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Dancing at a Milonga Guidelines

Below is a list of guidelines to help you when attending a Milonga (tango social dance). Click here for a list of social events at the Brisbane House of Tango. For a list of other tango events, click here.

Avoid Crossing the Dance Floor

When you arrive at a milonga, it is recommended to find a place to sit by walking around the outside of the floor rather than walking across the floor.

When attending a milonga, where should you sit?

For followers, it is helpful to sit is a position where it is easy for leaders to invite you to dance, whether that by verbally asking you or with a ‘cabaceo’. A cabaceo is a means of invitation to dance via eye contact. A leader will make eye contact with a gesture of invitation. The follower will either accept with a ‘nod’ or not. As always, it is the followers choice.

What is a Tanda and a Cortina?

A tanda is a group of similar (composer, rhythm, etc.) songs; generally consisting of 3 or 4 songs. It is customary to dance the entire tanda with the one partner. At the conclusion of the tanda, a different type of music (non-tango music) will play which is called a ‘Cortina’. The cortina will play for 30-60 seconds, signaling the end of the tanda, whereby dancers take their seats and wait for the next tanda.

Choosing to Dance (or not)

As always, it is your choice to dance or continue to dance with a particular person. If at anytime, you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, you have the choice to stop dancing with that individual.

How close should I dance with my partner?

Whether you are a leader or a follower, it is your choice how close you dance to your partner. This can be accomplished via your embrace, i.e. your embrace can invite a closer or more open embrace.

Entering the Dance Floor

When entering the dance floor, the leader should try to make eye contact with the approaching leader in the line of dance in order to avoid collisions as well as to be considerate of other dancers on the dance floor. The leader should enter onto the dance floor first and then invite the follower onto the floor. Throughout the tanda, the leader should maintain awareness of the dancers immediately in front and behind so that the flow of the floor moves smoothly.

Note also, that you should not cross the dance floor during a tanda.

Line of Dance

Dancers move in a counter-clockwise direction with the leader generally facing forwards. Often there will be 2 lanes of dancers and sometimes a central area. More experienced dancers generally dance in the outside lane and dancers performing stationary-type movements may dance in the middle of the floor.

Maintaining Space on the Floor

It is the leaders responsibility to ensure the flow of dance moves smoothly around the floor. Generally, if you have more space ahead of you than behind you, you should progress. If you have more space behind you than in front of you, you can perform movements that don’t progress as much. At the end of each song, couples should adjust their position so as to be approximately equidistant from the couples in front and behind.


Wearing deodorant is recommended but NOT perfume. With many people in a small area, perfume can create a very uncomfortable environment. If you sweat a lot, it is advisable to have a towel and/or change of shirt(s) that you can change.

Milongas, Practicas and Classes

Milongas, Practicas and Classes are all different and serve a particular purpose.

Classes or lessons are designed to receive instruction on how generally dance better or to improve a particular movement.

Practicas (practice sessions) are designed to practice with a particular partner or partners what you have previously learned in a class or otherwise. Practicas will not have tandas and cortinas that you would find in a milonga but rather music playing continually with which to practice to. The rhythm of the music may change from time to time.

Milongas are for dancing and putting into practice what you have learned and/ or have been practicing. It is not a time for teaching or making suggestions to your partner on how to dance ‘better’. It is also customary not to talk during a tanda, but rather focus on the connection with your partner and the music.

Gauge the Level of Your Partner

Oftentimes, you will have the opportunity to dance with someone that you have never danced with before. As a leader, you should not try to create movements that you are not sure the follower can follow. It is far better to dance a simple, connected and musical dance than a dance full of movement without connection or musicality. As a follower, if you are dancing with a leader who is less experienced than yourself, be patient and take the time to develop your own dance within the confines of what is invited. Wherever possible, for both leaders and followers, create a positive and enjoyable experience for your partner.

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