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: https://www.facebook.com/marijohnson/posts/211751532239400 If we're not connected on Facebook, feel free to send me an invite.