It’s time to re-share this post on Tango Floor Craft and Etiquette for newer dancers and a refresher for those who may have forgotten.
If you dance frequently enough, you have experienced a chaotic dance floor. A chaotic dance floor has no flow, people weave in and out of lanes, and couples enter with no regard for those already on the floor. Accidents and near collisions happen almost everywhere you look. I believe this happens mostly due to the fact that people have not learned proper tango etiquette and floor craft. Lack of floor craft is most obvious at crowded milongas. With small tango communities, this is usually not a problem. But here in the Bay Area where we have many dancers, the lack of tango etiquette can become very apparent. A crowded milonga is the ideal situation to follow the rules of floor craft. However, it is wise to practice good floor craft and etiquette no matter how many people are on the dance floor.
Rules to follow:
1. Invite using cabeceo (eye contact with a nod and/or a smile). Cabeceo can be initiated by both leaders and followers. It is expected that you will dance until the end of the tanda with the same person (usually 3-4 songs). A small note – if you want to dance, make it obvious – do look up and around you, as this is not the time to be shy.
2. Before entering the dance floor, make EYE CONTACT with the approaching leader and only enter when you have received consented acknowledgement (usually a nod or at least eye contact). Followers should never jump onto the dance floor before the leader.
3. Only one couple should merge onto the dance floor at a time. This means queue up and wait your turn to enter.
4. When entering, merge into the flow and dance WITH the flow. Always respect the space of the couples ahead you, behind you, and next to you. Try not to tailgate or allow too much space to form in front of you. This also applies in between songs of a tanda. Too much small talk can stall up the line.
5. If you are a beginner dancer and are not yet comfortable dancing in the outer lane, it’s okay to move to inside the rotunda. It’s customary for the better dancers to want to stay in the outer lanes. Beginner dancers not yet accustomed to navigating, or those who prefer bigger or flashy moves should dance in the interior lanes.
6. Keep your vocabulary limited to the space available and avoid stepping backwards against the line of dance. The couple behind you are expecting you to continue moving forward. Do small rock steps if you are not able to move anywhere and take longer steps if you find a large space in front of you. At all costs, avoid moving in and out of lanes or passing on the right (the leaders blind spot). It’s always best to stay in your place in your lane until the end of the tanda. (Hint: good leaders will pick who they want to dance behind to ensure a pleasant experience.)
7. For very crowded dance floors, shorten your steps as much as needed. Followers should also be aware of the space around them and not let their legs fly into other couples. I’ve experienced very crowded dance floors in which we moved barely a yard in a whole tanda, yet it was still quite pleasant as everyone was practicing good floor craft.
8. When collisions happen: make eye contact to acknowledge the collision, and then APOLOGIZE even if it’s not your fault.
9. When everyone is moving at the same tempo and about the same pace a uniform rhythm forms. This is flow. You can see this flow from the outside and it’s a beautiful sight.
10. Leaders should accompany their partners back to their seats or at least back to the edge of the dance floor. CLEARING the floor allows dancers to use cabeceo for the next tanda.
Do keep in your mind that your dance should adapt to various situations. Practica’s are for practicing what you learned in a class or workshop. You are allowed to stop and discuss the movements and try out new moves as long as you do this in the center or off to the side of the dance floor. Practica’s are also a great place to practice dancing in a line and navigating the edges of the dance floor. Milongas are for dancing with new and old friends, experiencing tango bliss and socializing. No teaching or practicing is allowed at milongas. Only during the early evening or much later, when the dance floor has emptied that you may dance with fancier steps: high boleos, back sacadas, soltadas or piernazos…. you get my drift.
If I’ve forgotten anything please comment below. Good floor craft and etiquette creates a pleasant experience for all.