Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I do not understand the need to "make" someone dance with you. It just goes against what a social dance should be to my mind. Two recent events have spurred this thought and title of this post, which reminds me of a two year old demanding something they can't have....

A little while ago the final Tango de los Muertos happened in Boston, and it was a glorious time! One of the themes of the night milongas was "Disguised" and a friend of mine was so looking forward to this theme because they were planning on completely disguising themselves so that they could get dances with those whom they do not normally dance. The plan was that my friend was going to "make dancers who never dance with me to dance with me". I am not sure how exactly they thought this would work out. I asked why on earth would one actively seek out a dance with someone who does not wish to dance with them, why not look to new people whom one might be more compatible with. The response was "I've been dancing xx years, they should dance with me!"

We discussed the differences in style, preferences, etc. But my friend would not budge - this was the opportunity to "make" someone dance with them. How did that work? Not so well, despite completely disguising their appearance, the intended prey eluded being cornered into a dance. And instead of focusing on the dances that were available and interested, all the focus was on what they could not have. Which made for a miserable night I was told. My comment of "I told you so" was not very well received....

Then I had an experience of being on the quarry end of this odd behaviour. There is a leader who regularly chides me for not dancing with him. Now, if he opened a dialogue at a practica (which he rarely attends), that would be different. But instead he tries to guilt trip me at milongas for turning him down, he even went to the point of saying to me "I will stop asking you to dance if you don't accept me soon!" The thing is, he never asks me why I don't accept his invitation, it is always a rather pointed accusation that I refuse him. If he asked, I would tell him that his embrace is very uncomfortable and restrictive for me, so I don't dance with him. But he has never asked, just throws barbs. Which I could care less about and is not exactly enticing me to accept next time.

Then I had a birthday dance, and he cut in. After the birthday dance, he came over to me and said "See, you should dance with me! I don't want to only get to dance with you when you have a birthday dance! You should give me another shot!"

I don't want to. The ten seconds I danced with him were restrictive and unpleasant. And I should not have to become a bitch in order for him to accept that just as it is his prerogative to ask for a dance, it is a followers prerogative to decline. I don't understand this obsessive behavior with some people towards dancing with people with whom it is not a mutually enjoyable experience. I am not saying that you must dance only on your "level" - that is not a helpful choice in growing the community. But focusing only on the unattainable seems like masochism to me. In all of the cities that I dance in, there are leaders whom I am friendly with but either they do not ask me, or I do not accept dances from them. And in most cases, this is ok, we can be friendly off the dance floor even though we do not meet on the dance floor.

Choosing a dance partner for a tanda is very personal for me, and if I know or believe that a pairing will not be enjoyable on any level, then why go through that? And the same for someone who chooses or does not choose to dance with me. I want to feel tango joy from my partner, not frustration or reluctance.


Sorin said...

I personally believe if you turned someone down politely three times, you are free to do whatever it takes to have them stop harassing you. Including saying "Listen, I don't want to dance with you because [insert reason, such as "your embrace is uncomfortable", "I don't like dancing with you", "you are a creep", etc)]. Please stop harassing me".

Yes, he/she will get upset, but maybe they will learn that harassing comes with risks, and maybe he/she will stop harassing you and other people.

Of course you can always tell me to take care of it. It would be my pleasure.

Anonymous said...

My take is that many good dancers are stuck up. These stuck up dancers create people like your friend.They will not dance with new or known people who don't look good, even though they may feel great. They will not dance with those who may be good dancers but are still working to get better. Stuck ups are a drag. Ignore them like the plague.

Pantina said...

I've wondered why some people would not dance with me while others danced with me often.

It wasn't until I started learning how to lead that I realized how personal it is to select a partner. There are people that I enjoy leading - - they have a great connection with the floor, they don't guess steps, they have a sense of humor when I make mistakes, their embrace feels comfortable, etc. Then there are follows that I like as people but would prefer not to dance with them. Nothing personal - - it's just not a good fit.

Thank you for the post. It's a reminder not to cave to a pushy request and don't pine after the unattainable milongero.

Bruno Afonso said...

anonymous (#2), I believe that stuck up attitude can generate behavior such as Debbi described. But, that's part of life, within tango and outside tango. It's a human trait that gets more prominent under certain circumstances.

What I don't understand is why people still go after people that don't want to dance with them. To me, as a leader, there's no point to it. I'd rather dance with someone that is truly loving dancing with someone they want to than to someone that is not into it. I've danced with beginners that are brimming with happiness and very care-free that have been more enjoyable than I would have ever imagined. It has made me a convert.

I didn't use to have this understanding of the dance and I'm almost sure I won't in some years.

bruno, who should check debbi's blog more often :D