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The 10 Important Rules in TANGO!

Updated: 2 days ago

Source: Artango Dance School

Rule # 1- RESPECT

Respect – your partner, your partner’s level of dancing, the people around you, the music or orquesta ,the culture and heritage of tango. Respect the line of dance. It is counterclockwise. If you are interfering with it, move to the middle.


Personal Hygiene – is essential for an enjoyable dancing experience. Bad breath, body odor and excessive perspiration are common offenders. Be sensitive to your fellow dancers. Excessive use of cologne or any chemical can be just as offending, and never a replacement for bathing and antiperspirant. If you have a cold or flu, please stay home until you are better.

Rule # 3 - TEACHING

Teaching – Teaching your partner is never acceptable during a milonga. It interferes with the line of dance and diminishes the atmosphere for others. During a practica it is perfectly acceptable if and only if your partner asks you to. If you feel you must say something during a practica, be gentle and ask your partner if it’s OK to give a hint. BUT NO AT THE MILONGA!

Rule #4 - CABECEO

Cabaceo – In Buenos Aires, it is only the men who ask for a dance. Most big cities follow the Buenos Aires custom. The accepted way to invite a person to dance is to catch someone’s eye, smile and nod, perhaps raising your eyebrows in an inquiring expression or directing a nod towards the dance floor. The response, if the invitation is accepted, is to smile and nod back, whereupon both people walk to the dance floor and dance. The purpose of the cabeceo, is to make the invitation to dance less stressful and the possibility to decline more discreet. Essentially you can avoid receiving or having to say a harsh verbal “No”. It spares everybody’s feelings. It is also acceptable for a gentleman to “walk-up” and ask someone to dance, but be sensitive to that person’s body language/eye contact in case they don’t want to dance. If you don’t succeed in catching a person’s eye and eliciting a smile, please don’t resort to positioning yourself squarely in front of a person so they can’t avoid looking at you. It is considered very rude. In short, Ladies, Don’t Ask.

Rule #5 - SAYING NO

Saying No – There’s a double standard here. We didn’t make the rules. The best way to avoid dancing with someone is to avoid eye contact. If that doesn’t work, then a lady should say no sincerely and put herself in a time out for the remainder of that tanda. A gentleman may say “I’d love to dance with you later. I’ll come and get you when I’m ready” or “I’m flattered but my masculine ego demands that I do the asking” and then immediately ask someone else to dance. Certain people will never dance with you. Nobody has an obligation to dance with everybody. It’s very much a consensual privilege and not a moral duty.

Rule #6 - THANK YOU

Thank You – Thank you is customary at the end of a tanda. It is the code for “I’m finished dancing with you.” If you say it in the middle of a tanda, it’s over. If you want to keep dancing with the same partner for the rest of the tanda, express your pleasure in different words. If neither person says thank you at the end of the tanda, you are likely to continue dancing. 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. The proper response to “thank you” is “thank you”, not “you’re welcome.”

Rule #7 - DRESS

Dress appropriately for the occasion. For milongas that means dress up. For practicas dress comfortably. Wear shoes with heels that tilt your weight to the balls of your feet so you can pivot easily. If you wear jewelry or accessories or glasses, make sure they do not harm your partner while dancing.


Floor craft – You are dancing with everyone on the floor, not only your partner. Each person should be consciously aware of who is around them, and is responsible for keeping the floor safe. Dancers already on the dance floor have the right-of-way. Limit passing. Don’t hold up traffic. The floor is constantly moving forward. Don’t be the cause of a traffic jam. Make moves that are appropriate to the conditions on the dance floor. In a crowded situation keep your feet and your partner’s feet close to the floor, no ganchos or boleos. When two couples bump into each other on the floor, it is polite to apologize regardless of who is at fault. Traditionally, in Argentina, the error is always laid on the leader’s shoulders.

Rule #9 - TALKING

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 concentrate on the steps at the same time.” Talking while dancing is especially inappropriate when there is a live band. In general both conversation and dancing improve when not done simultaneously. You are encouraged to chat between songs in a tanda. Often people introduce themselves or just exchange pleasantries. If you are talking to someone off the dance floor, be careful not to block their cabaceo and prevent other people from asking them to dance.

Rule #10 - Gentleman and Lady

Gentlemen – Leaders behave like gentlemen. They escort their partners on and off the dance floor.

Lady - Walking into someone’s arms while he’s coming off the dance floor is not acceptable. If you’ve accepted a cabaceo from him, wait at the edge of the floor until he comes to escort you. Grabbing someone, on or off the dance floor, is also not an acceptable means of getting a dance. Asking or grabbing a man who has already said no to you once is extremely annoying for him.


Some Advice

By Artango Dance School

- Do not lift your feet off the floor. Learn to slide, use the drag (arrastre) of the music.

- Do not talk while dancing ... learn to feel.

- Do not dance in function of yourself; learn to live together with your partner.

- Do not dance with anyone, learn to choose.

- Do not keep anything to yourself, learn to share.

- Do not hang yourself on the leader. Learn to control your balance.

- Do not walk even one step backward. Fall back and push yourself forward, learn to navigate.

- Do not use force, learn to lead

- Do not think which step to do, learn to improvise.

- Do not move your arm when you dance, move your feet.

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2 Σχόλια

Richard Robles
Richard Robles
06 Ιουν 2023

A very well written and thorough synopsis. I do have one exception which leads to another exception. When an aspect of one country's culture is assimulated by another country, it never remains the same. Tango is not a dance, it's not an art form, and it is certainly not ballroom; it is a culture. Circling the dance floor in a counter-clockwise rotation is a Euopean and U.S. amalgamation. Go to the Club Gricel, La Viruta, the Sunderland, etc. in Buenos Aires (not the tourist traps like Senor Tango) and there is no rotation. This rotation comes from the influence of Northern Hemisphere ballroom dancing. If your dancing Villa Urquiza, Milongero, or Apilado you find your spot on the floor…

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Greg Weir
Greg Weir
30 Μαρ 2023

On Third Party Permission:

As a couple, it may not be necessary to 'get permission' from your spouse or S.O. before accepting an invitation or cabeceo from another dancer, but it's good practice to coordinate with each other beforehand 'when' you are interested in dancing with others.

This will avoid one partner in a couple from being blind-sided if their partner decides they want to ask, or accept a cabeceo, then running off at the last second when a tanda starts. This gives their partner a chance to cabeceo someone else so they're not stuck on the sidelines.

Another thing to consider is, some tango songs are actually quite romantic and may have a special meaning to a couple, so…

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