Entre tango y tango

Bob and Viv posed for this series of photos to show what to do and not to do between dances.  Many people think they have to talk.  According to the milonguero codes, it’s the woman’s decision whether or not to say anything at all to the man between dances, and then it’s usually about the music.  There are dancers who don’t say a word between dances because they focus on the music. 

Bob and Viv show a normal stance between dances.  The man stands with his hands clasped behind, and the woman with her arms at her side. 

The woman speaks softly to her partner’s ear so that their conversation is private and doesn’t disturb others.  “This is my favorite tango by Di Sarli.”   A milonguero may ask, “bien?” after the first dance.

The man has no right to touch the woman in any way unless they are a couple.  This may give the impression that they are a couple, even when they aren’t.  The woman can avoid the situation by taking a step back from the man. 

The man doesn’t need to touch the woman in order to talk. 

The woman wants to talk and flirt.  The man gets her message.  This is an example of how all the twitter starts.  The woman will probably be invited for another tanda or two that night…and perhaps for coffee.

My thanks to Bob and Viv for taking time out of their busy vacation schedule in Buenos Aires to pose for these photos.  They are the only tango dancers I know from Wales; actually the only people I’ve met in my life who live in Wales and own an apartment in Buenos Aires for retirement in a few years.


9 Responses to “Entre tango y tango”

  1. keiko27@gmail.com Says:

    I love this post! I wish more people knew this code of not talking and what to do between dances. I’ve seen and experienced so many weird things it’s not even funny anymore…

  2. Enrique Madris Says:

    Es simple, fácil de entender: el baile, es para disfrutar, esos tres minutos, con música, en silencio. En la tanda, entre tango y tango, hay un espacio para hablar.
    A los que llamo “viejos-nuevos milongueros” lo deberían aprender, se pasan
    hablando toda la tanda, no bailan caminan, sin respetar la ronda, (deberían escuchar..muchachos comienza la ronda, el tango invita a bailar) molestando a los demás.
    En una oportunidad una amiga me comentó….se la pasó todo el tiempo, llorando por su mujer muerta, que lo dejó solo…Otros hablando con la intención de levante….

    It’s simple and easy to understand. The dance is to enjoy those three minutes of music in silence. During the tanda, between tangos there is space to talk. For those I call “new-old milongueros” they should learn it, they talk the entire tanda, they don’t dance they walk, without respecting the line of dance, (they should listen to “boys, the ronda begins, the tango invites you to dance”) bothering others.

    On one occasion, a friend commented to me: it happens all the time, crying for their dead wives who left them alone….others talking to make a pick up.

    Listen to Enrique’s radio program “Abrazando Tango” every Thursday at 14 hs on http://www.am680.com.ar

  3. jantango Says:


    Thanks for your comments. The situation seems to be getting worse all the time. People seem to go to the milonga for socializing instead of dancing. No one says a word to those who talk while dancing. I shushed a man recently in Lo de Celia; he heard me and stopped talking. One afternoon in Milonga de los Consagrados I saw a man answer his cellphone and start talking while he continued dancing. He didn’t walk off the floor first before answering the call. I predict it won’t be too long before men will be calling women on the cell phone at the milonga to dance rather than using the cabeceo.

  4. Alan Jones Says:

    It may be that people simply don’t know,Janis. I didn’t! Some of us are a long way from Buenos Aires,with a different culture,and without a lifetime of tango experience…This is why some of us tried to learn from the older generation,who kindly visited other countries to teach.Please tell those old un’s this,and that we are trying to keep as close as we can to their traditions. Kind Regards,Alan Jones.

  5. jantango Says:


    I know many live far from Buenos Aires or haven’t been to the milongas. Those who live here and go to dance regularly are causing problems on the dance floor. They haven’t bothered to take the time to learn what is appropriate behavior.

    Those who travel from afar know beforehand that things are different in Buenos Aires milongas. They sit up and take notice more than some locals do. We can all learn a lot from the older generation if we only take the time to listen and observe.

  6. Michael Says:

    There’s an important point left out – – what happens when the music begins? I noticed during my April 2009 trip, that everybody doesn’t start dancing at the first beat of music. It takes ONE MINUTE (out of a 3 minute musical selection) before all couples are moving on the floor. About 60% are moving within 30 seconds of the first note, 80% are moving within 45 seconds of the first note and the rest move at the one minute mark.

    I remember an Argentine pushing another to move. That was priceless.

    Spanish isn’t my primary language so I couldn’t start a conversation if I wanted. When the woman spoke to me (not knowing what she said), I said: Tengo secreto. No soy Argentino. Espanol no esta idioma prima. Soy Norte Americano. Some women changed their language to English and asked where I was from: New York or Miami? Now why they think all 290 million Americans fit into only TWO cities is beyond me.

  7. Lili Khayatt Says:

    Very clear, precise and well presented.
    You do immense service to Tango, Janis, and none of it for any personal gain or advantage. Congratulations and keep it up!

  8. Paul Says:

    This is all very thought-provoking with the photo illustrations with Bob&Viv being particularly helpful. I wonder a little, however, about how explicit and universally respected these “milonguero codes” were in practice. I assume there was never any “little book of good milonguero practice” passed about from milonguero to milonguero. I suspect instead that these were unwritten conventions which dancers more or less adhered to. On the question of silence between dances, I would imagine that in the European or perhaps American context, many would find it this a bit unnerving, if not possibly rude. But this may be part of the whole difficulty (perhaps impossibility) of trying to export the dance without being able properly to transmit other facets of the culture.

    The idea that it is the woman’s decision whether to initiate conversation (I assume that it is initiate rather than just talk at all) is particularly fascinating and challenging. I say challenging because in the European context, the man is more often expected to take responsibility for the opening conversational gambit. Again, not to do so outside the world of milonguero “codigos” may make an odd impression on one’s dance partner. I could be wrong.

    The milonguero’s practice (occasional, rare or regular?) of asking, “Bien?” is deliciously ambiguous- at least in my ears. What could it mean- “Everything okay?” “The music agreeable to you?” “Is my abrazo comfortable for you?” Perhaps, it is meant to stay ambiguous.

  9. jantango Says:

    Silence between dances isn’t difficult when one loves the music as much as the milongueros. It’s a big task to teach the dance. Transmitting the culture that goes along with it is impossible.

    Bien? may sound ambiguous, but it’s the most common question asked in the milongas. Todo bien? One doesn’t answer anything except, “si, muy bien.” The environment of the milonga is a perfect world.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and our first Skype visit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s