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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Códigos de la milonga (milonga etiquette) - Have your say #6!

The material for these quizzes has come from our observation & experience both locally & elswhere, and from people talking to us about their own experiences. Sometimes the after-class pub-talk has turned to questions about the codes in the milongas of Buenos Aires, and at other times complaints about some behaviours in our local milongas.

It was out of one of these discussions that someone suggested some sort of quiz as a light-hearted way of educating dancers. We already had a ready reference in Gustavo Benzecry-Saba's book La pista del abrazo (English version: Embracing tango)which we got from him a couple of years ago.

And the result? Some people have been amused by some of the scenarios & responses, a few have engaged in the on-line debate, while others struggle with how the codes fit with our local cultural norms. We have certainly noticed a distinct change in the observance of the codes at local milongas - due also, no doubt, to the emphasis local teachers are placing on them.

So here are a few more real situations. As always, feel free to add your opinions:

Scenario #18:
Two people are in earnest conversation, and a man approaches, wanting to dance with the woman. She should:
  1. Ignore him until he goes away.
  2. After a short time, acknowledge that he’s there, and continue the conversation.
  3. Stop the conversation and get up immediately to dance.
  4. In a break in the conversation, give him some attention, but refuse the invitation because she’s tied up at the moment.

Scenario #19
The leader stops dancing, twists his follower backwards, waits, then says, Gancho, gancho! She should:

  1. Ignore him and wait for him to continue dancing.
  2. Ask him to lead it properly next time.
  3. Tell him that a gancho is inappropriate for a woman like herself in her middle years.
  4. Execute a gancho as best she can under the circumstances, regardless of how she looks.
Scenario #20:
A beginner male leader is unsure whether to limit his dancing to beginner females or to invite experienced followers to dance. He should:
  1. Stick to the beginners until he’s put in the hard work to improve his dancing to merit dancing with experienced women.
  2. Ask experienced women anyway – it’ll be good to challenge his dancing, and he might pick up a few tips.
  3. Any women can be available partners at a practica, but at a milonga, he should leave the experienced women to the leaders who can dance well.
  4. Use the cabeceo – if the experienced women want to make themselves available to him, they’ll make it obvious.
Well, what do you think?


  1. #19. My response. Say, "Thank you very much" and end the dance.

  2. Scenario #18: I'd probably go with no. 1, unless it was a close friend and/or regular partner, in which case 4. But I never get tied up in really intense conversations at the milonga, so this is very hypothetical for me.

    Scenario #19: 1. And I would probably break tanda at the end of the song. The guy is a buffoon.

    Scenario #20: 4


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