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Guidelines to Dancing Tango

Be aware of where you and others are on the dance floor. Take care not to bump into other couples.  It is the leader’s responsibility to look where you are going. Don’t start a movement unless there is room to complete the movement and once you have started the movement, be ready to interrupt the movement at any time in order to avoid a collision.  Protect your partner!


Know how to interrupt a step to keep from hitting another couple.


Don’t wear perfumes or colognes to a social dance.  Some people have allergies and it is not considered very sociable.


Maintain impeccable hygiene!  We often can’t smell our own body odours so it’s important that you brush your teeth, shower, use deodorant and put on clean clothes before going out dancing, whether it is for a milonga or a dance classes.


Don’t be pedantic with your partner on the dance floor, attempting to correct your partners to conform to your preferred style.  Social dancing is about having fun and letting your partners enjoy themselves.  Criticising your partner is anti-social and simply isn’t fun.


If your partner’s style of dancing is different from your own, be flexible and try to adapt to their style.  If you both remain open-minded and flexible, the dance will be more enjoyable for both of you.


Simplify your dancing somewhat for your partner’s comfort when they are less experienced than you.  Challenges and surprises can be fun, but being pushed around the dance floor is not.


Be open to dancing with new people. It is a great way to develop your dancing as well as obviously, meet new people.


If you are prone to getting sweaty while dancing, bring a spare dry shirt or two to change into when necessary.   Most dancers don’t like to hold on to a clammy wet shirt.


In Argentina, men ask women to dance with a look, nod or smile that says, “Would you like to dance?”  If a woman wants to accept a dance with a man, she nods or smiles back at the man. When this system is used, it is important that the woman maintain eye contact with the man as he approaches as a glance away may be interpreted as her having changed her mind and no longer wants to dance. This way of asking a woman to dance can be effective but can also lead to confusion. The practice of asking people to dance with the eyes is also followed to some extent in other parts of the world, however, it is generally more common to directly ask someone to dance.


You can accept an invitation to dance with your eyes or a nod (as is the Argentinian way) or by accepting a direct invitation. It is also perfectly acceptable to say, “No, thank you.” If you accept a dance remember it will probably last for the remainder of the tanda that is playing—three or four songs if you start at the beginning. If either person decides that they do not want to finish the tanda for whatever reason, that person can simply say “thank you” and begin leaving the dance floor.


Tango is danced in lanes that keep moving counter-clockwise and the more experienced dancers tend to stay toward the outside of the dance floor. It can be nerve-racking when you first start dancing at a milonga. You see people gliding by when you only know one or two figures. Remember that everyone started where you are now. Just use figures that you feel comfortable to use. It is perfectly okay just to use the “walk” or the basic step. Just have a go.


Move counter-clockwise around the floor.


In crowded conditions, form at least 2 lanes of dance. The outside lane should extend all of the way to the edge of the dance floor. Beginners or those wanting to do figures that may block the dance flow, should use the middle of the floor.


Do your part to keep the dance lanes progressing in an orderly way and don’t overtake or cut from one lane to another unless absolutely necessary.

If you accidentally bump into someone, make eye contact to acknowledge the collision, smile and then apologise as soon as possible, even if you don’t think that you were at fault.


Avoid taking a backward step unless you are absolutely certain there is no-one behind you. It is not only the person behind you that is responsible for avoiding collisions but also your responsibility!


If you want to stop and chat to the person you are dancing with, move to the edge of the floor or off the dance floor completely. If you want to invite or talk to someone across the floor, then go around the floor and don’t cut across. It is inconsiderate to the dancers on the floor.


Dancers already on the floor have the right of way. They have already established a ronda. By forcing into the ronda, you will be causing a “traffic-jam” behind you. Wait for an appropriate time to join the ronda.


The ideal time to join the ronda is at the beginning of the tanda. If you must join later, the beginning of a new song within a tanda is also a good time.


Refrain from teaching on the dance floor at a social milonga unless you are expressly asked. And if you are asked for feedback from your partner, step aside from the dance floor to provide the requested feedback.

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