I attended a milonga a couple of weeks ago at a venue I liked and knew very well. In attendance were several dancers that I knew. In other words, I felt comfortable. Until my second tanda. A tanguero I had never seen before asked me to dance and I, of course, said yes.
Let me interject a little bit of advice that I was given and yet fail to follow almost every milonga - watch the dancers while you're sitting. It's not the skill level so much as the comfort level I was advised to look at. I'm still at that awkward stage where nearly everyone is a better dancer than I am, so judging skill level is a bit of a moot point for me anyway. One thing I have learned to look for is - do the followers look uncomfortable? Worried? Frustrated? Or worse, hurt? I could have avoided a few uncomfortable situations had I listened to that advice early on.
(For more details, look at Ampstertango's Post on "End Results - Her Tango Look" - http://ampstertango.blogspot.com/2009/08/she-needs-to-feel-you.html )
Back to the story, I accepted a dance from the dancer. I told him I'd only been dancing a few months and was still pretty new. At first the dance was not too bad - he was musical and his lead was fairly clear to read. Then, when I missed a couple of leads, the instruction began. "
*deep frustrated sigh from him*
You really need to learn to ....."
"It's important to........."
"We can work on this until you get it down...." (until I get it down?!?!)
I tried the usual tact, "I am working on that, thanks. May we move on?" to little effect.
By the third song of the tanda, he was getting frustrated and I was getting further and further behind his lead. So he pulled and jerked harder to get me in the right place. When the music ended I was so relieved. He didn't walk me back to my table but left me about halfway across the floor. Normally I would feel a bit of a sting, but frankly, it was fine with me at that point.
As I sat down to catch my breath. I looked around for one of my "safe partners". That's what this post is *really* about. Those tangueros, regardless of what skill level they're at in their dance, always provide a lovely, soul-soothing dance. They're the ones I look for when I first arrive at the milonga. If I want to start the evening off on a good note - it's nice to find a partner I can rely on for that warm feeling of belonging. I've heard several dancers tell me they look to the same few partners to "warm up" with when they arrive. Partners they know well, and that know them. They make all the difference and I especially appreciate them after a really rough or challenging tanda. I try, to different degrees of success I'm sure, to provide that same safe, open and warm feeling to my partners.
The whole situation of finding comfort after difficulty reminds me of a seminar on dealing with difficult people. The facilitator said, "Everyone is someone's difficult person." I try not to be the difficult partner at the milonga, but I know I have been.
I want to be a partner that feels reliably welcoming, comfortable, uplifting - like these gentlemen are for me. I will probably never be the partner that looks glamorous or exciting. Frankly, that's okay with me. I want to be known for giving a warm, comfortable embrace and a light, easy dance, that makes my partner feel valued and confident. Maybe there should be more "technique" classes on that. In the meantime, I'll just keep asking around - what is your most comfortable dance partner like?