Have a Question for TangoTia?

Write TangoTia for an insightful and honest answer to your most troubling tango dilemmas–whether they be about tango relationships, proper etiquette, community quandaries or whatever.  Just click here: AskTangoTia. (To receive emails with latest posts, click here: Subscribe.)

Women Who Quit Taking Lessons

Dear Tango Tia,
I have been dancing tango for 8 years. I continue taking lessons to learn new moves but primarily to improve my technique. Many women in our community quit taking lessons when they feel they can follow most leaders. Most of them cannot follow advanced moves if they have no clue what is led. Am I expecting too much?  Frustrated
Dear Frustrated, 
I understand your frustration. Women who resign from taking lessons will remain at the same level no matter how many tricks, kicks or embellishments they are led through. Attempting to learn tango “by doing” is like learning to paint “by number.” There is no foundation or understanding of how/why things work. Perhaps there is a follower who you enjoy dancing with enough to invite her to take a class that you will be taking, as your partner. (Who pays for it is up to you.) It might inspire someone who has the potential of becoming a great follower to get back on track.  Meanwhile, your continued effort to become the best partner you can be is highly commendable. Bravo! Tango Tia

Connection…More Than An Emotional Feeling?

Dear Tango Tia:
Some experienced dancers in our community talk about connection in tango but only describe it as an emotional feeling. Aren’t there other things in the dance that make it a better experience for our partner? It’s not just a “feeling” is it?
Wondering
Dear Wondering, 

There is much more to connection than a feeling. In fact, physical and mental connections lay the foundation for developing an emotional connection. Physical connection involves exchanging clear, accurate information from axis to axis and feeling physically and emotionally safe while doing so. Mental connection involves being in sync with our self, our partner and the music. The connections combined create trust. When we trust someone who we are on the same wave length with, an emotional connection becomes possible. You will know when all three are in place, and you will want it to happen again and again. It’s not something you can plan or count on,  or know how long it will last. One of tango’s unpredictable pleasures. Tango Tia

No One to Dance With

Tango Tia: I’ve been diligently taking lessons, attending practicas and practicing by myself now for 9 months. I’ve had many compliments from my teachers – but – I get only very few “yes’s” when asking women to dance. A full tanda is rare. No one is able to figure out the problem: I’m 60, male and very average looking (but not overweight). Is that the problem. It’s not an age thing, either: women in my age group will dance 1-2 dances, then want to sit down. What’s the point of $50/hour lessons when no one will dance with you?

Dear No One to Dance With: I’d love to help get this resolved so you can enjoy your tango life. You are probably doing fine on these, but just to review a few basics:

Pop a mint often, have no personal or clothing aromas, keep your follower safe, follow line of dance, quiet when dancing, not bumping in to her or stepping on her feet, maintaining a comfortable embrace. If all of those are in place, here are a few options to consider:

1. Ask a trusted teacher to dance a complete tanda and give candid feedback.

2. Ask a trusted friend to dance a complete tanda and give candid feedback.

3. Compare what each tells you and look for similarities and differences.

4. If you’re okay with this, ask a follower who has cut you short to please tell you why.

5. Wait till the third song of a tanda and ask someone who is still sitting. (This would be good to start with.) If she visits with you during the cortina, ask her if she’d like to continue. If she starts to leave or says “Thank you,” let it go and try the same approach with someone else later.

7. Film yourself dancing and review with a teacher and/or partner.

Let me know if you follow through with any of these and the results.

Tango Tia 

Girl Friend or Tango?

Dear Tango Tia: My girl friend doesn’t like tango but I love it and want to keep taking lessons. Should I take them without her? Do you think she would break up with me if I did that? I really like her and think we might have a future together but I want to stay in tango. How should I approach this? Girl Friend or Tango?

Dear GF or Tango: If you had said you “love her” instead of “like her” I would have a different answer, but since you’re still in the exploration-discovery stage, you should be ok to take a series on your own. She might decide to go with you, and if she does, great. If she doesn’t and she’s ok with your going, great. If she’s not ok with you going then you have a decision to make. Let me know how it goes.

Am I Missing Something?

Dear Tango Tia: I’m thinking of quitting tango because most of the time all I get out of it is a bruised ego and humiliation. Every other kind of dance I do is about having fun. Tango seems to be about being serious. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?

Dear Missing: You are right…tango dancers can be very serious. However, just because we’re not smiling doesn’t mean we’re not having fun. There are lots of smiles and laughter during cortinas, but when the music starts, it’s time to concentrate. If your ego is getting shattered, perhaps private lessons to crank up your skills and confidence would be in order. Maybe attend a few milongas just to observe respected leaders and memorize some of their basic moves. Fun comes in many forms; for tango it’s often in a mind-body-partner-connection kind of way. Seriously.

How Do I Know Which Is Right?

Dear Tango Tia: Every teacher I’ve taken lessons from tells me something different. One says knees bent, another not, one says lead with the toe another says with the heel, and on and on. How Do I Know Which is Right?

Dear How Do I Know: You don’t. And won’t for a while but will gradually sort things out and discover what makes sense and feels right for you. It will likely be an assortment of information, some from this one, some from another, etc. Beware of becoming overwhelmed. Having too much information backfires. Select one or two favorite teachers whose style of teaching (and dancing) you like and spend a majority of your time with them. You can always branch out later.

Mangled in Class

Tango Tia: I’ve taken classes for two years and am extremely tired of being pushed and pulled through moves by men who use their hands and arms to lead. If I say something, most of them get defensive and try to make it sound like I’m the one who’s at fault. How can I take lessons and not end up needing a chiropractor? Mangled in Class

Dear Mangled: Push-and-pull leading is a real drag and happens when teachers focus on steps instead of on technique. Find out who spends time preventing men from submitting women to tango torture and spend your dollars and class time with them. It could also mean taking private lessons and choosing your partners at milongas carefully.

Men: Do you need training wheels on the dance floor? You probably stopped using them after about age five. That’s what leading with your hands and arms resembles.

Teachers: Can you find enough strait jackets for your men students? If leaders practiced with their arms locked behind their back, they would be leading from their axis in record time. Strait jackets might be a little hard to find, so practicing with their arms at their sides or with hands in their pockets would be viable alternatives.

Amazed

Dear Tango Tia: Last night I danced with someone I’ve partnered many times but this time was different. It felt like she was a part of me rather than just dancing with me. Our connection was more intimate than anything I’ve ever felt and it seemed like there was no one in the room except us. After the tanda and an extra long embrace, I changed my shoes and left because it wasn’t going to get any better and I wanted to savor what I’d just experienced. Why isn’t dancing with her like that every time? Amazed

Dear Amazed: That is a great question…and if I knew the answer I would be a famous wizard making a fortune selling the formula. However, tango, like life and love, is not always about knowing the answers, which can make it devilishly frustrating and uniquely intriguing. There is no definitive way of explaining why we feel connected at the central nervous system with a partner one time and only at one or two molecules the next. Whatever was in motion that created your magic, you can hope will return, but don’t hold your breath. Like falling in love…all preparations are of no gain unless the appropriate energy force, that, by the way, you have no control over, is in place in just the right amount at just the right moment. (I have no definition of “appropriate energy force” I just know it exists and shows up now and then.)

I Don’t Dance Close Embrace

Tango Tia: I recently moved to a city that has a large tango community. I have only danced salon style and almost everyone here dances close embrace. When I tell some partners that I only dance open they say things like, “Let’s just try dancing close” and pull me against them. I love tango but am not interested in dancing smacked up against someone. How should I handle this? I Don’t Dance Close Embrace.

Dear Don’t Dance Close Embrace: Some men have the etiquette skills of a gnat and you seem to have found a few. Observe who leads both open and close, make yourself available to them, and when they invite you to dance, request to dance open. If they object in any way, think “gnat” and remember that the next time they ask you to dance. When you feel brave or curious enough, ask someone you connect well with to show you what close embrace feels like. Unique Tango Phenomenon: we dance torso to torso without being intimate in “that” way. You’re missing some of tango’s great pleasures.

Too Tense

Tango Tia: Some of my partners say I need to relax and I wish I could, but I’m afraid I’ll miss a step or change my weight at the wrong time or lose my balance. How is it possible to relax with all that going on in my head? Too Tense

Dear Too Tense: So, you have a stifling fear of being sent off to the Dungeon for Follower Misfits if you miss a step? Unless you belong to the elite group of Perfect Followers, you will make an occasional misstep, and, Good News: you will still be allowed on the dance floor with all the other Imperfect Followers. Smart Imperfects find humor in their less-than-Kodak-worthy moments and accept their missteps as moments of learning. Follow their example and know that even the most confident-appearing tangueras are challenged by tango. On your way to becoming confident, breathe in…and out…and in…and

Allergies

Dear Tango Tia: I’ve danced tango several months and love it but am allergic to perfume so I don’t dance close with partners who are wearing a noticeable scent. If I can smell their cologne, hair spray, lotion, etc. I dance open. I’m afraid if I explain they will be offended and won’t dance with me again. But if I don’t say something, I have to back away in order to breathe. Should I tell them when there’s a problem or try to make it through one dance and say “Thank you. ” Not Sure What to Do

Dear Not Sure: A delicate dilemma, however, if your partners don’t know what is wrong, they won’t know what to fix and they deserve the opportunity to adjust. Also, you deserve to be able to let them know when you are uncomfortable. If someone is offended when you explain, that says more about them than about you. Considerate followers will make appropriate changes. If you say “Thank you” early without an explanation, your partner will feel rejected which will compound the problem. You could say something like: “I’m allergic to perfume so if I stop breathing, just take me to the nearest emergency room.” Or, maybe not. But, keep track of “safe” followers and keep Benadryl at the ready. It could make the difference between being able to continue dancing and having to take an, um, breather. (I’m giving myself a breather for not resisting that one.)

Acceptable Tango

Dear Tango Tia: My husband and I are in a beginners tango course, and I have fallen in love with tango. Except last night there was a new (young, pretty and talented) girl without a partner in the class. From the start of our first dance he would not stop staring at her. It became so uncomfortable that I excused myself in the middle of the dance. When I returned he was standing next to this girl smiling, with the teacher commenting on their close embrace dance. We don’t dance close embrace yet in this class. I felt humiliated but sucked it up and finished the class vowing that I would not return. I know the insecurity is my own but was his behavior acceptable? Acceptable Tango

Dear Acceptable Tango: In a word: Yikes! He’s either clueless about how his behavior affects you or is aware but doesn’t care. Perhaps a non-accusatory discussion to see what planet he’s residing on. If he’s clueless, wake him up. If he gets defensive, decide whether his redeeming qualities (assuming he has some) will earn him a Get Out of Jail Free card. Once.

Where’s the Magic?

Tango Tia: I’ve danced tango almost a year and have yet to experience any kind of  “magic” that people rave about. Between deciding what to lead, keeping track of which foot my partner is on, listening to the music  and watching the traffic, there’s no time to “feel” anything. Is “tango magic” real and if so, how can I make it happen? Where’s the Magic?

Dear Where’s: Ah, yes…The Magic…Anyone who has experienced it will tell you it’s like no other feeling on this or any other planet. (We’ll take their word on that.) Tango Magic cannot be “made” to happen. It might occur with someone you’ve danced with for the first or hundredth time provided certain things are in alignment: music, partner, mood, X factors. It may last a second, a song, a set, or somewhere between. Beware: it is neither stable or reliable. You might dance with the same partner dozens of times and pffft, nothing. Then…out of the blue…bliss! Your feelings about tango will change considerably once you have felt it and you will never again question its existence. In fact, you may one day find yourself trying to describe it to someone who asks the same question.

Tortured Toes

Tango Tia: I love my tango shoes but my toes keep getting banged in to and the pain is excruciating. One guy kicked me so hard I lost a toe nail. Is there anything I can do to keep this from happening? Tortured Toes

Note to Men: Could she be talking about you? Do you bump your follower’s feet and think it’s her fault because she needs to take larger steps?  Do you reach forward with your legs and feet instead of from your axis? Not sure? Then you are definitely leading from the floor up and likely to cause injury. Initiating steps from the top down is a must for keeping your ladies’ safe, and making you a more desirable partner. Not that you asked, but it would be good for you to move this to the top of your “Ways I can lead better” list.

Dear Tortured: Exposed toes are completely vulnerable however, you can improve your chances of protecting them by staying tilted toward your partner when walking back. (Weight forward on the balls of your feet, keep your back straight.) The best protection is prevention so keep track of who the owners of flailing feet are and move them to the bottom (or off of) your “Yes, I’d love to dance” list.

Need Advice

Dear Tango Tia: In the past year and a half I’ve learned a lot of neat moves that work okay in class, but when I try leading them at milongas, I have trouble remembering how they even start. My brain seems to be on overload and I’m not progressing like I’d like to. Do you have any suggestions?  Need Advice

Dear Need Advice: Seems to be on overload?  This is a serious case of it and you have described exactly what happens to 99% of the men learning tango. The other 1% are fortunate enough or wise enough to find instructors who spend considerable time on the basics and fundamentals along with steps and figures. Suggestions:

#1: Find one or more teachers for group (or even better, private) lessons who will help you develop skills and technique in embrace, posture, axis, walking, pauses and musicality. These will improve your dance exponentially.

#2: Find one or more partners who agree to practice the basics with you on a regular basis. (Include time for playing with fun moves to help make practice time, well, fun.)

#3: Choose one “neat” move to practice until it is set in your residual vocabulary and you can call on it at anytime. (In addition to the basics, of course.)

#4: Before taking any classes, find out what will be presented and back away from learning more steps. Attend practicas instead. Film your progress.

#5: Spend a month fine-tuning what you already know plus the move you’ve worked on.

#6: Take your new, improved, highly upgraded dance to the floor, and don’t be surprised at the number of compliments you receive from happy followers. You can thank me later.

#7: Let me know how you’re doing in a few months.

I Don’t Want to Rotate

Tango Tia: I have trouble connecting with most men in my classes so I found someone who will take lessons with me. We signed up for a series and at the first session the teacher said he would have us change partners so we could learn faster. The result was the same as usual and it made me realize that I don’t want to learn faster. I want to learn better. I’m not interested in trying to follow leaders who are not comfortable to dance with. Is it possible to get around this? Don’t Want to Rotate

Dear Don’t Want to Rotate: Perhaps. Although if everyone objected to changing partners, it would take much longer to learn tango than it already does and we would develop even more bad habits. Nevertheless, I understand your dilemma: followers need to be able connect in order to be comfortable, and we need to be comfortable in order to follow well. It’s a cycle. In addition, we have to adjust to each leader’s embrace and (Men, are you still reading?) some are just not that comfortable. Fortunately, your connection skills and those of your classmates, will improve, and by the time you sign up for your next class, you should feel better about rotating. Dancing with numerous partners at practicas and milongas will help you discover leaders you connect well with. Here’s the “perhaps:” If you ask, and the teacher agrees, to allow you to stay with your partner, he should offer the same option to everyone in the class. By the third week or so, most students, probably, including yourself, will be willing, maybe even eager, to change partners.

I Want To Follow Others

Tango Tia: I’ve worked SO hard in weekly practicas, group lessons, and many many private lessons, even a large festival. After 18 months I still consider myself just a beginner. Being a perfectionist, I’m extremely self-critical but am finally beginning to relax and enjoy a little bit. The problem is, I only seem to dance well with my instructor and feel that we do connect and I can be comfortable and follow him pretty well. (So he says.) But it all falls apart with any of the other leads and I can’t seem to follow anything well with anyone else. It doesn’t seem fair to to blame all the leads. Why can’t I learn to follow well with more than just one person?–I Want to Follow Others

Dear Want To Follow Others: It’s great you are taking a mix of lessons and starting to attend festivals. A very significant step is to understand there is no perfection, in the usual sense, in tango. There is “magic” but that is a perception. Consider yourself a beginner for another year and avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think something will go wrong, it will. Your instructor probably leads more clearly than other men which makes him easier to follow, and you have probably danced with him enough to be familiar with his vocabulary. This can become “rote” following so when you dance with someone else, and there is no related data base, your brain goes in to “think” mode and your dance goes awry. As you progress, potential partners will also improve and one by one you’ll find more of them who you connect well with. In the meantime, if you miss a lead, consider it a moment of learning. Every elegant tanguera has had countless, valuable “moments of learning.”

Lost in Rotation

Dear TangoTia: I’m a beginner and recently went to my first tango festival.  I spent a lot of money to get there and when I went to the first class there were too many men and so was not able to practice with a woman follower.  The instructor seemed to ignore the situation and I was so put off and humiliated by it that I stayed in my room for pretty much the rest of the festival.  I left having nothing to show for my trip except my credit card bills.  Should I express my displeasure to the festival organizer or the instructor?–Lost in Rotation

Dear Lost in Rotation: Tango can be a “cruel sport” and women suffer this indignity all the time.  For the few times it’ll happen to you, it should only make you more compassionate and emphatic to the follower’s plight.  Tango, like in life, requires one to be proactive and resilient.  Yes, it was unfortunate that the instructor did not have the skills to manage partner rotation, and it would be helpful for you to mention this both to the instructor and the organizer, but to miss out on the rest of the festival and it’s many wonderful opportunities to dance, learn and meet new people is inexcusable.

Rebuffed in Seattle

Dear TangoTia: I politely asked a women to dance with me and she declined saying that her feet hurt and she was resting.  I then said to her, “That’s ok, I’ll just sit down with you and wait until you’re ready”.  Then after ignoring me for 20 minutes she accepted a dance with someone else.  I think that was rude.  Am I missing something?–Rebuffed in Seattle

Dear Rebuffed: Yes, definitely you are missing something.  First, if possible use cabaceo to invite a woman to dance.  However, that is not always possible so a polite verbal request is in order.  At this point a woman has three options (1) yes, (2) no, or (3) maybe later.  “Yes” and a simple “no” are easy to understand, but unfortunately “No” and “Maybe later” can come in many forms and be confusing, so here’s a guide.

  1. If any kind of excuse is offered without a followup, assume it’s a no and your job is to thank her and walk away.
  2. If an excuse is offered and she suggests maybe later, thank her, walk away and return later with a request to dance.
  3. Under no circumstances sit down with her unless specifically asked to do so.

Dissed by the DJ

Dear Tango Tia: I started in tango a few weeks ago and one night I asked the DJ if they would please play a certain song. They acted like I had insulted them or had asked for something impossible. People make requests all the time at other dances and the DJs don’t seem to mind. Are all tango DJs like that or was it just this one? Dissed by the DJ

Dear Dissed: Tango is different from other dances in more ways than you can imagine, including how the music is organized. You may know that songs are played in sets of three or four and that each set includes the same orchestra, style or era of music. Skilled DJs plan this very carefully and make sure their music matches the mood and energy level of the crowd. DJs have a certain style of putting sets together and playing “one” song is not part of the plan. It would disrupt their whole playlist and cause experienced dancers to wonder what was going on. Except in the case of a birthday dance or other special occasion, it’s best to let the DJ do their thing. Do not be insulted. When you have studied as long and as hard as they have, you’ll understand.

Hippie from Houston

Dear TangoTia: I’ve been a bit of of a hippie all my life and just recently fell in love with tango.  Unfortunately, my Birkenstocks don’t seem to be accepted and feel it displays a bit of class prejudge toward me.  Do I really have to spend $300 for a pair of 4 inch Comme il Faut just to get a dance?–Hippie from Houston

Dear Hippie: The short answer is, “yes”.  But it doesn’t have to be Comme il Faut.  There are other comfortable and less expensive tango shoes available. (Try doing a Google search for tango shoes.)   But for sure you need something more elegant and secure on the feet than sandals or flip-flops.  So ditch the Birkenstocks (at least while on the dance floor) and, oh, BTW don’t forget to shave under your arms!

Partner Problem

Dear Tango Tia: My dance partner/fiance gets jealous whenever I dance close embrace with someone else. He says I’m being too intimate. But it’s ok for him to dance close with other women because he says he knows there’s nothing going on except the dance. We’re planning to be married next year and I’m afraid he’s going to keep getting mad at me when we go to a milonga. I love tango and do not want to give it up and I love him but do not want him to control how I dance. How can I make him see how unfair this is?–Partner Problem.

Dear Partner Problem: And you are marrying this guy because…? If you’re passionate about tango and give it up because of what he thinks, you will end up resenting him. If you stay in tango, you’ll resent him for making you feel guilty. I don’t see a smiley face in your future together on or off the dance floor. Do you really think he’s going to listen to why you think his attitude is unfair? The fact that he HAS that attitude should raise a huge red flag, a banner even. So what’s it gonna be for the next several decades…he controls you or you revert to having control like you did before he came along. A partnership needs to be equal. I hope you find one.

I Don’t Want A Lesson

Dear Tango Tia: Every time I go to a milonga this one guy asks me to dance and then tells me what to do the whole time. I think he thinks he’s helping me but it’s very annoying. He keeps talking when the music changes so we end up dancing two or three sets. I don’t want to say no because I’d rather dance than sit and as a new follower, not that many men want to dance with me, but I wish he’d just dance instead of bossing me around. How can I let him know.–I don’t want a lesson.

Dear Don’t Want A Lesson: Some men spend the majority of their time dancing with new followers for the exact reason you point out…they want to “help.” They are more interested in telling you what to do than in improving their own dance, and it’s an ego trip. They want to show you how much they know. However, you do not need to dance with these predators. After one of them has spent your time telling you what to do, feel free to say “No, thank you” they next time they ask you to dance, and do NOT feel guilty about it. You have the right to select partners, just as they do. Start being selective even if it means sitting now and then.

Mayhem Mary

Dear Tango Tia: Last night’s milonga was a disaster. I kept losing my balance, the music was mostly songs I’d never heard before and didn’t like, several partners held me too tight to breathe, and I got a hole in my brand new fish nets. I’ve been dancing for about six months, but if this is what it’s going to be like, why should I continue? Does this kind of stuff happen to anyone else or am I some kind of disaster magnet? Please advise.–Mayhem Mary

Dear Mayhem: Cheer up. We all have sob stories about nights we wished we’d stayed home. It goes with the territory. Tango is not a simple “go dance, go home” game. There are many sides to it and some of them are not as pretty or pleasurable as others. So, just figure there’s going to be a lousy night now and then and learn to stick it out, or when things start feeling like a disaster closing in, change shoes, go home, put on music you do like, have some nice wine and hope it will all be better next time. It usually is or the milonga floors would be empty.

Should I Go

Dear Tango Tia: I’m a female over 40 and considering attending my first festival in another state but I’ve heard that the gender balance is way off at these events. Would it be worth my time and money to go or should I stay in town where I’ll get to dance at least a few tandas each night. Should I Go 

Dear Should I: Some events are gender balanced, and festivals are, in general, a good way to meet friends and partners from other areas.  They are also a good way to arrange for places to stay if you return on non-festival dates. Read/ask/research as much as possible for those you seriously consider attending. There are benefits to taking classes from teachers you are not familiar with and many other things that make the ventures worthwhile. Although…no guarantees of getting to dance as much as you want. But there are no guarantees about that for anyone, including men.

Tired of Show Offs

Dear Tango Tia: What is it with people who have to show off on the dance floor? Some guys will hold up traffic while they lead some fancy stuff or a bunch of spins, and some women will throw a leg up between every step that is supposed to look like a boleo. They don’t follow line of dance, don’t pay attention to the music, and in some cases, bump into other couples without even saying “Sorry.” Why doesn’t the host speak to them about helping keep the floor safe? Tired of Show Offs

Dear Tired: I know what you mean and have been the recipient of flying body parts more than once. There are always new folks learning showy tricks that they can’t wait to do on the floor. Show offs need attention, and don’t realize (or care) how dangerous it can be flailing around the floor. Astute leaders learn which men to not dance behind, and women learn which women look ridiculous kicking a leg up between every step. Those who want to show off, copy the show offs. It’s a never-ending cycle and a solution is yet to be found. Let me know if you hear of one.

Feeling Ignored in Class

Dear Tango Tia: I’ve taken lessons for about a year and in almost every class the teacher spends most of the time talking to the men. Very few teachers explain in any detail about the woman’s part. How are we supposed to know if we are doing our part right if they don’t tell us what “right” is?  And, more importantly, why should I keep spending money on lessons that don’t help me?–Feeling Ignored in Class

Dear Feeling Ignored: There are no standards for teaching tango so any yayhoo can hang out a shingle calling themselves professional/teacher/authentic/certified/etc.,  and if it is a man, he may not know enough about the woman’s part to teach it. So he focuses on the part he does know and hopes the women will figure it out.  (Most women do figure things out, especially when dancing with men who have understood the directions.) If you plan to stay in tango, I recommend investing in private lessons from a woman whose teaching and dancing you respect. Also, before enrolling in your next class, ask former students whether he/she teaches to both sides of the embrace. (Women can be just as guilty of the same thing.)

I Wish They Would Let Me Lead

Dear Tango Tia: How do I get my partners to relax and just let me lead? They keep changing weight or start to move on their own like they know what I’m going to do next. It throws me off and I can’t tell what foot they’re on. What should I do when this happens?–I Wish They Would Let Me Lead

Dear Wish: Have you tried following? It’s no picnic either. Especially if the leader is unclear or hesitates. When that happens, most women will do something, anything, to try to figure out what they are supposed to do. And unless they’ve danced long enough or with you enough times to know what you’re going to do (not a good way of learning) they will likely make the wrong decision. Make sure your leads are clear, that you give your partner time to land completely before leading the next move. Also, you decide who you dance with, so remember which partners do let you lead and spend most or all of your time with them. A private lesson or two will let you know if you are giving clear leads.

Cheated On by Tango

Dear Tango Tia: My husband and I have been married for 30 years. We’ve been taking tango lessons for the last year and all of a sudden Mr. No Dance is becoming another Fred Astaire. Women won’t let him sit down, not that he tries very hard to avoid them. In fact he seems to enjoy them a little too much and leaves me sitting while he prances around with women smacked up against him. He says he dances with them because he doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. Well, what about my feelings? It’s no fun going to milongas and watching Mr. Happy Feet get his kicks with women who don’t really know how much of a jerk he can be. Should I suggest we see a counselor? Or should I just cut to chase and see a lawyer?–Cheated On By Tango

Dear Cheated: Yep, sounds like a jerk. If talking to him hasn’t/doesn’t work, try counseling if the marriage is worth saving and you’re willing to bide your time while his ego cools off. IF he’s willing to go. It’s not uncommon for one partner to get hooked on the dance and extra attention and the other to realize it was not such a good partnership in other ways either.  Plan C: Attorney.

I Couldn’t Breathe

Dear Tango Tia: Last night some guy asked me to dance and when I got close to him he pulled me against his chest and held me so tight I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what to do or how to get away. What could I have said or done to let him know I was very uncomfortable? And how can I keep it from happening again?–I Couldn’t Breathe 

Dear Couldn’t Breathe: Are you willing to tell this dork how he makes you feel? If not, do not dance with him. As long as women keep dancing with him and don’t speak up, he’ll never know what he’s doing wrong and will keep making women miserable. If you dance with him again, and he pulls you against him, try pushing away and saying “I prefer to dance open frame.” If he opens or says anything that lets you know he didn’t realize he was making you uncomfortable, great. If he keeps holding you close, or trying to, then write him off. There are plenty of leaders who care about how their partners feel. Find them.

Bummed in BsAs

Dear Tango Tia: I’ve been dancing tango about three years but am considering calling it quits unless you can give me a good reason not to. I recently returned from spending six weeks in Buenos Aires and being humiliated by not being able to get dances except with women in my group. I’m 54, average height and weight, well groomed but not very good looking. And I think this is the problem. If I were better looking I’d have more women wanting to dance with me, so it doesn’t matter how many lessons I take or how good I get, if they won’t look back at me, I’ll never get to dance much. Do you have any suggestions or should I just find something else to do?–Bummed in BsAs

Dear Bummed: Here’s a secret…women are not as concerned about how attractive their partner is as men are concerned about dancing with attractive women. Women are more interested in dancing with someone who holds them comfortably and leads a few nice moves with clarity, interesting rhythms and musicality. So forget about your looks and focus on your dance. A lot of great dancers, including those in BsAs, are not “attractive” but women love to dance with them because they know how to make a woman happy on the dance floor. Chalk your experience in BsAs up to that, experience, and start looking forward to your next trip. In the meantime, learn Spanish, if you do not speak it, and spend as much time as possible conquering the basics. Find a teacher who will spend time on the details that make the difference between being a dancer and being a great dancer. Three years often marks a turning point between “learning” and “understanding.” Give it another year and let me know how you’re doing.

Annoyed by Partners Who Look Around

Dear Tango Tia: What should I do when my follower starts looking around the room while we’re dancing and not paying attention to me or the music? Some women do this every time we dance. It’s very distracting and makes me feel like they would rather be dancing with someone else or are searching for their next victim, I mean, partner. Annoyed By Partners Who Look Around 

Dear Annoyed: Assuming you are providing an interesting, well-led, musical, dance, and assuming you know that some women have ADD, why are you dancing with anyone who does this repeatedly? First time? Ok, you didn’t see it coming. After that, you gotta know which ones will probably do the same thing again. Women (and men) who constantly “seek” are more interested in who they WILL be dancing with than who they ARE dancing with. Watch the floor (when you’re not dancing, of course) for women who are tuned in to their leader then fine tune your selection process.

Can’t Get Their Attention

Dear Tango Tia: I’m male, age 57, medium height, slender and average looking. Well groomed and dress neatly. I’ve danced tango about six months and when I try to get a follower’s attention long enough to make eye contact, they look away. How am I supposed to get experience if no one will dance with me? Can’t Get Their Attention

Dear Can’t Get Their Attention: At six months you are in infant in the tango world. Cabeceo is Spanish word for making eye contact with someone long enough for you to ask them to dance by subtle gesture or, if it’s not a purist follower, to verbally invite them to dance. Your best bet is sticking with women in your classes who know the level you are at, and becoming comfortable with partners who you can laugh at mistakes with. It’s not easy making fun of missteps with followers who are more experienced than you are. All men go through this stage, and it will pass. Spend time in group and private lessons and at practicas. Every floor mile pays off eventually. As followers watch you progress, they will be more interested in dancing with you and the tables will turn when you have reached a certain level. They will be asking YOU to dance.

 

Frustrated at Fifty

Dear Tango Tia: Why should I keep going to milongas when there are always extra women, and most of them are younger and more attractive than I am? I usually end up sitting most of the night and sometimes leave early because I don’t get asked to dance. It’s totally frustrating and although I love tango, it’s too disappointing time after time to continue unless something changes. Is there anything I can do to improve my chances of being asked to dance more often? Frustrated at Fifty

Dear Frustrated at Fifty: Most women over 50 who are successful at milongas dress well, dance well, and present themselves well. They are positive, hold pleasant conversations with all genders and all ages, and dance with all skill levels. They sit where they can be seen on the way to and from the floor, make eye contact with men they would like to dance with, and change location now and then. Some wear peek-a-boo tops or backless dresses, with the notion that skin sells. (And it does. It seems that guys are attracted to skin more than just about anything. So if you have lovely skin (not sagging in arms or back) perhaps a bit more showing will up the ante.) Also, become the best dancer you can be. Lessons, workshops, etc. are always great places to meet prospective partners. It takes time to develop friendships that become good partnerships, but it happens and the resulting dances can be very memorable. There will always be extra women, but it need not mean the end of your tango life. Make the extra effort to be lovely and “out there.”

Aromas Affect Me

Dear Tango Tia: One of my favorite partners smokes and the smell lingers on their clothes and in their hair. I can smell it when we dance close and I don’t want to hurt their feelings or insult them but is there any way I can let them know how unpleasant it is? Aromas Affect Me

Dear Aromas: How often do you dance with this person? Do you think if you told them straight out that they would understand and fix it? Or would they be insulted and not want to dance with you again? Which is more important: dancing with them or not smelling smoke? We would assume that no one wants to offend anyone with unpleasant aromas,and we would hope that they would want to know if they were making someone uncomfortable. If this is true about the person you are talking about, then they will appreciate your telling them. If they get offended, they may not have been such a great partner as you thought.