The London Codigos

10th January 2010

The following are the essential rules of etiquette for dancing tango in London venues, based on years of observation.

At a Milonga

  1. The line of dance is anti-clockwise. Remember: this is an optional suggestion, not an actual rule. Really good dancers can go clockwise, or for that matter diagonally.
  2. Similarly, great dancers are the ones who can zoom around the floor, changing direction rapidly and overtaking other dancers with ease.
  3. Lanes are for people who believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy. If God had meant us to dance in lanes, he wouldn't have given us Negracha's.
  4. You don't need floorcraft when dancing Nuevo, as it's a free form dance. Simply go where the music takes you. If God had meant us to have floorcraft with Nuevo, he wouldn't have given us downstairs at Negracha's.
  5. The best way to ask for a dance is to walk up to them from behind and tap them on the shoulder. If they ignore you, tap them harder and say "Excuse me!" in a loud tone of voice. Amd the best time to do this is in the middle of a dance. Don't worry if they're engaged in conversation - or for that matter a dance; this is just the Latin "playing hard to get" ploy.
  6. Always say "Thank-you" after each dance.
  7. It's rude to dance more than 2 dances with anyone; people will think you're monopolising your partner.
  8. Never let the fact that you don't like / know / understand the music stop you from dancing at a milonga.
  9. Boleos are the best way to clear some space on a crowded floor so that you can dance properly. If you can't do boleos, a nice low fast planeo will work.
  10. Out of respect, people will give you space on the dance floor if you do big moves, so always do this.


  1. Always let your partner know what they're doing wrong and teach them how to do it right - how else will they learn? Ideally, stop in the middle of a dance-floor to do this, as teaching is more effective in a Real Dance Environment.
  2. Watch YouTube to learn the cool moves your teacher hasn't gotten around to yet. Watch them once or twice, then try them out at the next milonga (as is more effective in a Real Dance Environment). If you end up with a partner who's not of a sufficient standard to cope with moves this advanced, see Rule 1 above.

At demonstrations / showcases

  1. You can judge a demonstration by the number of moves in it you'd like to be able to do. Applaud all acrobatics.
  2. If you liked a demonstration, yell "Milonga!" loudly and repeatedly at the end.

In a class

  1. Turn up late to the lesson (the teacher will be late anyway, and with luck you'll skip the boring warm-up and talking bits).
  2. It's useful to helpfully explain something to your partner while the teachers are also trying to explain it. Teachers appreciate you doing this - it saves them effort. Also, try to point out as often as possible, how the way "Teacher X" does the move is different to the way your current teacher does. Don't be restricted by referencing the same move either.
  3. When being rotated in a class, make sure never to sit out, no matter who else suffers.
  4. If a teacher asks if there are any questions, always remain silent.
  5. Anyone who gives a guest workshop will be "incredible", particularly if they're foreign. Lanky hair and general scruffiness will also denote a star teacher.
  6. When learning moves in class such as back sacadas, make sure to have shoes that will injure your partner if they don't follow / lead properly. Again, it's for their own good - how else will they learn?

- Christopher O' Shea / David Bailey, 10th January 2010

Related Articles