Tango Argentino > Milonga Etiquette

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by DanceMentor, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    So I haven't been to too many milongas, but one thing I learned recently was that you stay with the same partner for a whole set of music. You don't change partners after each song. Let me know if you disagree, and also what else might be helpful to know in terms of etiquette.

    One partner told me this when I stopped. Then I said, well let's go back out, and she said that would be strange, because you only stop if you just can't dance anymore. I didn't completely get it, but maybe I have a lot to learn.
  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I am not sure what you mean by "disagree" since it is not a matter of opinion. :) If a DJ plays music by sets, you are supposed to pick up a partner in the beginning of the set, and stay with her for the duration of the whole set.
    Either of the partners can break the set under some special circumstances. Not finishing the set without a reason is considered disagreeable or even rude. ( That is why you are supposed to choose your partner carefully. It is an 11 min commitment :) ) You excuse yourself from the partnership by saying "thank you".

    A set is called a tanda and usually consists of 4 songs ( 3 for milongas and, at times, for valses) by the same orchestra/period/singer/similar mood . Between the tandas the DJ plays a piece of music that does not belong into tango category. That signals a break in dancing, and is called a cortina.

    There are dance gatherings (they may call themselves milongas, alternative milongas or practicas) where the music is not played in tandas and cortinas.
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I don't get it either.
    If you don't dance the entire set of music, usually 3-4 of similar style, called a "tanda," and separated by a "cortina," (think the curtain falls, ending the scene) it is likely to be perceived as you being so unsatisfied with your partner that you don't want to continue until the cortina; an slight of sorts.

    To leave and come back would have been noticed by others, and maybe she just didn't want to deal with it, having already been sort of insulted.

    Hey, come on, maybe you should read more stuff in the AT section!

    You know about asking for dances by using eye contact and a slight nod of the head?
    A lot of the other stuff is pretty similar to plain ole social graces, except maybe in Spanish.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    If somebody broke a tanda and then said "let's go back and finish", I would decline too. If I wish to dance with that person in the future, I rather dance a different tanda later on.
    It may have nothing to do with the insult. My partner may have a good reason to excuse himself ( wardrobe malfunction, bathroom emergency or such).
    A tanda is not 4 separate songs. It is a story with the beginning, buildup/development, finale. A good DJ did not throw those songs together at random. It is a work of art for you to enjoy as a whole and create your own work of art along with your partner.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  5. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Well, let me first say that I try to understand etiquette so that I would not be rude. That said, I can't think of any situation at other dance events where I would ever feel easily insulted. You have to do a lot to insult me, and I really don't have this feeling as part of my dance emotional vocabulary.

    If someone wants to stop dancing with me for any reason, I'm okay with that. It would even be fine for them to proceed to dance with someone else, and I will do the same. I don't expect someone to provide me a valid explanation, as we are both adults.

    Now if they "say" something rude to me or about, that is a little different, but that rarely happens. In such a case, I tend to be the forgiving sort unless there is pattern of insults or problems.

    From my perspective, I certainly don't want to dance with people that might be easily offended. I'm a pretty open person, and sometimes don't do as well when there are a lot of rules. Of course, now I understand better how it works, and I might suggest to my partner as I did the first time, that I am new and open to any help or suggestions. For example, I may not see clearly this "tanda" is a work of art yet.

    I don't know about the nod and eye contact. Please post a link or reply here if you can.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
  6. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    The good news is that, at any case, in a milonga you will mostly get to dance with people who feel about tango in a similar way you do. :)
    DanceMentor likes this.
  7. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Your last sentence is precisely why the first one doesn't make sense. If one were to break a tanda, yes, it could be for either number of reasons, and therefore, if that person desired to complete the tanda after whatever, to me, refusing would be rather rude.

    Firstly, re the milonga/tanda thing; I believe your partner was inapropos. Understanding that you stopped because you weren't aware of the proper etiquette, the proper thing to do would have been to forgive you, and move on. So what if you returned to the floor. Actually, it would have appeared more favorably; indicating that there was nothing wrong with the dance, and that the partnership was continuing.

    Secondly, I agree that educated DJs arrange tandas in a well studied order, and that it is the 'custom' of 'tango' in BsAs (Buenos Aires) to dance the tanda in sets of 4 (3 being a new and still fairly new thing). In the US, tandas of 3 are more common (mostly b/c dancing with the same partner for 4 songs just seemed too odd for Amers). And, here lay the problem; inconsistency. If we are accepting of bending the norm to accommodate our own re numbers of dances, dance positions, music, etc., then 'who' and 'why' decides 'which' ones we cannot bend? WTH is the big deal with; only dancing 3 songs instead of 4, not finishing a complete tanda, passing a inattentive or slow couple, not using the miradita/cabeceo, or other Argentine rules? I understand wanting to assimilate, adhere to, and maintain tango custom (it simply adds to the entire affair; I'm all for it). However, this is not BsAs, and if we are going to welcome others into AT, and grow this community, then we are going to have to not be such tango snobs, and learn to blend the 2 cultures appropriately.

    Please do not give up on AT, DM. There aren't that many norms and morays to learn, or that really are important. It is more important to simply learn the dance. I still argue with seasoned AT veterans about proper milonga etiquette. Far too many; treat practicas like milongas, treat milongas like practicas or, worse, classes, dance show tango at milongas, and more. Continue to learn, and enjoy.
    ocean-daughter and Zoopsia59 like this.
  8. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    When I have time I will attend more Milongas. There are plenty of opportunities here in OC. I promise. :)
  9. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    You what??
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I'm really surprised that your teacher didn't explain about tandas to you.
    Lois Donnay likes this.
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah... Teaching the cultural aspects of "Argentine Tango," when there seem to be a significant number of venues which cultivate those differences, even though it ends up being a mixed bag of acceptance/rejection of different aspects, is essential to be part of the community.

    Maybe there should be a motto; Argentine Tango - it ain't just a dance.

    Ok. Well, maybe not.
    ocean-daughter likes this.
  12. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    It is worth remembering that the rules of the milonga etiquette don't exist for their own sake. The ultimate goal is not to do everything by the rues, but enjoy dancing to the maximum and make your partner happy, without interfering with others' enjoyment at the same time.
    If your partner tells you that she would enjoy much more the full tanda later rather than dancing the tail end of the interrupted one (let alone that going on and off the floor during a tanda will create interference for others in many cases). You may consider it a poor excuse and rude. OK. Then probably in the future you will be dancing not with each other but with people who enjoy tango the same way you do. :)
    Or, perhaps she would agree to finish and try to enjoy it your way. It may be a success or it may feel "strange" for her or for both of you. In the end it is all decided matter of factly. People want to dance, but it is not unconditional.
  13. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    It does not say anywhere that he even went to class. :)
  14. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Appeared more favourably to whom? I have to admit i am all with their partner - not because i consider the etiquette to be quite functional, but because i would have mentally finished the tanda - i would find it hard to get back into the flow. It would be like getting up in a restaurant, paying, and leaving, and on the sidewalk being asked by my partner if i wanted to go back and have the cheesplate and dessert. I have left the dancefloor early for all kinds of reasons (including a few times when the DJ took exceedingly long between songs in a long tanda and we thought it was over), and i never quite had the mental energy to get back once i had left.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  15. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Gssh, well said. At the same time, it does not mean she had to be offended or judging him. It was clearly a misunderstanding.
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Oh, i did not read it as her being offended, and him wondering why she was offended, but more as him being puzzled/bemused (very slightly offended?) and him asking here because he found her behaviour incomprehensible/nonsensical - but this is probably a function of my experiences when talking about etiquette - my experience has been that people more often are dismissive/critical about me keeping the codigos than people who like the codigos (me :) ) being actually (overly :) - i try) judgmental about people not following them - but then i am very much a live and let live person who is more concerned about what i do than what others do. I have to admit i have been surprised how aggressively some people want to enforce "non-codigos" - if you don't believe in rules it should not matter that much to you what i do.
    Mladenac and Lilly_of_the_valley like this.
  17. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I would have gone back on the floor with him--it was clearly a misunderstanding from a new-to-AT dancer. I would rather encourage them, even if it's a little jarring.

    DM, a couple other things to be aware of: it's generally considered rude to pass, although as someone mentioned above it's sometimes done here in the US if someone is being slow. So, try not to be so slow as to constantly slow down/stop the flow of traffic. When you go to ask someone to dance, make sure she's making eye contact with you, then ask her nonverbally--like raising your eyebrows, inclining your head toward the dance floor, or in some way that makes sense to you indicate you'd like to dance. If she won't look at you, don't ask her. Don't walk up to her and grab her hand, etc.

    Do get to know the customs at your milonga(s). Some are more traditional than others.
  18. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    I have been to maybe 5 classes in my life including that night, took 2 private lessons from a famous couple, and went to an Argentine Tango event as a vendor. Never heard it until the other night.
  19. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Another good news is that nowadays there is a lot of info on line available, not about milonga etiquette in general, but it is also possible to find info on the mores and customs of a specific milonga. :)
  20. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    "...not about milonga etiquette in general" -- I meant "not only", sorry.

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