Milonga Etiquette

Milonga Etiquette

Argentinean tango is a social dance. As such, some rules of courtesy are observed at milongas anywhere in the world. Below, you will find a summary of the most basic milonga etiquette guidelines. Though these rules are not enforced, respecting them is an important factor for a pleasant, successful milonga.

Definition of Terms

Milonga Defines two different concepts in tango:

  • a social tango dance gathering and the dance floor dedicated to it; and
  • a type of music and dance, a cousin of tango that is characterized by its accentuated rhythmic configuration in 2×4 tempos.
Tanda A sequence of three or four pieces of the same kind (tangos, waltzes, or milongas) most generally played by the same musicians.
Cortina The musical curtain (cortina) is about a 30-second segment of non-tango music that separates tandas. The musical curtain is used to clear the floor between tandas. Unless a dancer feels uncomfortable with her/his tanda partner, the same dancers should dance the entire tanda.
Cabeceo A subtle movement of the head used by leaders to invite a follower—from a distance—to dance. The leader seeks eye contact with the potential partner and the follower accepts the invitation with a similar movement or a smile. Typically, followers are alert to catch the eye of the leader she would like to dance with, while evading looking at those she would rather not dance with. Ignoring the leader invitation is the polite way to say, “No, thank you.” Once follower accepts the invitation, the leader approaches and brings her to the line of dance. Once the tanda has finished, the leader escorts the follower to her seat.The cabeceo is meant to avoid potential embarrassment. In the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, it is not good form if a leader walks up to a woman’s table to invite her to dance (or vice versa); there is a high chance this invitation may be rejected.


Entering & Navigating the Floor 

  • When entering the dance floor, respect the line of dance. Do not just jump to the middle. It is customary for the leader who wants to enter the line of dance to catch the eye of the leader he wants to get in front of, and wait for acknowledgment to merge into the line of dance.
  • Navigation flows in circle counterclockwise around the dance floor. As you dance, refrain from cutting across the floor.
  • If you are dancing with an inexperienced partner, please make sure that he/she follows the navigation guidelines, safely.

On the Dance Floor

  • Always keep an eye on the movement of nearby couples.
  • Be extremely careful when doing back steps to avoid colliding with other dancers.
  • Avoid wide or high moves that could hurt other dancers.
  • Refrain from giving unsolicited teaching advice and/or correcting your partner on the dance floor.
  • Avoid or minimize uncomfortable accessories such as protruding belt buckles, key chains, and glasses (if possible).

If You’re Not Dancing…

  • It is courteous to stay clear of the dance floor.
  • Try to maintain a low tone when talking with friends.
  • Remember, a milonga is a social gathering where, in addition to dancing, people socialize and chat with others. It is discourteous to interrupt a conversation to invite someone to dance.


Triangle Tango needs your continued support to keep our activities going. When arriving at the milonga, please look for the host or hostess and pay for the admission.

*Acknowledgments: These etiquette suggestions are based, in part, on guidelines previously written by Gülden Özen and by Ken and Natasha Delmar. 

Video lesson by Murat & Michell Erdemsel