Milonga 101: hugs and kisses

Hugs and kisses are a normal part of life in Buenos Aires.  Foreigners gradually adapt to the Argentine way.  Handshaking is rare, but used as a more formal greeting between men.  Here are some tips for the milongas.

The milonga host:  If you are attending a milonga for the first time, allow the host to take the lead.  Be prepared for a cheek-to-cheek greeting because it’s the most common.  Once you have gone several times, you’ll be greeted like a regular.  A male host will greet women with a kiss to the cheek, however, he’ll have to decide the comfort level of foreign men individually.

On the way to the table:  A host takes you to your table.  It’s best not to stop along the way to greet friends.  The host wants to return to the door to greet others.  You’ll see dancers who greet and kiss everyone on the way to their table; it’s their way of showing who they know to win the milonga popularity contest.  Women who make a point of greeting men when passing do so with the hope of dancing later. 

The first tanda with a stranger:  You have a nonverbal agreement to meet on the floor for a tanda.  You haven’t been introduced.  You share the embrace and dance until the cortina.  A kiss at the beginning isn’t appropriate, nor is one at the end.  

A tanda with a regular partner:  Those with many years in the milongas begin dancing.  A hug or kiss is superfluous for them.  Foreigners and new dancers have changed this tradition by kissing each partner at the beginning and the end of a tanda.

Greetings on or from the floor:  One doesn’t have to kiss and hug friends on or off the floor between dances.  It leads to conversations.  A smile or nod is enough.  Then it’s back to dancing. 

Leaving the milonga:  If we had to kiss every dance partner before leaving, it could take us a half hour to make an exit.  A thank-you to the host is enough.

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