Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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!

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