Monday, February 25, 2008

3 Reasons Why I Won't Ask A Woman To Dance

As usual, Sappho has posted a provacative question: "why won't men ask certain women to tango?". She even speculates as to the possible reasons: "Am I not good enough? Maybe he just doesn't like my style. Maybe I'm too short/tall/skinny/fat/etc." Such explanations are possible, I suppose. I know I've wondered if some women won't dance with me because I don't tango well enough. And, yet, while I can't speak for all men, there are three reasons why I won't ask a woman to dance, but they don't have anything to do with the reasons above. Women, I don't expect you to think my reasons are logical any more than you should expect us men to understand your fixation with tango shoes, but here goes.

Let me explain, one by one.
1. I won't ask a woman to tango if she's a lot better than me. This is because I feel like I'm pulling her down to my level and, anyways, how interesting can my tango be for her if I can't match her level? Yea, part of this reason probably mixes in some of my male ego, too, but I'll leave the psychoanalysis to others. I will dance with a woman that's a little better than me, but not a lot. If a woman is a lot better than me I'll wait a few months & hope I close the gap. Sometimes this works, sometimes it bombs. There's an Alicia Keys-like tanguera I've wanted to dance with for a long time, but whom I hadn't seen in 2 months. Well, I saw her at a milonga last week & even though I've gotten a little better, she's gotten a lot better! So, now she's a mile better than me & at this rate I'll probably never ask her to dance. Yeah, I know--this probably seems crazy in a lot of ways. But it's my code & I'm about as likely to change it as I am to ask for directions while driving.

2. I won't ask a woman if she's in a relationship/married & she & her partner mostly dance with themselves. Some couples love dancing with other people & some couples mainly dance with themselves. It's their prerogative & I'm cool either way, but I pay attention to this stuff. I am not going to do anything that would remotely be perceived as trying to cut in.

3. I won't ask a woman to tango if she's in a relationship/married & I'm particulary drawn to her. This all starts with the unspoken code men have about respecting boundaries with each other and their girlfriends/wives. This is really all about the Golden Rule. Don't get me wrong, there's a small percentage of would-be players out there who don't respect these boundaries, but a cautious eye is kept on them. The vast majority of men, though, honor the code. I met a very nice couple in class once & when I rotated to her I was only thinking about the move we were working on. We took each other into a close embrace and immediately we had a connection I experience only 3 or 4 times a year. I felt it from our first salida--we were in synch the whole song & our give-and-take was rare. It kind of spooked me because I normally only have that kind of connection with a woman if we're dating. The song ended and I could tell from her glance she noticed it, too. I'm not sure who had the more confused "how the hell did that just happen!?!" expression. But she's in a relationship, so even though it was the best tango I'd had in 6 months, I also knew it would be our last. I saw them at a milonga recently, but couldn't ask her to tango...a brother's gotta respect the code.

Sappho, although I've never danced with you, I can tell from your posts that you're an excellent dancer. I doubt the guy hasn't asked you to dance because you're not a good enough dancer. As I mentioned in my Reason #1 above, you might be too good! But I need to raise one other possible reason. I know guys that won't ask a single woman to dance if they're too drawn to them. Personally, I make a point of asking these women to dance--it creates a great tango vibe. But I know guys that feel awkward dancing with women they are particularly intrigued by. So, it's possible he's taken by you. I'm sure this wouldn't be the first time you've met a guy at a milonga that's fallen for you.


Anonymous said...

I just discovered this blog and I'm so interested that I'll keep reading for a while.

However, I just want to respond to this post, mostly because I'll stay Anonymous. I'll just say what I need to say and maybe you'll follow up.

I just went to my first tango festival. I'm a new tango dancer, but with over 25 years of professional stage/movement/yoga experience. I know my body. Do I volcada? Not yet. Do I ocho/gancho/giro/etc? You bet. This was also my first milonga.

What did I do, most of the time? I sat. I was a head and clavicle, from all someone could see of me. How would they know if I was beginner or not? The people who asked me to dance were the people in previous classes, and we enjoyed ourselves.

The only strangers who asked me to dance were when I struck up a conversation about something else: I talked with one man about his camera, until he said, "Hey, would you like to dance?" So in this way I only stuck out from the crowd for that one moment simply by being human...?

Here's my thought:

Being a beginner is very difficult. Being a follower forced to dance with beginner leads is truly terrible. Some are mean, some pick on lesser dancers, and some don't realize how beginner they themselves really are. A bad, cruel lead can set a beginning dancer back - however, a GREAT partner can invigorate the entire learning process.

Good leaders can create a whole flock of great followers if they just tried. Class is different than milonga or practica - the only way to get better at milonga is to dance milonga with dancers who make US better.

We only need people who are willing to give us a try. We'll get better and then everyone will soon have a good time - with better dancers everywhere, not just judged by who has the prettier shoes, or has run away to BA to become a tango addict.

Mark Andersen said...

I'm so happy to hear you like this blog & I hope you keep posting comments--you add a lot by doing so. I apologize for not responding sooner, but I've been traveling the past 2 weeks & am playing catch-up.

But regarding your experience at the tango festival of sitting most of the time--I'm so sorry to hear that. I completely agree with you that being a beginner is difficult--it took me months before I developed a group of friends (my tango posse) that I can always count on for dances.

As a generalization for men (myself included), we don't ask enough strangers to dance. It's definitely something all men should make a point of improving.

And please don't take my next comment as an excuse--it's an explanation. When I go to a milonga here's the women I usually dance with (more or less in this order):

1. My closest tango friends
2. My broader tango friends
3. Women I know from classes
4. Women I've met at milongas & who have personalities or styles I really like
5. Women that ask me to dance
6. Women that approach me & strike up a conversation, but don't ask me to dance
7. Woman I don't know, but who look like they want to dance (i.e., she's close to the dance floor, looks into it, is swaying to the music...)

So, by the time I've danced with women in #1-#6, the milonga is practically over before I can have the opportunity to dance with women I don't know. I'm sure that sounds lame in some ways, but it's the truth.

But I'm going to make a point of asking more strangers to dance and I encourage other men to do the same. Actually, if you feel comfortable doing so, you might want to ask more men to dance. Obviously, it's not the norm in Buenos Aires, but it's common in America.

And, lastly, I don't know if you're in the Bay area or if you know me. But if you do, I'd love to dance with you, so please ask me next time you see me. In my entire life I've never turned down an invitation to tango and I never will.