argentine tango in vancouver


Argentine Tango in Vancouver, BC Canada 


Milongas and Practicas

BailaTango has been running regular weekly dances (milongas) in Vancouver since 1996. 

Semiral's first milonga was on Mondays in a Greek restaurant (Panorama) on Commercial.  This was a volunteer effort for two years.  Milongas later moved to Fridays (Dance World and Polish Hall) and lasted for four years.   The following 8 years until September 2010, we had a once a month on the  third Saturdays at Simply Ballroom, later called Yasel's and now called EverybodyDance Studio on 4603 Main.  Our Current milonga is on every Sunday except long weekends from October to May, called: Java Milonga.  Our venue has a superb floor, romantic ambiance and the most welcoming atmosphere.

In all these years one thing has never changed: Semiral brings the best music of Buenos Aires to Vancouver with unforgettable tangos, valses and milongas.    



Sundays Matinee: Java Milonga (Check the Home page for details)

(Tango Lesson* 8:30pm, Tango Performance 11pm)

DJ: Semiral (or a guest DJ)

4 pm - 7pm

Bean Around the World Venue Info/Map  

Watch Guler & Semiral demonstrating a tango and a milonga at our Saturday milonga







Volunteer Program - You can learn tango for free, contribute to our vibrant tango community and open up new opportunities by becoming part of the Baila Tango team.  Click here to learn more...

Tango Dance ("Milonga")  Etiquette ...

El Cabeceo

Tanda & Cortina

What is Milonga, what is Practica?




Other Milongas in town




Back to Tango In Vancouver























What is Milonga, what is Practica?

by Semiral

Practica is the event when the tango lovers get together and practice.  There is no need for a tanda or cortina.  It is good to practice with everyone else because it helps learning.  It is OK to stop in the middle to figure out things with your partner.  The environment is informal and casual dress is acceptable.  If there is an instructor on site it is a "supervised" practica.  In a supervised practica, the instructor show you some new material to work on like a mini lesson and will help you work on certain figures or comment on your dancing for improvement.  We also employ videos cameras and players to provide feedback and improve your dancing.


Milonga is the event when the tango lovers get together and dance.  It is a social event with its own "etiquette".  The code is based on common sense:  respect your partner and others on the dance floor.  In our milonga we adhere to the codes and ethics of a typical Buenos Aires milonga.  We make use of "cabeceo" to invite a partner to dance.  We play the music in sets called a "tanda".  It is customary to dance the whole tanda with the same partner.  Also, it is considered to be rude stop the dance in the middle and start teaching your partner, instead find a common level with your partner and enjoy the music and the company.  At the beginning of each song in a tanda, it is a good opportunity to socialize with your partner for about 30seconds instead of starting the dance right away.   The dress code is more formal in a milonga, the atmosphere is warm and romantic and it is quite common to dress up. 

Practica is the place to share knowledge and experience among students, lesson is the place to learn from a teacher, and milonga is the place to dance.





Tanda & Cortina

by Semiral


A tanda is a set of music such as tango, milonga or vals and most of the time by the same tango band.   Normally you would dance the whole tanda with the same partner.  .  A "tanda" is seperated by a "cortina".  Cortina is a type of music other than tango which lasts 30-90seconds.  Its purpose is to clear up the floor to allow partner changes.   






by Semiral


One of the most remarkable and timeless traditions in a Buenos Aires milonga is the “Cabeceo”: a uniquely distinctive approach to initiating, accepting or declining an invitation to dance.  In a Buenos Aires milonga it is actually the only way to invite to dance.   In my last visit in November, I noticed how practical, meaningful and fun it can be and got so excited that decided to start it in our Saturday milongas in Vancouver.  We have learned  how to dance the tango, I am sure we can learn the “cabeceo” as well and continue this wonderful Argentinean tradition. 

What is Cabeceo?

Cabeceo is a method of bringing two people to an agreement before they start dancing.


How does it work?

When a new tanda starts, men and women gaze at the prospective partners they would like to dance with. 

When there is a contact established, the man makes a head gesture such as nodding or moving his lips, and the woman responds by nodding or smiling as a way to accept.  On the other hand, if the woman turns the head away and does not establish  eye contact, it is her way to refuse. 

The follower waits at the table and maintains the eye contact until the man walks in front of her and actually invites her to dance. This  last point is important, especially in crowded floors, to avoid confusion for both the man and the woman.  For the woman it is important because the man might have made an agreement with the person sitting next to her.  For the man it is also important because she might have made an agreement with somebody else  (in which case, he just keeps walking). 


Why is it so good?

Mainly because it brings together two people who want to dance  with each other. 

It equals the power between man and the woman.  She no longer “has to accept” every invitation when a man walks over and offers his hand.

There are no “embarrassing moments” for the men just in case they are refused.

It encourages “intimacy” as it requires eye contact. 


What will be different in our milonga?

We will make sure there is enough light to see everybody :)

We will arrange seating to find a partner easier

We will have this information printed

In the last 10 years, all of us in the community created a fantastic and welcoming tango community by bringing in wonderful traditions such as tandas, cortinas, and birthday celebrations together with the best music of Buenos Aires.  We have learned  how to dance the tango; I am sure we can learn the “cabeceo” as well and enjoy this wonderful Argentinean tradition. 

Besides, after all these years, I would not want any of my fellow milongueros to go to Buenos Aires and not get a dance because they cannot do the “cabeceo.”

Two great articles about Cabeceo:

Return to Milongas








Tango Dance ("Milonga") Etiquette & Helpful Hints



To experienced dancers, the following guidelines of Tango dance etiquette are usually well known but not often discussed. For new dancers, it's good to know what's what to help avoid embarrassing, awkward, or unsafe situations. In any case, following these guidelines can help to maximize your Tango dance experience.

1. At a Tango milonga (dance), couples dance Tango counter-clockwise around the dance floor. The faster "lanes" are those toward the outside of the counter-clockwise line of dance. The slower "lanes" are toward the center. As you dance, refrain from cutting across these lanes, cutting through the center, and dancing backward to the line-of dance, especially on a crowded dance floor.

2. If you are not dancing, show respect to those who are by not walking through the busy dance floor and by staying clear of the dance space. For example, while others are dancing, do not stand in the dance lanes and talk (this is only okay if it is the first few seconds of the song.)

3. Unlike a "practica", milonga is not the place to stop the dance to "show" your partner a new step.   If you must, move to a distant comer or non-dance area for your demonstration and discussion.

4. The safety of your partner and surrounding dancers is your first concern. Both leader and follower should always be alert to the presence of other dancers in front, to the sides and behind to help avoid collisions. If a collision occurs, try to soften it by bringing your arms in and stopping movement. Then look at the other couple and try to catch their eye for a friendly acknowledgment of the crash. Afterwards be polite and friendly, even if it was not your fault. To a large extent, dancing on a crowded Tango dance floor is an exercise in avoiding collisions in a safe, creative, and fun fashion.

5. No one likes being kicked, run into, or stepped on, so on a crowded dance floor avoid aggressive movements, high boleos, hard-hitting ganchos, and leg extensions. If you feel you are about to step on someone -hopefully not your partner- try to not follow through with the stepping action to soften the blow of your foot landing on another's. Also, leaders keep your left arm down and about shoulder height with your left elbow down and fairly close to your side. It's no fun having to duck on a crowded dance floor when another dancer swings around with their partner and the lead's left hand is three feet out in the air and three inches from your nose.

6. On a crowded dance floor, "showing off" with large or elaborate performance steps in the outer fast lane is frowned upon, since it usually stops dancers coming from behind from making forward progress and it usually involves steps that are not safe to the surrounding dancers. Remember it's not the Olympics or "show time"; it's a social dance, so relax and have fun. If you feel the desire to do a little showing off, move to the center of the floor where you can stop and do multiple ochos or molinetes, for example, and not stop forward line-of-dance movement.

7. Leaders, if you absolutely must travel backwards to the line-of dance, first look to the rear. For the followers, as any dance pattern unfolds, be alert to dancers potentially in the way and let the leader know of a possible collision verbally, by a hand squeeze, or by pulling your partner closer, or all of the above, especially on a crowded dance floor. (This is preferable to turning to stone in terror.)

8. If a dance couple in front of you stops, then you can do one of the following: continue to dance, but move around them; mark time; or use a Tango side-rocking step, for example, to continue dancing until they move.

9. Followers, do not backlead. Not only does it make; leading more difficult but it also makes it more difficult for the leader to avoid collisions.

10. It is okay to smile, have fun, and look into each other's eyes when on the dance floor. The Tango Police have stopped giving citations for this, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.

11. For the more experienced dancers, set a good example for beginners: be patient, polite, and sensitive. It is acceptable to give advice, provided that it is requested or you may ask permission to make an "observation" or a "comment". Remember that you were once a beginner. A harsh or insensitive, but well intended, "comment" can ruin someone's evening.

12. Argentine Tango is an intimate and elegant dance. For a pleasant experience good hygiene is essential; bathe before lessons or dancing and use deodorant. Use breath fresheners frequently. None or minimal conversing while dancing is recommended, instead focus on dancing or floor traffic. Hold off on the aftershave or perfume keeping in mind that some people may be allergic or sensitive to strong smells. If you perspire, use a towel or handkerchief often in between dances. As a rule most people don't like to dance with partners that are walking wet towels (in the literal sense); if you tend to perspire heavily, use a towel or take a break to cool down - men, bring an extra shirt and change at half-time. This is social dance go to the track if you want an aerobic workout.

If you wear glasses, consider contact lenses or removing your glasses while dancing unless you can't see where you're dancing. Getting whacked in the head with someone's glasses as they turn their head is no fun for either person.

13. Types of tango music: there are three (3) different rhythms of tango that are played at milongas (tango parties). Ultimately you want to become comfortable dancing to all of them: 1) tango, 2) tango vals and 3) milonga. When dancing these three tempos it is mainly the quality of movement, size, and feeling of your steps that change according to the music. Most of the steps in all three rhythms of tango are interchangeable while certain steps are more appropriate and others less so for the different styles of music.

14. For the followers: the most important thing for you is to enjoy yourself (and we mean thoroughly enjoy yourself). Often time followers just close their eyes while dancing and drift, merging and becoming one with the music. In order to fully appreciate the letting go that can come with dancing tango, it is important to keep in mind a few simple but essential keys to dancing technique.

a) The first thing is to have a good connection with your leader by directing your chest towards his. In tango it is nice to dance in the closed position with both dancers chests touching at the point of the sternum, but this is not mandatory; you may choose to dance in the open position where there is some space between you and your leader. Whatever position you decide to dance in- open or closed- keep in mind that the point of connection should always be the sternum. A good way to keep the sternum forward is to think of opening your heart and thrusting your chest forward to the leader with your shoulders back. Make sure that during the dance you are receptive to your leader and can go from the closed position to the open position and vice versa according to what the leader chooses to do.

(Sidenote) If you are at a milonga and decide you do not want to dance in the closed position, try connecting with your leader in this way: place your left hand directly on the top (not side of the leader's right biceps and hold the left side of your frame here. With your left hand on the top of his biceps, you give an unspoken but clear message to the leader that you would prefer to dance in this open position. Even if the leader doesn't get the message immediately, he soon will, as it is very difficult for him to bring you in closer.

Don't be shy if you change your mind after half a song or on the second or third song and decide you would like to dance in the closed position. Most leaders won't refuse your wanting to dance closer, but it's good to be receptive just in case he/she wishes to keep dancing in the open position.



When asked to dance there are 2 and only acceptable responses:

1. 'Yes, thank you.'

If you elect 1., you must complete the dance

2. 'No, thanks anyway but I'm sitting this one out.'

If you elect 2, then you must sit it out.

15. For the leaders: remember that the follower's pleasure is your purpose. Think of saying a kind of mantra to yourself while dancing (e.g. "I only want to make you happy). In the end it doesn't matter if you succeeded in doing your own fancy steps if your partner hasn't been led well and is not having a good time. There are profound degrees of sweetness that can only be found with the utmost sensitivity and care.

a. If nothing else, do not run the follower into anyone. Instead, pause, rock, or invent steps if necessary, even if it spoils the great combination you were trying to do. The follower can only truly relax and enjoy the dance when they can trust you. Lead your follower, make them feel safe and comfortable in your arms, swing and sustain them like an angel. You want them to feel like a good capable dancer, grateful to you for leading them well. Indeed, this one thing alone will make dancing with you a pleasure.

b. Be sure to lead each individual step before you take it yourself, striving to step at the same instant the follower does, but erring on the side of being behind. This will help prevent kicking or stepping on the follower's toes, but even more important, it makes her feel that you are dancing with her, and not just doing your own steps with her along for the ride. Sometimes this means dancing very slowly or pausing often, especially when dancing for the first few times with a beginner or a follower who is accustomed to keeping up with leaders who rush her.

c. Always be aware of the follower's balance, positioning her comfortably over the foot she is stepping on. Few things are more unpleasant for the follower than being taken off balance. A good follower will help by taking steps that match your lead; with a beginner however; you must take a more active role in adjusting your own body position to keep the follower well balanced. Adjust your own steps to (It receive" the followers weight, so that you can both be comfortably centered over your feet without struggling for balance.

d. Of course, this assumes you know which foot she is on. If you can't tell what foot the follower is on, peek a little (take a peripheral peek, without upsetting your connection with your partner, if possible). There are some leaders that know what foot the follower is on and there are some that don't. Often if a leader doesn't know what leg the follower is on the follower will think to herself, "Oh boy, here's a real Doozy!" If your feet get tangled up and you seem unable to make it part of the dance, just stop, pause, and tango on.

e. Last but not least, be patient with yourself in becoming a good leader. In the dance of love, being a good leader is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You can do it! In time you will know both confidently and securely how to move and what best to do in a tango dance. The time and energy it takes to learn this dance is well worth the pleasure you will later receive.

16. Tango is a means by which love can spread throughout the world. You can treat the dance as such by dancing with both grace and humility. In your journey towards being a good tango dancer, resist becoming too critical or callused. The following examples can be used to illustrate this point more fully. In Zen Buddhism one is encouraged to have a "beginner's mind" that is open and receptive and to avoid or actively work against developing the "expert mind" which is closed and narrow in its points of view, opinionated, and ultimately uninterested in other opinions or experiences. In ballet, also, one is taught from the start that the best dancers always remain humble, open-minded and are, in fact, the best students. This mentality can be applied to tango as well. When in conversation or in observing others try to avoid saying things like, "that's not tango". Tango is a dance, the experience of dancing, communicating, and the giving and receiving of signals and messages through movement, gestures, facial expressions, etc., etc., . . . In the end, who is the right judge? Who cares if you think you're the greatest expert in the world? It is the experience and the feeling that matters- be simple and just experience the shear joy of the dance. So please be receptive, understanding, and supportive of your fellow tango dancers.




















A Picture of a Milonga in Buenos Aires

by Semiral


Cabeceo is practiced in 99 per cent (if not more) of milongas in Buenos Aires.  (Actually it is practiced in all them, however in some there are exceptions due to tourists and a younger crowd.)  It is a results of tens of years of evolution, it will continue to evolve but it is her eto stay.  Because it servers a purpose; it helps create a good milonga environment.  I’d like to draw a picture of a typical Buenos Aires milonga for us to get a better understanding of the cabeceo (my comments are in brackets):


When you arrive you are seated by the host.  Typically couples (however defined) sit together (with cabeceo couples enjoy tremendous freedom such that if they want to dance with other people they look at them otherwise they don't.  We don’t have this option in our system.)

and singles sit separately (seating separately has nothing to do with "discriminations against genders" but it servers a simple purpose: it creates better visibility and increases their chances of finding a partner.)


When a tanda starts “cebeceo” comes into affect.  Some people have their favorite partners for tangos (it could be different for Pugliese, or D’Arienzo) or for milongas or for valses.  Cabeceo enables them to choose their partners so that they enjoy particular tanda even more.    


Between the songs in each tanda couples socialize for about 30-45 seconds, well into the next song.  (I think this is another great idea.  also, it can be an interesting time to spot the “tourists”, because they start dancing right away).  A complete tanda is danced with the same partner unless there is a very good reason not to do so.  (If you don’t want to take a risk, you invite the person later in the tanda, say, in the 3rd or 4th piece)


In practice, when you know the person you’d like to dance with well, you don’t need to do much, one quick look is enough, no need for nodding.  (see Wendy’s blog for an article on this: Title: Invitation to the Dance)


So, the whole thing becomes fun and you enjoy the benefits of cabeceo without too much hustle.


People also walk around the room looking for prospective partners or meet at the bar and socialize (nobody comes and bothers them while this is happening). 

In a typical Buenos Aires milonga people have lots of opportunities to socialize.  When they ladies sit together, they chat, when men sit together they chat, when couples meet on the dance floor they chat 30-45 seconds before each song.  Or, people meet at the bar to chat.  Good thing about cabeceo is that nobody bothers when this is happening.

So, when you look at the complete picture cabeceo makes more sense.
























Special Thursday Night Tango Dinner Dance April 20

A Special night of tango with Dinner and Dance at the Argentine restaurant Tango8Grill.  Your DJ Semiral is going to play breaks of salsa and swing to spice up the evening 7:30 - 11:30pm.  The restaurant will be reserved for us with a large dance floor. Special set dinner menu includes an appetizer (salad, tortilla or empanada), a main course (grilled meat, pasta or fish) and a drink (various options) or desert for $25. There will be discounts for further drinks. 

Reserve your seat:

If you cannot make it to the dinner but would like to come later (after 8:30pm) for dancing AND a drink (desert, coffee, etc), you can do so.  There will be a $5 cover charge.











Sunday Supervised Tango Practica

Every Sunday (August 6, 13, 20)

8 - 10pm $10

(Tango Lesson 8-9pm)

Practice and dancing in a friendly non-intimidating environment.   Baila Tango instructors will be available to answer your questions, help out and show you a few figures if you like .  We will make sure everybody gets involved and gets to dance with one another in a relaxed and pleasant environment. 

Our mission on Sunday practica is to create a friendly and cultivating environment for the lovers of social tango particularly in the close embrace style.  The newcomers of tango will find this environment particularly useful to build their confidence.

This is a two hour long lesson+practice


Milonga and Practica Venue:  Yasel Dancesport Academy, 4603 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Vancouver Map