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.