When we go out to a milonga we never know what might happen. We might dance the night away or not get asked to dance at all. There are a couple reasons why your night out in the tango scene could yield different outcomes. It’s all about how you present yourself and how much you know about “tango etiquette”.
- The cabeceo (the nod of the head) This is very important in many (but not all) milongas. In many milongas the tradition remains that the man asks the woman to dance. In order to invite her to the dance floor subtly (to avoid the ensuing public embarrassment if she declines) he locks eyes with her. If she makes eye contact and gives a slight nod back then she is responding yes to the invitation to dance. If she looks away then she is rejecting that invitation. So, if you want to dance then look around! If you don’t want to dance then avoid making too much eye contact with other people as you could cause confusion. Although, in some milongas it is ok to simply go up to someone and ask them to dance, it depends on the culture of that particular milonga. Until you know what the etiquette of your milonga is try the cabaceo as most tango dancers use it and know how it works.
- The shoes If you’re wearing sneakers or sandals in a milonga then people will assume that you’re just there to watch. If you have a pair of tango shoes or even just heels or dress shoes then people will think that you’re there to dance. It may sound silly but a pair of heels goes a long way in a milonga.
- Your company If you walk into a milonga with your significant other and sit down at a table together then people will generally not ask you to dance. Arriving and sitting with a member of the opposite sex (whether it is your significant other or not) sends the message to everyone in the milonga that you two are exclusively dancing with each other. Some milongas are a little more lax about this one but in general men don’t ask women to dance if they’re sitting with someone who is perceived to be their partner. If you want to increase your chances of dancing with new people then sit alone (it’s not as awkward as it sounds, lot’s of people do this in milongas!) or sit with a group of friends but remember to look around the room for potential invitations to dance.
- Your attitude In a milonga just as in life, having a positive attitude and being friendly will take you far. Tango is a social dance so if you are polite and friendly to the people around you then you will most likely have a great time. A milonga is a place to share your love of dance and music with others so remember to have fun!
These tips may helpful to people who are starting to venture out into the world of tango. Remember that each venue is a little bit different so some of these tips may or may not apply to every milonga. All in all, if you want to dance Argentine tango just keep calm and carry on dancing!