Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cruel to be Kind????

At a very popular NYC milonga, I found myself in an awkward situation. I think that the choice that I made might have been the correct one, even though it was perhaps the "wrong" one as I did give unsolicited feedback in a sense.

So, as I was sitting chatting with a friend, this young man comes up and asks me to dance. I've never seen him before, I had not seem him dance yet (it was the beginning of the night), and he was not wearing dance shoes. hum. I very politely said "Thank you, but not right now." He then nodded towards my friend, who was now involved in a conversation with the person on the other side of her, and said "How about your friend?"


I looked at him in amazement (and not the good kind), and realized that he was not an ass and not being rude, he was in all sincerity asking me to get my friend's attention. My sharp Irish tongue itched behind my teeth, but I decided to take a different route. So I said "How long have you been dancing tango?"
He looked surprised at my response and said he had started in May, why was I asking. I replied that what he just asked me was considered incredibly rude in tango etiquette, and that this milonga was not the easiest on beginners, so perhaps he should change his tactics if he wanted to have his invitations accepted.
He sort of fell down into the chair beside me, absolutely crestfallen, and said "Is that why I can't get anyone to dance with me???"

Oh boy. Tango Etiquette Lesson 101

I then explained to him how one should ask someone to dance, how to take rejection graciously, to not go down the line of women asking one right after the other, and how to read a follower's body language when walking up to her. He sat there taking it all in, asking questions that were perceptive, until he finally said "What else do I need to know?"
Yikes, I did not want to teach a seminar, only give him some advice. So I told him to do some research on line, that there were some really good websites with this info on them, such as the ones below:


I also pointed to the DJ and said that he was an excellent teacher who taught social tango, and he should look into classes with him as well as observe what happened on the dance floor. How did the better dancers ask others to dance? How do they behave?

He thanked me for telling him these things and wandered away. I saw him later sitting on one of the back seats, watching the leaders in the room. Which made me feel better about what I did. I would like to think that I may have helped someone perhaps stay in the scene, as opposed to never understanding why everyone is "snobby" and leaves to go salsa or grow bonsai or something else other than tango.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


To my mind, there are very few absolutes in tango. Tango is many things to many people. Tango can also be One thing to some people. And all of that is fine and good. What I am having less and less tolerance for is people who have absolutely no tolerance for others. I have read in blogs, heard in milongas, and read on facebook from some folks that Tango IS X and only X and anything other than X is not Tango, but some other dance that should not be allowed in a milonga.

Come off of it.

Tango is a wide range of styles, preferences, movements, music and dance. Some of these things I personally don't care for too much. But I still acknowledge them as tango, just perhaps not my tango. However I embrace a wide range of these elements. For example, I am a close embrace dancer. It is what I prefer and enjoy. However, some of my favorite leaders either go in and out of open and close embraces, or they really enjoy open embrace. So I have learned and am practicing open embrace. I even took a private lesson with an excellent open embrace dancer/teacher for the sole purpose of being able to improve an area that I know is a weakness so that I am a more versatile dancer. Does this make me a tango heretic? I don't think so. I think it opens up doors and possibilities.

I read from one blogger who was complaining about an open embrace move and how it was not tango and how it ruined the moment for her. However, from the comments that followed it came out that she did not actually know the technique of how to follow the move. Perhaps if she learned it then although the move might never be her favorite, it might not be such an earth shattering break for her if it is lead. Instead of reviling this move (which is not any sort of aerial or lift or other "stage tango" step, but it is a more nuevo move that requires a break of the embrace and for the follower to be on her axis and responsive in a particular way), it might have been more productive to say "hum, well, that was awkward. I should ask so-and-so in practica what exactly he expects from his follower when he leads that."

If we homogenize tango, and take out everything that is "not" tango, I wonder if we would be left with anything? Mostly because I don't think that everyone would be able to agree as to what IS tango and therefor everything would be weeded out.

The normal human reaction to that which we don't understand is usually with fear and derision. But instead of reacting that way, wouldn't it make more sense to pause and reflect as to what it is that is making us upset, and maybe by understanding it, we could accept it. You don't have to love it, or even like it, but acceptance will take you a long way in tango, and life....