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Guide to Social Tango

Milongas and Prácticas

A milonga is a dance party where people dance argentine tango socially.

A practica is a dance gathering where you can try new things, work on specific moves, or ask friends to show you things. It’s OK to offer helpful feedback if your partner doesn't mind.

A milonga isn’t the place to critique someone’s dancing, not even if you’re trying to be helpful. The proper place to teach someone a new move is at a practica.​

The music at a Milonga

At OpenTango we play traditional and alternative tango music without following the tanda structure. Tandas are a set of three or four songs by the same orchestra from the same period – and you’ll hear three types of music: tango, vals and milonga. Usually you’ll hear two sets of four tangos, one set of three valses, two sets of four tangos, and one set of three milongas, in repeating cycles.

In between tandas, DJs usually play a cortina – a short piece of non-tango music. This tells dancers the tanda is over and a new one is about to begin. During the cortina, everyone is expected to clear the floor. The next tanda will be a different style of music and is danced with a new partner.

How to ask someone to dance in a milonga

At Albuquerque OpenTango we encourage to have an open dialogue with dancers and ask verbally to dance. However, in milongas many dancers invite using cabeceo: you invite someone to dance by catching their eye, smiling and nodding, or perhaps raising your eyebrows inquiringly and nodding towards the dance floor. You accept this invitation by smiling and nodding back. Then both of you walk to the dance floor and dance. 

This discretion allows the possibility of declining without having to say "no".

Cabeceo can be initiated by both leaders and followers. It is expected that you will dance until the end of the tanda with the same person (a tanda is typically 3-4 songs). It is appropriate to say “thank you” at the end of the tanda, but not in between songs, as that is the indication you want to excuse yourself and stop dancing. If someone stinks of drink, smells bad, behaves obnoxiously, starts teaching on the floor or is physically hurting you because of a bad embrace, it is OK to excuse yourself - even if it’s in the middle of a song.

Invite someone to dance after the tanda starts (see The music at a Milonga)! This way if it's a song you don't like or type of Tango you don't know how to dance (like Milonga or Vals) - you can simply relax and watch other dancers


A small note – if you want to dance, make it obvious – do look up and around you.

La Ronda and navigation

Couples follow a "line of dance", moving anti-clockwise around the floor. Often there is more than one line of dance

Ask before merging Before stepping onto a crowded dance floor, if you are in the leading role, make eye contact with the leader whom you wish to enter the floor in front of. That leader should understand your request and indicate their assent with a nod or wink, and you may then enter the line of dance.

Maintain a lane There may be one or more concentric lanes (lines of dance) moving simultaneously. If you choose to dance in the center of the room, remain there throughout the song. If you dance in a given lane, finish the song in that same lane. If you are a beginner dancer and are not yet comfortable dancing in the outer lane, it’s okay to move to inside the ronda

Look before backing up

Avoid passing

No parking Standing and chatting with your partner between songs is fine, but keep an awareness of when the couples around you start dancing again and move accordingly. 

Don’t monopolize the space If a floor is crowded, dance small, not taking up any more space than any of your fellow dancers. If the floor is not crowded, and you are so inclined, dance large.

Avoid dangerous moves Certain moves, such as high boleos, can be dangerous on a crowded floor. Save them for less crowded conditions.

Enjoy dancing in silence! Talking while dancing might be distracting for you, for your partner or the other dancers on the floor. Save the conversation for when the music stops.

Dance with the room Endeavor to dance with an awareness of all the dancers around you. Do not allow gaps in the line of dance in front of you to form, as this will cause a pileup of dancers behind you. When the music begins, start dancing when the majority of other dancers do.

When collisions happen make eye contact to acknowledge the collision, and then apologize even if it’s not your fault.

Accompany your partner back to their seat or at least back to the edge of the dance floor at the end of the tanda.

Making friends and making advances

The tango embrace is a privilege, not an opportunity. If flirtation and advances aren’t consensual or reciprocated, they should cease. Close embrace is by mutual informed consent. If a beginner is uncomfortable dancing in close embrace, don’t push it.

Anyone made to feel uncomfortable by unwanted advances should talk to someone who’s been in the scene for a while to see if the matter can be resolved diplomatically and discreetly, or even decisively. It is important that everybody feels safe and comfortable.

Something to keep in mind for other events, even though Albuquerque OpenTango disagrees

Repeated tandas with the same partner (who is not your significant other) are a sign of tango nirvana and true love. The other may like or even love the way you dance, but have other reasons. You can unwittingly create a feeling of obligation to “make” their night.  In traditional Buenos Aires multiple tandas have a special meaning--let's consummate this tango adoration. 

Often followers are referred to as women or ladies with the use of she/her pronouns and leaders are referred to as men with the use of he/his pronouns; i.e.: women’s technique class. At Albuquerque OpenTango we encourage to refer to leaders and followers as they/them and to not assume that a woman only follows or a man only leads.

Guide to Social Tango: FAQ
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