How to be a better dance partner - don't criticise.

How to be a better dance partner – 1 4

If you want to be a better dance partner and make your tango the best it can be, it’s wise to pay attention to the standard milonga codigos or codes. They’ve been in use for years, but they’re not only for the benefit of organisers. They can help your dance become a smooth and enjoyable experience, and you to become a considerate, popular, and better dance partner.

Okay, so this is a bit of a rant but it’s about something that goes on at virtually every milonga we’ve attended and other milongas we’ve only heard about. There are tangueras and tangueros everywhere who will be able to relate to this subject as, unfortunately, most will have experienced it.

Please don’t teach at the milonga…on or off the dance floor!

You might mean well and think you’re helping the poor soul that couldn’t follow what you thought you led, but really, you’re not helping at all.

Depending on the other person, they will either be completely deflated or totally annoyed with you. Consequently, any hope of a good connection between you will be lost and, IF they continue with the tanda, it will be a worse dance than you hoped to achieve.

Furthermore, it’s highly likely that they won’t dance with you again and will probably tell other dancers, who will then also avoid dancing with you – at least, that’s what they should do. Why would anyone dance with someone who has such a high opinion of himself?

You might be able to tell I have strong feelings about this.

How to be a better dance partner - couple dancing

How to be a better dance partner

Practising does NOT make perfect…at a milonga 

Equally important as not teaching, if you lead a figure or sequence of steps and it doesn’t work, just forget about it for the rest of the tanda! Don’t try to lead it two or three times more during the same track!

Depending on their level of confidence, the first time the follower doesn’t get the lead, she’ll just think of it as one of those things that happens now and again. The second time you lead it, she’ll think, ‘Oh no, it’s that figure again’. The third time, it will be ‘Oh, for goodness sake! I don’t get it’!

It could be the case that it’s just too advanced a figure for your partner or it could be that you’re not leading it well enough. Either way, it’s best to just move on.

Milongas are for dancing. Classes are for learning. Practicas are for practising. Try again at home or, especially if you don’t have a regular partner, go to your local practica. Ask your teachers for help as they’ll be able to see why it’s not working for you.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing

Although it’s usually leaders who are more likely to be found teaching, there are leaders and followers out there who are equal masters of criticism on the dance floor.

We talk about the warmth of the tango embrace, about the wonderful connection and the friendliness of the milongas. Yet, on the dance floor, there are those who feel it’s acceptable to make condescending or even snide remarks about the person they’re dancing with or the dance they’ve shared. It’s neither nice nor necessary to pass comments, such as, ‘It would have been lovely…if it you’d led it properly’, or, while dancing with a lovely tanguera, ‘You’ve been dancing three years? Good, I try to dance with beginners whenever I can’. How awful!

How to be a better dance partner - don't criticise.

How to be a better dance partner – don’t criticise 

Likewise, if something in the lead or follow is making you feel uncomfortable, such as the lead holding you too tightly or a follower’s arm pressing down too much, then just explain and ask them politely to lighten their embrace or their arm. You don’t need to keep moving your hand or wriggle your shoulders awkwardly in the hope that they will get the hint. They won’t. They will just pick up on your bad humour and, again, any hope of a connection will be ruined.

If the tanda isn’t going as you’d hoped when you invited the dance or accepted the invitation, you don’t have to say anything. The old saying of keeping quiet if you have nothing good to say holds true in tango, or any dance. Just wait until the end of the tanda and say thank you. Simple!

And please…no tutting or grumpy face-pulling!




Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “How to be a better dance partner – 1

  • Felicity

    Hear hear Linda!

    A subject very close to my heart, literally and figuratively.

    Weve all been on the receiving end of this patronising arrogance… deflated, annoyed AND disappointed to be denied the opportunity to enjoy the tanda and listen to the beautuful music.
    Even a born and bred Argentinean tango teacher would not have the right to make a *follower feel like this. And nor would he, having more respect for the milonga and its codigos which exist to protect us all.

    We all make daft mistakes when dancing and it’s quite easy simply to ignore the mistake and carry on. Unfortunately, until the *ladies refuse to put up with this by refusing dances with condescending teaching (understandably sometimes depending on the gender imbalance) / informing the organisers – then it’s unlikely things will change. I have solved the problem myself by politely ended the tanda, excusing myself for a glass of water when things have got too bad..but that was my last option and it still doesn’t change the fact the tanda is ruined.

    Gentlemen, most *ladies will happily dance with you all afternoon if you’re mannerly and forgive our mistakes as we forgive yours !! There is always something nice that can be said!

    *disclaimer – the tango shoe can be on the other foot, it’s not acceptable behaviour from either gender.


    • Linda Newbury Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Felicity. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been affected by this, and obviously quite badly. I hope the culprits will start to remember their manners soon.

    • Linda Newbury Post author

      Exactly, Barry. I believe that most people behave nicely on the dance floor, it’s just the odd few that can spoil a tanda or even wreck someone’s whole afternoon or evening. Maybe we should teach self-preservation in tango!