Argentine Tango Dance Etiquette Argentine Tango Dance Etiquette
© 1999-2005 InScenes Magazine, All Rights Reserved. InScenes images or written material may not be used in any manner without the expressed written permission of InScenes. Last Update: 03/18/05

To experienced dancers, the following guidelines of Tango dance protocol and etiquette are usually well known, but not often discussed. Also following these guidelines sets a good example for other dancers. For new dancers, it's good to know what's what to help avoid embarrassing, awkward, or unsafe situations. In any case, following these guidelines can help to maximize your Tango dance experience.

  1. First and most important, Argentine Tango is an intimate and elegant dance. For a pleasent experience, good hygiene is essential:

    1. Bad breath is the single most common and repulsive problem encountered in Tango. It is caused by bacteria growing in food that gets under the gums. Daily tooth flossing and other gum care is essential to prevent bad breath and gum disease. Mint-based breath fresheners are helpful, but only partly mask the smell of oral bacteria. Dancing Tango may be the key to keeping your teeth all your life!

    2. Bathe before lessons or dancing and use deodorant.

    3. No or minimal talking while dancing; focus on dancing and floor traffic.

    4. Hold off on the aftershave and perfume. Some people are sensitive to them.

    5. If you perspire, use a towel or handkerchief often. People as a rule don't like dance partners that are walking wet towels (in the literal sense.) So men, if you perspire heavily, use a towel, take a break and cool down, bring an extra shirt, and change into it at halftime. This is social dance, go to the track if you want an aerobic workout.

    6. If you wear glasses, consider contact lenses or removing your glasses while dancing unless you can't see where you're dancing. Getting whacked in the head with someone glasses as they turn their head is not pleasent.

    7. One last thing, PLEASE, no jeans, sweat shirts, tennis shoes, or other similar causal attire when you take lessons or go to a dance. Tango is an elegant dance, respect it and other dancers, dress up.

  2. At a Tango milonga (a Tango dance party), couples dance Tango in a "line-of-dance" fashion, counter-clockwise around the dance floor. The faster "lanes" are those toward the outside of the counter-clockwise line-of-dance. The slower "lanes" are toward the center. As you dance, refrain from cutting across these lanes, cutting through the center, and dancing backward to the line-of-dance especially on a crowded dance floor.

  3. If you are not dancing, show respect to those who are by not walking through the busy dance floor and by staying clear of the dance space. For example, while others are dancing, do not stand in the dance lanes and talk. On the dance floor, real estate is always in demand. First prioity goes to the dance and the dancers. Give them room.

  4. If you are trying to show your partner a new step, move to a distant corner or non-dance area for your demonstration and discussion. It is the mark of an inexperienced or inconsiderate dancer to stop and attempt to teach a partner a new step at a milonga during a dance on the dance floor. Avoid doing this. Save your instruction for a "Practica", that is, a dance practice session.

  5. The safety of your partner, yourself, and the surrounding dancers is your first concern. Both leader and follower should always be alert to the presence of other dancers infront, to the sides, and in back to help avoid collisions. If a collision occurs, try to soften the collision by bringing your arms in and stopping movement. Afterwards be polite and friendly, make eye contact and acknowledge the collision even if it was not your fault. To a large extent, dancing on a crowded Tango dance floor is an exercise in avoiding collisions in a safe, creative, and fun fashion. One other point that often goes unmentioned, it may sound and feel very poetic to dance in the "Tango Trance" with your eyes closed, but at a crowed milonga avoid doing this. Keep yours eyes open and be alert to the safty of your partner and other dancers. As a dancer at a social event this is part of your responsibility.

  6. No one likes being kicked, run into, or stepped on, so on a crowded dance floor, avoid aggressive movements, high boleos, hard-hitting ganchos, and leg extensions. If you feel you are about to step on someone, hopefully not your partner, try to not follow through with the stepping action to soften the blow of your foot landing on another's. Also, leaders keep your left arm down and about shoulder height with your left elbow down and fairly close to your side. It's not fun on a crowded dance floor having to duck when another dancer swings around with their partner and the leads left hand is three feet in the air and three inches from your nose.

  7. On a crowded dance floor, stopping in the outer lane to do a dance pattern is frowned on since it usually stops the forward progress of the dancers coming from behind and many times it usually involves steps that are not safe to the surrounding dancers. Remember, it's not the Olympics or "show time", it's a social dance, so relax and have fun. If you feel the need to stop forward movement to do a couple of patterns, move to the center of the floor where you can stop and do, for example, foot stops, multiple ochos or molinetes and not stop forward line-of-dance movement.

  8. For the leaders, if you absolutely must step backwards to the line-of-dance, look back first. For the followers, as a dance pattern unfolds, be alert to dancers potentially in the way and let the leader know of a possible collision verbally, pressing your left hand to the leader's back, by a hand squeeze, or by pulling your partner closer, or all of these, especially on a crowded dance floor.

  9. If a dance couple in front of you stops, then either dance around them, mark time or use a Tango side-rocking step, for example, to continue dancing until they move.

  10. Followers, do not backlead. Not only does it make leading more difficult, but it also makes it more difficult for the leader to avoid collisions.

  11. It's ok to smile and have fun on the Tango dance floor. The Tango police have stopped giving citations for this, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  12. For more experienced dancers, set a good example for beginners: be patient, polite and sensitive. It is acceptable to give advice, provided it is asked for first, or provided you first ask permission to make an "observation" or a "comment". Remember you where once a beginner. A harsh or insensitive, but well intended "comment" can still ruin someone's evening.

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