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Tango manners: invitation and protocols

Should women ask men to dance? Should women allow themselves to say "no" when asked for a dance? Should men respect conversations and not ask a women to dance who is enganged in a personal talk? ...

Melinda Bates
Walter M. Kane
Jack Karako
Fernandez Eduardo
Frank G. Williams
Tom Stermitz
John Trimble
Cherie Magnus
Walter M. Kane
Rosalia Galassi
Melinda Bates
Michael Ditkoff


Date:    Wed, 31 Mar 1999 22:19:40 -0500
From:    Melinda Bates
Subject: Re: If Tangueros where like Greek Drivers


I don't know about Greek drivers, as I have yet to visit there.  But if
tangueros danced like drivers in Rome, when they catch your eye as you
maneuver yourself and your partner around in a slightly distant space, not
in their line of dance, they will lock eyes with you and dance directly AT
you, speeding up as they get closer, causing you to jump out of the way or
risk the loss of life or limb.... it is QUITE an experience!

Unfortunately, as a follower, I have experienced "dancing" almost exactly
like what Aristotelis described.  Rough and careless leads, talking through
the music...When I started dancing, with swing and lindy, I thought that
courtesy required me to finish any dance I started with someone, no matter
how awful.  Now I think my first responsibility is to my own safety, and if
someone is rough or careless I will just say "sorry, I prefer to sit the
rest of this out".

Luckily that does not happen often in tango, but there is a local dancer who
scares the daylights out of me, with dips and spins and other non-tango
moves and badly placed ganchos.... The last time he asked me to dance I just
said (politely) "no thank you".  The women around me were shocked.   In
America no one just says "no" without an explanation.  Why is that?  (I am
American.)  Are women obliged to dance just because someone asks them?  Are
men?  My favorite teacher loves teaching but hates to go to milongas because
the women always ask him to dance, and he hates it.  The women who ask him,
and don't know him well, are offended when he says no.  (The rest of us know
better.)

I have been talking about this behavior at milongas with an Argentine friend
who has quite strong opinions on the subject.  Perhaps the tango-L has
already addressed this, and I just am late to the discussion.  But I am
curious what other leaders and followers think.

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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 10:25:44 -0800
From:    Steve Hoffman
Subject: Re: TANGO-L Digest - 31 Mar 1999 to 1 Apr 1999


I thought today was a great day on the TANGO-L:  wonderful material, and
very important.
And VERY deserving of more comment from the group, I hope.

First,  Aristotelis gave a hilarious account of Greek taxi drivers as
tangueros.  (P.S:  Have you heard the ironic comment about "jokes"?:
"There are no jokes.")

Then,  Melinda Bates bravely (I thought) brought up the
nuclear-button-equipped topic of what to do about leaders who are brutes,
or jerks, and her decision to occasionally and politely end a dance early,
or decline to dance with a partner that has offended her in the past.  She
mentioned that other women were shocked at this, and made the comment
(rhetorically) that "In America no one just says "no" without an
explanation."  She then mentioned her instructor friend who hates to have
women ask him to dance at milongas, thereby alluding to some of the sexual
politics that accompany this loaded issue of who asks who to dance, and how.

Well-spoken on all accounts.   I once sketched out a complete essay on some
of these issues, based on personal and sociological principles related to
dance, my understanding of tango in Argentina and 18 years of travel and
experience to Latin America, - but I will not give it here.  I would rather
see the group take it up, because I think it need help.  I will try to keep
my comments as brief as I can manage:

First of all, "Bravo" to Melinda.  I think women should turn down men at
milongas a lot more often - for themselves, for their own autonomy and
their own legitimate right to have the experience that they want to have in
tango.  ("Our Bodies, Our Selves", if you understand the reference.)

I say this as a man who has wanted to dance his whole life, but until
recently always lived, studied, and worked in environments where there were
always far more available men than women, and where dancing with a partner
was nearly impossible for most guys, most of the time.  Until I got into
Brazilian dance, and later, tango, I was probably turned down over 75% of
all the times I ever asked a girl or woman to dance in the United States.
And, unlike Melinda's comment, it was usually just plain "No" - there were
no explanations.  I suffered greatly for this, and it has affected my life
in many unfortunate ways.

In spite of this, I strongly support the right of women to decline to
dance, unless they wish to.  It is only fair and right that a person choose
with whom they care to come so close.  If tango carries so many deep
lessons about intimacy and communication, why doesn't the follower get to
be more selective?  When I first came to tango, I was absolutely astounded
to see how uniformly, and almost automatically, a given leader could expect
to get a dance with a large variety of followers.   Let me acknowledge that
this social phenonema has benefited me personally very much, in that when I
was a complete novice, I could risk asking someone, because the "default
setting" was that the women would practically always accept.  I,
personally, never would have been able to be a tango dancer otherwise.  But
just because it helped me, or one of us, doesn't mean it is all right, or
should be a social model for tango in the United States.  I would like to
hear the opinions of others on this topic.

A related topic is one that has weighed upon me more and more in the
several years I have been attending milongas.  The question is:  Are there
any limits to the intrusiveness demonstrated by a man who comes up to ask a
dance of a women who is currently engaged in a conversation with another
man, or a group, alongside the dance floor?  (The question still applies if
the genders above are reversed, but let me use the common pattern for
clarity.)

No one, whether in Bs.As. or America, would question the appropriateness of
a man approaching a group of women to ask one to dance (presumably, they
are there to dance, right?)  And, in our milongas, it is usual and
customary for a group of men and women friends to be chatting alongside the
floor, and another male friend, known to several of them, come up to ask
one of the women to dance.  I don't have the slightest problem with this.
Since in the USA our customs are totally different than Argentina, and men
and women mingle and talk to each other between dances, it has to be this
way.

But, what if a man and a woman are talking together, by themselves, in a
personal and animated manner, face to face, and a second man comes over
(known or unknown to the couple) and asks for a dance, and expects to get
it?(see above)  I have been outright shocked by what I consider the
audacity of such men, and have been dismayed to see virtually every women
cave in and comply with the "social rule" about nearly-mandatory acceptance
on the part of the followers.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that many
women in this situation hate to be torn out of the conversation, by their
eyes and gestures, but they apparently feel they have no choice.

As any women who is aquainted with me through tango will attest, I am known
more for my interest in meaningful and interesting conversations than in
the quality of my dancing, so, you should believe me when I say that there
have been many occasions when I find myself deep in conversation with a
woman, off the dance floor, sitting down, very close, sometimes with my arm
gently around her shoulders, talking.  I am refering to platonic
conversations, "we are just friends only", but we are often talking about
things that are genuinely important, sometimes extremely important,
personal, acute and emotionally intense, events that are life-changing for
some of these people.  And still, incredibly, unbelievably!, certain men
will come brazenly over, interrupt the conversation and announce to her:
"Do you want to dance?"  (I say "announce" deliberately.)

Admittedly, my social experience and standards are perhaps more Latin
American than North American, but I still can't believe this happens here.
I know it would have been inconceivable in a more polite and respectful
America of the past.  In Brazil, where the bulk of my social experience
lies, if a man did this, he could safely assume that in a matter of seconds
or minutes, that kind of behavior would quickly lead to the development of
a second trachea located on the front of his neck, approximately 4 inches
across in the transverse axis, with associated gurgling sounds, and some
pain.  In Argentina, in a milonga, I don't think anybody would be so stupid
or rude as to invade of the space of a man and woman talking together
intimately, but if they did, I hope there would be a way to deal with it in
an appropriate way (like a good beating, or ejection from the
establishment).

Analyze it yourself.  What is the social meaning of this behavior?
Essentially, the man is saying with his action:  "My right to ask this
woman to dance (who I may barely know), supercedes your right to continue
the personal conversation you have been having with this woman, alone
together, off the dance floor."    And, the woman's acceptance is
essentially saying the same:  "His right to ask me to dance, and my
obligation to cooperate, is greater that the value of the conversation you
and I are having right now, no matter how important that conversation may
be to you or I."

Melinda Bates told us where she stands on not dancing with men who are
unpleasant or inapproriate, and she said some of her women friends were
shocked.  This reminded me so much of my decision this last year to say to
certain men in the above situation, upon seeing the agony in the eyes of
women who were about to jerked away to dance with a stranger,  "No.  We are
having a very important conversation right now, and you can return and ask
Suzy-Q to dance when we are finished."  I then watch them slink away with
their tails between their legs, and rightly so!   As I asked before, "Are
there any limits to the intrusiveness which certain men show in their
behavior around the dance floor?"

There is one more point I wish to make, and I will do it very quickly.  It
is perhaps the most controversial topic of all, and it is about whether
women should ask men to dance.  Having said all the things I've said above,
I will go forward and put my head in the noose one more time:

In general, I don't think women should ask men to dance Argentine tango,
WITH SOME IMPORTANT EXCEPTIONS.  (Now there, it's out!)   This is based on
an increasing knowledge of the culture and history of tango, a strong sense
of South American culture and values, but mostly based on the actual nature
of tango, the dance and the music.  It is also based on a desire for the
same autonomy and rights which I want women to have in the tango, and which
I want for for myself as well.

First, if a man and woman are friends, or frequent dance partners, and the
woman knows that the man likes dancing with her, and that he likes the
music being played, then I think it is fine for her to suggest a dance from
time to time.    Another, very different, case (which used to be my case):
If a man is a newcomer to tango, is petrified to ask a woman to dance, and
needs REAL HELP in taking his first toddler's steps on the floor, and you
are a person with a big heart and a genuine humanitarian bent to your
personality, and you think the guy is basically a decent guy, then by all
means, ask him to dance!  (Thanks Donna, Terri, Nirmala, Rebecca, and the
others - you know who you are.)  In other words, there are situations where
from time to time, it works for a woman to ask a man to dance.

But, in general, I think it is just out of the character of tango for a
woman to ask a man.  Yes, I know American culture is better than any other,
and that the American way is superior to any other form of behavior or
values (or do I?), and that American women can out-man the men practically
any day, but I still don't think it's good idea.  (As my old friend Bob
used to say: "Women are becoming the men they wanted to marry.")  And I
know it is very fashionable that the male feminists in tango (Trenner,
quite a few on the Tango-L, you know the type) vociferously advocate that
women should ask men to dance, and swear that they greatly appreciate it
all the time when they are asked, etc etc,...

                                But,
I think people should spend some time in Buenos Aires, and come to
understand the social dynamics of tango, and the attitudes and behavior of
it's original practitioners, and the way a dance is asked for and accepted
in Argentina, before they take too strong a stand on this subject here in
the USA.   There is just something about the tango ...  maybe you either
believe it or you don't ... but IMHO, it simply is not a symmetric,
legislated, codified, post-industrial, role-neutral, americanized deal,
where, let's say, the  atomic mass of a proton is exactly equal to the mass
of a neutron.  They are different.  The roles of the follower and leader
are different - VERY VERY different.  They require very different sets of
skills.  Isn't it true?  The leader must lead.  The follower must follow.

As a very astute observer said once, rhetorically, "When a woman asks me to
dance, I say to myself, 'Is she planning to lead?'"  When a follower asks a
man to dance, what she is basically saying is:  "Lead me!"   Well, maybe he
doesn't WANT to lead her!   Apart from whether he is tired, too sweaty,
doesn't like the music,  maybe he CAN'T lead her.  Maybe she is unleadable
(at least by him).  Maybe he can't dance well to that kind of music (like
me dancing milonga).  ("WHY do women ask me to dance milongas;  don't they
watch how badly I dance milongas ??!!*#!!")  Probably the worst thing is
when a woman asks a man to lead her, and then criticizes him during the
song for poor leading.  You think this doesn't happen?  It's happened to me
plenty of times.  Like Melinda, I now say "No thanks" to those women.  What
about a woman who barges in on a conversation you're having with someone,
grabs your hand and forcefully pulls you away onto the floor, and does this
again and again, in spite of the fact you never ask her to dance.  You
think this doesn't happen?  It does, and I don't like it.  Do you guys like
it?

I'm a traditionalist, and I think tango carries from the past to the
present a certain history, and feeling, and, yes, tradition.  These
traditions are based on human nature, and the very nature of the thing
itself ... so-called "suchness" in the classical Buddhist psychology.  In
Argentine tango, I think the nature of the beast is that it is better for
the leaders to ask the followers to dance.  I would rather see a woman
leader ask other women or men to follow, than for followers to ask leaders
to dance.  Sorry, but that's how I feel.

Enough of me.  What do others think?

Steve Hoffman


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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 15:01:04 -0500
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: Re: TANGO-L Digest - 31 Mar 1999 to 1 Apr 1999


 From: Steve Hoffman  Thursday, April 01, 1999 1:25 PM

> ..... it is about whether women should ask men to dance.

> In general, I don't think women should ask men to dance Argentine tango,
WITH SOME IMPORTANT EXCEPTIONS.

> If a man is a newcomer to tango, is petrified to ask a woman to dance,
and needs REAL HELP in taking his first toddler's steps on the floor, and
you are a person with a big heart and a genuine humanitarian bent to your
personality...

So, Steve, you say that as long as I can pass myself off as a charity case;
shy, inept, completely incapable of executing passable technique on the
floor, then the magnanimous among the ladies should see to it that I am
attended to. But once I gain a little confidence and exhibit some ability,
then they should avoid approaching me.

I'll do my best to appear clumsy and timid.  ;-).

Tangringo

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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 15:40:24 EST
From:    Jack Karako
Subject: Asking & Responding


Regarding Steve Hoffman's post about asking to dance and the posible
replies...

Steve, it was nice to read an opinionated post (and yes it was long, long
eonugh to be not read by many)

Aristotelis humor missed me last time, this time it was right on the money.
Good job.

I do not agree in principal, Melinda's response "just say no". I am not saying
make up an excuse if you don't wish to dance. But do say your reason. How else
you can avoid misintrepretations. Don't make it a gessing game. Does it mean
you don't wish to dance now, not to this song, not tonight, not with one
specific person, until when .. ever, why ? Someone with pride, like me, will
never ask again to dance with that person, and if that is the intention then
it succeeds. What if that is not the intention ? Just as we don't have to be
friends with everyone, we don't have to dance with everyone. But just out of
curtesy to a fellow tango dancer we have to be polite. Other than intolerable
situations, may be, even, dance a song.  How else we are going to promote
tango, not for the sake of tango itself but for the sake of our own selfish
enjoyment.

I agree with the fact that not every "let's dance" proposition should have an
automatic acceptance. Why would anyone be offended to hear "I really want to
finish this conversation first. May be later ?" if they interupt a
conversation ? Live and let live. We can be very civil about this ( no
bloodshed ). Some people will ask and some people will respond. Just be honest
about it.

On the other hand I don't agree with Steve that women should not ask men to
dance. Just as women have the freedom to be selective , they also have the
freedom to ask. With the same token, men have the choice to accept or decline
- again saying out loud why they do not wish to dance i.e. "I really don't
enjoy milongas much", "I do not feel comfortable to dance milongas. yet"...

Steve writes-
"But, in general, I think it is just out of the character of tango for a
woman to ask a man.  Yes, I know American culture is better than any other,
and that the American way is superior to any other form of behavior or
values (or do I?), "
Do you know why American way is superior ? It is based on freedom; choice,
action, decision.. you can do anything you want as long as you don't interfere
with anyone (violate rights of someone else), which also implies whatever
people do together is on a voluntary basis. If I value dancing with someone
(who happens to be having a conversation with someone else) more than sitting
and watching I should, and would ask that person to dance with me. It is up to
her to decide what she values more: to dance with me or to remain in the
conversation. And if she choses the option she values less then there is a
problem in her judgement system. But it is not rational  for me to sacrifice
my joy of dancing with that person just in case she MAY  prefer to talk
instead of dancing with me.

That's my bit...
Jak
jkarako@bailatango.com
www.bailatango.com

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From:    Fernandez Eduardo
Subject: tango manners


Thanks Melinda for raising this points and Steven, I do agreed with all that
you both said.

Let me share with you some experiences on that. When I just start to attend
milongas in USA I was horrified of the bad manners of people in the dance
floor and in the place where people socialize, around the floor.

My first impression was that I was attending a party in the Farwest, with
very rude guy and easy girls... I was surprise how some ladies let this guys
grab her arms or her waist and pull them to the dance floor without any
previous approach.

What Steven says about guys getting to interrupt couples that are chatting
away from the floor happens everyday and I think this is a main reason why
we don't have more couples in the tango community. This couples felt
threaten by this people attitudes and finally if you are a little bit
civilize you don't' want to be part of this situation where some guys manage
to make the others feel that the milonga is a "meat market".  In that
ambiance you can not be sure that you can spent a good moment with your
partner, because probably somebody will interrupt you with bad manners.

But, let say that this happens not only in USA. I saw this is Europe too and
its happening in BA now. No long ago I was dancing with a mature lady in La
Ideal and she was complaining that, "there are not anymore good milongueros
in BA, as use to be". I did ask her, what was for her a good milonguero? She
told me, "have to be clean, good dress, smell well, walk with the music and
have manners...".

I think this all about dancing tango. Steeps? who cares!!!! Fancy steeps are
for the fools that are more worry about the other guys in the room that to
please the lady that are dancing with.

But coming back to our local manners. What strikes me more is when teachers
behavior is like that. Personally I was involve lately two times when a
local teacher once, and an Argentinean teacher the other, did the same:
Interrupt, grab the lady, ignore the situation where the lady was involve
and force her to go to dance taking advantage that woman in the USA tango
communities behave like a prey.

So. To me is not a bad dancer the one who threaten the community. He/she can
learn. But can people learn manners? I am skeptical on that. So, The only
way to stop the bad manners is to say "NO, I don't dance", to the people
that insist in that behavior.

Eduardo


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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 15:57:12 -0600
From:    "Frank G. Williams"
Subject: Re: invitations & protocol


Steve and Friends,

Steve has asked for reactions and opinions concerning his eloquently stated
and very personal opinions on traditions and protocol in tango.   I have only
one point to make.  In many places where Argentine Tango has taken root, there
simply are no indigenous or imported traditions to support Steve's "proper"
protocols.  In young tango communities, we must help each other to learn and
to appreciate tango music, dance and culture.  The operative word is "help".
Those who are almost automatically willing to accept a dance even with someone
not of their choosing are to be commended.  I'm not the only one to consider
it rude to only accept or request dances with those who are exceptionally
attractive or whose skills are superior to one's own.

As far as I can see, the culture that Steve wishes were more prevalent must
develop in a community along with it's dancers and the cultural attitudes that
accompany Argentine dance are probably the last element of tradition to be
superimposed on any given "scene".  They are attitudes that in their exported
form (IMHO), neither encourage new people to learn nor the community to grow
(perhaps until they master the "eye game").  If I'm wrong about this, please
correct me.  I'm not saying that we should suspend the consequences for
rudeness - although accessory alimentary canal openings are perhaps
overreactions - but grabbing an attitude that doesn't fit each of us
personally is way phony!  I say, "Dance who you are, dance what you're
feeling, dance when you want (even if you have to ask)".

Intruding into a personal conversation is, of course, brusque.  But what if
you're sitting and talking with somebody who (you didn't realize) would rather
be dancing, only to have a third party intervene?   Maybe the person sitting
with you flashed a quick S.O.S. with her/his eyes or maybe somebody else
simply knew them better.  There's no singular fault or blame.  One could take
it as a learning experience as opposed to an affront.

        We all have different expectations.  One (rare) behavior that can
        burn *my* bacon is being interrupted by anybody but my partner
        while on the floor in the midst of a dance (unless it's an
        emergency)!  To me, THAT'S the most important 'conversation' at a
        milonga!  As always, YMMV.

Best regards and sweet tangos to all,

Frank in Minneapolis

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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 16:49:34 -0700
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: TANGO-L Digest - 31 Mar 1999 to 1 Apr 1999


We once had a conversation on the list called "Promiscuous Dancing", ie
women being "too easy" and willing to dance with any man.

Steve noticed that the "rule" seems to be for a woman to always accept, and
the other behavior he discussed was whether she should ask a man to dance.
In claiming that women should be more selective, Steve raised issues of
social convention and N.American vs Latin American sensibilities.

The question I would ask is whether a woman will get the dance she is
hoping for by being "too easy" or by asking a man herself.

There seem to be an excess of women compared to men in Tango. Maybe she
just wants a dance, any dance, but I think this tendency has led the men in
N.America to get lazy. Why should they work hard to be good if it is just
so darn easy to get dances.

Notice that in Argentina of the early 1900s the gender ratios leaned
extremely to an excess of men, and that tango developed over several
generations during which the men always outnumbered the women...up until
the 50s? This must have led to insecurity on the part of the "young bucks",
newly arrived at a milonga. How would they be capable of competing with the
Alpha-males? How many of the older gentlemen have reported the feeling that
in order for them to get ANY attention, they had to be good, really good.

I don't have a political issue with this, but I do think the sociology of
the classroom or a practica is and should be very different from that of a
milonga.


Perhaps we should ask the question whether many of our milongas really are
worthy of the name.


...
>First of all, "Bravo" to Melinda.  I think women should turn down men at
>milongas a lot more often - for themselves, for their own autonomy and
>their own legitimate right to have the experience that they want to have in
>tango.  ("Our Bodies, Our Selves", if you understand the reference.)
...
>There is one more point I wish to make, and I will do it very quickly.  It
>is perhaps the most controversial topic of all, and it is about whether
>women should ask men to dance.  Having said all the things I've said above,
>I will go forward and put my head in the noose one more time:
>
>In general, I don't think women should ask men to dance Argentine tango,
>WITH SOME IMPORTANT EXCEPTIONS.  (Now there, it's out!)   This is based on
>an increasing knowledge of the culture and history of tango, a strong sense
>of South American culture and values, but mostly based on the actual nature
>of tango, the dance and the music.  It is also based on a desire for the
>same autonomy and rights which I want women to have in the tango, and which
>I want for for myself as well.
...
>                                But,
>I think people should spend some time in Buenos Aires, and come to
>understand the social dynamics of tango, and the attitudes and behavior of
>it's original practitioners, and the way a dance is asked for and accepted
>in Argentina, before they take too strong a stand on this subject here in
>the USA.   There is just something about the tango ...  maybe you either
>believe it or you don't ... but IMHO, it simply is not a symmetric,
>legislated, codified, post-industrial, role-neutral, americanized deal,
>where, let's say, the  atomic mass of a proton is exactly equal to the mass
>of a neutron.  They are different.  The roles of the follower and leader
>are different - VERY VERY different.  They require very different sets of
>skills.  Isn't it true?  The leader must lead.  The follower must follow.
...
>Enough of me.  What do others think?
>
>Steve Hoffman

Tom Stermitz


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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 15:48:04 PST
From:    John Trimble
Subject: Re: invitations & protocol


I don't turn the ladies down who ask to dance with me, and I don't think ill
of them for asking. As a rule, it's lifted my spirits, though I'll be
reluctantly mindful from now on of the "mercy dance".

With regard to the abrupt partner grabs that seem prevalent in tango, I have
struggled not to feel resentful when another leader has snatched up my
partner when we were relaxed between dances on the dance floor.  At least
once, I let it disturb my mood for the remainder of the evening, though I
must confess that my feelings were in part injured by my partner's
subscription to the grab.  It took too long for me to admit to myself that
we had not agreed upon another dance, and that I was taking it for granted
by our remaining on the floor during the pause in the music.  I don't
suppose it would've happened if I'd kept her in a dance hold (been more
assertive myself).


Any suggestions on how to put such incidents behind and get on with enjoying
the remaining dances?

Any insight into the assertive mentality, (so I can try it on for size)?

I also get negative feelings about the other leaders when I see them snatch
someone up like a sack of mail in the pony express.   I wouldn't suggest to
a lady that she rebuff such approaches if she finds them inoffensive, but I
might go the extra flirt with his girlfriend if he slipped in and grabbed up
someone I had an eye to dance with.

I follow a bit,too, but it's more likely with the progressive ladies than
the aggressive gents, so I don't get the chance myself to say, "No, you're
too brusque".  Sounds like fun, though.

Bringing my posting full circle, if I were of a more "traditional" mindset,
I might say "No, you're too brusque" to any lady who asks me to dance.  But
I think that it would not be a traditional response, though I'm wondering
what the traditional response might be.

John


John Trimble


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Date:    Thu, 1 Apr 1999 21:05:50 EST
From:    Cherie Magnus
Subject: Re: invitations & protocol


Hello John and the List,

        In response to John's taking the blame for another man "snatching up"
his partner:

<<It took too long for me to admit to myself that
we had not agreed upon another dance, and that I was taking it for granted
by our remaining on the floor during the pause in the music.  I don't
suppose it would've happened if I'd kept her in a dance hold (been more
assertive myself).>>

        I have to say that it seems the height of rudeness to interrupt a
couple chatting between dances while on the dance floor!
        In Buenos Aires there's a "code" of how such things are done. A
couple is still considered together throughout the 4 or 5 dances that are
considered a set, or "tanda." Between the songs is the only time they have to
chat and socialize. They never stay in dance position, but move apart a
couple of feet and talk until the next song is well under way. Then they take
their time assuming the dance position once again. The partnership isn't over
until she says Gracias and he escorts her back to her table. No one ever asks
someone to dance on the floor. And I've never seen anyone "grabbed."
        I find it very helpful that down there people know the score and
understand the system, so that gaffes don't occurr so often. In the States
sometimes it does seem everyone is for him/herself and anything goes. But I
think in the case of tango, it makes more room for error and
misunderstanding, and sometimes hurt feelings.

Cherie
Los Angeles

http://www.viveladifference.com



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Date:    Fri, 2 Apr 1999 00:10:49 -0500
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: Lifting Spirits and Partner Grabs (originally: invitations & protocol)



 John Trimble wrote Thursday, April 01, 1999 6:48 PM:

>
> I don't turn the ladies down who ask to dance with me, and I don't think
ill of them for asking. As a rule, it's lifted my spirits...

> With regard to the abrupt partner grabs that seem prevalent in tango, I
have struggled not to feel resentful when another leader has snatched up my
partner when we were relaxed between dances on the dance floor.
----------------------

I think that ordinary rules of civility and politeness apply at a milonga,
the same as they do to in any encounter in a friendly atmosphere. I don't
have any problem with women asking men to dance. The request for a dance
should always be done in a polite and considerate way, by either gender.
The acceptance, and even more so a refusal, should also be done with
politeness and consideration.

It's really pretty simple, and doesn't require any overarching rules as to
who can ask and who can't. I've been turned down, politely, and felt no
reason to be offended. If I ever have occasion to refuse a woman's
invitation to a dance, I hope I will be able to do it without causing hurt
feelings.

Some like to play the "eye game" in the Argentine tradition. That's fine
for them. I'm just as comfortable walking up to someone who appears to be
available to dance, and asking her if she would like to dance with me. The
tables have been turned occasionally, and I've been asked. Each of those
times it was an enjoyable experience. I hope no one imposes any rules that
discourage it.

On the subject of interrupting another couple, I am quite comfortable with
the convention that you ask the escort or companion if you may invite the
lady to dance. Depending on the situation, we might even ask for a dance
later, in case we suspect that they might not be ready to separate just
now. If they're out on the floor, between dances of a set, I would find it
hard to justify trying to separate them.

As for grabbing or snatching, I would leave that social technique out on
the football field.

Tangringo


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Date:    Sat, 3 Apr 1999 13:20:40 +0200
From:    Rosalia Galassi
Subject: tango customs


hello list,

I have followed with interest the recent postings about what is and isn't
appropriate in asking somebody to dance.

As a follower I usually do not ask leaders for a dance; I'm preatty
confortable with the " old fashoned " sistem of waiting to be asked, I
also usually accept invitations to dance, I try to weed out unwanted
invitations by making it hard for that person to ask me.

I do not think that it is unappropriate for a woman to ask a man to
dance, ( as a twentieth cetury woman I think we should have equal right to
ask ) but very often I have this under-the-skin feeling that it is not
done, it would be frowned upon.

So as I said I'm usually confortable with waiting to be asked, but I'm
also usually dancing in one particular tango comunity, where I know and
I'm friends with almost everybody.

The problems start when I travel to other tango comunities where I know
wery few people or nobody at all. I recenly was at a milonga in Milan
Italy where I did not dance a single dance all night. I had asked at the
entrance if it was all right for women to ask men to dance, and I had been
discouraged from doing so.

By the time I left I was furious with the !!*@*&!! convention of having to
wait to be asked ( by the way, I live in the states but I'm italian so it
wasn't a problem of not understanding the language or the culture.)

My suggestion is that if a tango comunity adopts the tango costume of
having the leaders doing the asking, it should also teach its leaders good
manners, and have them care for the wellfare ( or welldancing ) of all the
followers, expecially the ones who are new or visiting from outside.

Does anybody have other ideas or suggestions ?


Rosalia


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Date:    Tue, 6 Apr 1999 22:26:38 -0400
From:    Melinda Bates
Subject: Tango Manners


I have enjoyed the discussion about tango/milonga manners, who should ask
whom to dance, and how.  I'm not sure there is any more clarity than before
the issue was raised, but it was useful to me.  The messages that most
puzzled me came from Oscar Wright, who wrote on April 1:
You will get varying opinions on the subject and while I don't have a firm
opinion on the matter, it is important to remember that if you hurt
someone's self esteem, it is a deep and painful blow and remember how it
feels when you are hurt that way in any walk of life. There is an arrogance
and an insensitivity in American culture; one sees it in many aspects. I
guess the key is to empathize and treat people as you would want to be
treated. Be wary of arrogance and self righteousness and remember that you
yourself are not perfect and think about the last time that you were deeply
hurt by someone's insensitivity. Let these thoughts be your guide in what
you say or do - Oscar Wright

On April 2 he wrote again, this time saying that if a man wants to dance
with a woman, the hell with manners, just go for it....

So, without meaning to be too personal, my question is - aren't you wanting
it both ways?  The initial message indirectly accused me of being arrogant,
self-righteous,  and impatient.  Of being willing to deeply wound someone's
feelings with typical American thoughtlessness.

My response to that is : Huh?  Did you even read my query?  I talked about
dancing with leaders who are careless with their followers, who dance
dangerously (not just badly) or even those who just dance so badly that
there is no way to enjoy it.  Is it really Oscar's point that men are so
hyper sensitive that saying "no thank you" to a dance will destroy someone's
self esteem?  I thought tango was a dance for grown-ups.....

My point was that Americans are so OVER sensitive that we rarely (if ever)
just say "no" to anyone about anything.  The culture requires an
explanation, i.e.  "I'm resting right now/ I promised this one to someone
who is coming/my feet hurt..."  It's the same in dating where women almost
never just say "no".  We are conditioned to "soften the blow" with some
excuse "I'm working late, my cousin is visiting....."  We are taught to do
this to spare men's feelings.  My question was, is this REALLY necessary?

Oscar's point in his second message was to just grab what you want,
regardless of whom it offends.  This is the same person who thinks a "no
thank you" is rude and arrogant?  Am I the only one who sees a disconnect?

I like to dance with all kinds of leaders, including the beginners, because
I remain so deeply grateful to the ones who danced with me when I started.
I just don't like to be grabbed or interrupted, and I refuse to be injured
by someone else's carelessness or lack of skill.  I'm not a teacher, and
even if I were, I can't imagine myself correcting a leader during a dance.
We dance at his level for better or worse.  As some of the other ladies
noted, this can be a real problem.  There are plenty of leaders who view a
dance as a tutorial.  I for one can't wait to get away from them!

In Europe last fall, my boyfriend and I went to lots of milongas.  He is a
relative beginner, I've been dancing two years.  Because I arrived WITH a
man, no one else would ask me to dance,  in additon, they watched us dance,
at his level, and thought that was my level too.  He worked hard to start
conversations with other men and then encouraged them to dance with me.
Most of the time this led to at least a few nice dances.  But I don't think
I would have had the nerve to ask any of those strangers to dance.  And then
we have the situation one of the other ladies described - going to a milonga
and sitting in frustration all night.  That is really awful for us
followers.  And it happens a lot.  I ALWAYS encourage my partner to dance
with ladies who are sitting.  But too many men can't or won't.  Then men
want to criticize us for doing the asking?  I don't think you would like it
very much if you only danced when someone else asked you..... This is not BA
of the 1940s.  It's not even the US of the 1940s!

Eduardo is at least partially right.  It may not be possible to bring the
cultural manners of the milongas of BA to the US.  It is difficult to impose
this subtle and "foreign" way of doing things on adults who did not grow up
with it.  But "manners", of courtesy, graciousness, patience, kindness are
supposed to govern our actions in other parts of life.  Why not expect them
to translate into tango as well?  Then men will be sensitive to women when
they ask, and women will be sensitive to men - when they accept, or decline,
or ask for themselves.


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Date:    Tue, 6 Apr 1999 10:55:00 -0400
From:    Michael Ditkoff
Subject: Re[2]: On  "asking" -Reply



Hello:

   I'm new to this mail list and walked in the middle of  mail
   exchanges. I hope I'm not going to far out on a limb. Permit
   me to give a perspective from a man's point of view.

   When I started dancing tango, I was absolutely in awe of men
   who could execute difficult figures. Because I have a good
   teacher, I'm now able to see that there's a big difference
   between executing a figure and executing well a figure.
   Anyway, when I saw a woman dance a parada, mordita, molineta
   and figures I still don't know the name, I became intimidated
   of the woman who could dance them and wouldn't think of asking
   her for a dance because I thought I could never interest her
   with the little I knew. I was wrong!

   With experience, I now understand that if a woman is a good
   follower and the man a good leader, a woman can dance figures
   she doesn't know. This wasn't apparent to me months ago.

   Anyway, if a woman was kind to help me when I was a poor
   dancer, she's entitled to dance with me now that I'm much
   better. I have my favorites also and always look for them.
   However, they may be dancing when I look for them and I might
   be dancing when they're looking for me.

   Women have told me that when they're not dancing, they're
   "checking out the men" i.e. noticing their skill level and
   courtesy. Also, women talk to women and discuss their own
   ratings of the men.

   If a woman asks me to dance, I treat it as a compliment. A man
   should never feel threatened by a woman asking him to dance.
   A man also should never forget that he was once a beginner and
   there were women who helped him dance better and that he
   should repay the favor by accepting an invitation.


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Garrit Fleischmann Apr. 99
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com