Just after I get done telling myself, and my readers, that I'm going to start turning down leaders that make me uncomfortable in some way, I go back on the advice... sort of.
Two leaders were at the milonga last night that I had had trouble with the last time I had danced with them (in both cases, the only time I had danced with them.) So when I saw them, I was fully prepared to avoid the cabaceo if possible, to turn them down directly if necessary.
And I really would have too, if I hadn't just had this experience.
Second chances - Part 1
I wrote about another leader recently who embarrassed me on the milonga floor by instructing in a very obvious manner in front of a table of dancers I knew somewhat well (well enough to care about their opinion) from my community. After trying unsuccessfully to dissuade him from doing this, I finished the tanda in silence.
At the next milonga I saw his teacher on the dance floor stop in the line of dance, forcing the rest of the dancers to move around him, and instruct a dancer (who was not his student - not that that should matter) loud enough for everyone in the front row of seats to hear what he was saying.
Now I understand, I thought.
The leader who had so offended me was simply mimicking his own teacher. After all, if his teacher does it, it must be the right thing to do. So when this leader appeared before me, hand extended - I took a deep breath and decided on a plan. Rejecting him outright would tell him nothing about what was wrong - especially if his teacher was doing the same thing. Instructing him on the codigos at the milonga would be breaking my own rule about teaching at the milonga. So, I simply told him the ground rules of the dance. I would accept a dance on the condition that he not attempt to instruct on the dance floor. He looked surprised.
First, he hadn't realised he'd been doing it in such a direct fashion, and second, he didn't realise anyone would take offense. He was trying to be helpful. I told him I understood, which I did - I fight the urge sometimes to "help" a dance partner that's clearly struggling with a lead. Instead, if I can, I do as much as possible to be easy to lead. Then I make a mental note to ask them about it later at practica.
After our tanda, we sat and talked for awhile, the subject of codigos came up in a very general fashion. His teacher hadn't gone into any detail about the milonga codes and this leader had little idea about the different ways to do things that were more appropriate than what he had been trying. I tried to answer his questions without negativity or criticism. Especially as it was very clear that his behavior was exactly what he had been taught (by example). It turned out to be a wonderful conversation and I actually "saw" him for the first time. Without irritation, or defensiveness. Suddenly there was a very sensitive, kind and generous leader sitting in front of me. Where did he come from?
Later we danced another tanda and instead of waiting for him to connect to me, I offered the connection first. No wait and see. 'I'll give you all I've got' - let's see what we can do together. He relaxed, and so did I.
It was like we'd never danced together before - and, at the same time, like we'd always danced together. He was a different leader from the man from the last tanda - he was relaxed, thoughtful, empathetic.
So if a second chance, done the right way, could yield such great results in this instance - how well would it work with other leaders who've made me feel uncomfortable or defensive?
Stay tuned for Part 2.