Sunday, 9 November 2014

Partner poaching

Sometimes our eye-sight doesn’t serve us well, and our use of the cabeceo suffers accordingly.  There have been times when a lady has accepted my invitation from afar, but the man in the next seat has dashed across the floor before I’ve even risen.  The lady has a choice – insist on waiting for me to arrive and send the ‘sprinter’ away, or dance with him, and give me a nod to indicate “next tanda”.

I have also found myself as one of two men approaching a lady, only to find that I’ve got it wrong.  This situation has often been resolved by everyone laughing it off as part of the fun, followed by my retreat … although once, one of my regular partners at El Maipu, sitting nearby, fixed things by saying, “Come on Robert, let’s dance”!  No retreat necessary.

However, there is another, less pleasant scenario that is talked about in some of the milongas in Buenos Aires, and at my local ones; this is the one involving the ‘partner poacher’.   Certainly, the ‘sprinter’ above may be one of those, and if the lady doesn’t want to dance with him, she can choose not to. However, the talk is more about some women: they are close to the line of sight of the cabeceo from a man to a woman nearby; as the man approaches, she jumps up and enters the dance floor in front of the intended lady.  Again, there is a choice at hand – this time by the man.  He will normally not want to embarrass the lady on the floor, so will dance with her …. hopefully, with a nod to the lady still seated.

Sometimes the misunderstanding is unintended, and at other times, women talk about their partners being stolen.  The ‘partner poacher’ gets her dance, but at what cost?  Clearly, there is some ill-feeling from affected women.  And for the man?  He too will be disturbed, and may end up simply ‘going through the motions’ for the tanda, feeling resentful.  All in all, not a good result.

So, what is the protocol?  It’s quite simple really. Once the cabeceo has been successful, the man will approach the woman, making frequent eye contact solely with her; she will do the same, as confirmation that she is his intended partner.  The woman should stay seated until the man is at her table, gives her another clear nod, then she should join him on the floor.  In these circumstances the likelihood of mistakes, while never completely eliminated, is lessened and harmony in the milonga will prevail.

Monday, 13 October 2014

To the shrinking violets of the milonga

Do you fear that nobody will want to dance with you at the milonga, so you consider not attending?

Do you hide your shyness by checking your phone messages or by making polite conversation, when really you would prefer to be dancing?

Ladies, on the dance-floor, do you often worry that you won't understand your partner's lead?

Gentlemen, do you feel intimidated by the couples dancing around you?

What does your body language say about you at the milonga?

Here's some highly recommended viewing, for all shrinking violets, not just those at the milonga!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Surrender or self-preservation?

Entrega (roughly translated as surrender) is that delicious and much-sought-after experience in tango, when you can allow yourself to become one with your partner and the music. You and your partner are in a bubble, being carried along by the music.  This is, in my opinion, true tango.

Trust is a prerequisite - trust in your partner, as well as trust in your fellow dancers and trust in the musical selections of the DJ.

How lightly do you grant this trust? Recent chats with a few tangueras revealed that some grant it far too lightly.  How powerless they have felt in having surrendered, when instead, a response of self-preservation was called for. Men have reported similar experiences.  So, when might self-preservation tactics be appropriate for men or women?

Your partner (man or woman)
  • is imposing movements upon you that make you feel uncomfortable (eg. leg-wraps, high boleos)
  • is not in control of his/her axis, and your balance is compromised
  • moves ahead of you, rather than with you
  • is moving in a way which endangers or compromises the comfort of other dancers
  • is stepping outside the embrace
Here, tango might be compared to sex between consenting adults. Don't do what you don't like.  Preserve your comfort, safety & dignity, and enjoy the experience!

So, what are some tried & true strategies of self-preservation?
  1. Cabeceo - it means that you have choice.  If you don't like what you see, or have had a bad experience with someone, don't nod to accept their invitation. It's the best line of defence.  However, we have all experienced Uh oh moments, so ...
  2. Brace - your body is alert.  You are ready to tense your muscles in order to maintain your balance or to slow down your partner
  3. Embrace - you may change the embrace, perhaps making it much closer to limit your partner's movements
  4. Say something - tell your partner that you don't feel comfortable
  5. Leave - if all else fails, reserve the right to say "Thank you" perhaps at the end of a song (not tanda) and leave the dance-floor
The choice is yours: surrender or self-preservation.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It's not hard to see why he's a ladies' favourite!

Several seasoned milongueras have let slip that they simply adore dancing with him.

Just watch his delicious response to the music, the lovely embrace and how he communicates the cadences of the music to his partner.

Thanks Jantango for sharing these clips of Ismael Heljalil.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Cabeceo - more than an invitation.

We have written often about the power of the cabeceo - the invitation to dance. However, there’s a case to be made that the cabeceo injects other elements into the milonga – and not necessarily explicitly.

Clearly, the cabeceo is a strategy for engaging with other dancers, but it also shows a willingness to engage.   It can be very frustrating for a dancer, accustomed to using the cabeceo, to attend milongas where he/she is faced with dancers who rely on the direct approach.  He/she will sit, looking around for eye-contact, willing to engage, but receive no response.  The others will chat, dance only with their friends, or scroll through their text messages!  Going to a milonga, where everyone who wishes to dance the tanda is actively looking, is such a relief.

…. and what about the milongas where the cabeceo has become the norm?  I would suggest that the dancers have also adopted other codes of behaviour, typical of traditional milongas – and this spills over into how they dance.  There’s a greater likelihood that the line-of-dance and navigation are good, there’s a respect for other couples, movements are conservative, the atmosphere is calm, and the dancers are attentive to the music.  In other words, an engaging place to be.


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