In my second week in BA, I was at a milonga that was new for me. I had just gotten settled at a table with friends, ordered something to drink and was starting to observe the dancers on the floor. I declined several invitations in my first 15-20 minutes, because I wasn't ready to dance yet, and I hadn't yet seen any of these gentlemen dance. Another hour went by, and I'd had only a couple of invitations, even though by dancing with a good dancer from the next table, I had let it be known that I danced well. I said to a Porteña friend, "Odd. . . I'm not getting invited much tonight." She asked, "Did you refuse anyone?" I answered, "Yes, several." She said, "Then the others are afraid that you will refuse them too."
That was a surprise! I had no idea that there was such a degree of observation. My refusals were discreet, but they weren't invisible.
The first man I had declined, who had come close to my table from behind so I could see him, was very tall and attractive, and turned out to be a good dancer. My table was right at the edge of the dance floor, so surely his invitation and my refusal had been noticed by many! I had to rectify the situation, or I'd have a disappointing evening.
One way I often let men know I'm interested in dancing with them is that when they pass in front of my table as they dance, I watch their dancing carefully with an appreciative smile on my face. If they feel they're being watched and look at me, they'll see that I'm appreciating how they dance. Sometimes I'll make eye contact. But this man always seemed so focused on his partner that he never looked up. After I discovered how I'd "shot myself in the foot", I really wanted to let him know that it wasn't a definitive refusal.
My seat was next to a passageway the tall man always used to enter and exit the dance floor. At the end of a tanda, as the crowd slowly filed though the passageway to my right to go back to their seats, I kept my eyes fixed on his face. As he escorted his partner of the last tanda past me, he glanced at me (when someone's face is fixed on us, we often notice), and our eyes met. I sustained the gaze and smiled. He smiled back.
Next tanda, I glanced back to his table, and he immediately invited me. In fact, he invited me twice more that evening and we had three great tandas. Not only that, but the invitations started flowing from other good dancers, and I danced often and well the rest of the night.
In the lesson I learned that Saturday night, the lesson for our Tangueras is obvious: Sincere eye contact is very effective in winning invitations from tangueros with whom you want to dance. You can even make eye contact with someone as you walk around the room, just for a second, smiling your silent "hello". Eye contact can be a powerful way of communicating, as I demonstrated when I wanted to say, "I am ready to dance with you now".
There is also a lesson here for our Tangueros:
Don't let yourself be so hurt by a refusal that it ruins your chance of dancing with a tanguera. There are 100 reasons why she might have declined. At least 50% of the time it has nothing to do with you. Keep your eyes open for eye contact or other signals that communicate that she's ready to dance with you now.
Good salespeople know that a "No" usually means "Not now", and they keep checking back in. So ladies and gentlemen, don't give up when you want a dance with someone. Be discreet on the outside, and persistent on the inside!