Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For Women: How To Ask A Man To Dance

OK, ladies, it's time to take a crash course in how to ask a man to dance. This has been a hot topic of conversation for me at milongas of late and I've learned a few surprising things as a result. I'd say I ask the woman to dance at least 90% of the time. But I'll usually have a couple of women ask me to dance at most milongas and that's fun, too.

Some of you Ladies are already pros at this & have more tandas at milongas than most men. In fact, what I'm listing below is a compilation of great methods women have used in asking me to dance and other methods female friends have told me about.

The Verbal, Direct Method: just ask. He says "yes", great. He says "no", welcome to the men's club (and, increasingly, at milongas in SF, the women's club). Now all you need is a few hundred/thousand more rejections & you'll catch up to the average man in terms of rejections we've collected over the years.

The Verbal, Direct Non-Invite Method: I get this one a couple of times a month. I've just come off the dance floor & am standing there as the next tanda starts. A woman I don't know comes up & strikes up a conversation. We chat for a bit and then she says "I LOVE Di Sarli! Do you?" I get the clue and ask her to dance. So, she's done everything except technically ask me. We tango.

The Verbal, Indirect Non-Invite Method: This one is harder to read, but I like it because it's so friendly. I'm standing near the dance floor, a woman approaches me & strikes up a conversation. She won't make an overt comment like how much she loves the orchestra, so we'll just chat. If I don't need a water break, I'll always ask her to dance. Sometimes she'll say goodbye & move on if I don't ask her to dance first. So, honestly, I'm not 100% sure if she wanted to dance, but I think she usually does in this situation (women--any comments on this that can enlighten me?). Even if she moves on I'll always try to make a point of asking her to dance later in the milonga after my break.

The Non-Verbal, Direct Method: The cabeceo. Most women are very good at inviting men this way, so I won't go into detail about this one. It can be confusing at San Francisco milongas, though, because some women use the cabeceo & some don't. As a result, sometimes I'll ask a woman who is looking my way when in fact she's not in the mood to tango. But generally the cabeceo is helpful for me because I can usually tell which women aren't up for dancing if they're not making any eye contact.

More Milonga Musings:
-If a woman is sitting alone with a man, I'll never ask her to dance because I assume she's on a date with him or that they're married. I'll only ask a woman to dance in this situation if I'm acquainted with her, I'm positive they're not a couple and they've been sitting there a long time.
-The more interested you are in dancing, the closer you should sit to the dance floor. For example, at the milongas at Nora's Tango Week there were 2 rows of seats on one side & I was twice as likely to ask a woman to dance in the front row than the back because it felt like the woman in the back row was less open to dancing (maybe she's taking a break?, maybe she's with someone? etc.).
-Don't sit right next to the door: when I enter a milonga I don't like to stand at the door because I don't want to block people coming in & out of the milonga. This is why I always keep walking to the left or right & ask women away from the door.

Ladies, if you decide to take the plunge and ask a man to dance, please don't let a rejection or two stop you from asking more men. If a man says no, it's his loss. And the more you ask, the more dance partners you'll end up with. Plus, you'll get to meet some really great people.

Of all the invites to tango that I've ever received, one of my all-time favorites was just a few weeks ago at Nora's Tango Week. A lovely, charming senior woman came up to me and asked "Will you be my victim?" I broke out laughing. I've never turned down an invite from a woman to tango anyway, but how could I turn that down? We had a great tanda and I got to meet another fascinating woman. You just can't lose in tango.

So, there we go ladies. I have plenty of female friends whom never have and never will verbally invite a man to dance and that's their prerogative.

But if you want to give it a try, buckle up & go for it. He'll be lucky to tango with you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is It Harder For Women To Ask Men To Dance?

A month ago I was certain it was easier for women to ask men to dance. I always assumed this to be the case because I thought every man would accept.

Well, it turns out that's not quite true. To my surprise, a number of my female friends have convinced me that it's usually harder for women to ask men to dance.

Why? Well, there are at least two big reasons.

1. For starters, most people (men and women) believe it's the man's role to ask women. I know plenty of women that ask men to dance, but I also know plenty that never have and never will ask a man to dance. Sometimes this is the woman's personal philosophy, sometimes this is based on the culture the woman is from. For example, I've only known a few Argentinean women that ask men to dance. Clearly, the norm in Bs As is for the men to ask women to tango. Here in San Francisco, it's not uncommon for women to ask men, but normally it's men asking women.

2. The other reason is that, as another generalization, getting rejected when asking someone to tango is harder for most women than it is for most men.

Why is this? In a word, practice.

The first girl I ever asked to dance was when I went to my first church dance when I was thirteen years old. (Bonus quiz points: who thought he was the world's greatest dancer to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way", but in fact was among history's worst? Me!! I'd pay a lot of money for a video of me "dancing" at that first dance, but I'd pay twice that amount to keep that video off of YouTube). But I digress because a lot has changed since my first church dances. Back in the day (1) my best friend (Dave) and I would brag to each other about all these really awesome girls we'd danced with, (2) the girls were almost always better at dancing than us guys, and (3) the "nos" were difficult to hear.

OK, so maybe there isn't much that has really changed. Actually, only two things come to mind: (1) my Mom doesn't drive me to my dances anymore and (2) instead of having heard only a couple of "nos" as a thirteen year-old, most guys (myself included) have heard countless "nos" over the years. That might sound like a negative at first, but, in fact, it's a positive because we got used to it over time and each "no" rolls off our backs a little faster. It's this practice that most women don't get growing up, which is why it's harder for most women.

Take my female friend who had never asked a guy to dance until she started to tango. She's only asked about ten men to dance in her lifetime. The first nine said yes and the last one said no. And that one "no" really stung (the first one always does), so much so that she hasn't asked another guy since.

That's the unfortunate news. For such women that want to continue verbally asking men to tango (don't give up, Ladies!), all I can do is encourage you to pull yourself up by your Comme Il Faut straps and ask again. Trust me, the 2nd rejection doesn't sting like the first, and by your 300th you'll barely notice it anymore.

But for women that don't want to verbally ask a man to dance, there are a lot of things you can do at milongas to invite a man to dance.

And that's my tango post for tomorrow...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Will You Be My Victim?": The Last Milonga At Nora's Tango Week

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And so Nora's Tango Week came to an end last week. As I went to one of the last milongas I went early to be sure I could get a seat. I arrived fifteen minutes before the doors opened and there was already a long line of tangueros in front of me (photo).

Geez, you folks are crazy for your tango.

And then the doors opened, people scrambled to get their seats and before I could even get to mine people were on the dance floor dancing to their first tango.

The performances were awesome and I had many friends there, so it was a great evening. But one of the highlights of the week happened a few hours later when a lovely senior woman walked up to me and asked "Would you be my victim?"

That was one of the best invitations to tango I've ever received. Not that I was the victim, though, as it quickly become obvious that my new friend was an excellent dancer. I felt more like she was my victim. It turns out she's a French artist (a painter) who does oils and exhibits frequently.

You meet the most fascinating people in tango.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tango Maestros During Their Group Talk: Nora's Tango Week


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On the last day of Nora's Tango Week we got to hear all of the great maestros talk during this "chamuyo."

In this picture, from left to right, are Giselle Anne & Gustavo Naveira, Esteban Moreno & Claudia Codega, Eduardo Saucedo & Marisa Quiroga, Fernanda Ghi & Guillermo Merlo, Ed Neale & Nora Dinzelbacher, Claudia Mendoza & Luis Castro, and the Godparents of tango, Elba & Nito.

When I took this picture Nito was just starting to tell the story of how in Argentine culture people sometimes like to play jokes to cause a little stir. Nito said he had a friend that went to a milonga with a man and woman who were a couple. The three of them showed up together and then the man went over to the table next to them and whispered to the table "I'm here with that woman, but that guy won't leave us alone!"

And Eduardo told a great story about the meaning of going for coffee or pizza after a milonga, but I'll have to leave that one for another post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

To Not Tango

It has been long since I've written. And it is with great sadness, I confess, to reveal that I have not been tangoing as much as I could, as I should, as I would like to. Life got in the way. And life continues to get in the way.

However, the good news is that I went to the Chicago Mini Tango Festival, Stone Soup Festival, the Denver Memorial Day tango festival, and just recently finished the Chicago Tango Week festival this past 4th of July. And I saw friends from far and wide, friends from BA, from Sweden, from Turkey, from Houston, San Fran, NY and all over. We all live in a surreal world when we come together to celebrate, to cherish, to dance and hold each other in our arms.

And also good news: I ran into no ex lovers. And I will not run into any potential lovers either. No. I will not say never, but am highly hesitant to ever date a tango dancer, to be lovers off the dance floor. Tango is too surreal, too unstable, too intangible a love, too emotional and too strong to ever be grounded in reality. Those who tango and love in one basket must live in an ever long dream.

But the sleepless nights, the early brunches, the hugs and the kisses, hosting friends and friends hosting me - they are exquisite. To me, it is a crème brûlée and strawberry glacé come to life. The sweetness is a thing to behold. To dance until my feet can no longer hold me up, the have my heart sing with the music and my body soar through veils of exhaustion.

No matter how much life gets in the way. I will never give up tango.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thank You Tango Friends: After 100 Posts, Confessions Now Has Readers in 68 Countries

Back on December 11 when I started this tango blog celebrating Carlos Gardel's birthday, I didn't know what to expect. Well, I'm happy to say that last weeks post ("More Than Tango, It's About You") was our 100th.

Blogging about tango has been great fun because I enjoy writing. But the biggest bonus I've gotten by far is from connecting with you all. I really appreciate everyone that reads this blog and, in particular, I am grateful for all the amazing comments people make and emails you send me.

I also want to thank Victoria, Sappho, Laila and Ram for their great contributions.

So, I thought it would be fun to give a snapshot of how this blog has developed over 8 months by looking at the analytics. But please note that this data is never personally identifiable. I only know if you've personally come to my blog if you tell me or if you post a comment using your name (obviously, I have no idea who the folks are that post as "Annonymous").

So, here we go. There are now readers from 43 states across America and 68 countries world-wide (note: I've adjusted this number so it only includes people that have spent significant time on the blog and not "bounced".)

Here are the Top 5 countries where readers come from:
1. U.S.
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. Argentina

Interesting Keywords Tangueros Used To Find This Blog (my thoughts in parenthesis):
"Comme il Faut" (plus hundreds of variations of this keyword)
"Tango Crushes"
"Addicted to Tango" (welcome to the club)
"Sexy tango skirt" (isn't this redundant? what woman doesn't look sexy in a tango skirt?)
"Tango Nirvana" (we're all searching for this, right?)
"How to get over a tango crush" (soundes like one of my searches)
"Tango Sins" (I've committed just about all of them)
"Sexy hug" (I love this description of the close embrace)
"Forget yourself from heartbreak" (impossible)
"Tango Temptress"
"Ways to know if you're addicted to tango?" (see my April 21 post "Top 15 Ways To Know If You're Addicted To Tango" to know how addicted you are)
"Why are women obsesed with shoes?" (clearly other men share my confusion)
"How Long To Learn Tango?" (only a lifetime)

You meet the most fascintating people in tango.

Thank you,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More Than Tango, It's About You

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It's not just about tango.

Tango is the black, bad ass '51 Mercury that we drive in the dark of night to get us there, but it's not my destination.

You're my destination.

I don't tango just to tango. I tango to hold you in a close embrace, to move with you, to connect with you.

And I don't take tango lessons just to improve at this dance. I study for days and months and years, so I can develop my lead and movement because then I can connect with you in a way that is mas profundo.

The better I lead, the less distracted I am by my mistakes. The smoother I move, the more I can stop thinking and simply be with you now.

Yes, we're surrounded by hundreds of people, but they're not here. I'm only here with you.

I love tango for her journey, but you're my destination. Remember that always.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bowing To My Partners: Tangoing With Our Japanese Sisters

Nora's Tango Week isn't over yet, but one of my favorite memories so far has to do with something I'd never experienced before in tango: bowing to your partner before you take each other into the close embrace.

Why the bowing? Well, you see there's a wonderful group of tango dancers who came all the way over from Japan for tango week. Not all of the women, but most of them bow to their partners before they start dancing. Obviously, bowing is common in Japan--I'd just never experienced it before in tango. But I must say I really liked it because it brought to life something one of our maestros (Esteban Moreno) mentioned. Esteban said to dance tango is a privilege. I agree with Esteban and getting to bow with my partner was a great way to bring to life our respect for each other before taking a total stranger into a close embrace.

I'd heard how strong the tango community is in Japan and how much it's growing, but I'd never danced with any of our Japanese sisters. But having danced with five of our Japanese sisters I can tell you they were all excellent--very elegant and smooth.

One last note--I got to speak with the women that organized their trip. She said she came over to Tango Week for the first time last year with just one other friend. They had so much fun that she grew their group to nine this year. We were the better for it.

Tango Shoes at Nora's Tango Week


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I finished Nora's Tango Weekend Sunday night and it was awesome. To get to the class rooms you had to walk by tables of Comme Il Faut and Neotango shoes for sale.

On Sunday I was eating an apple near these tables waiting for my next class to begin when I noticed how differently men and women reacted to these tables. Most men walked by and didn't pay attention to the shoes. Most women walked around the corner, saw the shoes and went into a state of rapture. (I didn't see one near the table, but I think having a defribilator on hand is a good idea)

Truth be told, ladies, I still don't really get your passion for tango shoes, but part of me sensed some of you would want to see this photo.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Packed Milonga At Nora's Tango Weekend


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Nora's Tango Weekend was awesome. I have many great stories to tell this week. In the meantime, I wanted to post this photo, which was last week.

This photo is of the opening night milonga, which was a blast.

Tonight we had numerous perforances because it was closing night for the Tango Weekend. The place was packed & the maestros amazing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Out Of Office AutoReply: Nora's Tango Weekend

I am out of the office today. I'm away at an important business conference involving molinetes and ganchos.

If you need to reach me, feel free to cabaceo me.

If this is important and you need to speak to me personally, you can find me in the conference room "Milonga". It's the room that looks like a dance floor and it will be packed with hundreds of fellow attendees. I'll be there through the weekend holding very important tandas with wonderful milongueras from around the world.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cortina: The Greatest Soccer Goal of My Life


In today's cortina please ignore my immodesty as I proudly proclaim that I recently scored the greatest soccer goal of my life. Why the greatest? Because it was my first and only in over 3 decades of playing.

I started playing soccer as a kid and I've played every year since. I've always played in the defense, so I've always, well, defended. Even so, I should've scored some goals. Sure, I've scored countless times in practice, pickup games, indoor games and against my three-year old niece, but never in an official game. (Truth be told: my three-your old niece stopped my first seven shots, but I managed to slip one by her by pointing behind her and asking "is that a pony, Catherine?!?" Hey, a goal is a goal).

That 40 year drought finally ended when I scored a few weeks ago. How did it feel? Well, the sky seemed bluer and the artificial grass seemed greener that bright, shining afternoon.

So, how did I score? It's all thanks to Melanie (in the picture with me). She passed me the ball & I hit a one-touch rocket into the net (note: "rocket" is my adjective and I do not agree with my teammates who describe it a "squibler"). Melanie played her college ball at Berkeley with Brandi Chastain and other U.S. Women's Gold Medal Olympic players were on the same team. As you can imagine, Melanie kicks ass. In fact, the women as a group on my team do, too, and it's a big reason why we're heading into the playoffs.

After the game I did what any serious-minded male adult would do--I called my Mom, Dad, Brother, and Sister and replayed for them the goal second-by-second. My Mom and sister gave me polite "that's nice, Mark" responses while my Dad and brother both asked me if we won.

BTW, Menlanie and I are holding up four fingers because that was our final score against the other team, not the age I'm acting.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Christmas Eve, My Birthday and Nora's Tango Week

It's almost here! Nora's Tango Weekend starts Thursday night with a free milonga and then the first day of classes start Friday. I'm doing the Tango Week, too, which starts Monday. All of this culminates with "A day with Gustavo and Giselle" and the Celebration Milonga a week from Saturday (12th), all of which should be awesome.

To say I'm pumped about this would be putting it mildly. This is Christmas Eve expectation. This is birthday joy. I was supposed to have outgrown that excitement years ago, but haven't yet. That's one of the fun things about tango week, though--I don't have to hide my giddiness because everyone is giddy.

I went to Nora's Weekend & Week last year & the teachers were great. We have some of the same from maestros from last year and some new. The silver Godparents of tango, Nito and Elba, will be there again and last year Nito gave me one of my favorite tango memories. One of the other maestros decades younger than Nito had a new move that Nito was excited to learn. So, Nito kept running the new move over and over again with his friend until he had every detail down. That one scene explained to me why Nito is such a great dancer: his passion and focus on continuous improvement.

I hope to see you there. If I don't get the opportunity to as you to dance first, please ask me to dance. One of the best things about Nora's Tango Week is making new friends, so I hope we can share a tanda.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Time To Retire Cologne From Tango?

Ah, yes, the eternal male ritual I've taken part of since I was a teenager--putting on cologne. And then putting on some more and, well, why not a little more. It was fun back as a teenager because I thought it would help increase my chances with women (that proved to be untrue, so I'm not sure where that urban myth started). It was also part of the passage into manhood. My grandfathers wore cologne, my Dad wore it and now I was wearing it.

Old habits are hard to break and that's a big reason why I kept wearing it for years. So, in the beginning I thought "of course I'll need to wear cologne to milongas--tango is such a masculine dance certainly it calls for my best cologne, right?".


Let's have the ladies speak for themselves. As a milonguera commented here a while back: "Too much cologne or aftershave is a nightmare. I know the same goes for us ladies, but we don't wear perfume on our faces. If our face is touching yours, and you have a lot of scent on your skin, it can be really overwhelming."

But give up my cologne for tango? That would be like giving up part of my manhood.

But then I got another email from a woman who said "I'm tired of coming home wearing a mix of bad (or even good) cologne. I'm pretty sensitive to odors and it can make dancing even with a good dancer extremely unpleasant. And then I smell funny for my next partner. I'm sure most guys feel the same way about women wearing too much perfume, so it definitely goes both ways. I'd much rather dance with someone with no cologne who smelled not at all, or of good old soap and shampoo! Now I'm going to take a shower to try to wash off tonight's batch of scents!"

All of which reminded me of a class I took at La Pista recently where I rotated to a lovely woman. She had some nice perfume on (not a lot) and when we took each other into our close embrace I started sneezing. The teacher (Oscar Mandagaran) happened to be walking by us checking on how the move was going and my partner joked to Oscar that I was allergic to her. I started laughing and told Oscar I was sure it was something else (I've never had allergies). I took her back into a close embrace and immediately started sneezing again! We resolved to tango in an open embrace.

And there we have it. I'm sold. Cologne, perfume, eau de toilette, eau de it what you will, they don't have a place in tango.

So, it is with deep regret that I hereby swear off wearing cologne to milongas. I will continue to wear it proudly and manly to dinners, dates, and parties. But when it comes to milongas, will anyone else join me in going cologne-free?

Next time you go to a milonga, leave the cologne & just go eau de tango.