Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Tango Brothers: Making Sure Every Woman Has Partners At Milongas

Guys, let's face it, we've got it good in the Bay area when it comes to tango. Most milongas we go to have more women than men, so it's easy for us to almost always have someone to dance with. And we're also lucky in that women here often ask us to dance, so an evening of tango can fly by for men with barely a break.

Many women have equally busy nights. But, unfortunately, sometimes some women don't and they might only have a couple of tandas (or, tango gods forbid--none). It's this situation I want to talk about.

To put it straight out there, men, if we see women sitting out tanda after tanda, we should make a point of asking them to dance. I've been as guilty of this as anyone--not really paying attention if certain women weren't being asked to dance because I was too wrapped up in my own tandas. At other times I've assumed that sooner or later a man would ask her to dance, only to realize later that wasn't happening.

Most men have been on the other side of this at times. I know I have and it's not fun. I did my undergrad at the University of Florida and our ratio was 52% men/48% women. As a result, it was tough at times getting dates (sure, some said it had to do with trivial factors like personality, but I found it so much easier to just blame it all on the bad ratio). And proof of that came for me the first time I spent the weekend at FSU for a football game. The ratio at FSU was the reverse--so there were 52% women. I still remember my shock when a woman come up to me at a bar and asked if she could buy me a drink. In all my years at UF that had never happened to me. I was so certain one of my friends put her up to it that I kept looking around the bar for one of my laughing friends.

But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make is how much I like it when women buy me drinks. No, no, sorry--lost my train of thought there. The point I'm trying to make is that ratios matter in life and in the Bay area tango scene that's particularly true.

So, guys, next time you see a woman sitting out numerous tandas, please ask her to dance. It's always fun making new friends and it makes milongas even better when everyone is tangoing. There are few downsides to tango, but not getting to tango much at a milonga is one of the biggest. And as many women friends have told me, all it takes is one or two good tandas to turn an average evening into a really fun one.


tangobaby said...

Wow, Mark, this is a post that actually gives me some hope!

;-) said...

But when I've seen you at milongas, Tangobaby, you've always seemed to have so many tandas. I hope to see you at Nora's Tango Week, so we can tango. I'm going to both the weekend & week, as well as most of the milongas. Can't wait!

Andrea said...

Thanks for this!!

Anonymous said...

Mille Grazie - muchisimas gracias - Mark, from all the women I know.

Anonymous said...

I am not the only woman I know who eventually gave up her passionate love of tango due the wallflower syndrome. Some of these women are good dancers, and some found greener pastures in ballroom, West Coast Swing, and other dances.
Thank you for posting this! Happy dancing!

Mark Andersen said...

Yes, Anonymous, I know a number of women whom have also gotten frustrated with not getting to dance much. Some people come & go in tango. I've had friends end up feeling more comfortable in salsa, ballroom, West Coast swing etc. and that was the right decision for them.

But given your passionate love of tango, I'd like to toss out an idea. A friend of mine almost gave up tango for exactly the same reason as you. So, what we do now is coordinate specific milongas (normally one a week) where we agree to meet. Then she coordinates with one or two of her other male friends and/or couples to be sure she'll always have at least a couple of leaders she knows at every milonga. Since we've been doing this she normally dances at least a half dozen tandas at each milonga. Plus, over time other guys have seen how much fun she is to dance with, so more guys she didn't know before are asking her to dance, too. It's all kind of steamrolled to the point where she's normally quite busy at milongas.

I don't know if you live in the Bay area. But if you do, I'd love to do this with you, too. It's fun for me because I always know I'll have a friend at every milonga.

If you don't live in the Bay area, perhaps you could try this with some of your male friends in tango?

If you'd like to try this with me, just email me at & we'll coordinate meeting at an upcoming milonga (i.e., how about starting this Thursday night at Nora's Tango Week? It's the kick-off milonga & it's free: win/win). It's fun for me to make new tango friends--especially ones who passionately love it like yourself.

Anonymous said...

May I ask, would it be rude to read a book while waiting to dance? I've always wondered..

Mark Andersen said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for a really good question. Not to answer your question with another question, but I'm curious why you'd want to read a book at a milonga?

It's a bit difficult to answer this question without knowing that, so let me start instead by telling you what thoughts I'd probably have.

Unless you're a student who has to keep up with reading for a class, what about using the time between tandas to talk to other women and men? I have a number of friends that have made new friends with other folks between tandas this way. And I can tell you as a guy that when a woman strikes up a conversation with me it's a great way to dance the next tanda with her. Some women won't ask men to dance, but by simply talking to guys at milongas a lot of those men will ask those women to dance. I recently started making a point of asking one or two strangers to dance at every milonga, but otherwise I ask my frineds and acquaintances first. So, if you struck up a conversation with me at a milonga I'd make a point of asking you to dance.

The main reason I do this is I always end up thinking "wow, she seems really nice--I'd like to dance with her". I don't know what level you're at, but it's meaningless to me if a woman is a beginner. In fact, part of me considers it a challenge to see if I can lead her well, which is fun because I want to make her look as good as possible. All I care about is that I enjoy talking with my follows and that she makes a sincere effort to follow my lead (even when my lead is off!).

Aso, if I saw someone reading a book I'd probably think they're a bit shy. There are so many great women and men at milongas, it's a wonderful opportunity to make new friends.

I hope this helps some. If you have any followup questions, by all means ask away.


Anonymous said...

If I saw someone reading a book at a milonga, I'd assume that he or she had no interest in dancing, and was simply there waiting for someone else, or was sitting out due to an injury. As a follower new to the bay area (but not new to tango), I'm in favor of men noticing and dancing with women out of their normal patterns. However, here's a thought for women: if you're not getting dances, why not try asking people to dance yourself? I know this is a topic of much debate, but many men I've talked to in the bay area say that they like it when women ask them to dance. Of course, then you have to be prepared for possible rejection, just like they do...

Anonymous said...

I know I am commenting on an older story but it really hit the spot and gives me some hope. There were so many times when I left milongas after getting only one tanda or worse zero. It's extremely frustrating to watch your friends get asked to dance repeatedly while I wind up sitting on the sidelines watching bags and saving seats.

I'm going to stick with my tango studies and try going out with more leads to milongas. Maybe my tanda luck will change.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I only wish men would read this!! I have been taking lessons for about seven to eight months, and after five months of classes I began attending a Milonga once or twice a week. Which was wonderful but then I noticed that I was only dancing one tanda or worse not being asked to dance at all.

I have even joined several "classmates" once or twice and it is still the same, sitting on the sideline watching my classmates dance tanda after tanda...

So for that reason I have stopped going to Milonga's. Will I leave Tango? No for I enjoy my lessons and my teacher.

But I will wait several months before I even consider attending another Milong again.