Tango Victims: Charity Dances, Pity Dances, and Being “Nice” Dances

*I vant to suck your Tango blood!

We overheard two women over the span of five minutes ask a young tanguero to dance with them later in the night.  We know this tanguero and his inability to say no; the same inability that still creeps up on Jorge sometimes.  Heck, K has even been caught off guard lately.  Women abuse this knowledge and are often asking said tanguero for dances.  Although we’ve written about the lack of a consistently used “cabeceo” in our community and how we believe that women and men have equal rights to ask for dances, there’s something that people should understand about Tango: Tango and Tango dancers are to be respected.

This is what we overheard: “I was his partner in the class so he should be nice and dance with me in the milonga.”  This is not so different from the common rumblings of how tango teachers should dance with their students in a milonga.  Or how friends should dance with friends.  Or how better dancers should be “generous” with their dances and dance with beginners.  These types of statements are very frustrating.  To begin with, most people go to a milonga to have a good time, enjoy dancing, and get away from the “real world”.  Then why are people being expected to do something that may include not having a good time or enjoying their dance?  Practicas can be used for this. That said, Toronto has, in the past, been virtually void of any real practicas.  Either everyone has already “perfected” their Tango or they think practicing means dancing a whole song or tanda without stopping, without giving feedback, and in general, without improving one’s dance.

What gets to us more than this is the complete disregard for what Tango is and what it means to dance Tango with someone you don’t want to.  Tango is an extremely intimate dance.  You are putting your chests together, wrapping your arms around one another, touching heads/faces and sharing approximately 12 minutes of your life this way.  Forget Tango for a second and ask yourself how you would like it if a stranger came up to you and asked/demanded a 12 minute hug from you (simply because you had a chat with them at the corner store)?

If you want to dance with a visiting/local teacher, take privates with them.  When your dancing is enjoyable for the both of you, the teacher will ask you to dance or let you know they would like to dance with you in a milonga.  Teachers are people too and they dance Tango because they love it (or at least we do).   No one should have to sacrifice their love of the dance to dance with students, potential students, friends, or just to be “nice”?

As in all facets of life, there are exceptions,  but these should not be expectations.  In order to avoid making any assumptions, please use the cabeceo.  Use it from your seat.  Don’t come and stand around the person you want to dance with in a stalker-like fashion.  This, by definition, turns the potential dance partner into a Tango victim.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

10 responses to “Tango Victims: Charity Dances, Pity Dances, and Being “Nice” Dances

  • jantango

    Your points make sense and are so obvious to me. No one has to dance with anyone out of obligation or just to be nice.

    People want instant gratification so learning patience is a difficult lesson. Those who aren’t ready to use the cabeceo should remain in the practicas.

  • LimerickTango

    Ah the people from The Land of Should. When will they realise that tango is a more complex equation than ‘I want this… so you should do that’.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Hehehe :) Yes, we are indeed from The Land of Should. But hey, without people from The Land of Should, women still wouldn’t be able to vote, hockey players still wouldn’t wear hockey masks, and people wouldn’t brush their teeth. This is why we do our best as Tango teachers to teach students about the customs and codes (and “common sense” proper etiquette) of Argentine Tango. Is it really a complex equation to learn these things? We don’t think so. Our students pick them up quickly and it seems to make sense to them.

  • jakilune

    Very interesting post… just one small remark : I don’t see many teachers “forcing” themselves to dance with their students ( at least here in Montréal).
    And for the cabeceo, the same thing, it is ignored and the people dance with the same group of partners, the ones they know, all year round… quite different from BsAs. The difference is cutural … I think.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Do you mean that teachers don’t dance with their students or that teachers dance with their students willingly in Montreal? Through conversations with other teachers and through experience, we’ve learned that dancing often with beginners is difficult on the body. The most common complaint among male teachers is that is causes their backs to hurt. This is usually caused by followers who don’t move easily, have balance issues, and run away while pulling the lead with them (among many other difficulties).

      Your point that people dance among their group is very true. However, we don’t agree that it is much different in Buenos Aires. We constantly saw the same locals dancing together with the exception of dancing with visiting foreigners. The big difference we saw in Buenos Aires is that people tended to always dance with people of a similar level. In other words, we never saw a milonguero sacrificing his Tango to dance with a beginner. Not to say this never happens, but it seems that it is the exception and not the rule.

  • tomilonguero

    Just a few reason why I do “charity” dances and why other men should do it too. First of all I’m paying back to the community of followers. As you know a leader to reach a better level takes usually longer and by the time someone is considered to be a good dancer he has enjoyed/suffered hundreds of charity dances from the ladies.
    Other reason is that almost always more ladies than men at the milongas. I know that I can make someone’s night if I dance with her not because I’m that great but because maybe she’s not that popular or not a good dancer yet and she sits tanda after tanda. I do not like some of my fellow tangueros who just dance a few or one tanda with a trophy dancer and ignore the rest.
    They do not contribute to the energy of the milonga.
    When too many ladies are sitting that is not a good night.As you stated people go to milongas to have a good time but we have to think of each other too.
    Also if I dance with a beginner that is good for me too it improves my leading skills.
    And I make my own dance the music is soo beautiful that I can still enjoy it.

    So really it’s not “charity” at all.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Thanks for your comment TOmilonguero. It’s all a matter of perspective right? And every community needs people like you who enjoy dancing and helping all levels of dancers. Thanks! However, this isn’t enjoyable for all of us and therefore should not be an expectation for everyone in the community. Just as in life, there are all different types of people in Tango. Let those who find enjoyment and gratification from dancing with any and all dancers do that, and let those who do not – not do that.

  • Ram D

    There are two ways of enjoyment – one is by taking, and one is by giving. For me giving (sharing) provides more enjoyment, so I share my embrace, my dance, my energy with as many as possible – irrespective of the partner’s level of expertise. That to me is the beauty of Tango: expertise does not matter if all you care is sharing a moment of togetherness with the music. I just completed 6 years of dancing, and I hope my perspective never changes :)

    • Movement Invites Movement

      There is a place and a need for almost every type of person in this world. Your perspective and inclination to dance with all partners is wonderful! Tango communities need people like you.

      The issue at hand is that not everyone should have to be like you or think like you. And more importantly, those of us who do not think or act like you should not be told we are selfish or, as you have implied in your statement, “takers”. The truth is, we are giving ourselves completely to our partners when we dance (“entrega”) and not taking. In fact, by dancing with partners who cannot dance musically, who hang on us, do not offer an embrace, or at worst, hurt us, we are unable to surrender ourselves.

      Thank you for helping us see this more clearly: One of the main reasons we don’t enjoy dancing with just anyone is because we want to be able to give of ourselves completely.

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