Backstreet Tango

Specializing in Social Argentine Tango

Tango Etiquette and Beyond Sexuality


Taken from:


At the end of a tanda, when you naturally finish dancing, it is polite to still say “Thank you”.

Do not continuously apologize to your partner if you make mistakes.

Do apologize if there is a collision with another couple - even if it wasn't your fault.

Always - ALWAYS! - be kind and supportive to beginners; it does not take much to scare someone away for life.

Milongas are not for practicing nor teaching.

Requesting a dance - whether verbally or otherwise - is done in a subtle and polite manner.

When entering the dance floor, dancers have right of way.

Walk around the dance floor, not through it.

The answer to being thanked after a dance is a return 'Thank you' - not 'You're welcome'.

Compliments go a long way to enjoying a milonga.

In between songs, talking is fine (in fact some would say smalltalk is almost obligatory) but do not keep the embrace locked.

If you did not particularly enjoy the dance, keep it to yourself.

If the tanda becomes intolerable, tough it out. It is the extreme height of rudeness to leave a tanda before it completes. If you do

remember that word gets around and reputations build quickly and you might have a hard time getting future dances.

When you finish dancing, leave the floor as quickly as possible, to ensure those staying on the dance floor are given their space.

Text Box: Milonga Etiquette for leads

Gentleman-like behavior is expected at all times.

When inviting a follower to dance, be aware of social queues: is she obviously resting? Is she engrossed in conversation? Is she avoiding your glance?

When you enter the dance floor, either do so between songs or where is a gap - dancers on the floor must not be disturbed in any way.

Move with the line of dance - counter clockwise.

If you are a man who soaks his shirt in sweat, take breaks to keep from overheating; or consider wearing a jacket or bringing a change of clothes.

The man must escort the woman on and off the floor.

Respect the space and safety of other dancers - particularly on a crowded floor.

Avoid collisions by managing your space carefully, including moving at the same speed at other dancers.

Do not 'tail-gate' other couples.

Do not overtake other couples.

Don't zig zag or continually weave in and out of 'dance lanes'.

If the dance is declined, accept gracefully.

If you are declined, don't 'baby-sit' ... ie don't sit next to the woman and start talking until she is ready.

Generally try to dance with a woman of your own level.

It is OK to ask a woman to dance even if she is with a partner - but generally when her partner is already on the floor. If she is with her partner, it is polite in an old-fashioned sense to ask his consent. (See if this couple is dancing with others or are only dancing as a couple.) In that case don’t intrude.  

Do not ask your partner to dance another tanda unless you are absolutely sure she wants to; tandas are intended as a natural mechanism to complete a dance, and requesting an extension is both impolite and pressures the follower unnecessarily.

Understand the code for a dance invitation - whether it is verbal or a head nod (cabeceo).

Wait until a follower has exited the dance floor before asking her to dance.

It’s considered rude to interrupt a follower deep in conversation to invite her to dance - try to determine first whether she is passively waiting for an invitation.

Never invite a follower to dance by extending your hand – If the head nod is not used politely ask, May I have the pleasure of this dance?' or a polite variation thereof is in order. 

Ensure you touch your partner appropriately, and not too forcefully.

If you choose to dance in the around the dance floor in the outer lanes, ensure you do not delay others behind you.

The lead should never engage the follower with steps that are beyond her; this will serve only to humiliate her.

Do not ask the follower to commit to steps or embellishments that could be a danger to other dancers, such as high boleos, dips and wide poses while in the traveling line of dance do those in the middle of the dance floor.

Remember that whilst relationships certainly evolve on and off the dance floor, tango is not a 'meat market'.

Be highly attentive to the follower's body language regarding the type of embrace she is comfortable with - some women, particularly beginners, may not welcome an intimate embrace - that intimacy must be earned. The leader chooses the frame of the embrace, but it is the follower's prerogative to determine its intimacy.

If the follower is not doing precisely what you thought you asked her, react appropriately to keep the flow of dance - do not force your follower to 'do it right'. Communication for the action-reaction dance steps is the lead's responsIbility to get right, even with beginners. The leader should, paradoxically, follow the follower.

Eliminate the backward step from your repertoire particularly at crowded milongas.

 (unless you have moved forward in the line of dance creating space for the back step, so  even then do it as a part of a continuation of the step to avoid somebody coming up to close behind you.


Text Box: Milonga Etiquette for followers

Understand that a close embrace in tango in the norm, and when offered try to adapt if possible.

A follower has the absolute right to decline a dance - but remember that it will be most unpleasant to

 the lead, and may be considered rude, particularly in small tango communities. You should try to soften the refusal by saying you are sitting this one out.

If you refuse an invitation, but wish to dance with the lead later on, say so.

Don't decline a dance as feeling too tired, then immediately dance with someone else.

Follow, don't back-lead. In a crowded floor, avoid high embellishments that may end up in kicking other dancers.

If a lead is making the follower feel uncomfortable, she has the right to put a stop to it, politely.

Yes - a woman may request a dance from a man (though it is unusual, certainly very rare in Buenos Aires).


Dancing Beyond Sexuality

and Cultivating a passion for the dance


       Partners dancing and courtship are closely intertwined.  Many styles of solo and ensemble dancing found throughout the world  demonstrate a level of virility for and mating.  Even some members of the animal kingdom use dance as a courting ritual.


But despite these well established links to sexuality, dance in it’s purest form is neither a means of courtship nor a surrogate for sexual activity


Granted dance can be an expression of intimacy, but intimacy exists in many forms.

There is the intimacy of Teamwork, as when athletes bond toward a common goal.

There is I the intimacy of  Harmony, as when one voices rise up in a joyous choir.

There is the intimacy of Discovery, as when acrobats leap toward each other on the flying trapeze.

There is  intimacy of companionship, as when we share food and fond memories with good friends.

The Argentine tango is an intimate dance.  It contains each these forms of intimacy along with others.


The Dance  is pure experience.  Not partner-specific.

The embrace is a garden where interpersonal  chemistry can blossom and flourish without much additional prompting. 

On the other hand, such feelings could be and indication that we have become more focused on the Partner than the dance. 

We can enjoy the dance with someone from a vastly different age bracket.

We can enjoy the dance with someone who is physically unattractive to us.

The dance provides it’s own unique rewards above and beyond the pleasures of physical contact.


If you are already experiencing the artistry and creativity of  tango without interpersonal distractions, the congratulations.  Your dancing the dance in its purest form, and I hope you benefit from its limitless rewards.

If tango has become a primary sensual experience, and if you find that appealing, that’s entirely your business.  Feel free to share these sensations with like-minded partners.  I just ask that you not share  experiences with others who are looking for a relaxing evening or dancing purely for the sake of the dance to enjoy themselves.  When dancers with different objectives mix, the potential for misunderstandings and embarrassment  is significant. 


My personal preference is to explore the dance for all it has to offer—creativity, musicality, expressiveness, dimensions  of  tango  that I could share with anyone.  Not just with attractive woman.


In my opinion, overt romanticism distracts from the vast intellectual, creative potential of the Argentine Tango. However, everybody has their objectives, and the dimension of interpersonal attraction is going to be a legitimate priority for many.


Argentine Tango has much to offer (including sensuality).  Don’t limit your experience.  Explore tango’s many dimensions in order to enjoy it’s many rewards.





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Text Box: Milonga Etiquette for both leads and followers
Never correct your partner whilst on the dance floor.

Ensure personal hygiene (bathe, protect you breath, remove odors).

Dress appropriately.

Do not talk whilst dancing.

Dance the entire tango, you accepted the dance and too had a beginning  If you are unaware of your partners dancing abilities, dance to your partners abilities and enjoy the dance.

Never stop dancing during a song.

If you do not wish to dance further after the end of a song or tanda, thank your partner - it is important to remember that “

Thank you” generally signals an intention to END the dance (so don't be surprised when the other

person says thank you back, and walks off).