Frequently Asked Questions

What is a tango práctica?

  • MTS holds weekly informal prácticas on Tuesday evenings. They are listed on our online calendar.
  • People are encouraged to change partners regularly. This will improve your dancing no matter what your level of dance experience.

What is a milonga?

  • A milonga is a social Argentine tango dance.  Generally, the tango music is played in sets of 3 or 4 songs (tandas) with an approximate 30 second to one minute interlude of non-tango music between sets (the "cortina" which means "curtain").
  • It's your choice, but dancing to cortina music it's not highly prized... In fact - it labels you as a Beginner. So even if you hear your favorite salsa number used as a cortina, try NOT to dance! Instead - use this time to walk your follower back to her/his seat, exchange pleasantries, and get ready for the next tanda.
  • It is customary for a couple to dance together for a complete tanda and then change partners during the cortina.
  • MTS holds one Argentine tango dance (milonga) each month, on the first Saturday of the month.  See Calendar.

Do I need a partner?

  • No. Both couples and singles come to prácticas and milongas.

How do I ask someone to dance?

  • Here in Madison, both men and women ask each other to dance.
  • In Argentina, it is traditional to use the “Cabeceo”. The asker will make eye contact or a head nod, and the potential partner will reply “yes” by holding the eye contact and/or smiling.  We strongly encourage use of the Cabeceo, because it's simply polite to give both the lead and the follow a chance to refuse without causing embarassment..

When do I ask someone to dance?

  • This is important for beginning dancers: wait UNTIL THE MUSIC STARTS to ask someone for a dance! This way if it's a song you don't like or type of Tango you don't know how to dance (like Milonga or Vals) - you can simply relax and watch other dancers instead of sweating on the floor trying to pretend that you know what you don't know.

What is dance floor etiquette?

  • Tango etiquette is based on respect for all. Please take a look at the Codigos for general tango milonga etiquette.
  • At milongas, dancers move in a counter-clockwise (line-of-dance) direction around the dance floor. It is important to remain aware of the other couples, especially when the floor is crowded, so that we keep the risk of collisions and injury as low as possible.
    • It’s like driving. Don’t cut right in front of other dancers. Use the same common sense as you use for driving!
    • Do not enter the dance floor ignoring all existing traffic.
  • Provide other dancers equal space on either in front of or behind you. Don't stop suddenly.
    • Do not pass through the middle of the floor at any moment – not when you are dancing, not when you are about to start dancing, not when you finish dancing.
  • Stop when the music stops.
  • Start AFTER the music starts. It’s ok to just listen to the first few phrases.
  • Live Music - If there is an orchestra playing live music - DO NOT DANCE the first song. Focus on ADMIRING  and APPRECIATING the orchestra. DO NOT be the first person to jump on the floor. In fact, wait until the orchestra leader himself starts encouraging people to start dancing. Simple respect.
  • Providing requested or unrequested instruction during a milonga is considered disrespectful.
  • The milonga is meant to be a fun and relaxing event. If you would like to practice, please come to an MTS práctica.

Where can I get more tango instruction?

  • Many people start learning by coming to prácticas, but it also is helpful to have some formal lessons.
  • Please see our calendar for more information on upcoming prácticas, lessons and workshops.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

  • Traditionally, women wear high-heel shoes up to 4” and men may also wear shoes with a small heel.  We recommend starting with a pair of shoes that you know are comfortable, heels or not.
  • Many of the dance patterns involve pivoting or turning on your shoes.  Therefore try to find a pair of shoes that will not stick to the floor. Many dance shoes have suede or hard leather soles for this reason.
  • Please bring a clean change of non-street shoes to our events so that dirt and water can be kept off the dance floor.

What is the difference between Close-embrace and Open-embrace?

  • There are several styles of Argentine tango and all involve some degree of physical contact between dance partners.  Generally, these styles can be broken down into open-embrace and close-embrace, although there will be many opinions on this. In the close-embrace there is frequently contact between the upper bodies (chests) of the dancers, and in open-embrace, there is a variety of different holds/contact points.
  • MTS members have learned tango from a variety of instructors and both open and close-embrace are seen at our classes, prácticas and milongas. If a participant does not feel comfortable with the degree of physical contact, he/she is not obliged to use that style.  The person may express to their dance partner that they would like to dance in a more open style, or may choose not to dance with that particular person.  It is usually customary to allow the follow to determine the level of contact.

Where did tango come from?

  • This is a very long subject.  We give a brief history here.  We encourage you to seek out more information if you are curious:
  • Argentine tango began in Buenos Aires around the end of the 19th century when European immigrants settled in Argentina.  The rhythm of the tango and some choreographic figures were influenced by the African dance, the Candombe. French, German, and Italian melodies and instruments were also critical in the evolution of the tango, with one third to one half of the population of Buenos Aires being Italian immigrants. The German instrument, the bandoneon (similar to a small accordian), is frequently heard in tango music.  Tango lyrics often revolve around the themes of lost love and nostalgia for the homeland. Carlos Gardel, from France, was instrumental in introducing the lyrical tango.
  • Society did not immediately accept the tango, as its close-embrace and lower body movements were considered obscene and bawdy.  As a result, tango was restricted to the suburbs and upper-class brothels of Buenos Aires. With the massive immigration of men from Europe, women were the minority.  Women would only dance with the best dancers. Therefore, in the early days of tango, men would dance together to improve their dance, and show-off to each other and the women.
  • In 1913, the tango arrived in Europe, where it became popular among the intellectuals, especially in Paris. People from all over the world were introduced to the tango in Paris and, as a result, tango became more accepted in the middle and upper classes in Argentina.  Tango popularity soared in thd 40’s and 50’s, when tango orchestras developed a following. Shortly after WWII, Argentine’s economy declined and people had time to spend in the dance halls. It was in the 60’s and 70’s when the now famous Astor Piazzolla began composing the avant-garde Nuevo Tango music.
  • Since 2002, Argentina and many areas of the world are seeing a renewed interest in the tango. Despite the poor economy, tango has remained strong in Argentina, and Buenos Aires has become a popular vacation spot for many to come and learn the dance. Currently, one can find tango in nearly every large city in the world and tango bands that have expanded into many genres