The following guidelines apply to dancing
in a typical tango environment and of course also to the interactions at
the Yale Tango Club. Some are more specific to our club; this will be obvious
from reading them.
Social conventions on
the dance floor
asks whom to dance?
At the Yale Tango Club both men and women
are encouraged to invite people to dance. Other places may be more conservative;
in Buenos Aires it's the men who ask.
can I invite someone to dance?
The purpose of the following time-honored
Argentine custom, known as the "cabeceo", is to make the invitation to
dance less stressful and the possibility to decline more discrete. Essentially
you can avoid receiving or having to say a harsh verbal "No". It spares
The accepted way to invite a person to
dance is to catch someone's eye, and smile and nod, perhaps raising your
eyebrows in an inquiring expression or directing a nod towards the dance
floor. The response, if the invitation is accepted, is to smile and nod
back, whereupon both people walk to the dance floor and dance. If you get
the smile and nod response but the person does not catch your drift, you
may additionally say: ďshall we?Ē, or ďwould you like to dance?Ē.
By the same token, if you try hard and
are unable to catch a particular personís eye, or if somebody averts their
eyes as if they didnít actually see you, it may be better not to verbally
ask at this time. The person may actually refuse, or dance with you against
his/her wish if they donít have the heart to refuse. Better luck next time
or with the next person.
If you don't succeed in catching a person's
eye and eliciting a smile, please donít resort to tapping somebodyís shoulder
or positioning yourself squarely in front of a person so they canít avoid
looking at you. It is considered very rude.
Obviously the new people donít know about
this way of inviting people to dance and besides just asking them verbally,
please also explain to them how things are done so they know for next time.
can I avoid dancing (with someone, or at all)
We are a friendly bunch and it is unlikely
youíll be refused or want to refuse.
Nevertheless, if you prefer not to dance
at this time, avoiding to catch someoneís eye will prevent 90% of attempts
to dance with you.
If the eye contact avoidance does not
have the desired effect and someone resorts to the shoulder tap method,
itís OK to just say no.
If you decline a verbal invitation to
dance from somebody you generally like to dance with except just not right
then, it is expedient to come up with an excuse such as "sorry, I really
need a break right now", "thanks, but I already promised the next set to
...", or "thanks but not right now, my feet hurt". Obviously if you use
fatigue or painful feet as an excuse, you should wait a little bit before
leaping onto the floor with somebody else, or the excuse won't look genuine.
if some person just wonít dance with me?
Certain people will never dance with certain
people. Donít take it personally or get worked up over it, please. Nobody
has an obligation to dance with everybody. Itís very much a consensual
privilege and not a moral duty. To get more dances with more people, try
introducing yourself, being friendly, saying hello to everybody, and working
hard on your technique.
how to stop?
If one of the partners says Thank You
at the end of a song, the other one responds in the same way and both move
off the floor. It is customary to dance 3-4 dances with the same person
before saying the magic word ďthank youĒ and moving on. This is the standard
way of doing things and nobody will think anything of it, especially if
you say something nice like ďthank you, that was lovelyĒ, or ďthank you,
I need a little break, letís dance again laterĒ, etc.
If you drop a person before 3 dances,
it will convey the message that you donít enjoy dancing with them, and
it should be done only if your inconvenience or impatience outweighs the
rudeness you convey. Itís rarely done at the Yale Tango Club, but more
common in the big city tango communities.
In small communities like ours, people
often dance more than one set (a set is usually 4 songs), perhaps 2 sets
or even 3. A good way to ease in the end is to ask you partner if they
want to dance another one, and then the expectation is to part after the
end of that one. You still need to say Thank You.
(NOT) to say or do to your partner in between two songs
If you enjoyed the dance you may be tempted
to say ďThank youĒ. These words will be interpreted as ďIím done dancing
with you and I will now return to my seatĒ, so they should be saved for
the end of the set. Instead, say something pleasant like ďthat was niceĒ
or make a friendly comment about their dancing style. Often people introduce
themselves or just chat.
In between songs, you let go of your partner;
it feels a little odd to remain locked in the embrace when there is no
music. Also you want to wait for the next song to start before resuming
if weíre having so much fun we donít want to stop?
If neither person says thank you and moves
on, likely you will continue dancing with each other. If this goes on a
long time, people may notice and start to think you want to monopolize
each other. Market forces being what they are, people are more likely to
notice this if they also want to dance with you. You donít have to care
what people think, but you should be aware of it. If there happens to be
a gender imbalance, maybe you want to show community spirit and give your
friends a chance to dance with your partner.
Of course none of this applies to dancing
with your significant other or your special date. If there's romance going
on, or some other variation on lust, nobody can reasonably object to you
being all over each other the whole night.
Some people like to concentrate on the
dancing while others chatter constantly. If you are one of the former,
itís perfectly OK to say ďsorry, I find it hard to talk and concentrate
on the steps at the same time.Ē In general both conversation and dancing
improve when not done simultaneously.
difference between a practica and a milonga
A Milonga is a formal party where people
dress up and observe all the social niceties discussed on this page. A
practica is generally shorter and less formal, and people are free to try
new things, work on specific moves, or ask friends to show them things.
It is very inappropriate to start critiquing or correcting your dance partner's
technique at a Milonga. At a practica it is OK if your partner doesn't
The Yale Tango Club Sunday night dance
is a practica which has some characteristics of a Milonga: it's informal
and practicing is encouraged, but it lasts 4 hours or more, many people
just dance instead of working on specific moves, there is no teacher in
charge, and there is a DJ who plays tangos, valses and milongas in tandas
(sets of 4 similar songs, in repeating cycles) just like at a milonga.
We could call it a "Practi-longa".
people while they are dancing.
Very simple. Donít. Not even to say hello
when you arrive or leave. If you must acknowledge someone, a quick nod
is the maximum. Imagine how you would feel if the lady you are dancing
with starts to talk with or wave at some guy. Itís rude. Your dance partner
deserves your undivided attention. If you have some urgent need for information
exchange, at least wait until a moment between songs, and keep it very
friends and making advances
We hope the Tango Club will be a great
way for you to make new friends and socialize with fellow students and
people who share your interests. We want our events to be a safe and comfortable
environment for you to socialize!
You can see that tango can be a fairly
invasive way to socialize, and the tango embrace should be considered a
privilege and not an opportunity. If flirtation and advances are not consensual
or reciprocated, they should cease. If anybody is made to feel uncomfortable
as a result of continued unwanted advances, they should approach someone
of the club leadership and talk about it to determine if the matter can
be resolved diplomatically and discreetly, or decisively if necessary.
It is important to us that everybody feels safe and comfortable.
Please use anti-perspirant (better than
deodorant, see here)!
Wear a clean shirt and bring a spare if you worry about getting sweaty.
If you come after a long day at work, please consider swinging by your
house or the gym to take a shower and change. If you use some fragrance,
please use it sparingly. Some people have a problem getting up close and
personal to heavy fragrance. At least invest in something that smells good.
Breath mints or gum are a good thing to use.
If you have a cold, flu, or stomach bug,
please stay home and get better before coming back to dance! Tango is guaranteed
to pass your bug to several other people. Wash your hands or use Purell
if a dance is an intolerable ordeal?
Once you accept an invitation to dance,
it is your responsibility to grin and bear it for the duration of the dance
even if your partner tries your patience. Your options are to drop your
partner before 3 dances are over (see when and
how to stop), or to tolerate the situation with grace. Whatever you
do, try not to frown too obviously and by all means don't roll your eyes
or make faces at your friends. Other potential partners will notice your
rudeness and are sure to wonder if you do the same thing while dancing
with them. Try closing your eyes or putting on your patient face until
the ordeal is over.
work and tango fun at Yale
A peculiar characteristic of our tango
community is that you may find yourself in a tango situation with people
that you have a professional relationship with, for example as fellow students,
postdocs or staff in the same laboratory or department. Please be sensitive
to this. People may find it awkward to be locked in a tango embrace with
somebody that they have to work with the next day. Just to be sure, you
may ask if they would find this awkward before you go ahead and ask them
to dance. Also, leave the tango at GPSCY's and refrain from telling your
friends the details about the tango adventures of someone they work with.
It may be a social activity, but it can get pretty personal.
About the music
music is played in tandas
At milongas, the DJ will play music in
sets (called tandas) of 3 or 4 songs by the same orchestra from the same
period. Generally you will hear 2 sets of 4 tangos, 1 set of 3 valses,
2 sets of 4 tangos, and 1 set of 3 milongas, in repeating cycles. A variation
on this, which you may hear early in the evening, is 4 tangos, 3 valses,
4 tangos, 3 milongas, 4 tangos, a few alternative or neotango songs, and
all over again. You can turn this predictability to your advantage by planning
ahead so you can find your favorite milonga partner when you know there's
a milonga set coming soon.
to do with cortinas
At milongas, the DJ will often play a
cortina between tandas. A cortina is a short piece (about 30 seconds) of
non-tango music that tells the dancers this tanda is over and a new tanda
is about to begin. The next tanda will be a different style of music and
is normally danced with a new partner. The beauty of cortinas in Buenos
Aires is that absolutely everybody thanks their partner and leaves
the dance floor. This means that you can now choose who you will dance
with next from among everybody present in the room, instead of having to
limit yourself to whoever is sitting, or trying to predict (while sitting
or dancing) when your favorite partner will become available for you.
On the other hand, if a crowd isn't used
to cortinas, they may stand there on the floor with their partner, looking
doubtful about the danceability of what the DJ just threw on. Or worse,
they may try to dance to the cortina. In Buenos Aires, this will brand
you as a barbarian; around here it merely looks awkward.
and being nice to new people
Please be nice and welcoming to new people.
With a third of our members graduating or moving on every year, we have
to keep recruiting!
If a new face stops in to watch the dancing,
please donít ignore them longer than a minute or two. You could greet them,
tell them who we are and what we do, ask if they are students (or postdocs,
or whatever), and in general be very welcoming. If you get their email
address, we can tell them about classes etc. We have free classes only
for Yale students/postdocs and their dates/SOís. People who aren't students
or postdocs we usually refer to Judyís classes at the gym or in Milford.
with beginners and offering advice
Please take a beginner for a spin. Be
encouraging and build their confidence. Remember you were a beginner once
too. If the experienced dancers spent time on you and as a result you are
still around and not a beginner anymore, that means it's Payback Time.
Just dancing with the beginners is a good
thing. Additionally you may feel the urge to explain things and offer helpful
friendly advice. Please don't just flatly state they are doing Everything
All Wrong. Instead, ask "May I offer a suggestion for a more effective
way to do this/ a suggestion to improve this rock step/ etc". Don't argue.
Whatever you do, don't do anything that'll make the beginner feel more
inadequate than is already the case.
Finally, it is well-known that dancing
well with a total beginner is a skill that distinguishes an advanced dancer
from an intermediate one. You have seen advanced leaders lead beginners
through steps they never knew they could do. Advanced followers move so
lightly and easily that beginners can make them follow steps they've just
learned and that won't yet work on other dancers. This means two things:
(1) if a beginner messes up, it is not exclusively their fault and you
would do well to be patient, and (2) if beginners mess up a lot when you
dance with them, you are not practicing on beginners enough!
Beginners donít know these things so please
take the opportunity to briefly explain to them:
How to invite somebody to dance by the nod/smile
Thank you means itís over. If itís not over,
donít say Thank You. If you want it to be over, say Thank You. Three dances
is customary. More is OK, but monopolizing a beginner who doesn't know
how to get out is a pretty low trick.
Close embrace is by mutual informed consent.
If a beginner doesn't know there is open and close, please dance open.
Unless you know the beginner very well, an introduction to close embrace
is better left for a formal class or a later time.
Please move around the dance floor in
a counterclockwise direction and at the same speed as the other dancers.
Donít overtake, speed, zigzag or cut people off. Donít EVER step backwards
as a leader. Donít dance in the middle of the floor; the best place to
be is in the outer lane. Try to move at the same speed as other dancers.
If there is a lot of space ahead of you, that means there is a traffic
jam behind you, in this case please move on and give the other dancers
some real estate.
Dancing couples have absolute right of
way on the dance floor. Pedestrians are advised not to walk or loiter on
the dance floor when not dancing.
Avoid collisions by obeying traffic rules
(see above). If you do bump into someone, you should apologize, if not
because you caused the collision, then because you failed to avoid it.
The apology can be accomplished verbally or by making eye contact. Road
rage is unacceptable.
If some furniture bumps into you, you
should apologize to your follower and make sure she's OK.
A crowded floor is no place to unleash
your tango theatrics. To avoid injuries, keep your legs out of other dancers'
space by refraining from stepping backwards (as a leader) and doing big
boleos and ganchos (as a follower). If you must do these steps, at least
look behind you an instant beforehand to make sure the coast is clear.
If a leader in front of you is given to
hazardous choreography, keep your distance. Followers are not to be used
as human shields for your protection; also, followers (especially with
stiletto heels) are not to be deployed as weapons.
Ladies may want to think twice about wearing
open-toed sandals. Feet get stepped on, toes stubbed, even toe nails ripped
off, and such injuries can put you out of business for several weeks. Please
be safe and protected with closed shoes, especially when dancing with beginners;
they have enough to think about already.
Help your community
your part for the Yale Tango Club
If you enjoy attending Tango Club events
and you do so more than a few times, please be so considerate as to become
a member and support the club. We do have basic operating costs and they
should be fairly shared between all who attend. Membership categories are
priced according to your student means. Please be a team player.
Where to learn
for classes available at Yale and in New Haven.
The practica is a place to practice what
you learn in a class. It is rude and inconsiderate to expect the more experienced
dancers to teach you what you need to know one-on-one on their own precious
dancing time. There is no excuse for not taking a class, when there are
the beginners and intermediate classes at the gym during the semester,
the inexpensive or free classes and workshops that the Club organizes,
and our free classes for students and Judyís professional classes outside
That said, if you show a continued commitment
to work and improve and try to make the dance as interesting an experience
for your partner as for yourself, everybody will always be happy to practice
If you donít know the steps perfectly,
you are not qualified to teach them from scratch. Please refer the beginners
to a class or recommend that they speak with one of our experienced dancers.
Check our website
for links to dance shoe vendors online and in New Haven and New York.
Ask the Club leadership about the Tango
CD Lending Library available free to members. Check out our website
for tango CD stores.
See the regional tango calendar links
on our website.
Tango Club homepage
Herreman's DJ page