After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Monday, March 03, 2008

More Milonga Etiquette

On the heels of my last post is this one about more milonga etiquette.

Once again, this is a lapse of the codigos that rule in the milongas of Buenos Aires. The milongas de la tarde are more formal and conservative than some of the late-nighters which at times border on free-for-alls (La Viruta, for example.)

And also once again it's an error only committed by foreign ladies, never Argentinas.

The first time it happened I couldn't believe my eyes. A woman comes to the table to ask Ruben to dance! (and he's sitting with me).

This puts him in a terrible position. Please think about it, ladies. He's a gentleman, he doesn't want to deny a lady anything, it goes against the grain of a caballero. So maybe he doesn't like the music of this tanda, maybe it's music that Ruben and I particularly enjoy dancing together (D'Arienzo, Calo, great milongas), maybe he's tired and wants to drink his champagne, maybe he has two or three students yet to dance with.

If you watch Ruben you will see that he doesn't dance a lot, nor do I.

And a little tip: the milongueros here like to be the pursuer, the conquistador, not the prey. I hear their comments about aggressive women, and they are completely turned off. Even if they would have enjoyed dancing with someone when they chose to, if they "have" to, then it's a chore.

And what woman wants to be in the same league as taking out the trash?


NYC Tango Pilgrim said...


Did I miss this? Ruben is a sweet guy. It must put him on the spot. What good woman would ever go and ask a man for a tango here?

tangocherie said...

Oh Z, what good woman indeed?!

You did miss this last occurrence on Saturday night, if you didn't see a tall foreign lady cross the floor to invite Ruben to dance.

This is the beginning of the tourist season, and he's already dreading being put on the spot by aggressive women. And several are women who he used to enjoy dancing with, but now when he sees them coming he wants to crawl under the table.

What about "when in Argentina do as the Argentines" don't they understand?

NYC Tango Pilgrim said...

Cross the floor?! OMG. People, when you come in for the first time, do some research and learn the basic codigo.

Anonymous said...

Cherie, this is such a frustrating topic for me. I have always understood the importance and value of waiting in tango, whether it be during the dance itself or in its social manifestation in the contest of a milonga. In my "lingo", they are both part of the "passive/female" portion of the tango equation.


People do save up their hard-earned pennies to go to the Tango Mecca, and spending all that time waiting to be asked is too frustrating for those on a two week vacation.

It especially annoys me because it puts the better dancers in a foul mood and reduces their likelihood of dancing with anyone else afterwards. Even with me :-)

Sadly, observing other dances, enjoying the music, and soaking up the ambiance, are just not equally enjoyable to many visitors.

The only answer is for milongueros to start saying "no", and I do not foresee that happening any time soon.

Elizabeth said...

You know, I don't even like to see this here, in Seattle. I prefer the cabeceo and there is one nice milonga here (run by Argentines of course) where it is the common practice. I never ask anyone to dance because I want only to dance with someone who has seen me and chooses to dance with me. I think this is a useful post. Many people here are planning trips to Buenos Aires, and I look at them and just think, oh my God...get a clue.

n a n c y said...

And when other ladies see Ruben accepting a dance with an aggressive woman, it only encourages them to do the same. It doubly troubles me because I am thinking maybe, just maybe, he might have asked me to dance that time! American men reserve the right to decline just as the women do. Maybe he should do the same. "Not now but thank you for the compliment," would send the message nicely.

Caroline said...

I have on problems asking men for a dance in Montreal - most of the time, they are quite happy to oblige.
But like you say, when in Rome...and women do ask men for dances in Buenos Aires - with a cabeceo.