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What lurks beneath at a milonga.

(photo credit Rebecca T)

"I once said no to him a long time ago but then I thought, oh surely it couldn't have been that bad, so I said yes!" she wailed from the back of the car. "Now I remember why I said no!"

My friend's bemoaning her disastrous night out at a milonga is not as uncommon as you think. Many tango blogs and articles will have you thinking that there are handsome dashing men simply waiting to give you the best tanda of your life before drifting back into the milonga shadows, never to be seen again.

But quite simply, that's not true.

My friend had been caught by a shark. A tiburon, we call them. They are the men that lurk at milongas, waiting to pounce on the pretty foreigners who arrive. Once they have your cabeceo, you're stuck with them for the 10 minute tanda (set of songs) - just enough time, so they think, to work their "magic". Easily identifiable, a Tiburon is the man holding onto the hand of his victim during the breaks between songs, chatting away and acting as if it was quite normal. It's not - you are not required to hold the hands of your tango partner the entire time. One particular Tiburon even dances with the girl during the cortina (the musical break between tandas) - a big no-no. It's impossible to break away without feeling like you are being rude, hence the Tiburon has the advantage.

A tiburon will move boldly around the room, searching out women that either a) haven't danced with them before, b) have difficulty at saying "no" (it's harder than you think) or c) make accidental eye contact. They smile at you like you've made the best decision of your life to dance with them. They also won't let anything deter them from asking. One friend was asked to dance by one particularly famous Tiburon even while wearing her baby on her in a babywrap. This particular Tiburon that my friend had danced with, likes to flourish the conversation with his heavily accented English. He also has the unfortunate problem of sweating a lot. Not a little. A lot.

While sweating is not something to hold against a person, when you're dancing cheek to cheek with someone, the last thing you want is for your fringe to become plastered to your face with someone else's sweat dripping down you.  And even less appealing is when you indicate that you want to dance in the open embrace and the Tiburon insists on close embrace by pulling you ever closer. You know something is wrong when your left arm bicep is aching after one song, instead of your feet.

We didn't offer much support for my poor friend once she returned from the dance floor. We were too busy laughing after having watched her smile politely at the man during the very one sided conversations and peer over his shoulder at us with a look of despair on her face. Her only consolation was a glass of beer and reassure her that she wouldn't ever suffer it again.

Be warned ladies. It pays to watch the couples before you start dancing and stay away from the nicely smiling man. His teeth are sharp.


  • This sort of thing should be addressed by the organizers and isteps to mitigate this incorporated into the group culture. Tiburon’s should be informed of the behavior in question, and should be asked to leave if they do not adjust their behavior.

    Posted by Danner on June 29, 2016

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