Here's a reply I offered to a post by Mari [My Tango Diaries] over at TangoConnections. She was asking about Ney Melo's comment (below) and how leaders think feedback delivery would be most productive/least offensive. Feedback. Delivery. Both? How? Thoughts?
Mari, I hope you'll forgive me for borrowing your topic...not really borrowing your topic, but borrowing your topic to throw my reply out there for the world to consider...and because I believe it to be some of my more hilarious writing...forgive me?
Anyway, here's my reply to Mari's post...
"I truly believe that when women start using their power of declining dances and sending messages, then that is when the leaders will start working to improve their dance." [Ney Melo]
Declining dances AND sending messages.
Once, after having been "No thank you'd" after a delicious tanda by the partner of a prominent tango maestro, I was approached by a courier carrying a worn but beautifully patinaed leather satchel. The courier's official looking hat belied her beauty, with long hair tucked underneath. She presented to me an envelope made of extravagant heavy weight Italian paper reclaimed from parchment found in a 13th Tuscan monastery. I take note that it is sealed with an ornate wax impression as I slip my thumb under the fold to open it. I also note that it is scented lightly with perfume. It is a scent that at once makes the fine hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I know this scent. There is honey in it.
Before pulling the leaf of paper from its elegant enfoldment, I discreetly check my surroundings to assure my privacy, and that of the writer. It is evident from the penmanship that the writer is a woman, if the perfume is not evidence enough. The flowing beauty of her pen strokes intrigues me.
As I read her words, I exhaled deeply in disappointment. Thoughts raced through my mind. Could this be? I had no idea. "I no longer want to dance tango with you." she wrote. But why? I ask myself.
Then I notice there is another line, apparently written with more haste. "Meet me in the cloak room. Now."
Sorry, I got carried away there.
I've seen a guy get declined on the floor after the first song of a tanda, ask another for the second song, get declined, and then dance with a third to round out the tanda. This guy was a hunched over troll (but a really nice guy) with a pelvic thrusting, puppy dog humping lead yet all the followers gave him all the dances he could get. Our community was so small that all the followers could not bring themselves to say anything. I got fed up with all the complaints (from the followers) about his pelvic thrusting, his banana in his pocket, his bad breath, his B.O., and overall bad lead. As I recall now, he was not even dancing anything closely resembling tango. So, I got fed up and was going to tell the guy the truth - man to man - and basically ask him to leave the tango community and move on down the road. This is totally not me - I'm non-confrontational extraordinaire - but this was serious, or so I thought. The followers (five or six of them) shut me down and told me not to do it, that I would crush his spirit, crush him to say this. So I didn't. Eventually he moved and/or moved on, leaving tango I think in favor of swing.
So, here's what I think about "sending messages". If you want to send a message to a leader that his lead sucks, don't decline upon invitation. Don't dance an entire tanda and then never dance with him again. Accept the invitation, and then after the first dance (or unpleasantry) politely "thank you" him, turn, and walk yourself back to your seat. Some will not get this - per the story above. Most will. It's a difficult thing to do - even mild rejection is tough to pull off in our society. It probably even feels/seems harsh. Continue to dance the one song with him, milonga after milonga, month after month, year after year, until he gets it and gets the help he needs to improve/correct his lead.
If you really think the guy has redeeming value as a leader, here are some other ways to send a message:
::Anonymous comments on his blog (although this is public)
::Get his email and send a message from an anonymous email account (yahoo, gmail) where he can't track you
::Envelope with a note delivered via courier
::Super-sticky Post It note delivered by patting him on the back with it (added advantage of flagging him to other followers)
:: Blocked caller ID phone calls/messages
:: Paper bag with something in it on the front porch, message scrawled on the bag (only don't light it!)
:: FedEx/UPS/SnailMail/Singing Telegram/StripperGram
:: Send an emissary follower or leader (good cop bad cop) to deliver the advice/counsel/bad news
I know I'm being flip and over(t)ly comedic here and there in this reply...I'm still "in a mood" Mari...but the ones like BO and bad breath become more tricky...cologne, not so tricky...issues with his lead should be easiest to deal with...but how if they don't show up in classes or practicas...I "self-realized" many of my own lead-related issues through video taping myself and photographing myself dancing with a partner at 6 frames per second (tripod)...the photographs offered stop-motion imagery that was better for analysis...self analysis...in the video I just looked bad...in the photographs it was like "what the hell is my foot doing way out there!!!???" I would recommend both. But, and there always is a but, I would offer/estimate that the vast majority of leaders are not that into "being the best they can be". I'm a "you make me want to be a better man" kinda guy.
Ultimately, I think directness and honesty mixed with sweetness would work best for me. Delivery, pace, tone, inflection, body language and facial expression all become paramount when giving someone sensitive feedback. Some women would come across as a bitch, others as a goddess/savior. The latter is the goal obviously.
At a milonga, if a woman came up to me, hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and nuzzled into my ear and whispered "My name is Alessandra, and you need a breath mint before you dance with me." in a breathy and sexy voice, I think I'd be running across the street to the 7-11 for some TicTacs, dodging speeding traffic, through rain or snow or sleet. But that's me. Some guys might get pissed and never dance with her again.
I dunno. This is a tough one Mari.
I think Joyce Miller nailed it best.
[Joyce's reply: Unless it is an adjustment of the arm too high, or an embrace too tight, then I think that the feedback for either party is best kept in practice. If you can't do it with a little body adjustment, like trying to find another connection spot, then it should be saved for a teaching environment, not a milonga. If the person doesn't come to lessons, workshops, or a practica, then you are S-O-L. The other party knows that you do not enjoy the dance, by the way you never look in their direction at a milonga. This is a two-way, very effective non-communication. I know if a man never asks me to dance, then it has two be one of two things: 1) he doesn't like me as a person, or 2) he doesn't like the way I dance. I will seek out those who I want to talk about our dance with, in the practice, and try to start a discussion with pleasantry or smiles, and if it goes well, then cabaceo them at the milonga for another try. Otherwise - move on or be prepared to be seated!]
Have a great day tango people!