The codigos exist to protect egos and relationships. They are really very handy, and I recommend you follow them. (Here’s our Guide to Tango Etiquette and posts about why to use the cabeceo) The codigos are like your best friend who takes care of you when you are drunk. They ensure that you don’t betray your wife in a moment of confused infatuation, or piss in public. They ensure you will look as good as possible. (People are watching your behavior, as closely as your dancing).
Who to dance with, when, and for how long
When you are in a milonga, you are part of a personal network with a hierarchy. The codigos help you to take care of everyone in your network, for your best interests and theirs. It’s easy to get carried away with a hot new dancer, who you may never see again, or who may turn out to be a problematic person. Best to follow the rules.
Be sure to dance the first tanda, the last tanda, the cumparsita (in case the last tanda is not announced or you didn’t hear the announcement – but it’s your responsibility to listen for this), and most of your total floor time, with the top-ranked person from this list who is present tonight:
- Your life-partner/love.
- Your “official” dance partner when that is a different person than #1.
- Your “host” if you are sleeping somewhere for free or if there is someone who is taking care of any of your business for you for free.
- Your tango “date” if you made plans to travel to this milonga together, and/or to leave together.
- Long-term important dance partners, people who helped build your career…
- Hottie of the night.
If these people arrive in different order, or unexpectedly, or leave, the hierarchy shifts. Keep track. (They are.) No matter what you want, just follow the rules.
If more than one person from #1-#5 are present on a given evening, be sure to dance with them before looking for #6-∞).
It is *always* correct to excuse yourself as soon as you realize that it’s the last tanda or cumparsita in order to show your loyalty to #1-5. If #6 is as hot for you as you are for them, it will impress them even more to see you demonstrating your integrity.
The cumparsita is sacred for a reason: You don’t just come back to each other. You let go of others. You choose each other in the very face of temptation. You bring yourself back to your chosen relationship, away from spontaneous fantasies of flirtation. Fellow dancers should always encourage their friends back to their partners at this moment. You don’t just go home together. First you give each other the best of what you have been giving to other people.
Be discrete about your enthusiasm
If you are having an especially good time with someone, you in danger of hurting everyone else who matters to you. Unless you are *sure* that you don’t need any of them, any more, ever (which is very unlikely), keep your feelings well-hidden. (#1-5 are watching.)
Be discrete about your misery
If you are having a bad time, don’t show it in your face, and don’t start looking for your next dance while dancing. These are the biggest turnoffs to possible dance partners because they know you will do the same to them, behind their back. (They are watching.)
Shut the fuck up
There is rarely a compelling reason to talk about how wonderful another dancer is to a person of the same role. The exceptions are rare:
- Lush praise for primary love and/or dance-partners (#1 and #2) to publicly demonstrate your respect and loyalty to them.
- Discussion of superlative technical and artistic points experienced with elite pro dancers, so long as there is a massive, public, and objective gap in rank (to protect the egos of the listeners) and a clear, constructive purpose (to inspire or aid the listeners).
Also be aware that you could mess up other people’s relationships. If there are two girls who are friends and you gush about what a great dancer one of them is, you could introduce a painful hierarchy between them.
Why does tango make us so vulnerable?
Basic guide to the codigos.
Code of Ethics for tango communities.