1. When you arrive at the milonga, take some time to say hello to other dancers—both leaders and followers. If it’s your first time, you could even mention that to the person at the door. Say hello to the people around you as you put on your shoes. Remember: This is a social event. Even if you’re a beginner, many people will be happy to meet you, talk to you, and dance with you!
2. Start the night by dancing with followers you know. It will give you a chance to enjoy their company, and other followers will see you dancing. If you don’t know any followers at the milonga, start by approaching followers who seem open to talking. Say hello, chat, mention that you’d love a dance with them later, and then walk away. Really. Approach them later for a dance.
3. Watch how the other leaders behave. At some milongas, it’s ok for leaders to walk up to a follower and ask her to dance. At other milongas, that kind of behavior is scandalous—in those cases, it is more appropriate to catch a follower’s eye and non-verbally request a dance. In all cases, it is helpful to catch the followers eye and make sure that she is not in the middle of a conversation or trying to get a dance with a different leader.
4. Listen to the music before dancing: Is it a tango, a milonga, or a vals? If you don’t know the difference, ask another leader. (Usually, the DJ follows a set pattern of tandas, for example: 2 tangos, 1 milonga, 2 tangos, 1 vals, …) All music is played in sets called tandas, usually with three or four songs each. A couple is expected to dance an entire tanda together (although either person can cut the tanda short by thanking the other person and excusing themselves off the floor).
5. Keep it simple! No one will mind if you stick to basic steps that you feel comfortable dancing. They will mind, however, if you try to do fancy moves that you haven’t mastered yet! It’s more fun for everyone if you play it safer. Also, this will help you watch the line of dance and take care of your follower, which is your primary responsibility!