Sunday, June 19, 2016

7 inviting strategies to boost your success rate in milongas

In my June 10 article, I wrote that, often, if a woman declines your invitation it’s not about your dancing. 

It may be because you’ve invited her at a moment when she does not want to dance.  Or when she is not free to dance with you.

At the end, I’ll give you some specific reasons why she might not be ready to dance with you, even though she might otherwise love to.  

But first, here are some specific tips to help you become an expert at inviting the right partners at the right times.
  There are other ways in which you can improve your inviting score, but today we’re just talking about eliminating common inviting mistakes.   

I’ll repeat what I said last week:

Make sure you’re inviting women when they want to be dancing.  

If a woman wants to be dancing, the signs are obvious: 
she’s looking up at the dance floor and around the room, her body looks energetic, she has a pleasant expression on her face. She looks open or even eager. She may be moving her body a little to the music, or singing the lyrics, as her eyes seek the right partner for this tanda. She looks like she specifically wants to dance!

If you’re not using the mirada (eye contact) and cabeceo (nod) to invite, but rather walking up to the tanguera’s table or to where she’s standing, these 7 tips, 3 do's and 4 don'ts, if you're not doing them already, will boost your success rate!


1) Make preliminary eye contact. This is one of the best inviting tools you can use.  Make eye contact before walking over to her.  You might have to relocate yourself in the room to catch her eye.  If you can’t make eye contact from a good position in her line of view, it’s a good clue that would be wiser not to invite her now.

You can also make eye contact at any time during the evening, while you walk around the room or in the refreshment area. Smile. If she smiles back, that can open a door for your invitation later.  If you have trouble engaging her in this small social exchange, it might be better not to invite her this time. 
2)  Observe her body language.  If her back is turned to the dance floor, she may not be interested in dancing at the moment.  If her legs are turned away from the dance floor, and she’s speaking with someone, skip this tango.  If she is looking into her purse for a while, she’s not available.  If she’s looking downward, she’s not available.  

Observing her body language includes paying attention to her gaze. If she’s looking fixedly at someone across the room, don’t walk over to invite her.  She’s in a visual dialog with someone else and may be accepting an invitation. You can choose to be calmly persistent:  keep looking in her direction and be ready to catch her eye if she shifts her gaze.  If she then sustains eye contact with you, she’s telling you she’s now available and wants to dance, and you can either nod, or walk over to her table.  (Of course, if you wait for Tanguera A to look at you, you might lose the opportunity to invite Tanguera B, in the event that Tanguera A accepts another invitation or doesn’t give you her attention.
 It's your choice whether you want to take the risk by waiting.)

3) Notice whether she’s in the company of a tanguero tonight.  If she’s sitting at a table with a tanguero and they're dancing often, they may have a tango date, and she’s not as available as she usually is. 
Try to catch her eye when she seems available, which also means not in conversation with this evening's companion.  If you can’t make eye contact, she’s not available right now.


4) Don’t invite someone as she’s walking by, unless she stops on her own to say hello to you. Even so, it’s better to say, “Where are you sitting? I want to dance with you later”.  

I was once in Milonga Gricel in Buenos Aires, and though it was very crowded, I was having a great night.  I took a break to go to the ladies room, and as I walked back to my table, 3 men at different tables stopped me, gave me a polite compliment and said “I would like to dance with you later”.  They all did it so nicely that it was a pleasure for me.  So I watched them on the dance floor and looked in their direction at the beginning of several tandas. 

If the tanguera you want to invite was pleased by your pre-invitation, she will look in your direction sometimes.  If she’s not, she will avoid your gaze, so don’t walk up to her table to invite her.

Never grab someone’s hand or arm as she’s walking by and pull her onto the dance floor. That’s taking away her right of choice.  Tangueras like me think, “If he’s rude in inviting, he’s going to be rude on the dance floor,” and even if we dance with the man now because we don't want to make a scene, we will avoid him in the future.

5) Don’t invite during a cortina. Neither of you knows what music will be played for the next tanda.  Even if you are not particular about the music to which you’ll be dancing, that decision might be very important to her!  So wait until you’ve both heard the first few bars of the new tanda before inviting. 

A few years back, someone with whom I’d had a lovely conversation a bit earlier showed up to invite me during a cortina, and I looked at him stunned, surely like a deer in the headlights. I had no idea whether I would like to dance the next tanda with him, or with anyone.  I was so taken off guard by the invitation at that moment that I didn’t know what to say.  I just stared at him, momentarily almost panicked.  The tanguero just walked away, looking hurt.  He didn’t have a clue that I didn’t say "yes" because I had no way of knowing whether I wanted to dance. To many tangueras, especially experienced ones, the music matters a lot. I can think of someone in Florence, Italy, for whom I’d almost leap across tables to dance with to D’Arienzo, but I wouldn't look in his direction for Pugliese.  (He runs a really wonderful traditional milonga, by the way, in case you're ever going to be in that area. Just ask us.)

6) Don’t invite someone who’s deeply involved in a conversation.  If her head and shoulders are turned toward someone and she stays focused on that person for a long time, she doesn’t want to dance right now.

But if her body is facing the dance floor, and her head turns to her friend and then back to the dance floor repeatedly, she's just chatting lightly and is available. Still, use the eye contact rule before you approach her table.

7) And finally:  Don’t take a woman’s unavailability as an absolute “No”.  Take it as a “Not now.”  If you get offended and strike her off your list, you could be depriving both of you of months or years of beautiful future tandas!

Her "No, thank you" or her not being available might mean:

“Not now. I . . .
. . . promised this tanda to someone.
. . . am on my way to the ladies’ room.
. . . am in pain. Someone caught my foot with her stiletto.
. . . am perspired from that milonga tanda, and I need to cool down or freshen up.
. . . am in a conversation that’s important to me.
. . . really need to get a glass of water. I’m parched!
. . . just had a very moving tanda and I’m overcome with emotion; I need a few minutes to sit by myself.
. . . just experienced a little misunderstanding and I want to straighten it out.
. . . can’t find my purse/wallet!
. . . don’t like dancing to this orchestra, or this type of music.
. . . just saw someone very dear whom I haven’t seen in months, and I want to go greet them.
. . . just saw the out of town guests I’ve invited to sit at my table walk in, and I want to welcome them.
. . . just arrived and I want to take a few minutes to get comfortable and observe the dance floor.
. . . don’t know you and would like to watch you dance at least once before accepting your invitation, so I’ll know whether it will be comfortable.
 . . . would rather dance with you to a nice mellow tango by Di Sarli/ Fresedo/Calo‘ than to milonga/Pugliese/Troilo.

So here's a recap of the 7 tips:
1) Make preliminary eye contact.
2) Observe her body language.
3) Notice whether she’s in the company of a tanguero tonight.
4) Don’t invite someone as she’s walking by.
5) Don’t invite during a cortina. 
6) Don’t invite someone who’s deeply involved in a conversation.
7) Don’t take a woman’s unavailability as an absolute “No”.  Take it as a “Not now.” 

Try making some of these strategies your habits.  And if you notice any difference in your experience in milongas, please write and tell me about it!

* * * * * *
If you would like to receive frequent personal advice from me about how to give women what they really want in milongas, you can subscribe to my "27 Insider Tips from Buenos Aires"!  CLICK HERE for details.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Fun Video Playlist: "Mixed Couples"

June 12, 2015

One of these surprising performance videos caught my eye in the Youtube side bar yesterday while I was watching something about rhubarb!  (I like food.)

So I found all four videos from last month's Brussels Tango Festival and put them into a little playlist for your Sunday enjoyment.

Chicho Frumboli and Roxana Suarez?
Carlitos Espinoza and Juana Sepulveda?
(And two more surprises.)

Have fun watching!  Feel free to comment below!

Declined? Maybe it's not about your dancing!

June 10, 2015

During a recent milonga, something came up that I wanted to very much to share with you. I’ve heard often that many men experience having their invitation declined as personal rejection. For some it is the most frustrating and painful aspect of their tango lives. For some it is simply unpleasant.

But some men take it in stride and don’t take it personally when a tanguera says “No, thank you”.  And some have developed strategies of inviting to ensure they never experience a “no”.  

Today’s article and my upcoming tips are to help you become a tanguero of the latter two categories!

Do you know that often if a woman declines your invitation it has nothing to do with your dancing?

There are many reasons why she might look away from your mirada or say “No, thank you” that are unrelated to you or your dancing.  Today we’ll talk about when a “No, thank you” simply means “Not now.” And how you can avoid getting a “not now” by becoming a more expert inviter!

You see, one big reason you may be getting declined sometimes is because you’re inviting a woman when she’s not ready to dance.  Or, for whatever reason, when she simply doesn’t want to dance at the moment.

If a woman wants to be dancing, the signs are obvious: she’s looking up at the dance floor or around the room, her body looks energetic, she has a pleasant expression on her face. She looks open or even eager. She may be moving her body a little to the music, or singing the lyrics, as her eyes seek the right partner for this tanda. She looks like she specifically wants to dance!

So here’s what happened at one milonga last month, that gives you four illustrations of tangueros’ inviting at the wrong time, and how they could have avoided a “No, thank you.”

Example #1

At this milonga, I was hosting a guest from out of town, a long-time tango friend whom I have called “one of my favorite milongueros on the continent”.  He had asked me to be his milonga-guide for the whole weekend. That was a big opportunity for me, because I’d be dancing many tandas with him each evening; since he lives far away, we rarely get to dance together. Besides, as amazing a dancer as he is, he’s a little shy. So I wanted to make sure he felt at home in our Miami area milongas. 

When I arrived at the milonga, I worked my way around the dance floor to the table where my guest was waiting for me.  On my way, I passed a seated young man whom I had seen improve a lot over the last few years, and with whom I had danced enjoyably about a year ago. I stopped to give him a friendly kiss “hello”, touching his shoulder.  His shirt was already drenched in perspiration.  I made a mental note of that and went to my table.

After an hour or two in which my guest and I alternated dancing with each other and with others, he left our table to get us both something to drink.  I enjoyed watching the dancers. This tanda was “our turn” to dance together again.  As I waited, the young man with the drenched shirt came over to my table and asked me to dance.  I said, “No, thank you.  My friend went to get me a glass of water, and then we’re going to dance.”  (I confess that also in the back of my mind was that his shirt was very wet. It would be wise for him to bring one or two extra shirts for a quick change, if he's a perspirer.) The young man walked away and didn’t invite me again.  And he didn’t invite me again the next time I saw him at a milonga.

This brought back memories of several years earlier, when I declined the same young man twice.  On two different occasions, he had invited me when I had my back turned to the dance floor, in a deep conversation with someone. He tapped me on the shoulder to interrupt and invite me, and both those times I turned to him and politely said, “No, thank you. I’d like to finish my conversation.”  There was something going on that was more important to me than dancing at that particular moment.  To me his interruption was rude, but I knew he was a nice fellow.  He just didn’t know much about milonga manners. I sought him out after the second experience, and explained why I had declined him twice. He nodded.

The young man’s coming over to invite me as I waited for my guest - at a moment when I didn’t want to be dancing - revealed that he has not yet learned to DISCERN when a woman wants to dance. By not developing that kind of recognition, he risks being declined when he invites!  He still seems to have no clue that he invites at the wrong time. This is a pity, because he's becoming a nice dancer.  

Example #2 

That same evening, part of the air conditioning system in the milonga failed.  We are in South Florida, folks, and with 100 people dancing in a smallish venue, it gets warm! I normally don’t perspire at all when I dance, the result of how I’ve learned to move, but tonight I was perspiring because of being in close embrace tanda after tanda in the very warm room.  I headed to the ladies‘ room to freshen up, and also because I needed  . . . well, to use ladies’ room! I walked carefully around the dance floor, close to the tables, purse in hand.  

As I walked, a friend with whom I sometimes dance, seated on my left, stepped out in front of me and asked me to dance.  I said, “Thanks, Arnie, but I’m on my way to the ladies‘ room.”  I was physically uncomfortable both because I needed the restroom and because I was really perspired.  (Too much information? Sorry!  I did promise you “the inside scoop” on what women really want!)  My friend looked frustrated and let me pass.

I did not want to dance at the moment because I was physically uncomfortable and on my way to get comfortable so I could enjoy the rest of the evening.

Example #3

A little later, I approached the dance floor from my side of the table, and was standing on the carpet next to a pillar, waiting for my guest to join me, as he squeezed through a tight spot between two tables.  As I waited those few seconds, my friend who had blocked my path earlier came over to ask me to dance.  I said, “I’m sorry, Arnie, but my guest has invited me. Here he is now.”  

I wondered why Arnie hadn’t invited me all evening in the traditional manner, by catching my eye when I was sitting at my table or otherwise obviously available and ready to dance, and only then - if he didn't want to use the cabeceo - coming over to invite.

At the next milonga, a woman friend asked, “How come you don’t like dancing with Arnie anymore?”  I asked, “What? Where did you get that idea?” She responded, “He told me you turned him down twice last night.”

 That was  exasperating for me to hear. That week I wrote him a short Facebook note, explaining again why I had declined him, and he didn't respond. 

How is it that after so many years of tango, Arnie doesn’t know how and when to invite?  Come to think of it, he’s only ever invited me when I was in the vicinity of his table or when we were in a light conversation.

I didn’t see Arnie for a month, and then at a big milonga last week, he was on the opposite side of the room.  Well into the evening, I circled the room to sit next to him and asked if he were still bothered. He said, “No. Let’s dance the next tanda.”  Even there, he put me on the spot, because neither of us knew what the music would be. Fortunately it was a nice Tanturi-Campos tanda. The theme of this tanda, between us, was “reconnection”, and our affection as tango friends was restored through our dancing.

Example 4: 

That evening, I introduced my guest to a beautiful Argentine friend who had just walked in and was standing in a small crowd of people who were greeting her.  I had told him he really should try dancing with her, because she’s a good milonguera, with lots of feeling.  As soon as they said “Nice to meet you”, he asked her to dance. She hadn’t finished greeting everyone surrounding her.  What my guest didn’t know is that this tanguera’s mother had died a month earlier, and this was her second milonga; she was just starting to get out of the house, where she was in mourning.

She answered my guest, “No thank you. I just got here and I want to say hello to my friends.”  It was a time when she was seeking comfort from friends in the community who cared for her.  He would have been wiser to wait until she was seated, relaxed and smiling at the dance floor, obviously ready to dance.   

The BIG LESSON today:

Invite a woman to dance when she clearly wants to dance. 
Don’t assume that because she is in a milonga and has her shoes on, she wants to dance at every moment.  

In an upcoming article, I’ll give you some specific tips to help you become an expert at inviting the right partners at the right times!

Survey results and a musicality challenge!

June 2, 2016

As of yesterday, responses to last week's survey to my newsletter readers about "what kind of information or training you want most from me in the coming months" were still coming in. 

I've officially closed the polls.  Are you curious to see the results?  

The 120 survey participants, of whom some chose multiple topics, responded this way:

- Musicality:  71  (59.17% of total respondents)
- How to give women what they really want in milongas: 65  (54.17%)
- Performance videos with or without my commentary:  45  (37.50%)
- Help for dancing in crowded milongas:  36  (30%)

Also, 55 participants 
(45%) wrote in comments about what they would like, a few requesting other topics, but most elaborating on their choices. They provided me enough good questions to write a year's worth of articles for you!

At first it seemed as though "how to give women what they want" was winning by a landslide, but "musicality" quickly caught up and reached the #1 position.  

Here's what the report I received looks like:

We could slice and dice the information further to learn more, such as the ratio of men to women for each topic. But this overview is very revealing and helpful to me.

So what does this do for us, going forward?

These are the main topics on which I'll be writing articles and doing trainings for you.  I've decided to give up analyzing steps in videos. (Big grin on my face.) That's just not my "zone of genius", even though I was doing it from a musicality perspective.  It was interesting to me that not one person asked me to write or teach about tango steps, except for one request to suggest specific movements for musicality elements. 

Now, just for fun, here's a musicality challenge!

Please enjoy these two videos of a favorite couple of mine and of many of my readers.  It's Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia Hurtado again.  Then keep reading below the links, where I explain one of the reasons I like this couple so much. (Some of our survey participants I wrote to privately will recognize the reason.) And do the musicality challenge I pose to you!  

"Chique", by the orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese

"Tierrita" by the orchestra of Juan D'Arienzo, sung by Héctor Mauré

For the people who have studied my "Tango Musicality Mojo" program" it should be pretty easy to identify in these two videos how Carlito and Noelia use all of the "7 Building Blocks of Tango Musicality" from our program.

The 7 Building Blocks are:
1) Rhythmic Base

2) Pauses
3) Melodic Interventions in the Pauses (C&N use all three kinds)
4) Half Time
5) Suspensions
6) Double Time
7) Syncopations (simple and complex)

The D'Arienzo and the Pugiese tangos are very different from each other! Each one has 6 of the elements, and the missing 7th Buliding Block is different in each one.  But don't worry about that now; it may become clear when you've done the challenge.

The challenge:

Copy my list of "7 Building Blocks" (above) so that you can have it in front of you as you watch each video again.  See how many of these elements you can identify in the music, as well as in Carlitos and Noelia's dancing. 

Even if you know nothing about my musicality system, doing this exercise can make you more aware of different parts of the musical structure and some nuances!

When you have this kind of knowledge, with certainty, you can understand exactly why such musical dancers as these two make the choices they do in their improvisation.  And your own musical interpretation can become deeper (or more sophisticated) and more fulfilling.

Please post below to tell us how you did with the challenge! 

Answer to "How do they do it?" quiz (Carlitos/Noelia)

April 14, 2016

Today I'd like you to look again at the video I posted two weeks ago, and see if you can answer the questions I asked you in that article:
"Note that Noelia’s first 3 steps make only half a giro, yet with a total of 8 steps she completes 2.75 turns.  

"What changes in the second part of the giro sequence to let her make 2 full giros in just 5 steps?  Can you tell the difference between the first 3 steps of the giro and the next 5?"

Please watch the video again, and make note of your answers to the above questions.

Here are my quick answers.  Did you observe either of these?

1) In the first three steps, Noelia's feet are far from Carlitos'. In the second part, their feet are much closer together.  They take turns practically stepping UNDER each other!

2) Squares, Diamonds and Triangles are the shapes that the woman can create on the floor in her giro around her partner, depending on factors like how much she pivots and where she steps in relation to her partner.

Square: At 1:19, Carlitos starts Noelia's first half-molinete by leading half a Square (
a bit stretched out), in relation to him. This part is made of three steps, plus the starting pivot. 

Diamonds and Triangles: The next five steps and four pivots,1:21-1:28, bring Carlitos and Noelia to the completion of almost three full giros.  I measure that number by counting how many times Noelia's back faces the chandelier.  Noelia executes this part of the giro sequence using elements of both Diamond and Triangle patterns in relation to Carlitos.  The angles her steps make depend upon how much she pivots.  Observe how in several of these five steps, she steps in front of him, between his feet. This is a key characteristic of Diamond-shaped molinetes. Observe also that steps #1 and #5 of the five steps each bring her around Carlitos 180 degrees; I'd consider these Triangle elements, because Noelia's big pivots cause acute angles.

In your own tango, you can become more aware of how: 
        - the distance between your feet and your partner's, and 
        - the geometry (square/diamond/triangle) of the woman's steps on the floor 
affect both the style and the feeling of your giros.

For men, this knowledge will give you more clarity and control when you lead a molinete. For women, it will help you follow with more sensitivity to the lead and with greater precision. For everyone, this knowledge will give you greater strength stylistically!

Do you want to do a tight giro with extreme turns, or do you want to do an expansive one?  Or like Carlitos and Noelia, do you want to mix them?

Have fun exploring these concepts!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

2.75 giros in 8 steps - how do they do it?

There are two reasons I posted the last video with Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia Hurtado:
1) to find out whether you prefer their previous way of dancing or this “newer” one,  

2) and today’s topic:  to study a 9-second segment, and see what’s special about it.  

Look at the segment at 1:38-1:47 in the professionally shot video of this performance we already looked at in my last blog post.  Here we see a nicely executed multiple giro of 2.5 or 2.75 turns, depending on where you see the giros beginning and ending. (One could say the sequence begins with
the pivot at 1:38 or the step at 1:39, and concludes with the step at 1:44 or the end of the pivot at 1:47).

("Rondando Tu Esquina" by the orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese, with Roberto Chanel singing.)

Now look at this amateur video, shot from a different angle by a festival attendee.  Here we can observe some specific things about the same segment, at 1:19-1:28.

(Same performance as above, different view.)

In this version, on my first viewing I find found the giro segment rather extraordinary. I thought "What beautiful giros! Let's see that again!"

I watched the sequence many times. The first giro initially disturbed me because it started when Noelia was far from Carlitos (1:19). In their first 3 steps their feet are far apart. Carlitos takes giant steps to enter with his first two sacadas. (A giro with the man's walking sacadas is an old, traditional form.) 

Note that Noelia’s first 3 steps make only half a giro, yet with a total of 8 steps she completes 2.75 turns. 

What changes in the second part of the giro sequence to let her make 2 full giros in just 5 steps?  
Can you tell the difference between the first 3 steps of the giro and the next 5?

When I figured out what was going on, I was no longer disturbed by how they launched the first giro.  I now see that they’re using two different giro techniques.  Let me know what you observe, and we can discuss it below!

I think the effect in the second part is beautiful, and I’m sure the physical sensation of changing from the first technique to the second is rather thrilling for the woman. I'm definitely going to work on this next time I practice with a good partner.

So tell me:  can you recognize any difference in technique or execution of the first giro and the second? Please comment below!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Have Carlitos and Noelia changed their style?

Sometimes one of our readers or program members sends me a link to a video that I feel compelled to share with you.  I want to thank Tanguera Ming in California for posting this one to our Tango Mojo women’s private Facebook group. Ming astutely observed that, in this performance two weeks ago, Carlitos Espinoza and Noelia Hurtado have altered their style.

Here’s the new video straightaway:

(The tango is "Rondando Tu Esquina" by the orchestra of Osvaldo Pugliese, with Roberto Chanel singing.)

As I see it, Noelia adapted to Carlitos‘ Milonguero Style tendency* early in their partnership, about four years ago. Noelia was originally trained as a Tango Salon Style dancer, before she and former partner Pablo Rodriguez added both Milonguero and Nuevo or contemporary elements to their expression. 

*I’m using these categories - Milonguero, Salon, Nuevo - to economize on words.  Neither of these two couples‘ dancing falls easily into a category.  Carlitos is clearly not “orthodox Milonguero”.  His embrace with Noelia has always been elastic, his steps are very long, and his musical interpretation and even choices of music for performances are different from those we see with Milonguero Style masters. (I feel another article brewing.) 

But you can see in the following 2013 video that Carlitos’ and Noelia’s 1) respective postures, 2) certain aspects of their embrace, and 3) distance between their feet have until now been more “Milonguero” than “Salon”.  Please observe these three elements in the following 2013 video, which is one of my absolute, all-time favorite tango performances! 

Notice too in this earlier video how often Noelia’s heels don’t touch the floor, which tells us that her weight is somewhat forward on her feet.  In contrast, in this month’s Istanbul video above, she always puts her heel down - a result of her changed posture.

For this performance, they've also changed the way they dress, to express greater elegance.

I’d like to know which performance you prefer, and why?  Do you see a significant difference?  Please share with us about your perceptions and preferences in the comments section below.

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