The Codigos of the Milonga

Most tango dancers around the world have heard of the “codigos” (unwritten rules of the milongas in Buenos Aires) and know a little bit about the cabeceo, or the head-nod invitation to dance. Also, at many international tango festivals there is discussion about the line of dance, la ronda, and how leaders need to manage it, which is also covered by the codigos. These two aspects are the most well known of the milonga codes.

But do you know that there are more than forty codigos of how to behave, from when you enter the milonga until you leave? There is etiquette to cover every situation (before it becomes a “situation”). 

Many foreign tangueros don’t know or care about “old-fashioned” rules from a time and culture gone by. But the Argentines have been dancing tango in Buenos Aires for 150 years and have figured out a few things about how to conduct themselves at a milonga. The tried and true codigos are for everyone’s benefit.h

Tourist dancers in Buenos Aires sometimes rebel and want to act as they are used to at milongas in their home countries. But out of respect for tradition, the local tangueros, and the tango itself, it behooves one to learn and follow at least the most important of the codigos while dancing in the traditional milongas of Buenos Aires.

I’m not going to list them here, because you can find the “rules” elsewhere on the web. Suffice it to say they are all about common courtesy, and making everyone feel comfortable so they can enjoy the dancing.

Generally it’s the traditional milongas that observe the codigos; at the “bailes joven” pretty much almost anything goes in dance invitations and floor craft, and that’s exactly why the codes are so useful where they are upheld. Not only does good etiquette show respect for the dancers, but also for the tango itself. .


Experience Authentic Social Tango in Buenos Aires 

If you want to experience authentic social tango, you really need to know the best places for you to go to watch and dance. You could pick up one of the many free tango publications from shoe salons and hotels which list all of the milongas (places to dance social tango), but unless you have lots of time and money to explore each one, you can’t tell which is right for you. And that’s why Ruben & Cherie provide a service to help tango tourists get the most out of their visits to Buenos Aires. They know where you can have the most fun and how to break the codigos, and will even take you there themselves and dance with you. Check out the details on Cherie’s blog.  Cherie is the author of The Church of Tango: a Memoir available on Amazon world-wide in paper and Kindle.

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Filed under: Need To Know, Tango


  1. Amy Says:

    Also worth checking out are Tango Courtesies here:

    Also, some dancers have been pushing for perfume-free milongas, but that is rare and not something I agree with but here is what they say:

    “Today’s popular scented products like aftershaves, perfumes, and colognes can be very strong, and they spread through a dancehall in a very short time. Please avoid wearing them to tango out of consideration for others, who may have strong health reactions to them.”

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