The Tango Etiquette

The Tango Etiquette

Argentine tango general standards for milonga behaviour

The Tango Etiquette describes behavioral standards commonly observed in the culture of Argentine tango milongas. Some contents may be debatable. Some rules may be relaxed in some milongas and specific situations (ie. among close friends, etc.) Nonetheless, it is important for milongueras and milongueros to be aware of these standards. New tango dancers may not be aware of these rules. Therefore, experienced dancers set a good example by being patient, polite, and sensitive with less experienced dancers. Always remember that once you were a beginner as well.
Tangueras and tangueros are invited to provide feedback and suggest ammendments at .

1) The first dance and the last dance
Milongueras and milongueros will frequently see particular significance in their first and their last dance of the milonga. They may seek to dance their first tanda with a familiar and smooth partner, and thereby start off the evening on the right foot. As for the last dance, we find tradition among porteños to dance the last tanda with their significant other or a potential lover. One may chose to relax this rule especially if in agreement with their significant other. For singles it’s open game. Though if the partner is known to have a significant other, it is courteous to ask whether they wish to dance with their significant other.

2) The invitation to dance (see Cabeceo in The Tango Dictionary).
The cabeceo makes the invitation to dance less stressful as it allows the invited person to decline discretely.
Non-verbal cues are frequently used. So, as you are getting ready to ask someone to dance, try to catch their eye, smile and nod. You might raise your eyebrows in an inquiring expression or directing a nod towards the dance floor. Observe their body language. For instance, if you make eye-contact and the other person quickly turns away, pretends not to see you, or busies themselves in some way, it means they do not want to dance. On the other hand, if your potential partner returns your eye-contact with a smile and/or a nod, you are encouraged to invite them verbally (ie. “would you like to dance?”).
When inviting a person who is in the presence of their significant other, it is courteous to ask their significant other for permission.  Be friendly but not flirtatious and avoid dance moves that are sexually suggestive. Avoid monopolizing anyone’s partner with multiple tandas (see Tanda in The Tango Dictionary).

3) How to gracefully receive a rejection
When we invite someone and they give us a courteous “no” (ie. “not right now”, “my feet need to rest”, etc.), we do not sit down beside them to wait until they are ready to dance. We let them be for a while. How long is “a while?” Regardless of the form in which a “no” was formulated, it means no for at least 2 tandas. After 2-5 tandas you may consider inviting that person again. We may find that the person who rejected us earlier, may track us down for a dance later.

4) How to politely give a rejection
In the great majority of cases, avoiding eye contact will prevent someone from inviting you. If that person approaches regardsless, and invites you verbally it is fine to say “no”.
When verbally rejecting someone’s invite, although we might want to dance with them later, we can provide an excuse such as “Sorry, but I need a break”, or “I already promised this dance to someone”, or “thanks but I need to rest my feet”. If our excuse involves resting, we should wait at least for the next song or preferably for the next tanda before dancing with someone else. Always remember to be nice when rejecting someone. Try not to hurt their feelings.

5) Tanda communication
It is customary to dance the entire tanda with the same partner unless there is a particular reason to stop (ie. the man is rude or very disappointing as a dance partner, your ride is waiting, your feet are aching, etc.). When two people are done dancing, one of the dancers will say gracias (thank you), the other person will respond the same way, and they leave the floor. and leave. So, the phrase “thank you” actually means “I am done dancing and ready to leave the dance floor”. This is preferrably at the end of a tanda, unless they want to dance another set. When two people are finished dancing, it is customary for the leader to escort the follower off the floor.

6) Line of dance (see Ronda in The Tango Dictionary)
Couples move counter-clockwise on the dance floor. This is the line of dance. Faster lanes are on the outside of the dance floor, and slower lanes run closer to the center. Refrain from randomly intersecting these lanes, especially on a crowded floor. The dance floor is reserved for couples who are currently dancing, and all others should clear the floor.

7) Collisions
When collisions happen, everyone involved should be generous and courteous in acknowledging the collision. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is and we will not make a big deal of the collision. To avoid collisions, both partners should help in maintaining awareness of others on the dance floor. Keeping your eyes open (as opposed to “tango trance”) certainly helps awareness. Try to avoid aggressive moves on a crowded floor (ie. high boleos, hard ganchos, big figures, etc.) Be ready to slow down or even stop a step or figure as necessary. Leaders, be very cautious when you decide to step backwards (ie. look first). Followers, let the leader know, verbally or non-verbally (ie. hand squeeze, holding closer, slowing down, etc.), if there’s an impending collision.

8) Feedback
While on the dance floor, please avoid providing chatting, feedback, corrections or pausing to show your partner a new step. This may be perceived as inappropriate by your partner and/or others around you. Corrective feedback is best kept for practicas and classes. Otherwise, it is acceptable to provide discreet and sensitive feedback if it is asked for, or if permission is obtained to “make an observation”.

9) No cutting in
It’s simple, we do not ask whether we can “cut in” between two dancers in the middle of a song or tanda. Change of partners is done during cortinas (see Cortina in The Tango Dictionary). We don’t interrupt dancers to say hello or goodbye either, though a non-intrusive nod and smile may be acceptable.

10) Personal hygiene
Skill, talent, and courtesy aside, it will be hard to dance with a person more than once if they find you smelly. Solutions are: 1. Clean clothing; 2. use deodorant, breathmints; 3. use a handkerchief to wipe your sweat, or take breaks as needed to reduce your perspiration; 4. VERY IMPORTANT — wash your hands after using the washroom. 5. Have consideration for others when using fragrances. 6. Skip the milonga when you have a cold or flu.
Hopefully, we have all learned these things as kids. If we haven’t, now is the time to acquire these habits.

11) Romance
The tango embrace is a privilege, not an opportunity. Unwanted romantic advances should cease, and can be seen as very invasive if they happen during the tango embrace.

11) Respect
Many of the rules listed above will be intuitively observed if we are respectful. That is, respect for your partner and other persons at the milonga, respect for the cultural heritage of tango, respect for the music and band, respect for peoples dance styles and their skill levels.

You know you’re a tango junkie when..

You know you’re a tango junkie when…

  •  When you realize the milonga is where you see all your friends.
  •  Walking into new buildings and noticing potential dance space to tango.
  •  You cross country lines to tango!
  •  You often find yourself googling phrases containing the word “tango”.
  •  Your first question when buying clothes is “but can I dance in it?”used to be “but can I wear it to work?”
  •  You wish you paid more attention in high school Spanish class.
  •  You have a tango bumper sticker or your license plate contains a word related to tango.
  •  You plan the rest of your social life so it doesn’t conflict with tango nights.
  •  Your fantasy travel destination is Buenos Aires.
  •  You listen to tango music when you’re not at a practica or milonga.
  •  You now view the world in terms of people who tango and those unfortunate souls who don’t.
  •  Before traveling, you check out the net for tango events in that area.
  •  You have to work hard to maintain nontango friendships (if you have any left).
  •  You have developed the ability to turn any conversation to tango within 2 minutes.
  •  You no longer have parties at your house; you host milongas.
  •  You practice the roles of both lead and follow to fully understand the dance.
  •  You have bought a piece of clothing not commonly seen in public.
  •  You dance tango in your mind.
  •  You’ve gone home after a dance with someone else’s glitter on your face.
  •  When you wait in line, you must fight the urge to randomly gancho those around you.
  •  You constantly have bruises on your legs and feet..
  •  Your respect for others is measured by how well they can dance.
  •  You feel exhausted but come alive when you hear a tango and hit the dancefloor.
  •  When you find yourself dressing a stranger in your eyes in 3″ heels and a black dress.
  •  When you and another contractor are workin on a move to Calo two stories above the ground, tool belts clinking.
  •  When you laugh out loud at bad tango in movies.
  •  When you walk backwards to the refrigerator.
  •  You’ve remodeled your house mainly to maximize dance space.
  •  Entering a lift and making a side step with your left foot to give way to somebody going out, you change weight on the doubletime.
  •  You copied your tango music to your office computer.
  •  You’ve danced with one of the biggies and survived.
  •  You go through withdrawal without at least one tangohigh per week.
  •  You’ve stopped saying sorry when you screw up  you just tango out of the trouble you got into.
  •  You keep a pair of dance shoes in your car.
  •  You’ve sold or moved most of your furniture to give yourself practice space.
  •  You are unable to schedule major surgery without compromising tango commitments.
  •  When you look in the mirror, you are usually looking at your feet.
  •  Your shopping cart often substitutes as your dance partner.
  •  You’ve figured out how to find the hidden tango sections in any record store.
  •  You are willing to spend twice as much time driving to a milonga as you actually dance.
  •  Your computer passwords are phrases related to tango.
  •  Your ear has been trained to recognize the tango possibilities in all forms of music.
  •  You maintain a phone list of the hardcore tangueros in your area.
  •  Tango has diminished, if not ruined, the appeal of every other dance you ever did.
  •  You have become nocturnal.
  •  You have been spotted dancing tango in parking lots.
  •  Posters for upcoming tango events are always magnetized to your refrigerator.
  •  Your interest in shoes can easily be mistaken for a fetish.
  •  You have been known to sing in the ear of your partner while dancing.
  •  You recognize that special glow in the night as another hotbed of tango erupts in the distance.
  •  Friends and family automatically assume that you want tangorelated birthday gifts.
  •  Your dancing shoes always look wellused.
  •  You can’t resist dancing a few tango steps whenever you cross a wooden floor.
  •  You find that you sandwich feet far more often than shake hands.
  •  You find that dancers drawn to tango are the most interesting passionate people you know.
  •  You draw satisfaction every time you break someone’s Hollywood misconception of the dance.
  • When you go to a conference, you plan your trip around local tango events.
  • The first thing you do when you buy a new cd is skip through each song to evaluate its tango potential.
  • You keep a portable stereo and an iPod full of tango music in your car.
  • You choose your bars based on how much they mind you bringing in your own music and clearing tables out of the way.
  • You’ll pay money to attend a regular ballroom dance just on the offchance that they’ll play a tango.
  • You dance with spare chairs in the middle of the room.
  • You gancho your way out of the door.
  • You look at random people in the street and try to evaluate their tango abilities.
  • You look at dresses and skirts as “good” or “not good”, according to how good and practical they would look on you, while you dance.
  • In the supermarket you hide yourself behind the trolley and practice forward steps. Now and then you have to check the price of the product you don’t need two meters behind your back to also practice the reverse.
  • The first thing you do when you buy a new cd is skip through each song to evaluate its tango potential.

Asking a Man to Dance

For those of you who are just arriving at the party…or even if you’ve been dancing a while…or if you’ve come to the party from another dance, the question usually comes up, “How do you ask a man to dance in Tango ?”. In Ballroom, or Salsa, you just ask. Tango is another, seemingly, confusing ball of wax entirely! How do you? Well, that’s what this guide is all about, a safe, and tango correct way of going about the process that offends no one, and furthermore actually helps you to dance more frequently!
Let’s get a few things out of the way, almost immediately….
1.) There is nothing wrong with asking a man to dance, in the United States. Everywhere else, it’s a little different. However, ladies you must understand that doing so anywhere will not get you the desired results that you’re looking for. The reason is because so many of the leaders adhere to one of several codigos (codes of the dance). So for that reason, TRY NOT TO VERBALLY ASK A MAN TO DANCE (there is an exception to this rule)! Otherwise, I swear to sunny jesus, you’re going to sit all night long. You will be punished, and you will not dance again. I am not kidding. There are some men that take it upon themselves to be somewhat catty about your dancing future. At the same time, there are some men that actually appreciate a women when she asks, however those are few and far between. So if in doubt, just don’t! Again there is an exception! Me, personally I like it when a woman asks me, so go right ahead…however be prepared to be rejected, if I’m tired or not feelin’ the love right then.
2.) A woman’s role in the dance has traditionally been to be the ‘follower’, and while I detest the use of this word…’Submissive’.  In any other dance, especially in the United States, she’s trained to be an active participant–this is not so in tango. It wasn’t until very recently, and we’re talking up until about 20 years ago and even that’s a stretch, that the dance has started to relax some of its codigos, but this one, unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point of view) is not going away any time soon.
3.) Understand that while you are asking someone to dance, or wanting to dance with someone, they are NOT obligated to accept your dance. As a matter of fact, the better the lead, the less inclined he is to dance with you. And while you may not understand this now, you will later. The fact is that tango requires that the dancing pair be very skilled in a variety of areas, not the least of which is body kinesthetics, the vocabulary of the dance, the vocabulary of a particular style or ‘flavor’ of the dance, the music!!!!, and a host of other factors like for example, a deftness of touch that far exceeds what you believe possible, a level of kinesthetic movement that is far more subtle than you will ever experience in any other dance, and a level of technique and attention to detail that is absolutely insane on the surface. Having said that…the truth is that you are painful to dance with right now. It doesn’t matter how pretty you are, and/or what you are wearing, and those nice ‘tango’ shoes that you just bought are virtually worthless! This is not to put you in your place, or to make you feel bad about yourself, or to elevate the leaders in the room to god like status, their egos are big enough as it is. Most followers, unless they’ve led, will not understand what it takes to lead, conversely most leaders do not understand what it means to follow. I do. I am socially trained to dance both parts, and do quite frequently! I’ll give you an example of what I mean by ‘painful’:
Look, I am not a small man, but as a leader I know what it feels like to dance with a follower who is ‘heavy’ and I don’t mean her weight, although that is a factor sometimes. By ‘heavy’ I mean that she is literally leaning on me, and supporting herself with her arms hanging on me, instead of either a shared axis where we support each other (apillado), or on her own over her own pads of her own feet (vertical)! Also by ‘heavy’, I mean that she is either lifting up her feet as she walks backwards, and/or having me literally push her around. As a leader, I know what it means to dance with a follower who has not mastered her walk, where she wobbles, is highly unstable because she’s wearing heels and she hasn’t learned how to walk in yet. As a leader, I know what it feels like to have a follower who literally thumps when she walks, and uses me to hold her up! As a leader, I know what it means to have a follower literally hang on my left arm, and to use my right shoulder and neck in some cases, as a hitching post. As a follower, I know all of those things. I have learned to negate them, I have learned to negate my mass, I have learned how to walk and to walk well, I have learned how not to impinge on his lead in any way, shape or form. I frequently have leaders tell me that they are surprised that a.) I follow, b.) that I follow well, and c.) that I don’t feel like I look! I have worked very hard on creating this level of deftness in my following abilities, and that’s only because I know all too well what it feels like to be on the other side of that, and I don’t ever want to feel like that. To dance with a follower who does all of those things I describe, that is ‘painful’. I want my leader to feel as though it is effortless to dance with me! And that is what it should feel like when he dances with YOU. If that’s not happening, then you need some private lessons, not group classes, to fix the issue!
Because of this way of dancing, dancing with you is not exactly an easy task. As a matter of historical fact, its actually a chore. There’s a reason that some followers get all the dances in the room, and it sometimes has nothing to do with the way she looks, it has everything to do with HOW SHE FEELS to dance with! So if you’re sitting at a milonga and you’re wondering why Mary SoAndSo is getting all the dances, ask a few leaders why they enjoy dancing with her. It may be how she dresses, but I am willing to bet it’s because of how she feels, how she commits to the embrace and is VERY attentive! Don’t blame her, don’t shame her, applaud her for doing her homework!!!
Having said that, now on to HOW TO ASK A MAN TO DANCE and GET IT!
I advocate a 3 pronged “C” approach to the seemingly sticky wicket of ‘asking a man to dance’. There are codigos to consider here, and they’re all quite acceptable, and within the boundaries of the dance.
1.) Cabeceo. This is a socially acceptable way for a woman to ask a man to dance and no one need know that you’re doing it! If you don’t know what it is, in short, a Cabeceo is making direct and clear line of sight eye contact with an intended dancing partner while they are NOT dancing, and once contact is established, you indicate with a nod of your head or your eyebrows that you would like to dance with that person (note: walking up to someone and nodding your head, indicating you’d like a dance, is considered poor taste, this is better known as the “Stalker Cabeceo”).
2.) Conversate. Walk around a bit, at a milonga. Put your shoes on and walk around and engage people in conversation, not just the men…but the women too. However if you spot a leader that you’d like a dance with, engage him in a conversation. Here’s the trick, near the end of the conversation, employ the following line any way you’d like to word it: “At some point when you’re free LATER, I’d like to dance the LAST SONG of a tanda with you if you’re free!”. What you’re doing is indicating that you’re open to a dance with him LATER! Secondly, you’re also putting the onerous task of deciding WHEN that dance happens clearly in his lap. Notice you used the word “Later”, not “Tonight”. Later could mean a few weeks from now. The important part is that he’s clearly deciding IF and WHEN that dance happens, not YOU. And lastly note that its the LAST song of a tanda…not a full tanda! Why the last song ? Because if he doesn’t like dancing with you, he’s not obligated to go any further. But more than likely he will! Also note the last word, “FREE”. What you are doing is making it very clear that you are a last resort, when he thinks of it. Now here’s the hard part. Finish the conversation AND WALK AWAY! Do not look back, do not go bother him again. Move on to other people. Talk it up, girl.
3.) Circulate. That means to place yourself where EVERY leader can see you, typically on the corners of the room and change placements once every 30 minutes. Do not hide, do not sit slumped or hunched over–sit upright in the damned chair, legs crossed (show’m if you’ve got’m), head up, and SMILING! No one wants to dance with a FROWN. When you do get up and move, be VERY obvious about it. That means that as you are changing your placement and going to a new spot, smile, make eye contact with everyone as you do…don’t just look at the ground. This is work, girl, and it takes active work to do it well.
Now it goes without saying but I feel I must; you must do ALL of these things to have the desired affect you want…which is to dance consecutively all night long, preferably with the guys you want to dance with and not with the men that you don’t want to do dance with. However, doing this once and then stopping is not going to have the desired effect. It is cumulative! It also goes without saying that it helps to dress the part, meaning put on that slinky dress you’ve been dying to wear–you know the one that is skin tight in all the right areas…men do like curves…sadly, its a sad truism. But it does work to a limited degree, but not with the better dancers in the room, they really don’t care what you’re wearing, they only care about one thing: DANCING WELL!!!
It also goes without saying that this is ONLY 1 approach to getting the dances that you want. You must, must, must, IMPROVE YOUR DANCING TECHNIQUE RELIGIOUSLY. And going to group classes once a week is all fine and good, however, that’s not going to improve your abilities. What will improve them ? Private lessons on YOUR WALK and YOUR EMBRACE! LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…AND MORE PRACTICE! I am NOT kidding. Every day. Not kidding. You must improve beyond just getting around the floor and not looking like an idiot! If you’re there to socially chat up your friends that’s one thing, and you should NOT expect to get the dances you’re wanting and this guide is nearly useless to you. However, if you are actively improving your dance, by practicing, taking lessons religiously, and traveling to OTHER CITIES to dance with OTHER PEOPLE on a regular basis, this is one of the only ways that your skills will leap frog over everyone else in the room! If you don’t practice, then you shouldn’t complain that you’re not getting the dances you want. If you don’t put in the time to improve, then you shouldn’t complain that soandso isn’t dancing with you. There’s a reason soandso isn’t dancing with you, its mostly and probably because you feel like a ton of bricks to dance with, and/or are highly unstable. As a side note, when I mirror back to my students what they feel like when they dance with me, their understanding of what they need to be doing goes right through the roof. My job as a teacher is show them wrong, and then show them how to improve it so that its ‘right’.
On the flip side, while the above may sound crass, and hard, and cold, the fact is that he’s no better, dear. He pushes, pulls, pokes, prods, can’t walk without wobbling, is unstable himself, teaches on a social dance floor, is sweaty, stinky, and more than likely has a vice grip of death for an embrace! Oh and my personal favorite, blames the follower for all of his screw ups, and what’s worse is that you’re complacent in his blame!
Also to be fair, even with private lessons, and getting your skill on right, does NOT mean that you’re going to get the dances you seek. The simple fact is that you may have eroded your community trust level and will have to work very hard to undo the damage. It takes time and patience to do that! So for those women, this is not a 3 pronged approach but a 4 pronged approach. Which includes a strict regime of working on your technique…religiously and then going out and proving it!
Lastly, there is a cumulative effect here, you must do all 3 of these things with 10 or 15 guys in a night, and you’ll almost NEVER sit at a milonga again! It takes time and concerted effort to do what I am suggesting, however, I’ve done this myself when I was out following socially ONLY, and I know many men and women use it, even on me, and it works. It takes time and dedication to get this to work, but it does work.
Now for a few addendum to this guide.
a.) Once you have the dance, and you’re enjoying dancing with someone, you can always ask for another WHILE YOU ARE ON THE FLOOR! Again, it’s his choice. There’s nothing wrong with this, anywhere in the world.
b.) If you know a leader, really, really, really well, you’ve dance with him a 100+ times or there abouts, there is nothing wrong with asking him outright. Again his choice. Familiarity has its perks.
c.) Regardless if he is busy or not, respect his space and his time.
That my dear ladies is HOW YOU ASK A MAN TO DANCE!
Good luck!
PS: There are some women that will radically agree with what I’ve written here, there are some who will vehemently disagree, and most, if not 90% of the men I know that dance socially as a leader only, will praise me for being so blunt and right on the money. One thing is clear, this is a hot topic, even in today’s world. I’d like to be clear on something else here, this topic is open for review at all times…its an ever changing perspective. Nothing in tango is a hard and fast rule…because tomorrow that rule may changed based on current conditions!
This article published on

Asking a Woman To Dance!

Asking a Woman To Dance!
September 15th, 2011
(note: this is my opinion of how things should work, take it with a grain of salt. when applied, your mileage may vary!)

She walks into the room, kisses and hugs her friends on her way to putting down her shoe bag, and then finding her seat to put on her shoes. She’s looking quite lovely tonight. It seems like she’s kissing and hugging everyone in the room for cryin’ out loud. Finally she finds a half a chair at the crowded milonga tonight, and slips off her street shoes into what appear to be brand new Comme Il Fauts, all sparkly and shiny new, and just as she finishes her right shoe, she looks up and is immediately whisked away out of her chair. One tanda, two tandas, three tandas, she comes off the floor to get some water, and no sooner does her foot hit the carpet, when another lead takes her by the hand, and off they go, one tanda, two tandas, and off the floor to head for water, and a chair! She’s looking a little disheveled after that last leader. He was a bit rough on her, but she smiled through it, he had some nice qualities. She sits for the first time in 45 minutes, drinking her water, and finally catching up with a friend. Legs crossed, and eyeing the room, and avoiding it at the same time.

Gentlemen, how do you ask her for dance ?

Well to be honest with you there are many ways of asking a woman to dance as there are stars in the sky, and they all basically involve the same thing. But in tango there are some rules of the road as to how you do and don’t do that. Things to keep in mind. So before we get to the HOW part, there are a few things we have to review first, such as 9 don’ts and 5 do’s.

Nine Don’ts!

1.) Do not walk up to her and extend your hand and expect to get a dance!
2.) Do not stalk her around the room.
3.) Do not cross a dance floor to get to her.
4.) Do not walk up to her, stop 5 feet from her, and THEN Cabeceo her!
5.) Do not VERBALLY ask her for a dance (there are exceptions to this).
6.) Do not stand outside the ladies room and get her as she’s coming out. (can you say “awwwwkward!” ?)
7.) Do not sit 2 chairs away from her ‘eyeing’ her and expect her to dance with you. (“creeeeepy!” ewwww!)
8.) Do not come up BEHIND her and tap her on the shoulder.
9.) Do not sit down next to her and then out of the blue ask her to dance.

Five Do’s!

1.) Make certain that you are reasonably dry, and not dripping sweat.

Nobody really likes to bathe in sweat, so for this reason always, always have a change of shirt if you’re the profusely sweaty kind of man. Think of it this way, do you want to go home smelling of perfume ? Probably not. Well then she has absolutely ZERO desire to go home smelling like a gym locker! So keep the sweat to an absolute minimum.

2.) Have a pleasant ‘odor’ to you.

This doesn’t mean aftershave but some deodorant is a good choice. Preferably one that doesn’t REEK!

3.) Make certain you are well manicured.

This means that your nails are clipped, hands washed, or cleaned with soap BEFORE you dance with her!

4.) Have pleasant breath.

Two words for you: BREATH MINTS. Need I say more ?

5.) Get a towel or something to use as a handkerchief!

Place it in your suit coat jacket as you’re dancing, or in back right pocket, and at the end of each song, wipe the sweat from your hands, and from your neck and head. Keep your sweat to yourself…let’s not share it, shall we ?

Ok, so now that we’ve read you the riot act about what to do, and how not to engage her…can you ask her for a dance yet ? Well no, not quite.

I strongly suggest you actually LISTEN to the music that you are asking her to dance to BEFORE you ask her to dance. I mean that just because there is music playing, its actually rather helpful for you to have some understanding of what you’re listening to, and then ‘dancing’ to. Far too often men wander around the floor, no where close to the walking beat of the music. They think or believe that they need vocabulary to keep her entertained to ‘dance’ with her. This is NOT true. The thing you need to do, is walk her on the beat. Your mind in her feet. Which means that I don’t care what your feet are doing…what I care about is what her feet are doing, her feet are the metronome by which you dance. She’s the timekeeper her. She’s also the reflection of your ability to keep time. So for every beat in the music, her feet should be on the floor. It also helps if you can keep time in the music. If you think you can do that, I’ll bet you that you can’t. Far too often on a social dance floor I see, ‘wandering’ off the beat or something not even close to a beat. For help on finding the beat, see my previous article on how to hit the upbeat! It goes into finding the downbeat as well, which is what you want to walk on!

While its a little late to be thinking of private lessons at a milonga, but I do strongly suggest private lessons BEFORE you go out social dancing, and what you want to focus on is your embrace, posture, and walk. No, seriously. Not kidding about this one. Its not about the steps and the patterns, its just not. I know you think you can ‘dance’, I know you believe that you’ve taken a few classes with (fill in the blank), and they’ve pronounced you ‘passable’, or taught you some really cool and fancy moves that god him/herself would deem as ‘Yup! that’s pretty cool!”. The fact is, that your embrace is more than likely the source of half of your issues with followers. I am almost willing to bet its like a vice grip and that you just don’t realize it. I’ll go out on a limb here and even go so far as to say that perhaps you use your left arm as a metronome (bouncing up and down in time to the music), and/or on top of that, you’ve been told that you must have ‘resistance’ from her, she has to push into your hand, otherwise she’s just not doing it right. Am I Right ? There are some teachers that teach this, and there some are some of us that don’t. Some of us, actually engage in a conversation, and some of us, well…let’s just say its a monologue and leave it at that. Which is to say that most men, when they have the tables turned on them and their own embrace type and ‘style’ is mirrored back to them…they never want to do that again, ever. What we’re wanting is ‘intention’ based dancing. You think, she goes. Not…you PUSH or PULL and she goes! Imagine a ballon floating in front of you, now exhale…what happens to the ballon ? It floats away from you. Same thing here. You do not want to use your arms, or your hands, but rather your ‘core’ to SUGGEST movement. And speaking of core motions, this requires a ‘clean’ posture. That means being upright and not taking your chest away from your follower, among…..

“Ummm Miles ?”

Yes, is there a question ?

“Ummm, while I appreciate all this wonderful knowledge you’re spouting, but how on earth does this have anything to do with ASKING a WOMAN to DANCE ? I mean don’t get me wrong, Im sure this is all valid to someone, somewhere…and while you’re belaboring the point…ok I need to get some privates, I just don’t get why you’re going on and on and on about this noise! Look dude, how do I ask her to dance ?”.


Well, ahem…ummmm, let’s see now. Do you own a house, or live under some kind of a roof ?

“Yes. I have an apartment in the city”.

Good. What would happen if say, tomorrow morning, you awoke to find that half of your building had crumbled away in the night, so that from your bedroom, what’s left of it, you can now see the apartments above and below you and you now have a lovely vista of the rest of your city ? Would that be good ?

“Well the view would be nice, especially since there’s the hottie in 9A…, but ummm no!”

There’s a reason your apartment building crumbled over night. And that’s because the guy who built your building, his ‘foundation’ was poorly constructed, so much so that it literally eroded and the building collapsed in around it! That building is your dance, and that foundation, is your embrace, your posture, and your walk! Get the them cleaned up, reinforced, and made clear, and your dance won’t collapse around you in the first 3 steps! Because that’s exactly what will happen, if you’re not careful, especially with a more advanced and talented follower!

Enough preaching, this article was supposed to be about HOW TO ASK HER FOR A DANCE. And it is. But first, its about creating the right conditions for you to actually be able to dance with her once you actually get the dance. What you’re doing is creating the right ground work so that you have a successful tanda BEFORE asking her to dance!

Now to the QUESTION: HOW ????

The right and proper way to ask her for a dance is to stand or sit approx. 30 to 40 ft from her, and make concerted, direct eye contact with her. Its her choice at that point to accept or deny your invitation. Give her lots of space my friend. This is elegance in practice. There is a code of operation here and you want use it. Now mind you, sometimes its a little dark in these rooms, and the milonga organizer just doesn’t set up the room in such a way that you can actually send a cabeceo and actually have it seen. In BsAs its a little challenging in some rooms…but it does work.

What we’re looking for is this:

Understand something else, that if she says “NO”, that does not mean that you get up from your chair, and walk over to her and perform one of the 9 don’ts. No, no, no! Bad form. You simply move onto the next follower that you want to dance with. “NO” means “NO”. It unfortunately means NOT EVER, IN THIS LIFETIME. DON’T EVEN THINK IT! Now to be fair, that’s not entirely true, “NO” sometimes means NOT RIGHT NOW. How do you know the difference ? You don’t! Again, her call my friend, not yours. You’ve made your interest known at this point….move on. She’ll either pick up the ball later, or not. However, don’t sit there and be all mister pouty face, that’s not going to get you anywhere! This also means don’t ask again that night, again, at all. That also means that you don’t eyeball her all night long either! Once and let it go. Got it ? Trust me, she got the message.

Ok, now for a few exceptions to the rules.

1.) There are women out there, that a.) can’t see that well 10 feet in front of them, (furthermore neither can you my friend!) and/or b.) Do NOT understand what cabeceo is and how it works. I’ve heard stories of women that go to BsAs and don’t get that men are literally throwing spears at them in terms of cabeceo, and are completely oblivious to the practice, and yet when you ask them later, they’re like “Huh ???? What ? Cappa-what ?”. I’ve seen it happen, been party to it, and not surprised by it, its just a lack of understanding of the codigos and in some cases socially deliberate to feign ignorance. How do you know the difference ? You don’t. You have to take people at the word until proven otherwise. Which is to say, if she declines your invitation, and then accepts someone else’s and then later on claims to be ignorant of the codigos…draw your own conclusions from there. To be fair there are some men who will not take ‘no’ as an answer, and will walk across the floor and extend their hands to her and get ‘the’ dance. Think nothing of it. Let’s just say that if you watch her face while she’s dancing with him, that should tell you everything you need to know about what she’s enduring at that juncture!

2.) If you know her FAIRLY well, are on better than speaking terms with her, and have hung out with her, then you can verbally ask her for a dance.

3.) If you’ve just been introduced to her, you can verbally ask her for a dance right then and there.

4.) If you’ve been seated at her table (Mostly for BsAs folks), you can ask her for a dance, and truth be told I believe you’re expected to dance at least ONE tanda with her, it would be rude not to do so. There are even exceptions to this ‘suggestion’.

5.) If you have a friend that knows her fairly well, you can ask for an introduction but that’s about it, and then employ rule #2.

Having said all of that….breathe, smile, cabeceo. See what happens!

[note: this is a companion piece to “Asking a Man To Dance”]