The Importance of Tango Etiquette

At the Tampa Tango Festathon, we are trying to create a truly memorable experience, not just an event. We strongly believe that the codigos (codes) of tango help everyone have a better time while dancing and lift the quality of the milongas and classes. If you are a newer dancer or have otherwise not been exposed to the etiquette rules, please keep in mind these codigos while dancing and try your best. If you need help or have questions, just ask one of the Festathon staff volunteers or talk to the teachers. If you are not new (the vast majority of you attending this event), please be a good role model by displaying upstanding etiquette and by being graceful and kind with others, especially those taking classes to improve their dance. 


Here are some general guidelines:

1.    Ask before merging. Before stepping onto a crowded dance floor, if you are a leader, make eye contact with the leader whom you wish to enter the floor in front of. The leader should understand your request and indicate his assent with a nod, wink or other visual cue, and you may then enter the line of dance. It is important as a leader already dancing that you pay attention to those who might be entering the dance floor.

2.     Maintain a lane. Argentine tango is danced in strict circular lanes with couples advancing around the room in a counterclockwise direction called a “line of dance”. There may be on or more concentric lanes moving simultaneously. Once in a lane, avoid changing lanes during the dance.

3.     Look before backing up. Never step backwards against traffic blindly. Likewise, avoid other movements that cause you or your partner to suddenly occupy space behind you in line of dance because the dancer behind you may have already begun advancing into that space. If you do step backwards, a general rule is no more than one step backwards.

4.     Avoid passing. Tango is not a race. If the dancer in front of you is advancing more slowly than you would like, alter your dance so that it is more circular and less linear. You can do this by simply utilizing the molinete or giro.

5.     Never zigzag. Cutting in and out of line of dance is very poor form and disturbing to the dancers you are cutting in front of. If you choose to dance in the center of the room, remain there throughout the song. If you dance in a given lane, finish the dance in that same lane.

6.     No parking. Standing and chatting with your partner between songs is fine, but keep an awareness of when the couples around you start dancing again and move accordingly. If the other dancers have begun to dance and you wish to continue your conversation, simply step off the floor so you don’t obstruct them.

7.     Don’t talk, just dance! Talking while dancing is inconsiderate reveals the dancer’s lack of presence in the moment and is distracting to your partner and other dancers. Save the conversation for when the music stops. Also, teaching or correcting your partner at a milonga is particularly inappropriate. Save it for a practica.

8.     Don’t monopolize the space. There are many styles of tango. Some require a relatively large amount of floor space; some require less. All styles are fine under the right conditions. If a floor is crowded, dance small, not taking up any more space than any of your fellow dancers. 

9.     Dance with the room. Aspire to dance with an awareness of all of the dancers around you. Do not allow gaps in the line of dance in front of you to form as this will cause a pileup of dancers behind you. When the music begins, start dancing when the majority of other dancers do.

10.  Avoid dangerous moves. Certain moves, such as high boleos and ganchos, can be dangerous on a crowded floor. Save them for less crowded conditions.


Use the Cabeceo to invite and accept dances. The most elegant way to invite and accept a dance is to use the cabeceo, executed entirely with the eyes and body language. Once a dance is accepted, please find your partner on the outside of the floor. Do not walk across the floor once the tanda has started. If you want to dance with someone but they look away, respect their decision to not dance with you. Do not approach them verbally and do not stare at them. The best way to get their attention is by dancing well with somebody else, then try to cabeceo them later. 

Use the Cabeceo to invite and accept dances.

The most elegant way to invite and accept a dance is to use the cabeceo, executed entirely with the eyes and body language. Once a dance is accepted, please find your partner on the outside of the floor. Do not walk across the floor once the tanda has started. If you want to dance with someone but they look away, respect their decision to not dance with you. Do not approach them verbally and do not stare at them. The best way to get their attention is by dancing well with somebody else, then try to cabeceo them later. 

We will strictly enforce general tango etiquette and line of dance. We reserve the right to eject guests from the milongas and refuse admission to those who purposefully choose not to follow the rules of the floor or those who are aggressive towards other dancers.

This is for the safety and enjoyment of everyone.