye-contact for the next set of music.

What about safety?

  • Your safety and enjoyment are important to our tango community. Go to the host, teacher, and/or DJ with any social, etiquette or safety concerns, including sexually inappropriate behavior.
  • You can ask a friend or the host for an escort to your car.
  • Be aware of your possessions.  Don’t bring valuables.

How do I choose a private instructor?

The best choice of teacher is one who can communicate the most important material relevant to a particular student’s style of learning. Just fancy steps are not enough….

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