Friday, October 5, 2007

To dance or not to dance...brutally...

I just got back from doing my solo tango workout and practice. This is what we have to resort to in a resort town with an extremely small tango community. A friend of mine jokes with me about my "air tango", but, it's better than nothing. He and I are the only ones that I know of who practice solo on occasion.

So, I'm back here reading Tango-L about retaining men in Tango, and women getting dances. I thought I would write about why I invite women to dance, and why I don't.

1] First and foremost, I am a tall guy - easily 6'4" with my tango shoes on. So, I have some issues with shorter women and with taller women. Dancing with shorter women tends to tweak my lower back - an issue with my lead. I have started dancing more open embrace with shorter women to compensate. Taller women, when the top of their head reaches my eye level, then I have a blind spot to my right. I find this to be limiting to my lead. Final point - it is very difficult if not impossible to determine how tall a woman is when she is sitting down. So, I invite more women in the 5'4" to 5'-9" range.

2] I am a big guy - sometimes I feel like a giant. When I see photos of myself on the dance floor, I dwarf all of the other people. Perhaps this is a self image thing, but the reality is that I am built like a linebacker or a fullback. 6'3" 225lbs. Given this, I tend to avoid women who are very slightly built. There is a particular follower - beautiful woman and beautiful dancer - but she is so slight, I feel like I am going to break her sometimes. So, I tend to not invite very tiny women.

3] I find women who have thier own gravitational pull difficult to lead. I'm getting better at leading these types of celestial bodies - but sometimes it feels like I am trying to navigate the fully loaded Exxon Valdez through the straits while intoxicated. I tend to not invite women who have their own gravitational pull.

4] I never refuse an invitation from any woman. (Okay, there are one or two who constantly bug me to dance, and I always decline politely, because it is downright unpleasant to dance with them.)

5] When a woman smiles or better yet, smiles AND says "hi" or something, she is guaranteed to get an invitation, no matter what her dancing ability.

6] I lost my tango. At one milonga, I literally "lost my tango". I don't know if it was because I was tired, or what. I did turn down a few invitations - not wishing to subject any woman to a poor/non-existent lead. I didn't make any lame excuses with these women - I literally told them that I was no longer dancing because I lost my tango.

7] If a woman back-leads or gives me "tips", I won't invite her.

8] I realize this is starting to sound negative, but I don't know how to say it otherwise. If a woman is overly embellish-ey, especially if she does embellishments which are meant to be lead, without the lead, all by herself, I don't invite.

9] If a woman is a frequent leader (in a social/milonga setting), I generally don't invite. I don't get that, sorry...

10] Women who dance (close embrace) with their eyes open, scanning the room for potential leads, cannot, in any way shape or form, be "present" in the moment of dancing with me. I will not invite.

11] Women who can't keep their axis and lean on me too much don't get invited.

12] Women who are too "hippy" (motion) and "sway-ey". This can be described as trying to push a wheelbarrow with a top heavy load that is shifting back and forth.

13] Women who are obviously dancers/athletes/athletic/yoginis/fit tend to be more responsive - lighter on their feet - ball bearings under their forefeet - more reaction and energy - (Read my post titled "Fuck me back") tend to get more invites. I find women who are the opposite of this tend to be "mushy" feeling - like I am dancing with "The Blob". Just being brutally honest here...

14] Some really advanced women who I don't feel my lead is up to snuff. It's an insecurity intimidation thing.

15] The followers/wives/partners of tango teaching couples...in spite of #14 above, I always ask them to dance, because often it seems no one else does.

16] If a woman is overweight, not-so-attractive, just an okay dancer, but "nice", she will win out any night over a beautiful tango diva who is the best dancer in the room, but a "catty bitch" who knows she is the bestdancerbeautifultangodiva in the room. Nice-ness, smiles, eye contact, humility - these are the qualities that get me every time.

17] Timing, hesitation, poorly executed cabeceo, missed opportunities, interlopers, usurpers, bathroom breaks, refreshment breaks, sore feet, etc. all combine to create many missed invites... Tango interupptus...

To sum up.... smile, make eye contact, say "hi", make yourself available, be polite/nice/notabitchysnob, smell good, shampoo your hair.... and... wearing Comme il Faut's helps too... goofy ballroomy shoes are a turnoff... get rid of them...

Okay... I gotta go dancing now... I gotta... tomorrow night...Denver... The Mercury Cafe...it's been too long... my last "big city" milonga was... last May in Denver?... no, one in July in Atlanta... too long...

10 comments:

Tanguillo said...

Hi, one question: what exactly is the problem in dance with the women that also lead?

Alex said...

It's a personal thing, my personal "baggage"/issues, but I am turned off by women who lead socially. In tango, it is supposed to be "all about the connection" (and the music, too...). I don't get it when women lead other women socially - meaning I do get it when the lead in classes or practicas - it seems more about the mechanics and vocabulary in those circumstances. But in a social/milonga setting, I don't get it that a woman can have the same sublime connection with another woman - that we have with men and women. I do get it that some women may get tired of never dancing, and take up leading. Perhaps this is less about the connection and more about just dancing and having fun.

Also, the women leaders I know seem to be more masculine and agressive in their personalities - again - a trait which I personally find unattractive.

Lastly, is tango not about men being men and women being women? (I am not addressing the genre of gay tango here...that is an entirely different subject...)

Am I making any sense here? Or, am I just backing myself into a corner?

Tanguillo said...

I understand if you don't like when women leading socially. I don't agree, but is a matter of taste. What I don't understand is why that stop you to dance with them. I think what she does with others girls and what they could do with you are different things. Is like say "I don't approve how she dance salsa, so I don't invite her to dance tango with me". Probably not the best example, but is friday.
And if the connection thing what you don't like, it will be good for you if it is a lesbian girl? In that way, she will feel the connection with another girl (and if she is bisexual, with you too).
You talk about they masculine personality. I found in my personal experience, that is not that way , even in the gay environment (actually, a lot of them are shy), but even if it were like that, in that case, what you don't like is aggressive women, pure and simple.
Just trying to understand here...

Alex said...

Hola again Tanguillo!

Thanks for your comments and insight. You have me thinking and wondering - I am trying to understand myself, too. I should just force myself to dance with women leaders...and see what happens... my guess is they may be better followers because of their leading...

la nuit blanche said...

dear alex,

at last night's milonga, i witnessed the most beautiful tango danced between two women. they definitely emanated a different kind of energy -- it's hard to describe, but it seemed like they were in total understanding of each other, being two women, and were delighting in the playfulness of another sister. kind of like how twins have their own language that others can't understand.

and it was definitely a deep connection -- maybe not the man-woman connection that everyone searches for, but a sort of soul-mate type of connection reserved for angels and children... anyway, it was a delight to witness, and looked even more intimate than most of the man-women pairings i saw on the floor. and this is why i, myself, love to dance with women. it's different. there's an exquisite purity about it that i don't get from dancing with men.

later on in the night, they danced with their respective boyfriends. the woman who was previously leading transformed herself into the most feminine of tangueras. but she was also extremely feminine when she was leading, just more like an authoritative "older sister", than "masculine"...

i say give these women a chance! just because a woman leads doesn't mean she's aggressive in real life. and aggressive women can be the most passionate followers on the dancefloor. also, i have seen the most butch, loud, and non-feminine woman turn into seductive goddesses in the arms of a tanguero... you might be missing out! ;)

Alex said...

Hola Nuit!

You're right. I pride myself on my open-mindness. I didn't realize until just now how very closed minded and un-enlightened I have been.

Thank you for opening my eyes.

A

Maria said...

Hi Alex,

I've been reading your blog for some time but this is my first comment.

It was gutsy of you to put this list out there and I can relate to some of your reasons for not wanting to dance with a woman-- snottiness and bad following are valid reasons. But not wearing the right brand of shoes? Wow... I get that there is some sort of cult around comme il fauts in tango, but I really couldn't give a hoot what brand of shoes my partner is wearing if they are a joy to dance with.

As for the height issue, there is a gentleman on our salsa scene that is very short (something like 4'8"-- I am 5'8"), but I really enjoy dancing with him. I bend my knees a little more than usual but I am certainly not stooping down. He's a good lead, so it works.

In a small scene such as yours, it might not hurt for you to take some chances and view diversity of size and beginning followers as a fun challenge to take on.

Alex said...

Hola Maria...

Thanks for your comments! I didn't want to imply that I wouldn't dance with women who don't wear comme il fauts...just that they are really sexy and act as a visual attractant to those of us males who allow ourselves to be subject to the laws of nature...

I also dance with women who wear comme il faux... and even funky ballroomy shoes... if they are comfortable, who cares...

thanks again for the comment!

cindy said...

hi alex,
just wanted to add that as a dancer in a small community, where the handful of male leaders has little incentive to improve the quality of their dance (since after all, they can dance all night already), i'm looking forward to progressing far enough in my dancing as a follower to learn to lead. i LOVE following - the joy of playing with the music is part of the pleasure of tango, the joy of doing that with my partner is part of the pleasure of connection... here at home the women who lead can be expressive & playful, yet with a light touch...

Mari said...

Alex - A brave and honest post (as yours usually are.) I think feedback and posts like yours have the potential make us, if not better dancers, certainly more honest ones. There are things I don't agree with on your list - but I'm sure there are things on my (as yet unwritten) list that you would disagree with. C'est la vie.

The only one I personally would take issue with is the shoes. Despite their allure, CiF's render me an almost completely useless dancer. My plain old ballroom shoes may not be up to snuff in tangueros' eyes, but they enable me to keep my balance and my connection to my partner. I'll take that over eye candy any day.