The Code of Respect

This is an experience I had a few years ago in Lo de Celia. There was a certain milonguero who knew me through his friend who was my partner for a few years. I looked in his direction at the beginning of several tandas. I knew that he saw me looking in his direction. He diverted his glance and invited others to dance. This went on for two hours or more until he finally nodded to me, and I accepted. After our first dance he told that he had never danced with me because I was his friend’s partner. He wanted to be certain that his friend and I were no longer together before he invited me.

Alito Candamil always shared a table in the milongas with Ricardo Vidort and Osvaldo Bottino. I danced regularly with Alito years ago, but never with Ricardo Vidort. Ricardo always greeted me, but it was years until he invited me to dance when he saw I wasn’t dancing with Alito and no longer with my partner.

Milongueros will observe the dancing before inviting someone to dance. That is so they can observe to determine if a woman whom they want to invite is dancing exclusively with one man. Three tandas with the same man is a public declaration that two people are together. Milongueros will not interfere with those who have a commitment, even though they are not seated together at the same table.

Milongueros are respectful of others, on and off the dance floor. On the floor, they carefully observe others to avoid collisions and dance in the space available. They have many years of experience on crowded floors when bumping into others meant being asked to leave the milonga. If there is a collision, a prompt acknowledgement–perdón–by the offender is made. 

Milongueros will never approach a woman at her table for conversation or an invitation to dance. The cabeceo can be used only if a woman looks in his direction. If she doesn’t make eye contact, he simply cannot invite her. If he nods and she turns her head indicating her rejection of his invitation, he will never invite her again. The dance begins with a mutual agreement that respects the woman’s right to choose the man with whom she wants to dance for ten minutes. A verbal invitation obligates a woman to either make an excuse or accept the invitation with someone she has no interest dancing.

Milongueros know that a couple seated together at the table are there to dance with one another. A milonguero will never interfere in their relationship. If a woman is seated with a man, she is making it clear to everyone that she is there to dance only with him.

P.S.  Hours after writing this post, I found what Carlos Alberto Estévez (better known as “Petróleo”) said on the subject: 

. . . cómo respetar a los ausentes; si éstos son amigos, no bailar con la compañera o mujer de los que no están; es corno una prueba de amistad.

No se baila con mujeres que tuvieron relaciones con asiduos a la milonga.

Respect those who are absent; if they are friends, don’t dance with the partner or woman of those who aren’t there–it’s a test of friendship.

Don’t dance with women who have relationships with regulars of the milonga.

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