Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Leaders' Secret Manual

Last night, I hit the dance floor in earnest, and while I had several very nice partners, I was also reminded why sometimes I prefer not to dance. Clearly, all the leaders have gotten a little pamphlet. The contents, extrapolated from experience, are below.


Welcome, leader, to the world of tango. Enjoy the bustle of a milonga, the thrill of close embrace, the joy of fighting to get a woman to go from open to close embrace regardless of her preference!

Here are some tips to make your evening even better.

1. Awkward lead? Still learning a figure? Dancing with a beginner? Don't be afraid of those complicated moves - everyone loves a planeo! If the follower seems reluctant to do your amazing volcada, feel free to stop the dance and explain what she was supposed to do. Practicas are so boring, and no one's there to be impressed by your awesome choreography - a milonga's the place to prove there's always time for learning!

1a. If she doesn't get it the first time, but you have the faith, it's fine to try six or seven more times in a row. She's bound to get it eventually, right?

2. No balance? No problem! We're sure she has plenty; those heels are only, what, four inches? Lean all you want.

3. If you pull down on her left side, you get that really nice bent-over silhouette that looks so good.

4. She said no? Never fear! A woman rarely knows her own mind; ask her again in ten minutes. You'll see!

5. If you want to put your face against hers, even though she's holding her own axis a few inches away, by all means stretch your neck and drop your whole head on her. She'll probably think it's her sweat, anyway. Girls are really sweaty.

6. It is, of course, acceptable to use a woman as a weapon; that guy you hate will never see it coming if you boleo a stiletto into his leg. For this reason, it's important to pick dance partners with really sharp shoes, and see if you can target his follower while you're at it. Like bumper cars, only pointy.

7. She still won't dance with you, eh? Well, faint heart never won fair lady! Keep asking!

8. The younger they are, the better they must be. See if you can find someone at the milonga who's still in secondary school and cleave unto her. It's not creepy as long as the music is playing!

9. Pausing is for those who can't keep a beat - step lively, soldier!

10. See? Told you she'd say yes eventually. You're great at this tango thing!


Natalia said...

Sometimes I think it would be nice to learn some kind of social dancing... thank you for reminding me it is not always as romantic as it sounds. ;)

Your post made me literally laugh out loud.

Sorin said...

While Planchadora's post is fun to read, don't let that discourage you. Most men do get the message at the first no, some may need a second, it's rare that someone is so clueless (or such a jerk) to keep doing it.

As far as the other stuff, watching the people dance before accepting dances really works wonders. Not everyone's style is for everyone.

Natalia said...

The biggest reason I haven't pursued it is because I just don't have the time to add a second set of dance classes to my weekly schedule (between my "real job" and my bellydance classes and practice, I don't have much time left over)

Sometimes I get whistful about wanting to study other things, then something like this post reminds me that all dance styles have their own ups and downs. :)

Caroline said...

La Planch - sounds french, no?
It's true, some men, even after dancing for a few years still have some really annoying tendencies. I was talking to Tomas about that - he said the best way to teach the leader to improve is to demonstrate a consequence for an unwanted action such as cutting the dance short and walking off the floor. If the guy steps on your naked toes once, it's forgivable but if he keeps stepping on them, then it's Sayonara. And like Sorin said, everyone's style is different, choose to dance with those whose style you like. This is where I really wish cabaceo is de rigeur - it's hard to reject a man who's walked all the way across the room in front of everyone to ask you for a dance.
I remember offending one man terribly because he danced so badly and so much like a beginner that I asked if he just started taking lessons and his answer was that he had been dancing for over three years. He was really offended by my question. Eek. Some men are indeed clueless enough to keep doing it. Why? Because most women are too nice to be critical, especially at a milonga where that would be a major faux pas. When women greatly outnumber men at milongas, they tend to settle for bad leaders and keep their mouth shut.

La Planchadora said...

caroline - I could not agree more with Tomas and you, and a lot of my irritation watching bad leaders is that they always have a partner, so they never think to improve because a woman is always willing to dance with them. Just Say No, ladies!

I would like to stress that don't have anything against beginners. If they're working to get better, that will be pretty clear, and I have no problem dancing with them. It's the guys who have been dancing for a while who are still bad, and weirdly entitled about it, that bother me.

After about two weeks I stopped dancing with the guys I talk about in this entry. No point in being felt up or stepped on!

Debbi said...

Your post made me laugh! Every milonga I go to, it seems that when I take my shoes off to follow the cabaceo, I get asked to dance. I was at one milonga, sitting on the floor, shoes off, camera in hand, lining up a shot and I felt the "tap tap tap" on my shoulder. It was really comical.
However I am really learning the "be picky about your partner" aspect of tango, it is so very helpful for me in learning how to follow. As opposed to keeping up, which is not exactly following.

Tina said...

I was a victim of #6 several months back and I still have the scar on my shin to prove it. Ouch!