What is the deal with all the Tango codes?

I often hear people who do not know much about Tango or at least not well say that it can seem extremely unfriendly. Many struggle to get to grips with people's behaviours which can all too easily seem quite odd or even inappropriate at times. This is specially true when it comes to the Milonga social dance venues. Many who venture there can often end up feeling despondent and uncomfortable with the whole environment. I believe it is due to this more than anything else that a substantial portion of new dancers simply give up on Tango altogether. This is a real shame as things were probably about to get interesting. Perhaps this scenario could quite easily be avoided with some good advice from fellow Tango friends and/or teachers. In any case there are a few things that may be of interest to anyone who finds themselves in just such a situation, which can hopefully explain and put things into perspective.

Let us start with the reason people primarily go to the Milonga. It is to dance and enjoy themselves. After all is this not the very reason you are there? For most it is precious time off in their hectic lifestyle, something they may even have been looking forward to all week long, and for sure they want to make the most of their time there. As such dancing with people new to Tango, recent beginners or even those who are starting to improve, may very well be quite low on their agenda. Most Tango dancers have spent countless hours, sometimes even many years, studying and working on their dancing and engulfed in the Tango world. Now the time has come to reap the rewards and I don't think we can really blame them for this. Off course this is not to say that they will not/never dance with you or anyone else who recent hopped onto the Tango train, it just presents a viewpoint from the other side. Accept this and be friendly towards other dancers, no matter if they happen to be dancing with you right now or not.

Aim to never let yourself get frustrated. If things do not work out the way you planned or even if you do not get any dances at all. Try to enjoy the atmosphere, the music and watching better dancer. Go to the bar, have a drink if you like and perhaps try to strike up conversations with an aim of making some friends. Even if all else fails do not despair, it happens to everyone including more experienced dancers. Call it a night and come back refreshed and eager to go again the next time. Remind yourself that perseverance is the key to life's trials and this is also true here.

There are many unwritten rules/codes of the Milonga which are respected by most if not all of the better dancers. It would be wise to get yourself accustomed to the do's and don'ts of the Milonga. You may find that you do not agree with the rules/codes, and nobody is actually asking you to, but if anything it will demystify many things including the behavioural traits of the Milonguer[a/o] who frequent these venues. Some of the links in my 'Favourites' section will shed some light on all this or point you in the right direction. I have intentionally tried to avoid going into details about the specifics as I only want to raise awareness of this whole other side to Tango that many are not aware of. However if you do not make an effort to find out about and observe all the unwritten rules/codes of the Milonga you will undoubtedly be missing out on the whole cultural element that has its place firmly rooted in not just some far away Latin American places, but at every local Milonga venue from here to Timbuktu.

The most important thing about Tango and the Milonga in my opinion is 'Respect' - respect your partner, their level of dancing, the line of dance and the people around you (on & off the floor). Respect the music, the culture and heritage of Tango. Respect others and they in turn will respected you. Amen!

I have come across possibly one of the best blog entry regarding Los Códigos del Tango (the tango rules of etiquette) by Naomi Harris @ LA Tango Academy, which is an absolute must read for those new to Tango or anyone not well versed in all the codes of conduct. It is definitely one of my recommended reads and it can also be found in my Favourites section on the right hand side for future reference.