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.


Limerick Tango said...

A note on indirect methods: Guys if you are standing next to the floor and don't want to dance and a woman comes chatting slip why you are not dancing into the conversation. "I'm zonked" or "I detest Di Sarli (unlikely, I know)" so that when she moves on danceless she is less likely to take umbrage.

studio wellspring said...

very helpful ~ thanks for your thoughtfulness!

TangoConmigo said...

I love it when women ask me to dance which happens too infrequently. Cabaceo works well but I am a modern man so any method is acceptable to me.

My batting average is dismal when it comes to reading women so I have given up trying. The subtle moves go unregistered now.

I never turn down a invitation to dance from a women unless she had rejected my invitation when I was a novice dancer.

Emma Yee said...

Mark, I am sorry I am a tango flake . . . things are crazy right now if that is any excuse. I don't want to say again that I might be somewhere when I might not be, so will just say that I appreciate your help and that I hope to meet you soon.

As for the verbal, indirect non-invite method: personally, I never strike up a conversation with a guy if I absolutely do not want to dance with him. Normally I will either really want to dance, or I wouldn't mind dancing with him.

La Tanguera said...

Ha, excellent post!!!! Lovely advice for us, Tangueras! I personally find it hard to ask for dances (I feel like usually Tangueros oblige, and I don't want to impose); but your non-direct invitations are perfect. :)

Anonymous said...

Years ago in ballroom dancing or in swing circles, I preferred being invited and never asked a man to dance. The same goes for tango, especially in Buenos Aires. Why try to be creative to let a man know that I want to dance so that he'll invite me verbally? The cabeceo works. I let him know without saying a word in my eye contact, and he invites me or not. Then I respond with a gesture. We meet after making a mutual agreement for pleasure.

It's the way it has been done in clubs, salons, and confiterias in Buenos Aires since the 1940s. No one has to suffer public rejection. It's too bad Argentines don't teach it in their classes in the USA.

Mtnhighmama said...

Thank you for this lovely post. I am quite shy and find it very difficult to ask for dances. Your post puts me a bit more at ease.

Anonymous said...

Me and my partner will be in SF soon, tangoing. Any advice for visiters asking locals to dance? Age, gender, technique, what matters the most?

Mark Andersen said...

Great question, Anonymous. Sorry I didn't reply earlier, but I've been swamped. As for gender, even though most women certainly prefer that men do the asking in SF, it's quite common that women ask men. For example, I was at a practica last night & one acquaintance asked me to dance & we had a great time. Later, I was talking with a male friend & a mutual friend of ours (a woman) kind of half-pulled a woman up to us to dance. The woman wanted to dance, but didn't want to ask us. I jumped up first, so I got the first dance.

So, I'd just ask away when you're here. Almost all men will be happy to dance with women that ask.

I don't think age is as much of a factor in SF as who does the asking here.

The only other thing I'd mention is that I find the people in the tango community in SF very friendly. But I have a tango friend who moved to Denver & he's been blown away by how friendly people find the community there. I know Denver's community is large, but I don't know how large. But, here in SF, the community is relatively so large that sometimes you have to be more proactive in asking people to dance. So, I encourage you to do that--ask away. People here are really nice. But, for men, especially, we can get spoiled at most milongas re: asking because the ratio is "in our favor."

I hope you have fun! If you let me know what milongas you're going to, I'd love to meet up with you at one (or 5!).

I'm doing the weeklong seminar with Gustavo & Giselle next week, but am free otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Mark. We'll be in SF around holiday season. Will definitely need your input about tango venues by then. Have fun with your workshops.

Anonymous said...

I generally single out one or two men that I want to ask at a milonga that I don't know and see how approachable they are. Sometimes it's based on how their dancing looks, sometimes it's on how much fun their partner looks to be having, othertimes I have no idea why they hit my radar. If they make eye contact or don't look like they're trying to avoid eye contact, aren't otherwise occupied and I can get near them I'll ask them to dance. I've been turned down for any number of reasons, if they come find me later and ask me to dance then it's all good. If they turn me down I try to remember who they are so that I don't ask them again ever.
Otherwise I generally have people that I've connected with previously that I'll ask or they ask. Some of them seek me out and others I seek out.
For men that I don't know, I generally accept the set if they ask unless I know that they haven't danced tango before (asking me to teach them on the dance floor is asking me to be extremely rude and I hate to be rude). If I'm not in the mood to dance just then or my feet hurt I try to look unapproachable myself.