Going through emails and messages over one of the links I posted on Facebook, to Irene and Man Yung's Tango Blog about "Mean Girls" about the hows and whys of rejection. These are quotes from two of the comments and they both reflect what I hear a lot from leaders:

D: "What I was objecting to was the followers who insist on only dancing with expert leaders despite having relatively low skills themselves."

D: "When you
[comment addressed to me] talk about not betraying the dance, you are talking about people's skill level, their artistic ability, not about the danger of injury, and not about manners. And this is a topic that comes up a lot, and it's usually quite explicitly about skill level."

All I can say is - no, I'm not actually talking about skill level, and I really don't know how I can make that more clear. *exasperated sigh*  

Please highlight this as possibly the most important thing I may ever write about tango:   If I don't feel safe, if I don't feel connected to my partner and the music - then I am not dancing tango. I am going through the motions of the dance, but not engaged in the spirit of the dance. Period.

Plus, it is very easy to think you can judge someone's skill level simply by watching them dance, and I'm telling you that you can't. You can pick out those things that you think are indicators, but beyond watching someone make a hazard on the floor for others, those indicators only speak to your preferences and your experience - not the dancers engaged in the embrace and their experience of each other during the dance.

What I want to know is how are you so sure what's really going on? I have dozens of reason for seeking out particular partners. I hate to disappoint them, but most of the time it's not about their "expert" level of dancing. Experience can give you a few things that are very desirable, however - comfort in your own skin, confidence, familiarity with the music. I won't deny those factors - but those are generally not easily observable from outside the embrace.) Most of the time, okay pretty much 100% of the time, it's what they bring emotionally to their dance with me.

My favorite message so far from a friend in the UK,

"Why do we
[followers] keep bringing up how the dance feels and yet they [leaders] keep hearing it's about their skill or about how the woman wants to look??? How many different ways can we say 'tanguero, most of the time it's your attitude. It's about how you feel!'"


The most important rule of dealing with rejection - don't assume you know why you were turned down. Chances are, you don't.

What I hear most often from leaders when followers decline dancing with them:

"She doesn't think I'm good/skilled/experienced enough."
"She only likes dancing with experienced dancers that make her look good,"
"She thinks she's too good for everyone,"
"She wants someone who shows her off."
"She only dances with older leaders/milongueros."
"She only dances with younger leaders/hot shots."

What I hear most often from followers when they decline a leader:
(excluding the most common ones which are actually- "I just don't feel like dancing right now," and "I'm afraid he's going to get me hurt.")

"His embrace is uncomfortable." (Sometimes this is about height difference - not something personal that the leader is doing.)
"I don't like how he makes me feel."
"He pushes/pulls, shoves too hard."
"I don't feel a connection with him."
"He's dancing his own dance (and not with me)."
"He doesn't seem to like/hear the music." (This comes into play not because of how a leader is dancing to the music so much as other things - especially talking through the music.)
"This is a vals/milonga/favorite orquestra - and I want to dance with my favorite vals/milonga/so-and-so-orquestra partner."

My own experience on rejection:

There are about a dozen men who almost never dance with me, including a few who have never danced with me in the almost 3 years I've been dancing in this community. I don't look for their cabeceo anymore, but more importantly for my own sanity I've given up trying to figure out why they don't invite me and beating myself up over it. Does it still sting when I accidentally make eye contact and they abruptly look away?  Sure. But unless they talk to me at practica or seek me out some other way, I don't have a very reliable way to find out their reasons. I can guess, but that's rarely worth my energy.  I seek feedback from the leaders who are willing to work with me and focus on that - there's more than material there.

So how do you find out why someone is declining to dance with you? 

 - Ask if you can work with them at practica or in class.
 - Ask who they study with or have studied with in the past, and then, if you're feeling particularly industrious, go to that teacher to find out what might be going on with your dance.
 - Observe how they are dancing when they seem happiest - what is their partner doing? What is the music?
 - And once again, don't assume anything.

Most important: For godsakes focus on the folks who do want to dance with you (and that you want to dance with of course)  who have probably been patiently waiting for you to pull your head out and notice them. (I've been guilty of that, so I know of what I speak here, folks.)

Anyway. those are my thoughts thus far on the matter. If we're friends on Facebook, you can follow the conversation here:   If we're not connected on Facebook, feel free to send me an invite.


Ghost said...

After a lot of consideration I reached the conclusion that I want to dance trad Argentine Tango with someone who brings their animal side to the dance and who I connect with on that level. Which in London is about 2-5% of the women. So I don't dance with most people any more (though I still respect the 'will you dance with my friend?' request)

It has nothing to do with skill level. If the 2% on a certain night happen to be "beginners", than I'm going to be dancing with "beginners" all night. My inner animal is perfectly happy to shuffle around just doing weight changes.

This has rather hacked off certain women who I don't dance with, who consider themselves rather better than the "beginners" that I do.

Marika said...

Ghost - Exactly!

perri iezzoni said...

The number one reason I don't ask tangueras for follow-up dances is because they won't follow. Skill level has nothing to do with it. It is the leader's job to dance to the skill level of his partner. Looks have very little to do with it, after the first encounter, because you should be able to tell if there is a beautiful woman INSIDE once you've danced with her. How she follows, determines how beautiful she is inside.

This dance is all about connection. The biggest problem most people have connecting, is calming down. Both the leader and follower need to be relaxed. If one is not then there are going to be problems.

Finally, the tangueras of Austin have an awesome reservoir of knowledge in their resident tango legend: Daniela Arcuri. Take her classes, not for what she does, but for what she says. Listen to her insights. This woman is virtual tanguera therapist. The women I enjoyed dancing with the most, in Austin, were all students of Daniela's.

Marika said...

Perri - Thank you for your comments - I wish we had gotten to dance while you were here! (Especially after hearing your views on Daniela's followers lol.)

Frances R said...

Mari, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. It has been the best holiday gift I got so far. You are right, there is such a double standard regarding men and women's right to choose. And your advice on "how do you find out why someone is declining to dance with you?" is gold.

Captain Jep said...

I have found that there are a number of dancers who I didnt dance when I first saw them. And now because they assume I'll never ask they never look. Their ego basically gets in the way of taking my invitation.

Now there may have been specific reasons I didnt dance with them say 2 years ago. They were beginners, I had a bad back, I was intimidated. But things do change. My view is that every so often we should try to "check in" with these people. It's quite possible that they still wont want to dance with you. But every so often you can be surprised, and find a new gem to dance with..

Dieudonne said...

"Why do we [followers] keep bringing up how the dance feels and yet they [leaders] keep hearing it's about their skill or about how the woman wants to look??? How many different ways can we say 'tanguero, most of the time it's your attitude. It's about how you feel!'"
Most followers are women, therefore when we (leaders) here this, we don't (for the most part, at least initially) believe you. Some of us will never believe you. This has nothing to do with tango, but a rather "inherited conversation" that men, in general have about women: "you say one thing when in fact you mean something else". I am not saying that women in general don't mean what they say, but that “in general” (forgive the repetition) our male perception is that you don't, at least until such a time when we are able to hear you clearly. That tends to happen when we are confident enough in ourselves to be with what you may or may not like (your compliments and/or criticism). I did not believe when I started dancing Tango that a follower could be happy and enjoy connecting with who I am to the sound of the music. It took time for me to understand what Tango is for me, (in the mist of all the confusing information that abounds about it). And it took some followers nurturing me in deconstructing that “inherited conversation” that as a man I had carried with me. We don’t even believe the men who tell us that all you want is a beautiful and nurturing connection.
As a "lead", dancing tango is not, with all due respect" about "YOU" the follower, but about "ME", my own human/existential peregrinations, Tango being the context inside of which I choose to interact with you to complete the circle of connection, and therefore be reflected to myself. I hope the same goes on for followers, such that completed within ourselves, we can then come together and gift each other the “Self” that we are.
Therefore, I don’t care how well you dance; the plasticity of your physique does not interest me; the number of years does not matter. I am not dancing to make you look good, nor to entertain you. I am not going to dance with you simply because you bothered to show up, and you think that you deserve to dance…and the list is long. I want to know, if you can be with me, be with what I am, and what I am not. If you can do that, my promise to you is that you will have me, and I will continue to do whatever it takes to improve my ability to gift me to you as we embrace.

Anonymous said...

There a blog about a survey of what men and women want from each other and how it's not what you think they want, though it doesn't talk about sincerity or feeling.

perri iezzoni said...

Mari, I think we did dance. Daniela has a milonga in a mall, in north Austin. I remember dancing with a blond-haired woman, two or three tandas, and then you. It was at the end of the night.

Dieudonne, I like what you said, especially the part about wanting to feel that the woman is comfortable with you, for who you are. Women don't realize how finely tuned men are to a woman's rejection/approval. The slightest bit of negative energy, from her, has us swearing to never dance with her again.

Marika said...

@Perri - I remember Daniela's milonga (at GoDance in what used to be Northcross Mall). I was introduced to you and was told by several ladies that I should dance with you if I could catch your eye. But I believe that the woman you danced with (after the blond one) was a brunette 'Maria', and not a 'Mari' (me). :-) I wasn't able to catch your eye that night. Any chance you might visit us again?

perri iezzoni said...

It's possible. Lot's of work in Dallas. If I get to Dallas, eventually, I will get to Austin and we will dance, definitely!:-)

Marika said...

@Frances - You're welcome - and thank you for your comment. I was a bit at the end of my rope when I wrote that post, so I'm happy it didn't come out (quite as) shrill as it sounded in my head lol.

@Captain Jep - Every few months I "check in" with dancers I either haven't danced with yet, or who have, for whatever reason, dropped off my radar. I say hello, inquire how they're doing etc - and I try never to actually snub anyone. (That said, I never want to put someone in the position of dancing with me because they feel like they should. I can feel that in the embrace, and it's not a pleasant thing.)

Paul said...

@ Ghost.
I am surprised that you are dancing with beginners the whole night. Did you think the others participiants? Look at the Tango Etiquette from Tango Therapist
"One Tanda at a time:
You just had a great tanda with this new guy or gal from out of town. Maybe you can get two in a row? There is a problem with this. First, he may be with someone else, and that creates suspicion because two-tandas-in-a-row is the beginning of true love. Repeated tandas are a sign of tango nirvana and true love. Is that what you want to say – “I am in love with the way you dance”? The other may like or even love the way you dance, but have other reasons not to reciprocate this feeling of tango adoration. It may be nice to be adored but I recommend a bit of caution here. You can unwittingly create a feeling of obligation to “make” his or her night. In Buenos Aires multiple tandas have a special meaning--let's consummate this tango adoration. Some will not believe me (see Chapter VI)."

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Mari,

Excellent analysis! I'm repeating what has been said in your post in the extension discussion/comments about your post - but yes, how exasperated I am that ladies are supposed to somehow "justify" their "no", while it is not required from the gentlemen!

Why shouldn't we (as ladies) be able to say "No", with assertiveness and without explanation or qualification?

Thanks for mentioning our post and initiating this discussion!

Irene (and Man Yung)

Frances R said...

you seem to have a gift. Even when you say you are frustrated, angry, "at the end of the rope", you come across very constructive and positive. I have never seen you mean, whining, blaming. You must be a really strong, generous, kind person. I wish I could meet you sometime. Happy holidays to you and your family.

Cinderella said...

That was one of the most important lessons I've learned in tango dancing, that a woman must learn how and who to say NO to. The consequence was that I got much less dancing for a while. But now my dancing life is so much richer, so much more beautiful.

Stefanie said...

Reading your posts makes me want to explore Argentine Tango! Such great insights and advice. Love what you are doing here. -Stef

Christina said...

I´m glad I came across your comment - I was actually searching for 'how to politely reject a dancer' and the issue is a complicated one obviosuly..
I´m always stuck in between looking around for dancers and trying to avoid some of them.

I think one problem is that there is in effect no general agreement on how the invitation should take place. Sure, there's the ideal of the cabeceo; but I hardly ever have been on a Milonga where only cabeceos were used to invite a lady.. If the double standard concerning who is allowed to invite whom would at least work! Often enough it happened to me, that although I explicitly looked away a guy nevertheless came and asked me. Ah - I was more or less invited to reject him. And why would I 'sacrifice' myself?

But what really bothers me is this - how on earth is it possible that I have not at all enjoyed a dance while the guy obviosuly has had a good time, since he's asking me again. I just can´t wrap my head around this and it makes me quite sad and frustrated sometimes - how can there be such a huge miscommunication?

Dieudonne said...

Christina said...

But what really bothers me is this - how on earth is it possible that I have not at all enjoyed a dance while the guy obviosuly has had a good time, since he's asking me again. I just can´t wrap my head around this and it makes me quite sad and frustrated sometimes - how can there be such a huge miscommunication?

I think that the answer to your question is quite simple and sad; you are not there, he does not see you. His own pleasure is his only goal, and he might not even be aware of it.
We come to Tango for various reasons, and I suspect that both your reasons and his might not agree. He might be after a nice way to pass time, entertain himself, and you might be interested in connecting with other human beings, and if that is the case, then I can see why he would not get that you did not enjoy yourself with him.

doornail said...

Sometimes the 'mysterious reason' that you've never danced with somebody is just that you've never danced with them.

After some period of time, the awkwardness of having to say 'Yes I know we haven't danced in all this time, but TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT!' becomes an almost unbreakable barrier.

It's completely ridiculous and completely unfair, but it's also been completely true for me on a number of occasions.