Chatting while dancing
Some people like to concentrate on the dancing while others chatter constantly. If you are one of the former, it’s perfectly OK to say “sorry, I find it hard to talk and dance.” In general both conversation and dancing improve when not done simultaneously.
What to do in between songs
In between songs, you can let go of your partner; it feels a little odd to remain locked in the embrace when there is no music. Also you want to wait for the next song to start before resuming the embrace. Some leaders do like to stay in the embrace, and that’s ok too. The follower should not hang on if the leader is letting go.
Often people introduce themselves or just chat. Don’t be surprised if your dance partner does not introduce themselves now, or ever. It’s not considered necessary or important to the dance, although a lot of US people do it anyway.
If you enjoyed the dance you may be tempted to say “Thank you”. These words will be interpreted as “I’m done dancing with you and I will now return to my seat”, so they should be saved for the end of the tanda. Instead, say something pleasant like “that was nice” or make a friendly comment about their dancing style.
What to do during cortinas
At milongas, the DJ will often play a cortina between tandas. A cortina is a short piece (about 30 seconds) of non-tango music that tells the dancers this tanda is over and a new tanda is about to begin. The next tanda will be a different style of music and is normally danced with a new partner. The beauty of cortinas in Buenos Aires is thatabsolutely everybody thanks their partner and leaves the dance floor. This means that you can now choose who you will dance with next from among everybody present in the room, instead of having to limit yourself to whoever is sitting, or trying to predict (while sitting or dancing) when your favorite partner will become available for you.
On the other hand, if a crowd isn’t used to cortinas, they may stand there on the floor with their partner, looking doubtful about the danceability of what the DJ just threw on. Or worse, they may try to dance to the cortina. In Buenos Aires, this will brand you as a barbarian; around here it merely looks awkward.
Ending the series of dances with this partner or When and how to stop?
If one of the partners says “Thank You” at the end of a song, the other one responds in the same way and both move off the floor. It is customary to dance 3-4 dances with the same person before saying the magic phrase “thank you” and moving on. This is the standard way of doing things and nobody will think anything of it, especially if you say something nice like “thank you, that was lovely”, or “thank you, I need a little break, let’s dance again later”, etc.
If you drop a person before 3 dances, it will convey the message that you don’t enjoy dancing with them, and it should be done only if your inconvenience or impatience outweighs the rudeness you convey.
People sometimes dance more than one tanda, perhaps 2 sets or even 3. A good way to ease in the end is to ask your partner if they want to dance “another one”, and then the expectation is to part after the end of the next song. You still need to say Thank You.
What if we’re having so much fun we don’t want to stop?
If neither person says thank you and moves on, likely you will continue dancing with each other. If this goes on a long time, people may notice and start to think you want to monopolize each other. Market forces being what they are, people are more likely to notice this if they also want to dance with you. You don’t have to care what people think, but you should be aware of it. If there happens to be a gender imbalance, maybe you want to show community spirit and give your friends a chance to dance with your partner.
Of course none of this applies to dancing with your significant other or your special date. If there’s romance going on, or some other variation on lust, nobody can reasonably object to you being all over each other the whole night.
Interrupting people while they are dancing.
Very simple. Don’t. Not even to say hello when you arrive or leave. If you must acknowledge someone, a quick nod is the maximum. Your dance partner deserves your undivided attention. If you have some urgent need for information exchange, at least wait until a moment between songs, and keep it very brief.
What if a dance is an intolerable ordeal?
Generally, once we have agreed to dance, we complete the tanda (or three or four dances) with that person. It is considered rude not to complete the tanda. We do not break the tanda because of the person’s dancing skill.Generally, sweatiness and other discomforts that are simply a result of being close to another person is accepted in tango, and we do not break a tanda for these kinds of discomforts.
There are, however, times when we do break the tanda despite the fact it is rude. That would be: if the person is running into people (or furniture) a lot and you feel unsafe or unprotected dancing with them; if they are groping you or making you very uncomfortable in a way that is not part of the common tango embrace; if they are too drunk to dance.
Short of these rare situations, tolerate the situation with grace. Whatever you do, try not to frown too obviously and by all means don’t roll your eyes or make faces at your friends. Other potential partners will notice your rudeness and are sure to wonder if you do the same thing while dancing with them. Try closing your eyes or putting on your patient face until the ordeal is over.
One special case of leaving a partner on the dance floor.
There is one (and only one) routine situation in which a person will break the contract to dance with a partner or even break a tanda. Dancers with partners or girl/boy/friends almost always dance the last tanda of the evening together. If somehow they weren’t aware that the last tanda had begun, when they hear the music of the last song (which is always the same song, La Cumparcita) they should find each other for that last song. Everyone respects this custom and releases a dancer with enthusiasm to join their partner. So if you have just stepped onto the dance floor with a new partner and the dj announces it is the “last tanda of the evening” you should not be surprised or upset if they excuse themselves. If you are dancing with someone who you know has a partner, you should encourage them to leave you if they wish. There is no embarrassment in being left in this way because it is a ritual which everyone supports.
Traffic & Collisions
Please move around the dance floor in a counterclockwise direction and at the same speed as the other dancers. Don’t overtake, speed, zigzag or cut people off. Tango dance floors have lanes. Pick one and stay in it. The easiest one to stay in is in the outer lane. Try to move at the same speed as other dancers. If there is a lot of space ahead of you, that means there is a traffic jam behind you, in this case please move on and give the other dancers space.
Dancers have absolute right of way on the dance floor. Pedestrians are advised not to walk or loiter on the dance floor when not dancing.
Leaders should always protect their follower from impacts. this is always more important than completing your planned move.
If you do bump into someone, you should apologize, if not because you caused the collision, then because you failed to avoid it. The apology can be accomplished verbally or by making eye contact. Road rage is unacceptable.
If some furniture bumps into you, you should apologize to your follower and make sure s/he’s OK.