Argentine Tango is a social dance, with the couple dancing in an embrace. Social tango is improvised, unlike ballroom dances that are more structured. It is also different from stage tango which is choreographed and tends to be more dramatic as it is danced for an audience. There is interesting history and cultural background to this dance so it is helpful to read up on this, the information is readily available in books and on-line.
The focus of the dance is connecting with your partner and the music, as well as learning how to dance in a respectful and orderly manner with other couples on the dance floor. Hence, there are certain guidelines and codes (see Etiquette at the Milonga) that have been developed through the years to help dancers achieve a safe and pleasurable experience at the milongas.
A milonga is an Argentine Tango social dance. People can attend with or without a partner (see Structure of the Milonga ).
A practica is where one can come to practice and learn the dance without worrying about breaking protocol that is expected at a milonga.
Where can I learn to dance Tango?
This website provides a list of classes and special workshops that may be ongoing. Check out instructors by maybe talking to them beforehand or taking classes possibly from all of them to see which is a good fit for you Keep in mind that a good tango class should introduce you to the basic elements of tango: walking, turning, stopping, navigation, musicality and possibly some cultural background of the dance. Tango is a dance based on walking so this is an essential element . Tango is a dance you create with another person and is improvisational in nature. It is not about memorized patterns or dramatic choreography which is not suited to the social dance floor so take note of what your instructor is teaching in class.
One can come to class with or without a partner. Mindful instructors will rotate partners or see to it that everyone gets a chance to participate in the class. It is a good idea to take group classes before considering private lessons with a particular instructor. If possible, observe how these teachers dance at the local milongas and see if they are capable of dancing well in a social environment.
Suggested attire for classes: Wear comfortable clothing that you can move in. It is recommended that one wears shoes with leather soles, not rubber. For ladies, wear shoes with straps that keep your shoes on your feet. Later on if you decide that this is a dance you want to continue at, one can purchase proper tango shoes from shoe vendors in the community or on-line. Ask more experienced dancers which shoe companies they recommend.
Please be considerate to your dance partners : practice good hygiene and dress neatly since you will be dancing in close quarters !
How do I ask someone for a dance, and how do I decline a dance ?
Unless you know the dancer you want to ask quite well, it is best to invite someone by using the custom of the “Cabeceo” (See Etiquette at the Milonga). Even then, your offer may still be declined but realize that everyone has the right to select their dance partners just like you do. Observe and see who is ready and looking to dance the tanda. These are ladies who are looking around, they may even be looking in your direction.If they are avoiding looking at you, or are at the moment engaged in deep conversation with someone, they are likely not ready to dance or are not interested in dancing that tanda. There may be other reasons they do not want to dance that set: they are resting, they do not like the music that is playing, etc.
One can decline an invitation to dance by subtly looking away from someone who is looking at you or if they come right out to ask you at your table to say “No, thank you”. You can provide a reason or excuse for declining, but you are not obliged to. Try to do this politely. Again, please refer to Etiquette at the Milonga on this site.
Helpful Tip: If you are new to the community and planning on attending a local milonga for the first time, it is a good idea to contact the organizer of the milonga and introduce yourself beforehand. One can easily get lost in the crowd so this way, the host knows to look out for you and meet you at the milonga. This can facilitate introductions to other members of the tango community and help you on your way into making new friends and becoming part of the local tango scene.