Navigation While Dancing

Navigation is a large part of dancing and a skill that takes some practice to develop. The following list is considered good etiquette when dancing. All of these rules are not meant to scare you away from dancing, but to make it more enjoyable for you, your partner, and all the other dancers. Many of the rules and advice listed below are intuitive, especially if you drive a car. Consider this as driver's ed. for tango. 

A good place to ask questions and practice with navigation is during the free beginner lesson before milongas or at Thursdays practicas.

A milonga at TangoHelena's 2015 festival. Lots of navigation going on.

A milonga at TangoHelena's 2015 festival. Lots of navigation going on.

Dance Floor Basics

  • Enter the floor from an area that will not interrupt the flow. It's preferable to enter from one of the corners of the dance floor and not from the middle of a lane. Try to catch the eye of the leader in front of whom you will be entering.
  • Move counter clockwise around the dance floor. This is called moving with the line of dance. Of you've ever gone ice skating, this direction will be familiar. Moving in the line of dance includes not taking large back steps and not leading your follower to step against the line of dance unless you know you have space behind you. Just like when you're driving a car, don't go anywhere blind unless you know where people around you are located.
  • Use the space in front of you. If space opens up in front of you then use it. There's a rule of thumb that if there's a space in front of you, then there's probably a traffic jam behind you. 
  • Stay in your lane. Sometimes a floor might be big enough for an inner lane to develop. If you find yourself in an inner lane or in the middle of the floor then you should stay there, at least until the song ends and then you can move back to the outer lane. Just like on a highway in rush hour traffic, moving in and out of lanes during a song can be dangerous for other couples around you because you've become unpredictable.
  • Do not pass other couples. Try to maintain the line of dance without passing other couples. You should develop a vocabulary (by taking our Tango Basics class) which allows you to dance in place without advancing forward.
The same rules apply to dancing navigation as moving through Houston traffic.

The same rules apply to dancing navigation as moving through Houston traffic.

  • If you make a mistake, go with it. Mistakes are just opportunities to do something else (and often turn into something you and your partner can laugh at). Remember, its supposed to be fun, not a test. 
  • Minimize verbal communication while dancing. Many people can't dance and talk or dance and listen at the same time. Its like trying to rub your belly and pat your head. You can and are encouraged to chat between songs.
  • Focus on your partner, relax, listen to the music, and strive for a wonderful dance with him/her.



Navigation Tips for Leaders

  • Use the corners. Always dance all the way to the corner and then make your turn. Cutting the corners shrinks the dance floor and moves you out of your lane. The corners are your friend. This is the place where you will have the most room to do figures and complex turns. Its also where the fans are often located so its a great place to cool off for a bit during the dance.
  • Leave space for couple in front of you. Try to leave them with enough room to do one decent size back step and to execute a basic turn. On the road as on the dance floor, you don’t want someone riding your bumper.
  • Try dancing at an angle. Instead of facing the line of dance, rotate 45 degrees to the leader’s right. Maintain this angle as you move down the floor and you will find that it is much easier to see the dancers in front of you and to anticipate any potential hazards. 
  • Always pay attention to the leaders in front of and behind you, but pay extra close attention during the first song of a tanda, so that you can figure out what they are in a habit of doing. Do they take lots of back steps against the line of dance? Are they crowding you? Are they leading dangerous boleos? 
  • Try to make eye contact with the leaders around you just to let them know you are there. 
  • Use the space you just left. This is one of the most important skills to develop. Use moves that employ the space that you just left. Once you step forward, you should have the space that you just vacated available to you.
  • Never step blindly. Always make sure the space you are about to take is not already occupied or about to be by someone else or something else like a wall, table, chair, sound system, fans, or anything else that can stray onto the dance floor.