Which technique do you prefer? bend over or leg lift


In 1996, I joined a tour group from Los Angeles for my first visit to the Buenos Aires milongas. The tour organizers knew the milonga codes and customs, including changing shoes in the restroom, not at the table.  Most women go wearing shoes for dancing.  I remember attending the milonga at Club Almagro on Medrano and going directly to the restroom to change into my dance shoes.  It’s one thing changing shoes for dance classes at your local studio, but the custom is different in the milongas of Buenos Aires.  You won’t see the milongueros changing their shoes . . . ever.  Even soccer players get dressed in a locker room, not on the field.

Oh, how things have changed in the milongas.

I don’t understand why so many women today change shoes at the table.  Where do they wash their hands before the first tanda?  Do they think no one is watching them?  Is it such a long walk to the restroom to change one’s shoes and attend to other personal matters? It’s such a big time saver to do these things at the table in full view of everyone.

There are two techniques of shoe changing at the table.  The photo above shows the “bend over” technique.  First, she removes her street shoes and leaves them under the table or packs them away in a bag.  How elegant is it to see bare feet? The milonga isn’t on the beach.  She may even take a moment to shake foot powder into her dance shoes or on her feet.  Buckling the straps takes a few minutes with the knees together.  Why waste time going to the restroom when the “bend over” is accomplished in full view of everyone?  Men get to size up your butt.



The second is the “leg lift” technique which has two variations: one is a knee lift to the chest; the other is placing a foot on the leg. The latter allows the woman seated next to you to get a whiff of your smelly feet if she is unlucky enough sitting out the tanda.



If you’re on the edge of the dance floor or near an aisle, you offer a private show for the men.  I couldn’t believe the scene yesterday in Obelisco Tango.  It was so outrageous that I stood up and stared at the woman changing her shoes with her skirt completely open as if there was no one else in the room.  Two men seated in front of me didn’t miss the show, and she got a tanda very soon with one of them.  I pointed out the scene to the other women at the table who both replied they always change shoes at the table.  A few minutes later, one of them asked me for directions to the ladies room and was wearing her dance shoes.



The two women next to me are culprits. The woman with her back to the camera asked me for directions to the ladies’ room and has no problem with changing shoes at the table.


8 Responses to “Which technique do you prefer? bend over or leg lift”

  1. Carlos Says:

    Thank you for pointing this out for me Janis when I was in Bs As.

  2. Felicity Says:

    You are so right Janis. And it is true I never saw an Argentinian man change shoes in a traditional milonga and I can see why. I don’t believe they do it at all and I can certainly see why they wouldn’t do it in public. I saw a tourist doing it once though – outside the salon on the landing in Salon Leonesa. He looked conspicuous and uncomfortable.

    I have seen besides people combing and brushing their hair in European milongas, people chewing gum, and a few times I have seen people applying deodorant, all in the salon. They are all fairly on a par for me. Such public grooming and preparation becomes normal, then contagious.

    When you consider how elegantly people dress for some milongas and how many people like to go for the civilized atmosphere it surprises me when I see it practised and tolerated in places I would not expect it.

    On the other hand it can be so useful to see what a guy likes.

  3. Janet Rieck Says:

    Why do they tolerate it? Why not post a sign with the codes and dress restrictions? Why don’t the organizers say something at the beginning of the milonga about this? You complain, and complain…it is not that hard to reinforce the rules. STATE THEM!!!

  4. jantango Says:

    There are no dress restrictions. Organizers don’t want to lose customers, so they say nothing.

    I heard an organizer’s comment as a regular customer entered his milonga the other day wearing baggy jeans that were half black and half white, white. sneakers, and sunglasses on his head. The guy is always dressed like this and never shaves. I don’t know why he’s allowed in. His dancing is just as bad. He approaches women at the table.

    Respect in the milongas is disappearing with the milongueros viejos.

  5. Chris Says:

    “Why not post a sign with the codes and dress restrictions?”

    Why don’t you post a sign on your own table, Janis? 🙂

  6. jantango Says:

    The milongas are packed with women from abroad who have one thing on their mind: dancing with Argentines. Otherwise, they wasted their money on the trip. It’s all about being seen, so they do whatever it takes to get noticed, including primping and changing shoes at the table.

    The organizers don’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers — locals or foreigners — so they say nothing about the codes. Crossing the floor to reach your table during a tanda is common. Who could possibly wait for the cortina!

  7. Felicity Says:

    This conversation reminds me of those about the use of language. Some really dislike the misuse and repurposing of certain words others say “that’s life”. Either one becomes a Cnut in the face of the rising general tide or one gives in and joins it, or one decides to view those who do differently a useful advertisement, or one finds friends who feel like oneself and makes ones own island.
    I don’t fancy 1). I couldn’t do 2) Option three is most realistic but I would take 4) if I could find it.

    I used to belong a club. They did have a rule book when you joined – and there were a lot of rules. What rooms women could go into, when men could join the ladies in their sitting room, when children were allowed, mobile phones weren’t OK, all that sort of thing. But, the way I learnt the rules was not by reading the members book and there certainly weren’t any signs anywhere. I learnt them from my father, who proposed me.

  8. Tango Tails Says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. Last year, when I was in Buenos Aires, I just wore my dance shoes to the milonga, as a tourist. I copied the codes of “Cachirulo” and gave them to our club when I returned to Avellino, Italy. I’m hoping to have a sign placed in our milonga, like at “Cachirulo”. It should be better than nothing; I hope? A year having passed, I’ll have to make the sign, myself.

    As the norm, people change shoes at their tables here. But, there are a few places that respect this code offering a place change shoes. In our little club, we now have a common back room to change shoes and place coats – better than nothing as our bathrooms are too small and don’t have chairs. I’ve never seen anyone go into the bathroom to wash their hands after changing shoes, ever. In the bathrooms, we are lucky to have hand towels or a hand dryer. Hand sanitizer? I keep it in my bag.

    Here in Southern Italy, the people are warm and friendly and almost always accept a close warm embrace. However, I have had so many frustrating evenings wishing for respect regarding the milonga codes. I’m trying to make an impact. I’m making an effort to talk with every instructor that I know to teach the codes at their schools. It may be a lost cause, but I’ll try. Since most people now learn in schools, the instructors should “embrace” this responsibility too, in my opinion. Some of the “maestros” are the worst in regard to respect. And on the dance floor, they just expect that the others will give them space because they are “maestros”. There are new instructors popping-up that are teaching, and they are not nearly qualified to teach. All of this adds to the disrespect.

    Last Saturday, I was hit from all directions, sometimes simultaneously from the front and back; being passed from all directions, even from the right while in the outside lane; hit from oblique maneuvers of some of these “creative” “maestros & want to be maestros”. I was so thankful, relieved, that non of my partners were injured before escorting her back to her table after the tanda. For the most part, all evening, I had to dance sideways with my partner’s back at the edge of the tables to provide as much protection as much as possible. I like to look out onto the dance floor to get a nod from the leader before entering in front of him. But, 99% of the time, I see only blank faces. I often get bumped out of the way by couples entering the pista – just knocking me to the side. For a few moments, I entertained the thought of not going to the milonga anymore – as most of my energy was directed to avoiding incidents vice creativity and listening to the music. They dance like they drive here, or worse, because they can’t get a “ticket” on the dance floor.

    Having invested so much of myself into this adventure, I won’t quit. Should I just die to the idea that these people will change, and just make the best of it? I do like the last hour of a good milonga when most of the “others” have gone. I guess, I just have to smile and be grateful for the few treasured moments of a beautiful embrace. . .

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