As you will be picking up in class there are not many "rules" in tango. How you want to interpret the music, step, connect with your partner is up to you ultimately. However to make the whole social tango experience more enjoyable for the whole community one needs to follow some guidelines on the dance floor. Here's some tips :-)
(to keep the writing easy in some places I have used traditional he = lead and follower = she. However we all know that lead and follow can be interchangeable (esp in progressive Nelson))
ETIQUETTE OFF THE DANCE FLOOR
The literal translation of cabeceo is 'nod of the head'. In simple terms it is a non-verbal invitation to dance the tango from lead to follow. The lead looks at the follow and indicates with a movement of his head that he would like to dance. If she accepts the cabeceo, she will nod, he will move towards her, offer the embrace (with which she sets the distance) and they will tango; if she refuses the offer, she will politely look away, and he will not approach.
The cabeceo's immense charm is in its subtlety - it avoids an awkward situation and unpleasantness by the smallest of gestures, whose meaning - particularly if the woman declines - is kept private between the requester and requestee. Indeed what could be more natural at a milonga than to communicate by eye contact? No longer is there the danger to cross a crowded room to invite a woman to dance, only to be turned down in front of everyone.
Of course what this means is that the follower has to be available to accept the dance! I have heard so often followers stating that they get no dances but the reality is that they are not looking for a dance either! Texting, burying your head in your bag, talking a lot and not being available is the biggest block to dancing. Yes there are always times when there are not enough leads to dance with, that's life, but if we are interested and happy and keen (and especially in Nelson where we are so friendly) you will get dances :-)
I also recommend that if you wear glasses, keep them on for the cabeceo and then take them off once you have accepted that dance. You will feel more comfortable dancing without them on than worrying about whether you are nudging him with them.
There are times when the follower doesn't want to dance! I know it's hard to imagine that she is not desperate to dance with you! But its true. Sometimes the music may not call to us, we may feel like a rest or a chat with someone from class ... please don't take offence if we don't accept your offer. We are still flattered that you have asked us and we will dance with you when we want to!
In Buenos Aires the cabaceo is used relentlessly. In many Western countries we are resistant to it - it appears that we see it as forward or worse still .... rude!
ETIQUETTE ON THE DANCE FLOOR
When entering the line of dance, make eye contact with the on-coming lane of leaders and ONLY enter when you have acknowledgement of the leader next in the line of dance or you have enough space to do so safely. Having eye contact with each other is acknowledgement enough!
Move anticlockwise around the floor.
Try to remain the same distance behind the couple in front of you.
Keep the follower’s feet on the floor.
Don’t step backward against the line of dance ( unless you know it is safe to do so)
Try to keep your vocabulary limited to simple movements that can be modified within one or 2 steps. Avoid long sequences and really try to keep the follower’s feet on the floor.
In crowded conditions, form at least 2 LANES of dance.
The outside lane should extend right to the edges of the dance floor.
Keep the lanes moving in an orderly progression and don’t overtake or cut from one lane to another unless absolutely necessary.
Can we help the dance floor etiquette? YES!!
Don't rush onto the floor when you have accepted a dance, make sure you give the leader the opportunity to find a safe entrance to the line of dance.
Don't self lead boleos
Use gentle but connected pressure with your left hand on his back if he is stepping dangerously into someone's path (that he cannot see)
Be an active follower and be aware of the dance around you, even though you may close your eyes during the dance, when you relinquish yourself from the embrace watch where you step in case you step into another couple.
When collisions happen:
Smile, Make Eye Contact to acknowledge the collision, and then *APOLOGIZE* as soon as is humanly possible, even if you think you are in the right.
A good time to do this is in the wee pause between songs or at the end of the tanda if the collision happened in the last song. You don't have a to make a meal of it - just say "Sorry" with eye contact (as if you mean it) and then get back to the enjoyable moments with your dance partner.
Remember tango is a social dance, full of connection which includes the music your partner and the entire dance floor.
I know it may seem strange to some to have to write this - but tango is a very intimate dance form, you are in a close embrace for 12 minutes and we all want to be comfortable. Men remember that women have a higher olfactory sense (in general)!
But don't over do it with the perfume/after shave - you don’t want your partner to pass out from toxic fumes
Wash your body well
Close embracing someone you don't know needs to be as pleasant an experience as possible :-)
Clean your teeth
Freshen your breath for those close embrace moments
Do not drink and tango
It smells unpleasant and does not help your balance!
We would rather if you didn’t, but if you do please refresh your mouth with mints
So there are a few tips to get you started. Feel free to make comments on the blog ... happy to field any questions.
Happy dancing everyone!