Asking a Lady to dance Tango.

It seems that in Argentina men do not directly ask women to dance. Instead, the men merely gaze across the room and try to catch a lady’s eyes. If she looks away, it means no, if she smiles and holds her gaze at you for a moment in means yes. A nod of the man’s head toward the dance floor is all that it takes and the lady will arise and walk to meet the leader. This way the leader can save face. He never has to walk across the floor ask a lady to dance and then be humiliated if she declines the dance.

Being a North American, I prefer to be more direct and ask a lady to dance.  Of course, it still helps to check for eye contact. If a follower avoids my eyes, I’ll usually move on and not ask her. At milongas I’ve noticed that followers are rather particular and have little patience for beginners or for those whose dance styles they cannot easily follow. Their attitude is: “I’ve worked hard to be a good tango dancer and I deserve to spend my time at a milonga with an experienced dancer; I don’t time for beginners.”

She doesn’t have 3 minutes now and then for a beginner?

At ballroom dances, it seems that followers are more patient and understanding with beginning leaders.

I’ve been reading a really ancient book called The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette, published in the 1870’s.  A lot of the information, of course, is out of date, but I love the suggested way of asking for a dance. I’m going to try it.   The suggested way to ask for tango dance would be:

Shall I have the honor of your hand in a tango?

I’ll let you know in a future post how it works.
— Phil Seyer, Creator of

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2 Responses to Asking a Lady to dance Tango.

  1. Please do not continue to ask ladies to dance verbally, it hurts the milonga as a whole. Try as much as possible to use cabeceo. Sometimes it is inconvenient but the milonga has a life of its own. Tangueros running around asking women to dance ruins it for the people who are working hard to follow all the rules of this dance.
    My experience with ballroom dancers was different. If I got shot down for a dance, I was marked as a loser and didn’t get many dances that night.
    Cabeceo is a very useful tool and it helps mitigate the stigma of a rejection, thus enabling other ladies to accept your request.
    I have a tango blog,, if you go there you will see better the atmosphere of the milonga through my eyes.

    • admin says:

      Perri, I never thought of it that way. Thanks for your post. I will be more careful at the next milonga I attend to respect the cabeceo tradition.

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