Codigos (Codes)

 

Behavior on the dance floor

  1. *Talking during the introduction of a song is accepted. Talking while dancing is not. Dancers are expected to honor the dance by focusing on the dance and the music, not talking. It is also considered impolite to speak to friends or people off the dance floor while you are on the floor with your partner during cortinas. The tanda shared only by the couple until it is over.


* Dancing begins when the couple connects with the music and each other. Milongueros never begin dancing as soon as they hear the music.


* Leaders propose the embrace as the signal that he is ready to begin the dance. Followers wait for this signal.


* Generally when you agree to dance with someone you are agreeing to dance the length of the tanda. However, if you wish to stop dancing with your partner, do so by thanking them at the end of the song. “Thank you” in tango means “thank you, no more.” Likewise, no one changes partners in the middle of a tanda.


* Good leaders always dance at the level of the follower they are dancing with. It is rude to dance above her level to impress her, show off to others, or boost one’s ego.


* Teaching on the dance floor is strictly forbidden. It disrupts the flow of the dance floor and is disrespectful to your partner. Not only does it establish power relations, but it generally ends up offending and hurting people’s feelings. Even a well-intended comment can ruin your partner’s evening, leaving them feeling uncomfortable and undervalued. If you feel a need to instruct, save it for a practica, and make sure your advice is solicited.


* Never ask for advice, corrections, or teaching on the dance floor from anyone. Milongas are not the place for instruction... save it for classes and practicas.


  1. *No one likes being kicked, run into, hit, or stepped on, so avoid aggressive movements, high boleos, hard-hitting ganchos, jumps, leg sweeps and leg extensions. Leaders be conscious of your left arm being extended far enough that it may hit someone. Milongas are supposed to be safe places where people can dance freely and comfortably. Dance in a way to ensure that for everyone.

  2. *

* If a collision occurs, be polite and friendly, make eye contact and acknowledge the collision even if it was not your fault. If it was clearly your fault, apologize at the end of the song.


Behavior off the floor and other info

* When getting up to dance do not obstruct the dance floor or the path of others with your

chair.* Be aware not to obstruct someone’s line of vision. This is a frustration for those not dancing and trying to cabeceo.


* If you are not dancing, show respect to those who are by not walking through the crowded

dance floor or standing on the floor talking. Loud conversations and partying can be a distraction for the dancers. Priority is given to the dancers dancing. Argentine Tango is an intimate and elegant dance. For a pleasant experience, good hygiene is essential. Bathe before dancing and use deodorant. Use breath fresheners often. Do not over do the use of perfume or aftershave – some people are sensitive to them. If you perspire, use a towel or handkerchief often. If you perspire heavily, use a towel, take a break and cool down, bring an extra shirt, and change into it at halftime. If you wear glasses, consider contact lenses or removing your glasses while dancing unless you can’t see where you’re going.


Códigos (Codes)

The códigos (codes) or tango dance etiquette, developed over many years to create a pleasant dance experience in the milongas.

When followed, these rules maximize choice, freedom, and pleasure dancing while avoiding embarrassing, awkward, and unsafe situations in the dance hall and on the dance floor.


The Structure of the Milonga

As milongas (tango dance parties) transitioned from live orchestras to music played by a DJ, a tradition evolved of playing music in sets, called tandas, separated by cortinas (literally "curtain," such as the dropping of a curtain between acts of a theatrical play). Tandas are sets of 3 or 4 songs played by one orchestra. Tango tandas are usually 4 songs sets, while Vals and Milonga tandas are 3 songs. Tandas normally consist of music from the same orchestra, in the same era, and the same singer if there is one. This gives the dancers assurance of what music will play throughout the tanda. The cortina between tandas is a short piece of non-tango music. It is polite to dance a full tanda with one person. However, if you begin dancing partway through a tanda you still end at the cortina.

The cortina signals the end of the tanda and is the time to returnpartners to their seats and clear the dance floor. Do not dance during the cortinas. It is rude to monopolize a dancer for more than two successive tandas unless you are a couple that only dances with each other. It is also considered rude to ask someone to dance during the cortina, before the dancers hear what music is coming up next.


The Cabeceo

The cabeceo is perhaps one of the most important codes of all. It is the way that people invite and agree to dance together. It is a system of mutual respect and delicacy. Leaders invite the followers from a relative distance by catching her eye and nodding. If she would like to accept the invitation she will nod back. If the follower does not want the invitation to dance, she will subtly look away (or not look his way in the first place).

This system ensures that followers are not dancing out of obligation, and leaders do not have their advances rejected or their feelings hurt. Everyone is dancing with whom they choose and thus enjoying their night. In the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires,

inviting a follower verbally at her table is rude and often rejected. The cabeceo is a subtle art based on mutual respect and desire. Advancing toward a follower and nodding aggressively at her defeats the whole purpose of cabeceo. The leader makes his request from a distance and makes sure there is a mutual desire to dance on her part. Once she agrees to his request he walk to meet her at the edge of the floor closest to her table, and the couple will dance the tanda together. Do not cut across the floor or disturb other dancers who have already entered the floor; treat the dance floor as a sacred space. At the end of the tanda, the leader will accompany her back to her chair or to the edge of the floor where they met. Leaving her in the middle of the floor is rude. The cabeceo happens at the beginning of the tanda, not during a cortina. This way, everyone is aware of what kind of music they are committing to. Talking and not paying attention at the beginning of a tanda will often result in missing the tanda entirely. In general, followers stay in the same seat throughout the night so that they are easily located by leaders. In traditional milongas, men and women wanting to dance with different partners at the milonga are seated across from each other to allow for cabeceo. Couples who only dance with each other sit at their own table together, and other dancers in the salon will usually not cabeceo them.


Rules of the road

  1. *The dance proceeds counter-clockwise around the dance floor. Typically there is an outside lane and often a second and third inside lane.

  2. *

* Navigating in a peaceful, cooperative way ensures that everyone is feeling safe and able to focus on their partners and their dance and not having to spend their time protecting their partners from potential harm.

The following protocol is very similar to driving on a highway:


* Leaders, if you are entering the floor when people are dancing it is considerate to make eye contact with the leader that you want to dance in front of. He will make eye contact with you and nod his permission to enter the floor. This way he will know you are there and provide space for you to dance. Followers, leaders are responsible for your safety, so allow your partner to lead you on to the dance floor when he deems it safe to do so.


* The dance floor is a communal space. Leaders stay aware of the couples around you. Take note of the speed that the couples are moving collectively and dance within the established speed of the floor, filling gaps ahead of you, while not tailgating the couple in front of you. If possible, keep two steps behind the person in front of you. That way if they need to back up they can.


  1. * On crowded dance floors, stopping for long periods of time to do numerous dance patterns is rude since it stops the line of dance and will frustrate leaders behind you. This is similar to stopping on the autobahn.

  2. *

  3. **We only pass a couple under extreme circumstances, not as a general rule. If a dance couple in front of you stops, be patient and dance in place until they move. If they are there for a very long time, you can choose to dance around them if you have space.

  4. *

*  Refrain from cutting across lanes or weaving from lane to lane.

* Do not cut through the center of the floor.


  1. *Leaders never back up against the line of dance unless they have to. However, if absolutely necessary, one step back is alright if there is space.

  2. *

  3. *Do not take large steps that take you into a neighboring lane or too close to the person dancing next to you. Everyone needs their space respected so that they can dance in comfort without feeling encroached upon.

  4. *

* In traditional milongas, show-boating in the middle of the floor (or anywhere else) is not a respected activity. In a social context, milongueros firmly believe that tango is danced for yourself and your partner only –never for an audience. They dance for each other and what they are creating. They do not diminish their dance by using it in the service of their egos.

Tango dancers often attend workshops more advanced than their level. Some of the reasons for this are:

Students 1. overestimate their ability and mistakenly believe no one will notice.

2. Students mistakenly believe they will learn faster.

3. Students think more advanced dancers only need to learn advanced patterns.

4. Students want to only dance with “better” dancers.


The problem is, students who do this fail to realize that:

1. It hinders instructors from completing their class objectives.

2. It frustrates and angers students who have met the criteria and now have to struggle with students who have jumped their level of expertise.

3. It decreases the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the class.

What level tango dancer you are depends on many factors, including:

1. Number of years you have been actively dancing tango.

2. Whether you are a leader or follower - learning to lead usually takes longer than learning to follow.

3. Quantity and quality of classes and workshops you have taken - i.e. learning from tango videos offers no instructor feedback.

4. Quality and focus of teachers you have studied with - i.e. learning and dancing

“close embrace” is quite different than “open embrace.”

5. How long and how often you practice.

6. Who you dance and practice with. Thus it is difficult to write a precise guideline to determine each student’s exact level of tango expertise. However, with the intent of providing some guidance, and to try to help everyone get the most out of workshops, we provide the following guidelines of minimum criteria.


What level class should I take? What level Argentine Tango dancer am I?


Absolute Beginner

Has had zero to four months of weekly lessons and practice in Argentine Tango. This includes advanced professional grand champion dancers

who have not yet studied Argentine Tango.


Beginner Level Argentine Tango Dancer


Has had four months to one year of weekly lessons and practice in Argentine Tango. Can recognize and walk on the beat of traditional

Argentine tango, vals, and milonga


Minimum Criteria for

Intermediate Argentine Tango Dancer


Has completed beginner level criteria and has been dancing Argentine Tango weekly for at least two years.

Understands open and close embrace and can dance comfortably in both.

Leaders can maintain line of dance and wait for the follower to complete her step before leading another.

Followers collect and wait for the lead.

Can correctly and consistently execute the following steps solo and with a partner in time to the music while maintaining their own axis and balance:

• walking forward and backward

• side steps

• check-step turns

• cruzada

• back ocho

• forward ocho

• ocho cortado

• molinete clockwise and counter-clockwise


Minimum Criteria for

Advanced Argentine Tango Dancer


Has been dancing Argentine Tango weekly for at least three years.

Has mastered all the criteria listed above.

Can lead/follow from the chest only

Can interpret the musicality of tango, vals and milonga - dancing to the beat as well as the melody.

Can dance using syncopia, cadencia, and traspie.

Can adequately adapt to the level and style of any partner.

What level class should I take?

What level Argentine Tango dancer am I?