Category Archives: Etiquette

How We Teach & Promote Argentine Tango

... Tango Awareness, that is.

1. We play only traditional Argentine Tango music AND we only dance to this music.

2. We teach our students to dance counter-clockwise, in one lane, and to not pass other couples (unless absolutely necessary – and NEVER on the right side of a couple) AND we dance with these proper floor skills.

3. We teach our students to keep their feet on the ground as much as possible AND we keep our feet on the ground as much as possible.

4. We do not teach ganchos or other unnecessary movements AND we don’t dance with these kinds of movements.

5. We teach social and improvised Tango that is conducive to dancing on a milonga floor AND we dance a social and improvised Tango.

6. We teach the “cabeceo” (reminding our students that it is done from your seat and not at the corner of the woman’s table) AND we actually use it.

7. As teachers, when we go to Buenos Aires, we go as students ready to learn more. We take classes, we learn more about the music, we dance socially, and we live Tango.

8. We teach our students about the music and the importance of it. We tell them which orchestra/singer/era will be playing during the class. We even remind our students that they should not embrace until the song has begun in order to develop a feeling for what is being played.

9. We teach our students that a “cortina” is a small piece of non-Tango music used to CLEAR the floor between “tandas” and no one should dance to the “cortina” or remain on the floor during this time.

10. We tell our students to go out dancing, to dance with various partners… but we also let our students know that they are allowed to decline dances for whatever reason.

*Although we teach and promote these concepts (and more) with the hope that we’re positively influencing our students, we are often reminded that people will eventually make their own choices – for better or for worse.


Suggestion #174

Women: Wash your hair before you Tango.

Many women have long hair and that means there’s a lot of hair smelling good… or bad.  If that hair hasn’t been washed the day you are tangoing or if it has been but it’s been at the gym, that’s a lot of hair giving off a lot of nasty fumes right into the nostrils of the men you are dancing with.

Please smell good.  Wear deodorant, wear clean clothes, shower, AND wash your hair. Men, that includes you too.


Tango is FUN!

In our previous post, we wrote about a special moment that rarely happens in an embrace.  It involves laughing.  Perhaps this will lead many to think it is not a rare occurrence… because Tango is FUN!

There is a “North American” Tango mentality that exists; a mentality that does not exist in the Tango of Buenos Aires.* In Buenos Aires, Tango is serious business.  It’s a passionate affair of the heart, the mind, and the body.  Portenos who Tango are in love with the dance, the music, the embrace, going to milongas, and yes, the nostalgia of it all.  They radiate intense energy while dancing and while listening to the music at their seats.  But are they smiling much?  No, not really.

We have been asked often why people don’t seem to smile while dancing Tango.  “Isn’t it enjoyable?” Our answer comes in the form of an analogy which coincides well with the horrible Tango media sound-byte: “Tango is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.”  The analogy is this: When participating in sex/love-making with a partner, how many of you are smiling while doing so?  We think it’s safe to say that most of you are not smiling.  Does that mean it isn’t enjoyable?  No! Sex/love-making is serious business.

This brings us to the point of this post.  Regardless of the “style” or version of Tango being danced, we have observed the North American Tango mentality to be completely different from the Buenos Aires Tango mentality.  Looking at it from the North American Tango mentality (NATM), we have narrowed these differences into three groups: the “Enjoyment Factor”, the “Connection Factor”, and the “Being Nice Factor”.

Enjoyment Factor – the NATM requires Tango to be “fun”.  There is almost an expectation that we should smile while we dance.  There is a tendency for the cortinas (the interlude songs between the groups of Tango music) to be really upbeat and “fun”.  Finally, there is a need to make one’s dance “fun”.  In order to do this, one should “play” with the moves and the music, and your dance should be “unique”… and fun.

Look at that “fun” boleo!

Connection Factor – the NATM has an almost obsessive fixation on “connection”.  This is not in reference to the straight-forward glue-your-chests-together embrace connection, but more to do with the “elusive” connection talked about, blogged about, and “workshopped” about.  It remains elusive because it isn’t so elusive!

It has been our experience as students and teachers that the reason for this may have to do with the fact that the embrace is not being taught well, or more importantly, at all.  When students are taught to give their chests to their partner at all times and they are taught to “chase” each other’s chest at all times, “connection” becomes an almost obsolete term.

Being Nice Factor – Finally, the NATM is all about being “nice”. Forget about going out to dance Tango because you would like to have a lovely evening.  No, the milonga is the place to put your desires aside.  There is an expectation that you should dance with everyone and with as many people as you can, regardless of the dancer’s level/ability.  In some communities, you are also expected to hug your partner after the tanda (although the man may nevertheless leave you standing in the middle of the floor afterward).

We have said it before, but we’ll say it again: Tango is more than just a dance; it is a culture.  If the two are separated, we are left dancing a ghostly version of what Tango is.  For this reason, we do our best to live and exude the culture in our dance.

*We cannot speak to the mentalities that exist in Asia, Europe, or other places in the world.


Tango Victims: Charity Dances, Pity Dances, and Being “Nice” Dances

*I vant to suck your Tango blood!

We overheard two women over the span of five minutes ask a young tanguero to dance with them later in the night.  We know this tanguero and his inability to say no; the same inability that still creeps up on Jorge sometimes.  Heck, K has even been caught off guard lately.  Women abuse this knowledge and are often asking said tanguero for dances.  Although we’ve written about the lack of a consistently used “cabeceo” in our community and how we believe that women and men have equal rights to ask for dances, there’s something that people should understand about Tango: Tango and Tango dancers are to be respected.

This is what we overheard: “I was his partner in the class so he should be nice and dance with me in the milonga.”  This is not so different from the common rumblings of how tango teachers should dance with their students in a milonga.  Or how friends should dance with friends.  Or how better dancers should be “generous” with their dances and dance with beginners.  These types of statements are very frustrating.  To begin with, most people go to a milonga to have a good time, enjoy dancing, and get away from the “real world”.  Then why are people being expected to do something that may include not having a good time or enjoying their dance?  Practicas can be used for this. That said, Toronto has, in the past, been virtually void of any real practicas.  Either everyone has already “perfected” their Tango or they think practicing means dancing a whole song or tanda without stopping, without giving feedback, and in general, without improving one’s dance.

What gets to us more than this is the complete disregard for what Tango is and what it means to dance Tango with someone you don’t want to.  Tango is an extremely intimate dance.  You are putting your chests together, wrapping your arms around one another, touching heads/faces and sharing approximately 12 minutes of your life this way.  Forget Tango for a second and ask yourself how you would like it if a stranger came up to you and asked/demanded a 12 minute hug from you (simply because you had a chat with them at the corner store)?

If you want to dance with a visiting/local teacher, take privates with them.  When your dancing is enjoyable for the both of you, the teacher will ask you to dance or let you know they would like to dance with you in a milonga.  Teachers are people too and they dance Tango because they love it (or at least we do).   No one should have to sacrifice their love of the dance to dance with students, potential students, friends, or just to be “nice”?

As in all facets of life, there are exceptions,  but these should not be expectations.  In order to avoid making any assumptions, please use the cabeceo.  Use it from your seat.  Don’t come and stand around the person you want to dance with in a stalker-like fashion.  This, by definition, turns the potential dance partner into a Tango victim.


Floorcrap…Oops… Floorcraft.

Floorcraft has, without a doubt, improved in Toronto.  We’re not saying it’s good or even remotely good, but it has improved dramatically since we first began.  Then again, we knew nothing about floorcraft back then because no one taught us about it.  Nowadays, SOME dancers are grasping the idea of inside and outside lanes, and not passing.   That said, the biggest issues we see in our city are:

i)  The Snails: leaders who forget that a line of dancers exists behind them and that their execution of stand-still “parada”, after “parada”, after “parada”, is unacceptable.  Especially when the music is not asking for pauses of any kind

ii)  The Sprinters: leaders who don’t know how to turn or dance on the spot and only continue to move forward ramming themselves and their partners into the couple in front of them.

iii)  The Drive-By Shooters: these are usually the Sprinters who do not know how to turn or dance on the spot and therefore “have to” pass every couple they encounter.

Constant passing is bad enough, but what is completely unacceptable, is passing on the OUTSIDE RIGHT (especially if you’re already dancing in the outside lane).  There are only a handful of these leaders who think (or rather don’t think) that passing couples on the right in a man’s BLIND SPOT is acceptable.

The analogy is that Tango floorcraft is like driving.  When you’re driving in the right lane, you don’t pass cars on the right on the gravel siding or sidewalk.  If you pass, you do so using the left lane.

In general, leaders cannot see to their right and as a leader, you should know this. So PLEASE stop it now.*

*We are not talking about beginners or dancers with limited experience.  These are people who have been dancing a year or many more.


Blowing Smoke Up Your A**

We are tough teachers.  We constantly joke with our students that we have a whip in hand.  K likes to make (poorly done) whipping noises.  We don’t tell our students they “have it” unless they do.  On the flip side of the coin, we compliment our students.  A LOT.  Jorge, the sweet one, has actually said that we may, in fact, compliment our students too much because sometimes our students begin to act like they no longer need our input – their egos start taking over ;)

Now the one thing we won’t do is schmooze with “potential” students or beg new students to stay with us.  We won’t tell you how amazing you are so that your ego feels great and you want to stay with us.  Why?  Because we love Tango.  Let us repeat that.

We. Love. Tango.

We teach Tango because we love Tango AND we love teaching it.  So when a new student came to us with some experience in Tango (having learned from various teachers in the city) and had a real natural talent and feeling for the dance, we wanted to wrap him up and take him home with us.  We have witnessed many other teachers getting dollar signs in their eyes and swollen egos in these very situations.  We have our own faults, but this isn’t going to be one of them.  We told this student that we didn’t care who he learned from, but we would hunt him down and kill him if he didn’t stick with Tango.

Now that is love ;)


Mopping The Floor

We assume in all communities there exists certain men who are known to approach almost all women for a dance.  They will not even attempt to pick up on any non-verbal cues including a shake of the head in the negative.  In fact, they will even ignore verbal cues such as “not now”, “I’m tired”, and “maybe later”.  At times, these men will practically drag the women onto the dance floor.  All of this should make it perfectly clear to these women what kind of dancing will ensue.   These men proceed to mop the floor clean with their partner for the duration of the tanda.  It is embarrassing and torturous, and some women quickly learn from this experience and will never again say yes to these men.  Others can’t find it in themselves to say no and allow themselves to be tortured over and over again (because “mopping men” tend to be Leading Cheaters).

You never have to dance with a man you do not want to.  Please don’t believe otherwise. Use the cabeceo, but if you don’t, remember that this does not negate the fact that women can make choices.  We live in a country that tries to provide women with equal rights.  Women should grab this equal right by the horns and JUST SAY NO.  Stop dancing with the “mopping men” because they do not respect you or your Tango.