(706) 564 5847

A guide to dancing in Unfamiliar Milongas (followers)

If you enjoy tango, you have probably ventured into unknown cities/milongas hopeful for many blissful tandas. Sometimes the stars align and you do truly have a magical time. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and more importantly, willing to dance with an “unknown”.

But then there are other times when we wonder why we even went. Here are a few tips to try at ALL the milongas you venture to, especially the frustrating ones.

[This article also assumes the follower is a reasonably good dancer and the gender balance is fairly close.  We are sharing our learnings in the past 4 years or so for milongas in the US.  However, a few learnings we had in BA.  This stuff works!]

1.)   Always check your attitude before you walk in. It is important to project a friendly and “I’m glad to be here, I’m ready to dance” persona. One lady we know in Boulder always walks in with a confident “I’m here” attitude and a big smile on her face. It works.  If you are not sure you are going to dance as much as you want DON’T GO.  

2.)   Watch where you choose to sit. It’s always better to be seated where you can see potential partners and not with your back to them. This means you may not want to sit with friends if you don’t have a good seat. Plus you come to a milonga to dance with others, not the ones you dance with at home.

3.)   That brings us to another important tip: Network and mingle with folks. Go up and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Get to know the locals; they’re more likely to remember you and invite you to dance later on. Plus they may invite you to stay with them at future times, saving you a hotel bill.

4.)   If you notice locals that really dance well. Find an opportunity to compliment them! Who doesn’t like a compliment? Even if you don’t speak Spanish well, compliment them. They will understand! They may dance with you later?

5.)   Never remain seated for a long period. If you have sat for one or two tandas, get up and move about the room. Go to the bar, get water, smile and make eye contact as you go. Make sure you are seen and approachable (**Note on Festivals later).

6.)   If you are sitting with friends and want to dance, make sure you are not looking at them and talking during the dancing and particularly the cortinas. If you see someone you want to dance with try to make eye contact as he or she dance by in line-of-dance. If you DO make contact SMILE! Leaders will remember this and might ask you to dance later. Along these lines, DO NOT start looking at your phone and basically looking bored/checking out of the milonga.

7.)   Be aware of your body language at all times. If you are slumped in your chair with a bored or defeated expression and a lady at another table is smiling and alert, looking for a partner, guess who the leader is going to probably choose. Leaders will not fight their way through willing and eager partners to get to a depressed looking, slumping partner!

8.)   Always be working on your dance. You want to bring your “A” game to a milonga. Always strive to grow in the dance. Give the best dance you can. Don’t worry if you “don’t get” what the leader is leading RELAX!! BREATHE!! There is no past or future there is only now. Feel the lead; feel the music; create a delicious connection that feels comfortable to both (relaxed yet with good frame). Give the best dance you can and the leader will remember it and more willing to ask you next time.

** At Festivals (if you are new)

1.)           Make sure you get to the milonga early to get a good seat!! You want to be seated close to the dance floor. Better to be seated in full view of the primary entrance door! Of course, wear nice clothes appropriate for the milonga theme (For example Saturday night is usually more formal, and other milongas may have a theme, etc.)

2.)           Saturday night milongas seem to be “Feeding-Frenzies” to get dances. We recommend getting to Festivals early (Thursday) to establish yourself as a good follower.

3.)           In classes: If you are clearly more confident/experienced than your class partner, remember that a leader’s job is tough – they might be good dancers but not familiar with the material. Compliment the slightest thing they do well. Be courteous and appreciate his efforts. I remember courteous, fun followers and will seek them out at milongas.

Hope this is helpful!  Diane & Steve