A large group of couples, each with its own rhythm and style, dance in a limited space, blending together harmoniously on the milonga floor.

How do they do it? How do they manage to synchronize perfectly? They each share a unique intimacy together, improvising with moves and turns, thoroughly immersed in the music. But… on closer inspection… their balance seems to be rooted in a firm set of codes.

Navigating with your partner through a milonga might seem like leading a boat through a storm, especially for beginners. Milonga floor craft is certainly not an easy challenge. You constantly need to be aware of what happens around you and adjust to the flow and rhythm of the other couples; let the music shape your own tempo; find the movements the music inspires and connect with your partner; while adjusting to any sudden changes that might come up in the dance flow. Quite a lot of things to do at once, don’t you think? Not a simple matter at all its seems..

How to start?

A couple normally enters the floor at the beginning of a tanda after the leader asks the follower to dance and usually by cabeceo. In most milongas, it is also possible to enter the floor after a tanda has begun, but only when there is an appropriate opening between dancing couples.

Generally, the outer circle, called the ronda, moves at a faster pace and in a counter-clockwise direction. The inner circles move at a much slower pace and are better equipped to accommodate less experienced dancers and those who prefer more elaborate dance movements.

Maintaining the dance flow

Maintain sufficient space for the couple behind and in front of you. At the same time, balance this with respect for the autonomy of other couples. Try to remember each needs its own space to enjoy the music.

The music always dictates the rhythm and speed of your dance, so listen to it, feel it, and let it shape your moves. Equally, be aware of how the floor is moving – keep pace and move only inside your line of dance.

What to avoid?

It is not customary to change lanes. But if you really must, only do so after you’ve made sure there is enough time and space.

In saying that, it is never acceptable to overtake the couple in front of you. Find enjoyment in movements with smaller or circular steps to ensure you do not run into the couple ahead.

Avoid abrupt moves, such as backward steps, that might interfere with the flow and try not to stop at all during the tanda.

And finally, pay attention to how your moves influence others. Voleos, for example, would be a dangerous idea on a crowded milonga floor. Ladies heels can cut like a knife and many a bruise might have been avoided with a little upheld appreciation for others.

When accidents happen..

In saying all of this, accidents happen! Quite often even. Noone is perfect. So, be open to acknowledge a mistake no matter who is at fault, and in turn, be gracious in accepting an apology. It is just an accident… If you need to stop, quickly step off the dancefloor out of the way, but if you can, keep on dancing at pace so as not to interrupt the flow.


Getting good at applying correct floor etiquette to your dancing is important. The more experienced you become at incorporating these codes with grace and ease, the more your enjoyment for tango will be. Constantly being stressed about following the etiquette, or not being aware of these codes at all, will prevent you from being in tune with your partner and cause disruption to others.


Remember, Salon Tango is an intimate dance between you and your partner, so concentrate on your embrace first and listen to the music. Everything else will follow.

Story posted by: Rita Maree Horne

About the author: Social Dancer, Writer from Edinburgh

Published: 19 Oct 2013 @ 10:59

Last modified: 28 Dec 2022 @ 12:09

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