Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us into individuals, but tango unites us into a team, community, people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through fraternity, cooperation, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

October 18, 2015

How to Get More Invitations in the Milonga

1. Be active
When fishing you need to attract fish with baits and lure them to bite. If you sit there with an empty and motionless hook, chances are that you will not get many bites. Non-action is a reason why some women are not invited to dance in the milongas. Men, like fish, are attracted to live baits. They do not reach out without incentives. This is so especially because 54.1% of men are introverts compare to 47.5% of women are introverts in the US, according to a study by the Myers-Briggs organization. If you just sit there passively waiting for men to come, chances are that you will sit there for a long time. (See Activity and Passivity in Tango.)

2. Be observant
Passive women are not actively engaged in the invitation process. They don't pay attention to how men act, which men might be their potential partners, where they sit, how they invite women to dance, whether they are reserved or outgoing, whether they use cabeceo or verbal invitation, etc. They just sit there chatting, browsing, eating, waiting for men to come to invite them. In contrast, active women are first and foremost good observers, who pay attention to men, observe their behaviors, identify prospective matches, locate their seats, and familiarize themselves with their invitation styles, so that they can take action to catch their attention, or be prepared for their move.

3. Pay attention to men
It is important to pay attention to men not only because you need to know your partners but also because men are more responsive to women who pay attention to them. Your attention signals your interest. A man can tell who are interested in him and who are not, and he behaves much more positively to those who are. If you turn a blind eye to him, that sends a different message. Beware of the message you send. A gentleman does not force his way on you, he acts according to your will.

4. Get ready and be responsive
Don't occupy yourself with things that may prevent men from inviting you, such as talking, eating, reading, browsing the phone, sitting with boyfriend, cliquing, being unchanged, wearing non-tango shoes, etc. Instead, let men see that you are available and ready. Pay attention to men who are watching you, and be responsive to their cabeceo. Don't be afraid of showing your desire to dance. Many times I danced with a woman because she stood up in front of me with a smiling face when I was just passing her. Oftentimes the woman I tried to cabeceo did not get the dance because she sat there like a wooden chicken, but the woman sat next to her got because she was active and responsive.

5. Change your attitude
Don't assume that initiating an invitation is easy for men. They also have self-esteem and can feel embarrassed or humiliated by your rejection. Many will not come back again as a result, and you don't want that. It takes courage for a man to come over and ask you to dance because he runs the risk of being rejected by you in front of others. Don't make it harder by your attitude. Instead, show your empathy. Even if you don't want to dance at the moment, responding kindly does you no harm. You could save yourself a potential partner for later that way.

6. Smile more and be approachable
Women often complain that they don't get enough dances in the milongas. But how many of them look into themselves for why? I don't know how many times women averted their eyes or gave me a vacant look when I tried to invite them. If you want to get more dances, the best advice I can give is being friendly and approachable. Make it a habit to smile and let men see the passion in your eyes. I guarantee that you will get a lot more dances that way.

7. Make eye contact with men
Men often walk around in search of a partner. You might think they are walking past you to get a drink, go to the bathroom, or for other reasons that have nothing to do with you, but you'd be wrong. They are testing your response. If you sit there indifferently, that shows you are not interested. If you raise your head and make eye contact with them, that not only tells them you are looking for a partner, but also gives them a chance to cabeceo you. Making eye contact with men is very important because that is the way you let them know you want to dance.

8. Overcome your pride
In the milongas of Buenos Aires when a man approaches a women's table, every woman in that table will look at him until they find out whom he is inviting. In the US, however, women have a different attitude. They sit there wearing a blank face and ignore the man until he has to verbally ask one to dance. Brought up in a culture that teaches women to keep a distance from men, to avoid intimacy, to not give men ideas, to let men chase you and not submit yourself too easily, this kind of attitude is understandable. But if you act like a newbie in the milonga, your chance being invited is slim. Women, especially young women, should not confuse tango with courtship. What the world taught you does not work in the milongas, where men approach you to dance with you, not to steal your heart. In the milongas you need to learn from little children who are pure in heart and can easily get along with other little children.

9. Expand you horizons
A woman may decline an invitation because she thinks the man is not a right partner for her. By that bias she limits herself to dancing only with the men she knew well. However, this is a big world. If you spend money attending an event where a large group of dancers from different places gather, it would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity to dance with as many men you don't know as possible. The assumption that someone is not good enough for you is often wrong. Most people seek partner among peers. If you are good and he wants to dance with you, he likely is not too bad either despite his humble appearance. By expanding your horizons, you will experience, learn and enjoy the dance more.

10. Use cabeceo
Women in this country spend more time on dresses than on cabeceo. While dress works to some degree, you will be more successful if you combine that with cabeceo. Cherie Magnus calls cabeceo one of "the most civilized customs" in the milonga, which I agree. (See Women's role in Cabeceo.) Women must learn this skill because that is the way, and often the only way, sophisticated tangueros use to invite a woman. (See The Issues on Cabeceo.) An experienced tanguero does not oblige you to dance. He looks at you from across the room, or walks to where you can see him and gazes at you. If you exchange eye contact with him, he will nod at you to invite you. If you sit there like a dummy, that shows you are unworthy of his time and he will turn to a more experienced woman. Only novice men will force their way to your seat and ask you to dance. By using cabeceo, you not only get more dances, but better dances as well.

11. Be brave
Dancing with someone better than you can be rewarding, but you need to be brave and take the initiative because chances are that he will not ask. Most experienced tangueros use cabeceo to invite a woman, which will not work if you avoid their eyes. You should not let the thought that you are not good enough to intimidate you. Schopenhauer said, "Man is either vulgar or lonely." The better he is, the lonelier he becomes, and he will be happy to dance with you if you are willing. Don't be timid because of your lack of experience. A good dancer knows how to dance with anyone because tango to him is not a show of skills but an expression of love. (See The Four Stages of Your Tango Journey.) You will be glad that you made the eye contact with him.

12. Stare at him longer
Some women do make eye contact with men, but they make it very briefly in order not to seem like they are begging for a dance. Women often think that a subtle cue, such as a quick glance or moving closer, is enough to call a man's attention. However, that's not how men think. A man needs to see you eye-to-eye for a few seconds to make sure you want to dance with him before he makes a move. If you avert your eyes too quickly, he will take that as a rejection. If you want to dance with him, you need to fix your eyes at him. Only if he doesn't act after ten seconds or more should you then turn your eyes away. (See Tango Etiquette: Talking, Eye Contact, Clique and Hierarchy.)

13. Be moderate
In performance tango you need to be as striking as you can, but in social tango you should follow the Golden Mean. Our culture encourages individuality and creativity, which is fine if you only need one man to appreciate your uniqueness. In the milongas, however, you want to get as many invitations as possible. Most men are ordinary folks. If your style is too unconventional, if your dance skill is too above average, if your dress is too exotic, if you are too fancy and showy, most men will find that intimidating. The emphasis of social tango is the communication of feelings, not the display of styles. A social dancer must balance being yourself and meeting the tastes of most people. Good dance skills do not have to be superficial. (See Social Tango and Performance Tango.)

14. Be a woman
Men are attracted to women who are feminine, not women who are masculine or gender-neutral. If you cut your hair like a man, dress like a man, like to lead, like to dance with women, or wear flat shoes, your chance being invited by men will be limited. Some women may think it's cool to imitate men. While there may be some guys who like that, most men don't. That's just the nature of being men. If you believe you don't have to respect that, that's your choice. But if you want to dance with men, then you must assume the feminine role in the partnership. Tango is not a showcase for individualism and feminism. (See Femininity and Feminism (I).)

15. Improve yourself
Not getting enough invitations is one of the most expressed frustrations among women. While men may be a part to blame (See The Age Prejudice in Tango.), I believe women have issues to address also. We all need to acknowledge that our cultural heritage such as egoism, liberalism, individualism, feminism, independence and the focus on the self, contributed to the problem. (See Tango and Individualism and Tango and Gender Relations.) Unless we've learned to accept, respect, love and cooperate with each other and developed a culture in our milongas that is different from the culture in which we live, we are not able to fully enjoy tango. That is a challenge we as non-Argentinians all have to face. (See The Freedom in Tango.)


  1. hi paul, i shared your text on facebook. now there's a discussion, wether it would be better to adressthe menfor changing their behaviour - do you feel like joining us?

    1. Sure, Thomas. Men are a part of the problem, too. I am especially interested in women's perspective about how men need to change in the milonga. Please let me know the access.

  2. Hello,

    I just started learning tango last week and I must admit I am hooked. It is a great dance.

    After my first lesson I decided to do a research about the dance on the Web and thus stumbled on your blog.

    Thank you very much for it. As a beginner especially the posts about common mistakes caught my attention first of course, and I will try to avoid them as much as possible.

    But your other posts about the essence of tango are the ones that are most valuable for a beginner like me. They outline the roadmap of progress and what I as beginner should pay attention to to feel the dance.

    While obviously I still have to pay attention to my steps as a beginner, I will try to also concentrate myself also more on music and let it guide my steps.

    So far I believe my teacher adheres to the same philosophy about tango as you are. As the course will progress I will have more insight on this.

    Thank you again for your tremendous help for a beginner like me!

    1. Your words warm my heart. Thank you, Anonymous!

  3. Nice of you to tell women how to behave, what to wear, how to be available and attentive, etc. Do you also correct your dance partners, so they dance the way you want? And what about the men? It wouldn't hurt to write up a few dos and don'ts for them as well. I do not want to offend you, but I think you might have projected a few of your own insecurities and hang-ups onto your guidelines.
    Women go to a milonga to dance. The men need to be strong, not weak. We are not there to build up mens' egos or help them overcome their shyness and introversion. Yours truly, Araceli Ramos

    1. It is a choice. I believe even for the best interest of yourself, it is better to keep others in mind when you make choices rather than just thinking of yourself. Of course you don't have to believe that.

  4. Excellent article, Paul. A lot of wise insights. One of the tangueras in my Women's Inner Circle posted the link on our private Facebook group, and I just read it. I am going to recommend it to our members on tomorrow's teleclass on "How to feel like a radiant Queen at every milonga".