Why won't anyone dance with me?

It happened the other day that one of my students was a little distressed about something. She wanted to know why no one was asking her to dance. She happened to mention that she may be asked by a gent to dance once… but after that he wouldn’t ask her again… ever! It has gotten to a point where she finds she sits out for most of the milonga.

Now normally… I would write an article and try to encourage the men to dance more with different ladies. But this time, I decided to think about this students question and asked myself why I wouldn’t dance with a woman -again.

Before I was a teacher… when I was still just another gent at a milonga, there were a couple of reasons why I wouldn’t ask a lady to dance. The first reason was shyness or lack of confidence. But once I had plucked up the courage and asked a lady to dance I would have over come my lack of confidence and be feeling quite confident enough to ask her again and again. So, this wouldn’t be a reason.

Another reason why I wouldn’t ask a woman to dance would be if she had been nasty to me… maybe she criticised my lead or my dancing… maybe she insulted me… or maybe she had rejected me when I had asked her to dance .

And yet another reason would be because I didn’t enjoy dancing with her before…. And so I wouldn’t want to dance with her again.

Now, since this particular lady is very pleasant, polite and, in her way, charming… I don’t believe the gents are not dancing with her because she is nasty… or because they are shy… I believe it is the third option… the men are not enjoying dancing with her.

Now in the past, as a teacher, I have encouraged people to see partners who are not so pleasant to dance with as a challenge… a challenge to find a way to enjoy dancing with them and to improve your own dancing. And I still do encourage everyone to dance with the partners they find difficult to dance with…

But now I want to talk about this issue of, perhaps, being someone that no one wants to dance with - because we don’t feel good to dance with.

And this is the issue… we don’t feel good to dance with!

In the JHB tango community – for a long while now – there has been this drive to learn lots of steps in order to feel that we are advanced Tangueros and Tangueras… we believe that because we can do all these fancy things, our Tango’s must look flashy and exciting... and, therefore, we must be good dancers. It’s has been all about looking good… looking fancy… looking like we know it all.

I believe this is because most of us come from a previous “Ballroom and Latin” dancing background. You see, in Ballroom and Latin dancing it’s all about looking good. The posture, the frame, even the striding are all about looking good… and we learn as many steps as we can, as fast as we can, because the fancy steps make our dancing look great. But the thing to notice is the word “look”. Yes, we were taught to make our dancing look great.

Now... I was a Ballroom and Latin dance teacher… I had a near perfect frame… my striding was good and I knew lots of steps… I looked great! Then I went to BA and my first teacher there – Sabastian – spent one whole hour working on my embrace… we didn’t do a single step… all we worked on was my embrace! Why?

Well… in Ballroom and Latin we are taught about our “frames” and a frame is naturally something strong, rigid and hard… and a frame does not make a good embrace. “Embrace” is warm, soft and comforting. Straight away we can see the difference between Tango and Ballroom and Latin… the difference between “frame” and “embrace”. I like to sum up the difference between the two in this way:

In Ballroom and Latin we want to look good… in Tango we want to feel good!

Let’s face it folks… wouldn’t you rather dance with someone who has a teddy bear embrace… rather than with someone who has an excellent frame and feels like Robo Cop?

We have all been trying so hard to look good when we dance that we have neglected to pay attention to how we feel to our partners when we dance. And this I believe is, perhaps, my lady student’s problem. She doesn’t feel good to dance with…

I am glad she brought this point up… I now know what to work on with regard to her dancing… instead of teaching her more new steps, I am working on making her dancing feel good… and having heard what I have said (...because everything I’m telling you now… I have told her on her lesson…) this woman is working to make her dancing feel good.

Many of us do not feel good to dance with… and the interesting thing is this… if I don’t feel good to dance with… it translates into my partner not feeling good to me either.

I cannot stress it enough: “Tango is about feeling good…. Not looking good!”
We dance the Tango for ourselves and our partners… we are not dancing to look good for an audience…

And so… I now challenge all of you to start paying attention to how your Tango feels… and forget about how it looks. I know ladies that put in these extra little adornments ‘cause they want to make their Tango look good (“like Sonja’s Tango” I hear them say) but they do them wrong, and the timing is shot, so it throws the couple off beat… and it makes the woman feel like you're driving off-road in a beetle… bumpy and jerky! Let’s not even go near the embrace… ladies that feel like they’re pulling away all the time… instead of providing the correct resistance! It feels horrible… and if I wasn’t a dance teacher, I wouldn’t ask these ladies to dance again.

And then there are men out there that arrogantly think they are good dancers because they can lead any woman into any step. Yes, these men have powerful leads… and yes, because of their strength they can lead anybody… but if you ask their ladies afterwards… they will tell you they feel like they have been bullied around the dance floor by RoboCop. These men treat their ladies as if they were blow-up dolls that they can just throw around.
I know ladies that run a mile when certain men approach… because these men bully them on the dance floor. And I know men who refuse to ask certain ladies to dance, because these ladies don’t feel good to dance with.

Let’s pay attention to how we feel, folks… and I promise you, if we get this feeling right, more and more people will want to dance with us… and then I won’t have ladies asking me “Why won’t anyone dance with me anymore?”