Etiquette in the World of Argentine Tango
the Milonga (social tango dance party) | by Karen Reck
Although you may witness this here and elsewhere, there are many good reasons not to do so:
But what if you/they asked for it?
Beginners: Whether being asked to dance or doing the asking, if you wish to qualify yourself as a beginner before accepting, is entirely your choice. Whether or not you choose to do so, no apologies or further explanations are necessary. A sensitive partner has probably already noted that you are a beginner, and will do their best to make you look good and to enjoy your dance together. Desperate for feedback? Ask if your partner will meet you at the next practica. Sit and watch the other dancers. Talk with dancers whose style you admire. Many will be willing to work with you at a practica. They may also share their own observations of particularly fine form/technique/musicality in the other dancers that evening. This combines the social and educational beautifully; no on-the-floor instruction is necessary.
Experienced dancers: Your feedback, instruction, comments were invited? Say something encouraging and positive. No qualifiers are necessary. Perhaps suggest the next practica as a place for dancers of all experience levels to meet and work together. If your partner wants to compare teaching styles (they will probably notice that there are varied of styles, philosophies and methods, some of them contradictory), be honest and positive — state your preferences without dissing other teachers. As always the best advice is, if you can't say something nice... it's time to dance silently, thank your partner and move on.
And what if they/you didn't ask? If someone refuses your helpful offer to give feedback, be gracious and enjoy the dance. One can always gently refuse an offer of feedback, simply suggesting that the dance be enjoyed for itself during the milonga.
Line of dance and passing
Dancers travel in line of dance (counter clockwise) on the outside edge of the dance floor. For the most part the man walks forward in line of dance while his partner walks backward, unless they are turning or pivoting. (There will be many small partial turns on a crowded floor.) The man cares for his partner by being aware of the other dancers. He maintains his lane on the outside perimeter of the dance floor, and avoids passing other couples if possible. He pays attention to the procession of dancers, improvising without excessive hesitation or complex patterns that may hold up the other dancers. He invites moves that are appropriate to the social dance floor, nothing that would endanger his partner or the other dancers. The woman may be dancing with her eyes closed, but she is still responsible for being aware of her surroundings; she would never, even if "invited" by her partner, execute a high kick or other move on a crowded floor that might injure herself or the other dancers. She is able to respond and modify as necessary.
For yourself, your partner, your hosts. Observe the customs of the place where you are dancing. Conventions will vary. Model the respectful behavior you would like to see in your own community. We will learn at different paces, in different ways, with different preferences in instruction and style. Give yourself some time to observe, try out, and experiment with different techniques. But what better overall approach, than using the formats of class & workshop, practica and milonga — with their traditional distinctions between instruction and enjoyment?