“Gentlemen’s Instruction Manual — Behaviour on the Dance Floor” By Marcelo Castelo; translation by Terpsichoral Tangoaddict
While every good milonguero knows and respects the unspoken agreements which govern the dance floor, it is nevertheless never inappropriate to remind ourselves of the codigos. In their desire to look good, many dancers frequently forget these simple rules and opt to display an unwieldy collection of steps (sometimes including acrobatics) which only serve to hinder their fellow dancers. So, for them and for all beginners, here is a brief summary of the codes which ensure peaceful coexistence on the tango dance floor:
1) Tango is a dance which involves movement around the room in an anticlockwise direction. If you wish to stop in order to execute a figure, or you lack the skill to maintain the general pace of circulation, approach the center of the floor. If you walk around the edge of the floor, you will be expected to maintain your speed and direction of movement.
2) Never overtake a couple on their right, unless there is plenty of space. It is the man’s blind spot, as his vision is obscured by his partner’s head, and he will not realize that you are there, which means that there is a risk that he might move or turn to the right, leading to a collision.
3) Don’t lead your partner to do high boleos or ganchos. If you lead a boleo, lead it carefully and make it a low one. And women shouldn’t get carried away by the heat of the moment: it’s a good idea to control your boleos.
4) Don’t make sudden or jerky movements. It is OK to surprise your partner with your improvised moves, but never surprise the other couples on the floor; they always need to know which direction you are going in.
5) Not every figure suits every type of dance [by this he probably means tango, milonga and vals — The Ed] or every orchestra. Make a study of which figures suit which versions of each tango and don’t try to perform them simply in order to demonstrate your skills.
6) If you have already begun a figure and you discover that conditions on the floor are restricting the available space, don’t be determined to finish it; the others will appreciate it if you follow the norms of floor etiquette and interrupt the figure, leaving its completion for another, more suitable occasion.
7) Unless the floor is very empty, never advance walking backwards. Your partner will not always be able to see over your shoulder and, even if she can, she will not find it easy to brake you should there be an obstacle in your path.
8) Always adapt your dance to your partner’s abilities. If she is a worse dancer than you (or you think she is) don’t make her perform moves which will make her feel uncomfortably challenged. If she is a better dancer, don’t try to show off: stick with what you know. It’s much better to dance well, with feeling, using small, simple steps, than to dance with big figures and decorations, out of time with the music or badly executed.
9) Try not to talk during the dance. The leader needs to listen and feel the rhythm. She needs to follow you, sharing that feeling. If you want to get to know each other, you can chat during the breaks between songs. And, of course, never give any theoretical lessons on how to dance. That is the quickest way to make yourself hated.
10) Escort your partner back to her seat at the end of the dance. And, of course, thank her, even if in your heart of hearts you may be telling yourself that you will never ask her to dance again in your life.
11) Try to make sure that your deodorant does not fail you during the dance. If you sweat a lot, bring a change of clothes and use moist towelettes. One visit to the toilets and you can return as fresh as a daisy.
12) Tango is danced face to face, which makes it important to have fresh breath. It never hurts to have toothpaste and mints handy.