Did you take your first steps in the classroom and about to go on the dance floor? Congrats!
As every community, tango has its own social codes, You will gain a lot from simple observation wherever you go, or to ask to the other participants there (great ice-breaker: Hi! I am new here, do you have any tips to make it easier for me to dance, and for my partner to enjoy?). 
In case you want to be a bit prepared, or refresh your memory, here comes the most common tango customs and codigos on the tango social dancefloor.

If you want to dance and practice in a relaxed and safe space, join our Sunday Tango Practica, we do our best to keep things relaxed and freindly.

Hygiene in tango göteborg

1. Hygiene

Given the intimate nature of tango, it is respectful for our dance partners to care about our hygiene when going out to dance. Take a shower, brush your teeth and avoid strong perfumes. 


2 “Vamos a la practica” to practice

The tango practica is a gathering to practice what we learn in the classes, and to explore (like our Sunday Practica). Come solo or with a partner, you are sure to meet other dancers anyway. The ambiance, and dress code are usually relaxed. A playlist with or without cortinas (see below) plays a variety of tangos, vals and milongas, and maybe some alternative music (non-tango music which works to dance tango). A la practica, you can stop on the dancefloor, talk, and share experiences on the dancefloor. 

3 “Vamos a la Milonga” to dance! 

“La milonga” is the tango party! One can grab the opportunity to dress up nicely and come open to socialize, and dance with different partners. A Tango DJ plays the music and manages the energy on the dance floor. At the milonga, feedback and focused exploration are usually perceived as party-poopers. It is time to let go, and to surrounder to the music in the embrace of your partners.  A la Milonga, dive into the essence of tango by connecting with your emotions, your partner and the energy of the whole room!

no teaching tango on the dance floor tango göteborg

4. Tandas & cortinas

When the Tango was born, there were a lot more men than women in Buenos Aires. To make sure that everyone gets to dance, the maximum amount of dances a couple could dance together was 3 or 4.  This batch of songs that can be 4 tangos, 3 tango vals (the tango version of waltz), or 3 milongas (a related dance with a faster tempo) if followed with a “cortina”. Cortina means curtain in Spanish and is a short piece of music (30 to 60 seconds) that has nothing to do with tango music. This marked the end of the tanda and was the time to thank our partner, and leave the dance floor together. 

As a result the traditional music structure of the dance evening is:
4 TANGOS | Cortina | 4 TANGOS | Cortina I 3 VALSES | Cortina
4 TANGOS | Cortina | 4 TANGOS | Cortina I 3 MILONGAS | Cortina and repeat

Observe that this structure may vary depending on the personal preferences of the DJ and/or the organizers. 

To keep things short – when the music is different and that everyone else is leaving the dance floor, it is time to change partner, unless you both want to dance a tanda more! 

5. Breaking a tanda

Traditionally, one dances with the same partner until the end of the tanda. “Breaking a tanda” means walking out from the dance floor before the end of the tanda. It is a strong act that happens because the inappropriate behavior of someone upon an other (offensive, disrespectful, or bulling behavior), or because you suddenly feel unwell and need to go to the bathroom 😉 

6. When to invite someone to dance according to the traditional tango customs and codigos?

Try to wait until the first song of the tanda starts before inviting someone to dance. It is nice to aim to invite a dancer you know, or guess that you will enjoy dancing with to that specific tanda.  Traditionally, invitations happen during the first  song or the second song of a tanda. However, if you do not know the person and feel unsecure about dancing a whole tanda, inviting at the start of the third, or fourth song is a good strategy to relieve the pressure of performing for 4 songs.

7. How to invite someone?

The “cabeceo” is a nod we do when someone sends us a “mirada”, a look that indicates the intention to invite us to dance. It is a bit the swipe right of the tango. Like on Tinder, I look at you, you look at me, we have a match and get to dance together. 

Traditionally the cabeceo was used to give the possibility to decline a dance without hurting the ego. It is also a  way to create an emotional connection. In practice, it can feel awkward it is one of the most controversial tango custom. In local tango communities, where people know each other well, it is often fine to ask someone to dance verbally. If you are new in a scene, take some time to observe how people invite each other. In any case, if you do not get to dance at all, try to show interest in people and initiate discussions. It usually helps to find dance buddies. Note that despite what the picture suggests, women share the responsibility to initiate the invitation. 

tango cabeceo mirada invite to dance tango göteborg

What if my invitation is rejected?

With or without cabeceo, you (and your potential partners) always have the choice to say yes or no to a dance. Maybe you would prefer to dance to this specific music with someone else. Maybe you prefers not to dance this tanda at all. Reasons are all personal and decisions should be respected.  In any case, don’t keep staring at someone until they can’t avoid looking at you any longer. Similarly, don’t try to shame someone who declined verbally your invitation. It is not a nice sensation to feel forced nor is it to feel that you are forcing someone to dance, as subtle it may be.

Beginner tricks

If you are a complete beginner, you have the perfect catching line… “Hi, I am new here, would you mind giving me some tips to develop in my dance?”. 

8. How to enter the dance floor?

Tango is danced following the walls of the room, counterclockwise. The dance floor is divided into lines called “rondas”. Depending on the size of the room, you can have one, two, three or more rondas if it is a very big room. Observe where the other dancers are entering the dance floor and do the same. Often, it is from one corner of the room. Try to get eye contact with the approaching dancer. It is a sign that you would like to enter. If he/she sees you,  a light nodding gesture indicates that it is ok for you to start dancing in front.  

enter the dance floor tango göteborg
navigation codigos tango göteborg

9. How to navigate the dance floor?

Try to stay in your chosen line of dance and to keep a comfortable distance from the dancer in front of you. If there is a lot of space in front of you, dance forward to not block the dancers behind you. 

If the dancers in front of you are not moving and you need to overtake them, do it on the left side only (same as driving) AFTER checking that it is safe and that you won’t bump into someone (same as driving). You may stay in that line, or change back after the “obstacle”.

10. What to do if there is a collision and where to walk when you are not dancing?

It happens, no need to get upset or try to figure out who’s a fault it is. Try to have eye contact with the other couple involved and apologize to each other with a sign of the hand. 

proper tango behavior collision tango göteborg

 When you are not dancing, walk on the side of the dance floor only. Do not cross the dance floor, and keep in mind that dancers always have priority. 

11. THE BIRTHDAY VALS – the best of the tango tradition!!

In the culture of Argentine Tango, there is a sweet and fun tradition for the birthday person to dance one tango vals with the other dancers present that day, changing partners throughout the song.  

Keep in mind that those Tango customs and codigos are guidelines to be acquired over time and no one expects you to know them all from the moment to start dancing. Throw yourself out there with a smile, dare to make mistakes, to ask questions, and you will learn it all in no time!

Illustrations: Signature Les Pas Parfaits et dessins Véronique Paquette

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