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how to behave on a milonga, how and when to accept or reject offers for a dance, how and when to ask

Bob Hink
Tegan Mulholland
Natarajan Balasundara
Steve Hoffman
Bob Hink
Stephen P. Brown
Lois Donnay
Peter Niebert
Stephen P. Brown
Carol Shepherd
Bob Hink
Judy Margolis
Charles Roques
Eugenia Spitkovsky
Stephen P. Brown
Sergio Suppa
Renee Dinsmore - Reducing the "rejection rate"
Stephen T. Chin-Bow - Tango etiquette and hurt feelings...

Date:    Sat, 4 Mar 2000 14:14:45 PST
From:    Robert Hink
Subject: Etiquette

Hola Subscribers,

I cannot speak for everyone, but in my little corner
of the tango world I have witnessed and experienced
some of the rudest behavior of any dance community.

Let me describe 3 incidents.  The first was related
to me by a beginning dancer who was encouraged by her
instructor to attend a milonga.  A man asked her for
dance.  They took about 3 steps when the man stopped
and said, "You haven't been doing this very long,
have you?" The beginning dancer said, "Only about
a month."  The man thanked her and walked away. The
lady never attended another milonga.

The second happened to me when I first started to
venture out of the studio to milongas.  I asked
a more experienced dancer for a tango.  Without
saying a word she slowly shook her head only
barely acknowledging that I had requested a dance
in the first place.  I said, "I'll take that as
a 'No'."  It took me awhile before I was willing to
ask someone for a dance again but never with that women.

Incidently, last week a friend and I were sharing untoward
tango experiences at a milonga.  I told him that story.
About 10 minutes later he came back and told me that the same
thing had just happened to him. Have I missed something?
Are deliberate 'put downs' part of tango?

The last incident again happened to me.  This time I asked
a less experienced dancer for a tango.  She responded, "Oh
sure since the guy I really want to dance with is occupied
now."  I said I thought she should wait for that guy
then.  She came up later and apologized saying that it was
a lapse and that she hadn't meant to be rude.  I thanked
her for the apology but I pointed out that the damage had
been done.  I never again could ask her for a dance without
wondering whether she really wanted to dance with me.  I
told her that in the future if she wanted a dance with me
she would have to ask.

I am not a big proponent of rules, but this one that I was
taught might bare repeating. =

"When asked to dance there are 2 and only acceptable responses:
1. 'Yes, thank you.'
If you elect 1., you must complete the dance.
2. 'No, thanks anyway but I'm sitting this one out.'
If you elect 2., then you must sit it out." =

Look, folks, this kind of behavior is unacceptable.  It is
in all our interest to grow the tango community.  When these
occurrences happen, and I fear they do all too frequently,
the word gets out that tangueros/as are unfriendly and
unwelcoming.  If anyone leaves a milonga without a smile,
I believe, we are all diminished.

Bob Hink
B.A. Tango
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Date:    Sun, 5 Mar 2000 00:45:25 EST
From:    WHITE 95 R
Subject: Re: Etiquette

----Original Message Follows----
From: Robert Hink


"When asked to dance there are 2 and only acceptable responses:
1. 'Yes, thank you.'
If you elect 1., you must complete the dance.
2. 'No, thanks anyway but I'm sitting this one out.'
If you elect 2., then you must sit it out."


I do agree with Robert on this. I'm sorry that he and others have suffered
callous put downs. Personally, I would find it difficult to treat someone in
such cruel way. OTOH, lets face it, this is how life is inside and outside
the tango world. Snubs and put downs are common and we must learn to deal
with them. In a perfect world everyone would be treated kindly, with dignity
and respect and all would be happy and content. Alas, this just ain't so but
we can each do a little to make the milongas (and the world in general) a
more pleasnt place.
Oh, by the way, there is at least another answer: No, thank you, but I've
promised this dance already. In which case you may dance with whomever you
arranged beforehand.

Happy milongas to all,


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Date:    Sat, 4 Mar 2000 20:43:53 -0800
From:    Tegan Mulholland
Subject: Re: Etiquette

    I agree that these people were out of line.  Declining a dance like
that is incredibly rude.
For a good article on dance etiquette that EVERY dancer should have to

Sections on the topic that Bob discussed in his letter are:

    This article is formulated for social dancing in general, not Tango
specifically, but it's the most comprehensive article on the subject
that I have yet found.
    I will be interested in hearing replies to these accounts of rude
dancers.  I don't get out much into the Tango community in my area, so I
hope to be encouraged to do it more... but polite dancers will bring me


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Date:    Sun, 5 Mar 2000 14:26:27 +0100
From:    Natarajan Balasundara
Subject: Re: Etiquette

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Hink
Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 5:10 AM

>Let me describe 3 incidents.  The first was related
>to me by a beginning dancer who was encouraged by her
>instructor to attend a milonga.  A man asked her for
>dance.  They took about 3 steps when the man stopped
>and said, "You haven't been doing this very long,
>have you?" The beginning dancer said, "Only about
>a month."  The man thanked her and walked away. The
>lady never attended another milonga.
>The second happened to me when I first started to
>venture out of the studio to milongas.  I asked
>a more experienced dancer for a tango.  Without
>saying a word she slowly shook her head only
>barely acknowledging that I had requested a dance
>in the first place.  I said, "I'll take that as
>a 'No'."  It took me awhile before I was willing to
>ask someone for a dance again but never with that women.
>Incidently, last week a friend and I were sharing untoward
>tango experiences at a milonga.  I told him that story.
>About 10 minutes later he came back and told me that the same
>thing had just happened to him. Have I missed something?
>Are deliberate 'put downs' part of tango?

For a women, especially if new, against all instincts of wanting
to dance with the best dancer with the showiest tango,  it would
perhaps be best to choose to dance with someone with whom
all his partners  looks happy while dancing, no matter what their own
skill level seems to be.

 This assumes, of course she has the opportunity to choose(women
invite  holding the gaze for at least a moment..if not  staring).
And once asked, dancing with some smile, if possible.
This will help get invitations from other men once they have seen
her dance...especially  men who are standing in the corner wondering
if they are going to be stuck by lighting if they were to ask her.
The same, I guess, is true for a woman happens to be out of town as

On the other hand, if invited for a dance without being asked to be
invited by someone who pops out of the column from behind,
she could smile and and say that she has justed started dancing
yesterday and enquire with a nice smile if he would still like to
dance. Most decent milangueros would, I think, once they have
asked someone to dance, will at  least dance two dances. If they
are not decent enough, they will not dance any ....and one would
not want to dance with him anyways :-).

May be there are times when the best dancer happens to be the which case, probably a lot of men/women will want to dance
with her/him and so, I suppose in that case one has to take a ticket
and wait in line ;-)

Not all women or men are alike. So,  if someone is rude(man or woman)
best thing perhaps is not to ask them again instead of assuming that
everyone is the same way --  especially because one will eventaully
come to the same conclusion if one is to dance at all.

However, it may help to take a break, regroup, and sit in the corner
and mope for a while, if wish be, after the first putdown (which most
people will do this anyways :-) and  regain some calmnesss before
asking the next person. Otherwise, there is the danger of looking
severe or irritable and this may precipitate another 'no' soon after
the first one and a second 'no' is usually even less palatable than the

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Date:    Sun, 5 Mar 2000 16:55:41 -0800
From:    Steve Hoffman
Subject: Etiquette

Regarding Robert Hinks' experiences with etiguette-challenged dancers:

Yes, Robert, what you experienced is not that rare, especially when you a
relatively new dancer.  Many of us have felt somilar rejections.  I have
seen and experienced outright meanness and even manifestations of a
psychological viciousness on some people's parts.

This is far more common when you are a weak or new dancer, when you are
emotionally vulnerable (newcomer, beginning dancer), and when you don't
know the darker side of the sociological rules and more selfish side of
tango.  As you become a better dancer, and attain more personal confidence,
women will wish to dance with you, rather than avoid you, and, people who
are capable of acting the way you describe will simply put on a different
face when you interact with them, because you have something to give them
that they want.

When I began in tango, I too thought that everyone should have the courtesy
to dance with everyone  (unless there were negative personal experiences or
inappropriate behavior involved).   I was profoundly offended by several
people I tried to dance with.  I was viciously criticized, and even set up
to fail, by several.  There were (and are) quite a number of women (the
younger, prettier, and better dancers) who, for years, have ignored me -
pretended that I was not there, not in the room, not at the workshop.
(Now that I am a better dancer, some of them are finally looking my way,
clearly indicating that I could ask them to dance, but after three years of
nary a glance or acknowledgement that I existed... I'm afraid it's too

Fortunately, the mean people, and the cruel experiences, are in the
minority, but, they have a lot of impact when you are new.  Most people are
great, and there are those who will, with genuine kindness and helpfulness,
assist a new leader in getting his feet on the ground.  Among other things,
it is a good idea to look around, pay attention, and figure out as best you
can who are the women with the nice dispositions and natural warmth, who
will be kind and friendly to newcomers as part of their basic natures.

As in all aspects of social life, whether examined from a scientific or
personal perspective, it is very clear that there are hierarchies of
attractiveness and social/sexual power.  These phenomena are very
influential in tango, and far more so in Argentina than here (fortunately).
Bob, we don't know who you are, in terms of looks, dance, attitude - but in
general, I would advise you:   Don't go after the "babes", if you don't
want to get shot down.   If one "measures" three attributes of women
dancers:  youth, looks, and  dance ability.... and, if one does an
unscientific (but valid) summation of those three variables, one will
generally find that these "high-end" tangueras will be the ones who:  won't
acknowledge hellos or smiles, won't dance with newcomers; won't dance with
guys who don't look the part, for them, and tend to be self-absorbed and
focused on associating with their alpha-male equivalents on the floor, and
in the social areas of the milonga.

This is life.  This is the way it's always been, and is a socio-biological
inevitablity to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the culture and
the micro-environment.  Unfortunately, in the USA, there is a double hit,
in that culturally, sociologically, we are rather far down the ladder in
terms of manners and social graces.  Americans, especially those less than
middle-age, are notoriously under-educated in everything from making small
talk, to introducing strangers, to giving of themselves and looking out for
people who are shy or new.   Where I have lived and traveled in Latin
America, people often express shock at how socially bizarre and cold
Americans are.   (But, as I have said before, in the only non-"latin"
country of South America, namely Argentina, things are not much better than
in the US, in terms of cultural warmth or interest in strangers.  (This is
my experience; I don't wish to get into this discussion again on the list,
thank you)

Having said that, though, I think there are mitigating factors, some of
which that are almost unique to tango, which should be considered in this
question of tango etiquette.  Seriously, I now understand these less-polite
dancers a lot better, and I almost accept some of their behavior.  (To be
perfectly honest, I have shifted my own behevior toward their axis, to a

I guess it has to do with that mythical, oft-mentioned, but indefinable
experience of the embrace, the passion, the "connection", and the
deadly-seriousness of tango.   Yes, it is more than just a dance.  There is
something deep, and special that you begin to sense after you've been
dancing for awhile, and especially if you begin to study the history, the
traditions, and see the culture at its source.  People return and return to
tango for many reasons, but one of them is probably a neurobiological
substrate, possibly endorphin-mediated, involving ancient circuits that
resonate to rhythm, melody, beauty, touch, embrace, breathing eath other's
air, inhaling and processing the other's pheremones, powerful stuff.
People are reacting to tango for reasons that they can barely comprehend.
An attraction, a passion, a crush;  a pursuit, curisoity, friendship,
flirting;  meditation;  a return to the womb, being held, cradled, taken
care of.   Trenner once said tango was talking a women on a walk in a
beautiful and romantic place.

So, tango no longer becomes a thing you do casually.  It is not a lark, not
a sport, not a joke.   When you hacked around the floor as a beginner, and
spoofed your errors, and ran into people but didn't think it was that
important - that was one phase: the beginner's psychology.  Then it becomes
something good, and you pass it around with everybody, and you stumble
around with anybody, and you like it more and more.

But then, I think, comes a later stage, where you begin to honor it,
cherish it, respect it.  You want to do your best.  You want to give your
best.  You want your tango to be meaningful, and an exchange of genuine
warmth and caring.  The people that you dance with now are the essence,
they create the quality and allow the exression, the creativity, the joy,
the fun, the mystery, the sensuality.

So, the person you dance with becomes very important.   Not in the sense
that they have to be beautiful, or young (those things can become quite
unimportant), but yes in the sense of:  warmth, friendliness, charm,
sensuality, grace, manners, style.  When you consider the remarkably
different kinds of feeling, or visceral reaction, you get with different
partners, you know how dramatically your partner's traits influence your
own style, energy, and theme of your dance.

What I am trying to say is this:   Life is short, most of us are not that
young, there are a limited number of tangos left, and the tangos we have
are very important.   For many people in tango, it is their only
significant social life.   They are not ordinary (or shall we say, average)
people.  They tend to be educated, single, childless; or divorced;
intellectual, or artist; passionate, romantic in their tango dreams and
desires.  They want to have meaningful tango dances, and for their partners
as well.  They want to have the dances that they dream of, and they want to
have them with people that they know, or like, or want to know, or are
attracted to.  But most of all, they want dances that are enjoyable and

Therefore, for all these reasons, and many more, when you go to a milonga,
some of the regular or more experienced dancers are perhaps NOT interested
in dancing with strangers, with people who are clumsy or inexperienced, or
with people whose attitudes or intentions are questionable.  What they feel
and experience in that milonga is very important to them, and they want to
have quality experiences.  They are not there to meet or test, or help,
newcomers.  To me, now, this is all more understandable, and I now
appreciate a lot more why certain "high-end" milonguera won't dance with
beginning leaders, or men that they are not attracted to in some way.  They
are targets, for better or worse.  With their opportunities also comes the
hassle factor of dealing with men who don't realize that they are not yet
ready to be dancing with such and such a woman.  It's the truth.  Another
example is that of certain male professional dancers, and teachers, from
Argentina, who (I have heard) will not attend American milongas because
hordes of women who have seen the demonstation dance, or taken a workshop,
will come up in their face, right in front of others, and ask them to dance
- women who (frankly) would never end up dancing with such a dancer in any
other context.  Rather than say no again and again, these men just don't
show up.   Tango is not about charity, or kindness to strangers.  Face it.

So, to break off now,  I will simply bring up a very concrete point,
something that gets written about a lot (I sent in a long piece on this
severa months ago):  the concept of how dancers are asked for, and
accepted, in the cross-cultural analysis.

In the USA, you get up, walk over, get in someone's face, and say
pointedly:  "Do you want to dance?"  (Sometimes, as we have written before,
this gets done in a brazen manner or inappropriate time, such as when while
the person is already talking intently with a friend or love-interest.)
But, in any case, without getting any pre-approval, or "the nod", from the
person in question, the asker goes up, risks it all on one roll, and has to
deal with everything from a flat-out "No", to an ambiguous,
passive-aggressive, or irritated response from a person who felt coerced
into dancing by the social conventions, all the way to a happy, "Yes".
This method is very "American"; it works (it has to work) in our
mixed-company socialization patterns, as seen our milongas, and yet, it
risks the major rejection, and the major hurt.

For comparison, there is the Argentine system, the one that is built-in and
integral to the origin of tango (and which in my experience is practically
the exclusive method still today), and that is the "eyes" method.   As I
wrote in the past, there are many reasons for this, but certainly one of
them is the value of the "asking" and the "answering" that does not require
risking it all, or even getting up from your seat or opening your mouth.
It is far harder than our method, but, ultimately it offers much greater
discretion, subtlety, flexibility, and, before the person has expended
their intrapersonal capital on a binary yes/no (as we do), there are
gradations of how much contact, encouragement, or connection is being
sought.  It won't work in the USA (I don't know about Europe), but it works
really well there.  (A irony that may be lost on many Americans is that, in
spite of our culture's tendency to claim that women are oppressed more in
Latin American cultures, and have fewer rights and choices, the Argentine
method of asking for and accepting dances offers the Argentine woman a
degree of choice, independence and autonomy that is enormously greater than
here, unless the American women is prepared to brutally say "No", again and
again, right in front of men who have walked across the floor to ask them
to dance.)

So, Bob, we sympathize.   Rudeness and unkindness of the type you described
will happen.  It is deplorable, but inevitable - as it is based on human
nature (although countries and cultures differ greatly in practice).  Dance
with people at your level, or with women who have given you some indication
that they acknowledge you.  Don't go after the high-end types, unless you
are a lot more handsome and suave than the likes of us - you're just asking
to get rejected.  There are lots of women who don't get to dance that much,
but are excellent followers.  Ask them.

I ran into an Argentine guy I know from the Bay Area in a milonga in Bs.As.
in December.  Almost the very first thing he uttered were the words, "Tango
is cruel."   Yes, it can be true.  But I think tango is far less cruel here
than there.  We do have generally nice and decent people dancing here, but
you can't throw yourself at just anyone.  Know your own self, wait for a
little sign, choose well, and things should work out.  Good luck.

Steve Hoffman
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Date:    Sun, 5 Mar 2000 13:21:23 PST
From:    Robert Hink
Subject: Etiquette

I want to thank those who responded to my initial posting on
etiquette.  They prompted me to think further on this topic.

As Manuel pointed out, there is a third option in responding to
a request for a dance: 'No thank you, I've promised this dance
to someone else.'  If you elect this option, then you better
have someone ready to dance with you.

I really do not intend to be a self-appointed Miss Manners nor
do I feel qualified to assume this role.  I do feel that all of
this "proper conduct" stuff can be distilled down to one
common-sense test.  In a social situation before acting ask
yourself, "If I were on the receiving end of what I'm about to do,
how would I feel?" If the answer is 'not so good',
then you probably should not do it.

It is not sufficient to disregard this test just because one
has suffered from the malconduct before.  That would be too easy
and too cynical.  Indeed I believe that because one has suffered
before, one has the obligation to stop the behavior rather than
to promulgate it.

At the very least this role-reversal test will guard against

Another point Manuel made regarding the prevalence of rude
behavior in society at large got me to think about whether
tango people display rudeness more then other dancers.  Based
on an informal, unscientific sampling of my experiences in my
locale, I set up a "rudeness scale".  I found that the least
rude as a group are Lindy Hoppers, East Coast Swingers, Salsa dancers,
Country-Western/Cajun dancers, and folk dancers.
Mid way are Disco/Hustle dancers and West Coast Swingers. The
most rude as groups are Ballroom and Argentine Tango dancers.

Why?  I don't have a clue.  One might say that rudeness correlates
to degree of difficulty.  Maybe, but I doubt it.  One could say
that rudeness is inversely related to how vernacular (i.e. "street"
or "folksy") the dance form is.  But pretty much all social dances,
including Argentine Tango, started life as vernacular dances.

My best guess is that rudeness and "elegance" are related.  That is,
those who practice a dance form that strives for elegance ironically
tend to display more rude behavior.

So if this discussion is at all valid, and it may not be, we are left
with an intriguing question: do elegant dance forms tend to attract
rude people or does the striving for elegance tend to bring out the
rudeness in people??? Maybe both.

Bob Hink
B.A. Tango
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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 11:20:31 -0600
From:    Stephen P Brown
Subject: Re: Etiquette

     Even with the addition suggested by Manuel, I cannot agree with the
     notion that tango etiquette can be simplified to rules like those that
     Bob Hink has proposed:

     >"When asked to dance there are 2 and only acceptable responses:
     >1. 'Yes, thank you.' If you elect 1., you must complete the dance.
     >2. 'No, thanks anyway but I'm sitting this one out.' If you elect 2.,
     >then you must sit it out."
     >[3.] No thank you, I've promised this dance to someone else.'  If you
     >elect this option, then you better have someone ready to dance with

     Rules like this may work for teenagers who are country line dancing or
     dancing swing at arms length, but Argentine tango is a very intimate
     experience between consenting adults, and these rules do not really
     give the woman who is being asked to dance an opportunity to consent
     or refuse.  What if the woman being asked simply does not want to
     share an intimate dance with the man who is asking her?

     A true story:  Several years ago Susan and I were attending a tango
     week, and late in the week we had just arrived at a milonga that was
     in progress.  We had just sat down and were talking and changing our
     shoes when a man walked up, interrupted our conversation and asked
     Susan to dance without even acknowledging my presence or even engaging
     her in conversation.

     Another true story:  There is a male dancer in Buenos Aires who is
     nicknamed the "Terminator."  For years the Terminator has been asking
     unsuspecting women visitors to dance.  I was told by a woman friend
     that after one trip around the dance floor with the Terminator, the
     woman wants to say "Gracias" and then flee...  Ever gracious, my woman
     friend finished out her one tango with the Terminator but not the
     tanda. It would hardly be surprising, however, if she said no in the
     future (by averting her eyes) or if other women who saw him dance said
     no before even dancing with him (by averting their eyes).

     --Steve de Tejas

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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 11:52:05 -0600
From:    Lois Donnay
Subject: Re: Etiquette

Robert wrote:

> Based on an informal, unscientific sampling of my experiences in my
> locale, I set up a "rudeness scale".  I found that the least
> rude as a group are Lindy Hoppers, East Coast Swingers,
> Salsa dancers, Country-Western/Cajun dancers, and folk dancers.
> Mid way are Disco/Hustle dancers and West Coast Swingers. The
> most rude as groups are Ballroom and Argentine Tango dancers.

In our community (according to informal surveys I've done), it's
different.  Ballroom, folk dancers and Argentine Tango dancers are the
least rude, midway are West Coast Swingers and Salsa dancers, and most
rude are Lindy Hoppers. I think it has more to do with the "movers and
shakers" in the particular dance community. Any organization tends to
adopt the personality traits of its leaders.

When I lead, I like to dance with newer dancers as well as seasoned.
The new dancers let me know how my leading skills are progressing.
Following in Tango is different, though.  I get tired of being pushed
off-balance by arm-leaders, and my dancing looks awful.  However, I
dance with everyone, because I want new dancers to stick with this,
and I'll be rewarded some day with great tangos.

I once read this analogy of dancers from another scene:

Freshman:  Wants to dance with everyone, but is too scared to ask
Sophmore:  Will dance with anyone, but lusts after dances with the
better dancers
Junior: Dances with only the best or their favorite dancers
Senior:  Dances with no one.  Sits on the sidelines and gripes about
how the scene has changed.
Graduate:  Dances with everyone.

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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 14:32:26 -0000
From:    white95r
Subject: Re: Etiquette

I guess I did not make myself very clear. I do not posit that tango
etiquette can be reduced to any set of rules. I agreed with Bob in that the
treatment he (and those others) received was unnecessarily cruel. My
addition to the rules was more or less tongue in cheek. Personally, I
believe that tango is something to be taken seriously but also it is done
for fun and enjoyment.
Either way, it's best when done well. Also, as Steve points out "What if the
woman being asked simply does not want to share an intimate dance with the
man who is asking her?". And the reverse is equally true. What about the man
who does not want to share such intimate moment with a woman who is asking
I do not believe that everyone is entitled to "get" dances from anybody
else. I respectfully say that each one of us should have the right to accept
or decline a dance request for whatever reason. To that end, the method used
in Bs As works best. Making eye contact or avoiding eye contact is a
glentler way to invite or discourage an invitation to dance. The only
problem with this is that in most places outside of Bs As, there just aren't
enough dancers at the milongas, everybody knows everyone else and it just
isn't done. Anyway, I think that rudeness or cruelty are not necessary and
that kindness is better whether in refusal or acceptance. Of course, this is
just my oipinion. I do not claim any sort of authority to set or prescribe
rules. Frankly, I would not want such authority anyway.

May all get their dances requests accepted (or at least kindly declined)


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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 20:59:37 +0100
From:    Peter Niebert
Subject: Re: Etiquette

Tegan Mulholland writes:
 >     I agree that these people were out of line.  Declining a dance like
 > that is incredibly rude.
 > For a good article on dance etiquette that EVERY dancer should have to
 > read:
 > [...]

Fair enough, but some things in that article just do not fit to Tango,
as most people on the list will agree. But the subject touches me
because in France social code is frighteningly important. So I write
some opinions about it. Steve Hoffmann has already said many valuable
things, I will only add some, more related to the document at hand.

1) "Dance one single dance with a person, then change." This rarely
   serves any good purpose. Many consider three dances the polite minimum,
   maybe five as typical and this would be about the length of a set.

   So, if you consider this as a meaningful rule for tango at all, one
   "dance" should be replaced by one "set".

2) "Dance with everyone." Steve Hoffmann nicely explained, why this is
   sometimes a bit too much demanded, even though in principle I
   understand the idea behind this.

3) "Dance with many partners, not just a few". That could be taken
   out of one of these traveller's guides, style
   "Europe in 10 days", where you hop from city to city and see -
   airports. Or you see too much to digest.

   If you dance with many partners in a short time, you must keep an
   inner distance, and that seems to be intentional about this rule.
   Not to get involved. To keep things harmless and finally (with Steve's
   words) meaningless. On the practical side, to avoid social impact.

   If YOU want that for yourself, OK, but I think you should not
   impose that on others or judge them for acting differently.

   In the decision of continuing to dance with a partner (who wants
   the same) or to stop, I try just to follow my heart. And often that
   is strikingly clear, as clear as the applause of an enchanted
   public after a performance that almost always runs out at the
   moment you expect it to happen. You can feel that it is not over yet
   and then from one moment to another you clearly feel that it is
   over. Then it is easy to let go, to leave.

4) "If you dance with your escort all the time, why did you not stay
   at home?" My reply is similar as to (3). At times, you may want to
   dance with many others, at times you want to concentrate on THE ONE.

5) "Normally, do not refuse an invitation". Again, Steve said nicely
   why this is a bad rule for Tango. I would go further and proclaim
   a "Right of Refusal" as important part of the dance code. By
   "right" I mean that the decision of declining a dance should be
   accepted and NOT be considered an offence.
   Accepting an invitation should be a voluntary act, not an

   Of course, the right of refusal is not a right for rudeness.

   On the other hand, I sometimes wish that people would invite with
   more sensibility so as to make it easier for the invitee to refuse
   the invitation without any of the two sides losing face.

6) "If you decline a dance from anyone, stay off the floor for all of
   that dance." OK, this one may be debatable, but anyhow I would not
   see a great offence in the behaviour of someone that refuses an
   invitation with the reason of taking a break and some 15 seconds
   later ACCEPTS AN INVITATION by the partner of his or her dreams
   who surprisingly appears. It makes part of the social dynamics of
   big milongas (with many dancers). I have seen that
   happen frequently and I can perfectly understand that. It has
   happened to me also and I never had a bad concience about it.

   On the other hand, after being refused an invitation with the excuse of
   taking a break, it would seem strange to me if I saw the same woman
   asking other men herself seconds after. She should have chosen a
   different "gentle lie" in this case, more consistent with her
   intention. That would change nothing for her but make me feel
   better. Maybe, we should offer courses in "creative lying for
   social dancers".

On the whole, I do not understand why certain communities (in France
in particular) struggle so much with what is going on between the
dancers at milongas. Live and let live. And there is not really a need
for a formal code. Beginners do not know it and act strange at times,
"Stayers" adapt to and create the culture anyhow. But do you want to
put a social code into the hands of beginners "How to behave on a
Milonga"?  I find that ridiculous. They will learn the important
things in a blink.

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ate:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 15:23:08 -0600
From:    Stephen P Brown
Subject: Re: Etiquette

To my way of thinking, the etiquette rules that Bob Hink and Tegan
Mulholland recommend--do not refuse a partner and dance with many partners
in a short time--take what many would consider a stereotypically American
(and shallow) perspective.  These rulse suggest that you be superficially
friendly and open to everyone, but make all contact meaningless by holding
back your essential self from everyone.

As Peter Niebert observes:

>If you dance with many partners in a short time, you must keep an inner
>distance, and that seems to be intentional about this rule. Not to get
>involved. To keep things harmless and finally (with Steve's words)
>meaningless. On the practical side, to avoid social impact.

In short, you give up the experience of two hearts touching for a large
quantity of the somewhat less sublime experience of four arms and two
bodies touching.

Another view I found interesting in the etiqutte discussion was the one
that more advanced dancers OUGHT to dance with beginners.  When Susan and I
were beginners, some of the more advanced dancers did ask to us dance, but
we never asked them.  We remember them and the experience fondly, but part
of the experience was that it was voluntary.  They were giving us a gift
because they chose to--not because some rule ordered them to pay a tax.

The funny thing is that when we were beginning tango dancers only a few
of the other beginners noticed us and wanted to dance with us.  It was
only after we advanced beyond the beginning stage that most people
(beginners included) noticed us and wanted to dance with us.  That
experience makes me wonder if some (or many) of the beginners ignore each
other and focus their attention on dancing with someone who is more
advanced than they are.  This attitude would help create a shortage of
people who are willing to dance with beginners.

--Steve de Tejas
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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 17:07:50 +0000
From:    Carol Shepherd
Subject: Re: Etiquette

Stephen P Brown wrote:

 It was
> only after we advanced beyond the beginning stage that most people
> (beginners included) noticed us and wanted to dance with us.  That
> experience makes me wonder if some (or many) of the beginners ignore each
> other and focus their attention on dancing with someone who is more
> advanced than they are.  This attitude would help create a shortage of
> people who are willing to dance with beginners.

This has been my experience, in America dance is like tennis, everyone
wants to improve their game by playing with someone better than they
are, the emphasis is on technique rather than feeling or musicality.  I
enjoy Latin night more than other styles because frequently the
beginners who are latinos feel and enjoy the music so completely, I
don't mind if they only dance the basic, it's more than enough to share
their enjoyment.

Like another listmember as a beginner I expected all dancers to have
really good social skills.  What I have found is (and I am trying to
choose words carefully here) that a significant part of the community of
dance aficionados here in the US, are not-so-well-versed in considerate
social interaction...the good news is that dance is getting people out
and gives them a tool for socializing, the bad news is the social skills
can be rusty and rough around the edges.  Tango dancers I think are
generally on the more skilled side rather than less.

Carol Ruth Shepherd

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 Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 14:37:29 PST
From:    Robert Hink
Subject: Etiquette (3)

Hola All,

I guess I wasn't clear about why I did the posting
on Etiquette. The reason is not because I was slammed
a couple of times when I first started Argentine Tango.
That was 7 years ago, and I am well beyond those untoward

Rather I did the posting, because I'm interested in growing
the tango community, as I think we all should be. Rudeness,
no matter how "honest", is not in keeping with this objective.

Here are the reasons why I think we should a try to grow the
tango community:
1) more tangueros/as mean more and better tango events
 - it's economics
2) novice dancers become advanced dancers (if they stick with it)
 - encouraging the newcomer is an investment in the future.
3) By the same token, discouraging the newcomer hurts us all
 - it's a dis-investment; I personally don't want to suffer
from another's misdeeds
4)rudeness creates bad karma - what goes around comes around

There are those who say bad behavior is inevitable, learn to
accept it. To me that's a bit like saying smallpox has been
part of the human condition since time immemorial so expect
an occasional plague. Well, guess what? Smallpox was eradicated
more than a decade ago; it's no longer part of the human condition.
Is there evidence that a "rudeness" gene is programmed into the
human genome? I doubt it.

Some say "tango is cruel." I say only if you make it so. I think
tango is passion; tango is intimacy; tango is ,yes, fun.
I personally do not pay my admission at a milonga to suffer.
Do you?

Bob Hink
B.A. Tango
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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 16:54:21 MST
From:    Judy Margolis
Subject: Re: Etiquette

In regards to etiquette; everyone seems to be working from the perspective
of there own damaged egos.  People are the same world over, some care and
some don't.  I find, in general, those dancers who complain the most are the
least skilled.  Judy and I spent years dancing before the better dancers
would dance with us.  Our goal was to enjoy the beauty of the dance.  We now
dance with many of the best dancers in the world, but for years we faced
many discouraging blows to our egos.  We survived by accepting the feelings
of others even if it seemed detrimental to us.  We went about the business
of learning the dance.  I would like to think that Judy and I are very
courteous, but I don't ask that of others.  Leaders, can dance with
beginners better than followers generally can.  That is something to
remember.  Judy and I try to dance with as many people as we can in order to
improve our ability to adjust to other styles and levels of dance, but we do
not expect that of others.  I recommend that all those concerned work on
their own skills and bolster their own egos and worry less about the other
guys social skills.  You want to dance with the better dancers?  Then become
the kind of dancer that better dancers want to dance with.

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Date:    Tue, 7 Mar 2000 00:58:24 EST
From:    Charles Roques
Subject: More rudeness

Jon wrote:

"I find, in general, those dancers who complain the most are the least

I'm not sure I agree totally but there is some wisdom to what he is saying.
It is not one's obligation to dance with anyone that asks nor is it a sign of
rudeness to decline. I always make a point of dancing with beginners but I
don't make it my mission. Some people don't dance very well but even worse
they don't improve either. They remain bad dancers no matter how advanced
they get. Usually because they either don't really pay attention or don't
practice or, in most cases, they get seduced by new steps and never bother to
perfect their basic steps.
What is comfortable or uncomfortable about a partner is the way in which they
execute their basic steps. When I feel someone improving I will return to
dance with them. If they don't seem to progress I will eventually lose
interest. I know women who still can not do ochos or molinetes correctly
after two years or more of classes, not to mention a trip to Buenos Aires and
a few workshops as well. After a while I just don't enjoy dancing with them.
I seek out the dancers that are trying to improve themselves.
I think there are too many bruised egos that need easy gratification. Tango
is difficult and takes patience and practice. People that practice get
better.  If you want to dance with the better dancers, then you should become
a better dancer yourself. There are many, many exercises you can do without a
partner that will help.

If you are going to attempt to learn a dance as sophisticated as this then
you should be prepared to pay your dues.

Charles Roques
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Date:    Mon, 6 Mar 2000 15:55:35 -0500
From:    Eugenia Spitkovsky
Subject: manners+

Jon's and Charles's responses to the "etiquette" made me think again: we
are responsible for our own behavior, be it a dance step, a polite
invitation, building up tango community on a positive note, etc., etc.,
etc. Somehow if we enjoy our own dancing and please others with our
skills, than we become happier ourselves and share our positive energy
with other tangueros creating the mood of happiness all around us.
So...back to dancing!

I must agree with these gentlemen, the number of steps people know "how
to execute" (perhaps it is my English as a second language that makes me
think of death when the word "execute" is used, I prefer using
expression "how to dance", when speaking of steps) does not matter to
me. When I dance with any man, the dance is giving me pleasure if we
move together with the music. Just walking is fine. Basic step is fine.

There are many tango dancers who prize themselves with the honorable
title of "advanced" because of the number of years they've been dancing,
or because of the number of steps they know, or because of the number of
good dancers they've danced with, or for any other quantitative reason.
Unfortunately QUALITY does not substitute quantity. Focusing on how to
perfect basic balanced graceful movements will make us better dancers.
And happier tango community members.

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Date:    Tue, 7 Mar 2000 10:07:17 -0600
From:    Stephen P Brown
Subject: Re: Etiquette (3)

Bob Hink wrote:

>I did the posting, because I'm interested in growing the
>tango community, as I think we all should be. Rudeness,
>no matter how "honest", is not in keeping with this objective.

Maybe I am growing dense, but I am beginning to have difficulty
understanding the agenda being advanced.  Many people can look for
rude behavior at milongas, criticize others, and then decry its effect
on growth of the tango community or some other lofty goal.  If this
rude behavior is as widespread and as destructive as Bob suggests, the
tango community would not exist.

What effect will discussions on Tango-L about rudeness will have an
effect on interpersonal behavior at milongas?  Are the people on Tango-L
the ones who have been rude at milongas?  Are we so influential that
whatever we say goes?  Would our agreement or acquiesence create a sense
of backing for those who would like to be etiquette police at milongas?

My difficulty with the rules Bob advanced to combat rudeness is that they
actually encourage rude invasive behavior on the part of those who ask
others to dance and put the entire burden of behaving nicely on those who
are asked to dance.  As the co-host of a practica, I once had to meet with
a man who was destroying the practica because he chased women away through
his unwanted and creepy attention.

Graciela Gonzalez has called tango the history of love, for three minutes.
Should those being asked to dance be required to share the history of love
with anyone who comes along and invades their space?  The traditions in
Buenos Aires are that both man and woman consent to the dance--not because
the Argentines are cruel--but because they recognize that at all but the
superficial level the dance is an expression of intimacy.

Why convert Argentine tango to a superficial experience?  Ballroom tango
already exists.  ;-)

--Steve de Tejas
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Date:    Tue, 7 Mar 2000 14:08:44 -0500
From:    Sergio Suppa
Subject: Etiquette - The Spanish solution

After reading many postings on this subject one has to reach a conclusion:
There are two main philosophical positions.

On one side we have those that are very altruistic and think that a person
should never decline an invitation, should try to dance with every one, even
those that are not interesting, or physically attractive, or good dancers.
Here the ones that are at the "lower" end will receive the benefit of
dancing with people that are younger, more attractive and good dancers.
Every one will spend a nice time except that the ones at the other end will
feel "used", obligated to provide a service, to do some form of charity

On the other side we have the less altruistic ones; that go dancing to enjoy
themselves; dancing with the persons that they like, the ones that are at
their same level  physically, intellectually and with  respect to dancing
skills. They do not wish to do charity work. They wish to reserve the right
to reject unwellcome invitations.
In this setting everyone can also have fun as long as each one is realistic
with respect to whom they should dance with.
People of similar "level" of dancing skill, age and intellectual
The problem arises when people are not realistic. They try to impose
themselves to the younger, more attractive, excellent dancer.
>From the perspective of this second group; the place to improve our dancing
skills is at the practicas. Dances usually held after tango lessons. The
milonga is a place to have fun; nobody should feel obligated to do charity
work. People should stay within the limits of their possibilities.

In some way,  sooner or later, the average person gets to be in all the
possible situations; some are priviledged, they are beautiful and skilled
dancers, other are underpriviledged, have little or no physical beauty
and/or are awkward, clumsy dancers.
A fact of life! The world is not a perfect place and the milonga is not
going to change that.

Finally there are those that think that the ideal is a place in between,
somewhere the middle of the road.
One should have fun, dancing with those that he/she prefers, but at certain
time dedicate a little of themselves to those that are less fortunate, the
ones that are not dancing to make sure that they also have fun.  Perhaps a
more reasonable approach.

*The Spanish solution*: some time ago while dancing in Madrid, spain I went
to San Paul and noticed that they have a group of people ( ladies and men)
young, attractive, very well dressed (the men in black tie), excellent
dancers. They are called "Public relations", their functions is to walk
around the dancing floor inviting to dance those that are not dancing.
Something interesting to think about. The girls dance for free the boys get
paid one dollar for every dance. The ladies buy the dancing tickets at the
entrance counter.

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 Date:    Tue, 7 Mar 2000 07:46:41 -0500
From:    Renee Dinsmore
Subject: Reducing the "rejection rate"

Dear List,
May I add to your discussion on etiquette that for a follower who has
passed beyond the beginner stage, it is by far preferable to dance with
a beginner who knows only the walk and salida but executes both well and
with balance than with one of Charles' afformentioned confirmed "bad
dancers".  Another good thing about beginner leaders is that they are
generally open to constructive hints about where they could best place
their hand or how they can lead with their shoulders instead of pushing
their follower around.  I love watching enthusiastic new tango
aficionados explore this new medium for personal expression.  I will
encourage these beginners whenever I can.

Because of my concern for a tango community that is as welcoming as
possible, I will go to great length to not offend someone when I receive
an invitation that I do not choose to accept.  I applaud those few
members of our community who pre qualify their invitation with a look
and a nod.  I would suggest a checklist for the leaders when making
their approach.

1. Is she looking around, trying to catch someone's eye?  If it isn't
you, she probably won't accept right now.
2. Is she watching the dance floor, not looking at available partners?
Maybe she is tired or doesn't want to dance.
3. Is she engrossed in conversation? Catching her eye will tell you if
she is ready to wrap that up to join you for a dance.
4. Has she not yet had time to remove her coat?  You won't get a good
dance from her if you make her hurry to catch half of this song...
5. Is she looking right at you?  With an encouraging smile?  Now you can

I would be surprised if a little power of observation did not go a long
way in reducing the "rejection rate" and along with it the perceptions
of rudeness.  It may be that you have inadvertently been asking at all
of the "wrong" times.

Many happy tangos to you all,
Renee from Boston
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Date:    Tue, 7 Mar 2000 21:18:12 EST
From:    "Stephen T. Chin-Bow"
Subject: Tango etiquette and hurt feelings...

Dear Tango-L,

A few words on tango "etiquette" and hurt feelings.

I have been dancing the Argentine tango in New York City for slightly more
than four years, and in this time I have learned a lot about "etiquette"
from my personal experiences at milongas (and classes) and from listening
to stories friends have told me about their trips to BsAs and Europe.  In
short, any person who is not willing to have his/her ego bruised a few times,
or who goes into tango expecting it to be easy (perhaps because s/he mastered
ballroom dancing) is not likely to have the patience or perseverance to
become a competent dancer.  In life, having friends who can guide you during
your first few months in a new group activity is always helpful.  The
Argentine tango is no exeception to this "rule".

In New York City, where I guess there are between 300-500 regular tango
dancers (people who dance at least twice a month) most people know the other
local dancers by sight, if not by name.  People know when/how other people
like to be asked to dance (eg. by a direct request or by the "eye-look/nod"
method).  For example, my friends know I prefer to dance to recorded music,
and later in the evening (when there are fewer "new" people colliding with
the other dancers).  My friends know I also enjoy the "socializing" aspects
of a milonga as much (if not more) than the dancing.  If I am talking to a
friend and a woman walks up to us and interupts the conversation I will
usually say "no', unless the conversation can be conveniently continued at a
later time.  Some people attend milongas only to dance, which is a valid
approach, but it is not mine.  I also go to socialize, and if a woman does
not accept this as an equally valid approach I do not care if she feels hurt
when I turn her down.

If a woman, who I have never danced with before, asks me to dance when a fast
milonga is playing I will usually say no (because too much can go wrong
between unfamiliar partners during a fast milonga).  However, I will also try
to explain that I prefer that we wait until a slow recorded tango or vals
is played.  Recently, a woman who has been dancing for only a few months in
New York City ask me to dance when a fast recorded milonga started playing.
I answered "no", but when I began to explain my "consistent" reason she put
up her hand as if she did not want to hear me.  She behaved as if the only
word she heard was "NO" and she did not believe the sincerity of my reason.
I do not know if I will dance with her again, because we approach tango/life
in different ways.

What should a woman if she is new to tango or just visiting NYC?  If she asks
me to dance when I am not ready I might say "No, but perhaps later".  This is
not a complete rejection, because it leaves the possibility of a dance later
in the evening open.  Perhaps she will watch me during the night and figure
out when and with whom I enjoy dancing.

It is usually later in the evening when I will go into "NYC tango ambassador"
mode.  When the dance floor is emptier, that is when I might ask a new woman
to dance, especially if I have noticed that she has not danced much that
evening.  If she has stayed until the end of the evening she may appreciate
that tango is not easy, but that the rewards are worth the waiting and work.
If I see women leaving early in the evening I may walk up to them and say the
dancing is better later in the evening and that they should stay if possible.

Am I making any sense?

In any new social situation it is safest to "look before one jumps".  For
example, in a bar a man or a woman might look at another person before
walking up and saying hi.  I think "body language" is very important.  When
you attend a new milonga I would suggest going with a friend who has been
dancing a while (and who understands the group's dynamics).  After you arrive
watching for a while can only be helpful.  If you want to dance you can ask
the host for a few introductions to the "friendlier" dancers.

On my web site I have several sections which are relevant to the "etiquette"

The suggested URLs are:

Ciao- Stephen Chin-Bow

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Garrit Fleischmann Mar. 2000