Safety dances

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" - )

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?


Debbi said...

It would have been perfectly understandable for you to tell this "expert" that since you already explained you were a beginner, he should be aware that you were not interested in a lesson the milonga floor. Then thank him and walk away. You do not have to go through this! I know it is the hardest lesson to learn as a beginner, because all you want to do is dance, but someone who makes you feel bad about your self and your dancing is not dancing with you. They are plumping up their fragile ego.
I know how difficult that is, and following the advice of watching the floor is good.
Take chance with new people, for certain, but watch them first. :o)

Kirra said...

Absolutely, I agree with Debbi. And to add to this, it is the leads responsibility to (a) make his follow look good ie. don't lead things that she can't follow and (b)be sensitive to every level of dancer.
Unfortunately there are always folks like this out there. The only way to 'learn em' is to not dance with them.
Happy tangos to you and every other follow who has had this experience!

Frances R said...

Debbi said it very well. I would like to add, first, that it most probably not true that everyone is a better dancer than you are now. Just because some people have done it for longer, it does not mean they got any good at that. Sadly, our milongas are full of very, very bad dancers.
That is why you have to be careful, and choosy about who you dance with. And as a beginner, even more so, not less! You are new and, perhaps not strong enough yet to compensate for your partner's mistakes and weaknesses.
Please, don't feel inferior on the grounds that you are still working on your following skills. If somebody decided to ask you for a dance, and you said yes, you are absolutely equal. The only obligation before your partner is to give this dance your best, as it is at the moment.
Good luck!

St├ęphanie said...

i feel for you....he wasted a good tanda for you.

I do hope you are sharing names with your fellow followers, we certainly do here! We have our little black book of "a...holes" to avoid at all costs.

Last time this happened to me I said "thank you" and walked back to my table.... after the first song! Only time in my life I did not bother with the "code". He stayed dumbfounded (literally) in the middle of the dance floor. He has not bothered me since and all my girlfriends have learnt to say no when he asks...

Mari said...

Thank you Debbi, Kirra, Frances and Stephanie for your responses!

The followers do quite a bit of sharing in our community. Mostly we keep it positive, but word definitely gets out if someone, leader or follower, acts disrespectful to others. That's the biggest difference I think in who gets another chance and who doesn't. Mistakes happen all the time - errors in judgment - but when someone genuinely seems to not care about other people's comfort or experience - they find themselves sitting a great deal (and like I said - that goes for followers and leaders.)
It is getting easier to be choosy, but I have to remind myself of it - since I still *feel* like a beginner and I want to dance as much as possible. Plus so many times you just can't be sure it's the other person or if it's just something about me contributing to a negative situation.

Anonymous said...

I have a few tangueras who always bring me to do new things. Janet had been dancing for 3 months when I first danced with her. I still have that tanda's legacy in my dancing. I was only theorizing at that time that men and women lead each other to places they have never been. She proved it too me. Any woman who distinguishes men who follow the music from men who don't are GREAT dancers. The music leads us to places we have never been before. Wonderful.