Tango Argentino > How do you get Dance invitations

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by lovetotango, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. lovetotango

    lovetotango New Member

    I have been dancing for a while and have been told to be a good dancer, but don't attend milongas consistently. Part of the reason is that besides one or two leaders whom I know, others rarely or never ask me to dance and it is not fun to sit and watch most of the night. I dress up, wear makeup, smile, etc. and have tried recommendations on a previous thread in this forum regarding this topic but to no avail. I welcome Thoughts and suggestions ....
  2. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Leader here, but I think you'd like "Enjoy Getting the Dances You Want, Filling in the Blanks of Argentine Tango" by Oliver Kent. (Thanks TomTango for the recommendation!)

    Here are a some things I would add to the author's advice:

    Make a bit of a show with your dance shoes. Walk in with them in one hand, particularly if the venue is multiuse (like an art gallery or coffee shop or restaurant that is also doing Tango). Put the shoes on at the dance floor. I have noticed when I have walked into a multiuse venue, I get the Tangueras attention if my shoes are in my hand just walking in. Also, the last 2 times I went to a night club I did this (not by design, it was just convenient) and both times a lady I didn't know ran up and grabbed both of my hands to dance.

    Ladies who have been drinking to excess are less fun to dance with. All other things being equal, I'll ask the lady without a wine glass ahead of the lady with one.

    Ladies in deep conversation with other ladies tend to not get asked as much. As least look around during the cortina if you want a dance.

    This might just be my area, but it has happened many times to me. I'll be talking to a lady, and a man will walk past 8 women who have been sitting for a long time to ask her. From my personal data point, ladies' odds go way up talking to men rather than women.

    I have noticed that new ladies and ladies who dropped out for a while tend to not get asked as much.
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  3. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    As a leader, sometimes if I walk into a new milonga I'll get some attention right away. But more often, I'll find it harder to get a dance if I'm new at a milonga, or haven't been to that one in a while.

    Also as a leader, I notice that I'm wary to dance with someone who looks new.

    Dancing at the same milonga for a while means people have become familiar with me and that I have hopefully developed a positive reputation. So getting dances comes easier.

    Do you do the cabeceo?
  4. Vincenze

    Vincenze Member

    Find a partner(s).
    Most of better boys and girls have partners; thus, they rarely dance with others, and you can't approach them.
    At some stage, you won't progress studying with random people without a partner.

    Go only to a milonga that is associated with your class. It'll have familiar dancers from your class.
  5. lovetotango

    lovetotango New Member

    Thanks. Yes, I try, sometimes it is difficult as the place is dark and difficult to figure out who is looking at who and other times when I try to look leaders seem to look away. I have been going to the same milonga for the last few weeks.
  6. lovetotango

    lovetotango New Member

    Thanks for the input, I'm happy to say that I don't drink at milongas and will keep tryings ...
  7. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    Yes, lighting and layout can make the cabeceo much easier or harder, for sure. I'm sorry you're having a tough time, and I hope that you're able to find more dances.
  8. Bailango

    Bailango New Member

    I was lurking around and reading this thread. Had to register to respond to OP's dilemma. Which makes me want to put comments at large. I have been dancing for a shade under two decades. I have danced tango the longest. I enjoy other social dances and have been dancing them too.

    Other tango dancers (especially followers) have often complained about how hard it can be to get dances. Especially for followers who are new or non-regulars and not young. Tango dancers are more guilty of not inviting the non-familiar faces, than any other social dance scene I have experienced. Which is a little ironic in that tango is most socially interactive, off the dance floor. There is more socializing taking place around the dance floor at a milonga than any other dances. In most milongas there are proper places or tables to seat at, food served, people sipping wine, people conversing with others, a range of social interactions facilitated by the settings.

    I don't know why tango tends to be unfriendly to non-regulars and non-familiar faces. It behooves upon the local tango community leaders/instructors to foster greater inclusiveness. There is something about tango that breeds stand-offishness and it is contagious. The inconsistency in following the tradition of cabeceo compounds the problem. During my travels I have often encountered opposites at the same milongas. Some dancers who are totally oblivious to cabeceo and some who adhere by it. This makes it very tricky to extend dance invitation and not know if a person is oblivious or doesn't wish to dance.

    Nothing said above answers the OP, but I can empathize with her difficulties. My best recommendation is may be OP can initiate invitations to the leaders. At least until they become she becomes familiar to them. I have encountered a fair number of followers that initiate inviting with cabeceo and sometimes verbally too. The dark lit conditions at many milongas doesn't help with cabeceo due to the poor visibility. I wish the hosts of the milongas pay attention to such details. It would be nice if hosts are more active in making their event feel more inclusive.

    I can vaguely remember reading that. No matter what you dance, most things are common sense. Etiquette and social norms go a long way in helping both the leaders and followers. From the description that OP provided, it didn't appear to me that she is indulging in drinking or know enough people at the venue to engage in deep conversations.

    I find this counter-intuitive. People tend to gravitate towards someone who is not engaged in a conversation. Likelihood of someone in a conversation declining an invitation is far more than someone sitting by themselves. Isn't it a bit rude to break conversation between two people, simple to extend a dance invitation.

    This. I notice it too. Why does this happen in Tango more than at say swing or salsa.

    This. I can relate. Again something that happens more in Tango than other dances.

    This. We need to start breaking this cycle from repeating itself. It is not welcoming and can intimidate people.

    This. In Tango my experience is that it is more about familiarity than positive reputation. I have seen long time poor dancers hog the dance floor and get more dancers, than a newer but better dancers. Familiarity will get you dances everywhere. Tango is especially hard on non-familiar faces. It doesn't have to be that way. Why would people stand talking to each other than take risk of asking a new face. If someone is really petrified about getting stuck for four songs in a tanda, for god's sake you have an option to invite after first two songs.

    This. I hope community leaders and instructor community worldwide put emphasis on the traditional aspects. Speaking for myself, I strictly follow the cabeceo. Better safe than sorry. That is not to say I will decline invitation made verbally or by person approaching me. My invitations only extend via cabeceo. That can mean getting less dances at some places I travel to.

    I am not sure that this is more prevalent in Tango compared to other dances. Though as noted above, I have seen more of what I term inbreeding dancing in tango. By inbreeding dancing, I mean same people dancing with each other more, than with others outside their circle of friends.

    It shouldn't come to this. If you are a competent dancer go to any milonga. If you are a new comer to a tango community, the community has an onus to make you feel welcomed. Most new comers in my experience are intimidated. Tango is not a very forgiving dance, neither is the tango community. I have experienced some communities which are more friendly than others. Overall I still think tango community can do much better to be inclusive.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    It's tough when no one really knows you yet.

    First thing, remember that a milonga is a social event, so socialize, (especially with men). As was already said, once the cortina starts, it's time to end any conversations with women, and start trying to catch someone's eye to dance with. Also, make sure you're not sitting way far away from where most of the men are congregating, (we're far to lazy to walk way over to where you are, unless you're someone who is in high demand).

    Another thing, try to arrange (ahead of time) to get someone you know, to dance with you, as soon as it starts to get a bit crowded. Some people want to see how you dance, before deciding to dance with you (both sexes can be like this).

    If you are in a community where women are asking men to dance, make sure you are doing the same (when in Rome, do as the Romans do).

    Also, if there are practicas in that community, try those as well. Some are more accommodating to new people.
    opendoor and Lilly_of_the_valley like this.
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    And, if there's a lesson before the milonga, take it to meet people.

    I am currently not attending any AT venue on a regular basis, so, knowing the prevailing preference to dance with people you know, and are compatible with (three or four songs IS more of a commitment than in other kinds of dance), I often tell myself that I'm just going to listen to some tango for a while. The lower expectation means that any dancing I do is a bonus!
    jantango likes this.
  11. Vincenze

    Vincenze Member

    Milongas with people sitting around tables, eating, sipping wine and chatting are the worst. If you see an eating lady, you don't expect her to be ready for dancing for an hour or more.

    Tango is a complex dance. There are not many matching partners for each dancer. If you invited somebody and she showed dissatisfaction even without saying it, you can't invite her again as she'll certainly refuse. Your circle of potential partners just got narrower. And you prefer to dance with good partners, but they are often occupied.
  12. lovetotango

    lovetotango New Member

    Thank you all for the insights and suggestions, will keep you all posted in terms of my progress :)
  13. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I will quote Marcelo Castelo's article from ArgenTango magazine:

    "Seven tips for women who want to dance more in a milonga.

    Throughout the years milonga organizers hear continuous complaints from women: "Tonight I danced very little", "There are no men", or "I am not asked to dance".

    The reality is, in general, in many milongas the quantity of women is larger than men. Adding that the men also take breaks between tandas to get a drink or perhaps smoke a cigarette, it lowers the women's possibility of getting a dance. However, women also wonder: what they contribute from their part to the fact that they dance less or more?

    To help all those women here are some suggestions that, albeit obvious, are worth repeating, and, perhaps, would increase their possibility of dancing in the milonga.

    1) Learn to look. It is known that in the traditional milonga the invitation is made by the man by means of cabeceo. So it is essential for the woman to learn to observe and notice these looks and gestures. Sometimes we see women in the beginning of the tanda getting distracted, not paying attention to the man's signals, so the latter changes his mind and chooses to invite someone else. In other cases, for shyness or intimidation, women refuse to look directly at men, and end up sitting. Hence, stay alert under the men's glances, especially at the beginning of each tanda.

    2) Put on your best face
    . The milonga is a place where people want to relax, forget their everyday problems. For that reason, men will keep away from a woman with a sour facial expression. Your most attractive feature is your smile. Be in a happy mood, others will perceive it. A good moment to show your cheerful disposition would be a salsa break. In my personal opinion, this is the most important advice.

    3) Care where you sit in the room. Often women keep asking to be seated in places that are far from being the best in order to get more dances. Being in the first row, closest to the dance floor is not always the best. When there are no men on the sides or in front within reasonable distance, women will have to wait till someone walks closer to their table. Once you got a seat, study the best angle to direct the glances at prospective partners.

    4) Do not always expect the best. That one illustrates very well the paradox of the dancer: the better one learns to dance, the less possibilities occur to apply it, for the lack of suitable partners. It is inevitable one wishes to dance with somebody better than him/her, but if it were always the case, nobody would ever dance with anyone! Try to go to the milonga with no expectations beyond having some good time, and do not get super selective with the occasional partners. Also, dancing is not everything, lets not reject the opportunity to meet interesting people just because they do not fulfill our expectations as dancers.

    5) Improve your dance level, take lessons. A recurrent saying among milongueros is that everyone believes to be a better dancer than he or she really is. It does not matter what you think about your dance level, it matters what your partners think. When one dances better, she gets invited more. Therefore, take lessons!

    6) To be and to appear. Any woman who frequents the milongas cannot help but notice: when enters a well dressed man, wearing an elegant dark suit, impeccable shoes, he always attracts women's attention. Same goes for women. Hence, if you go to a milonga where people don't know you, the more you look the part, the better. Dressing with elegance, carrying yourself with poise, behaving like a milonguera will secure you a number of invitations to the dance floor. Of course, all that has to come with a decent level of dance.

    7) Become a regular. If you jump a lot from one milonga to another, know that you always have to pay "the floor due" before people start recognizing you. Men tend to invite partners they know, otherwise they wait for someone else to ask a woman, so they can observe her dance level. Upon entering the milonga, give greetings to the men you had danced with in other places. Becoming a regular in a place is the most convenient way of securing dance invitations ( providing you paid attention to all the above mentioned advice)."

    Hope it helps.

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  14. JTh

    JTh Member

    How to get dance invitations is similar to how men approach to request yo dance.
    Ask them!!
    As a lead, I can tell you that I appreciate being asked by followers!!!
    I think you will find that leads very rarely will sat no. Even if they are in a conversation with others, politely break in and ask for a dance. Either they will right away or later but likely will (unless they are drunk and forgot or you disappeared)
    Opposite is also true...I as a lead..have (very successfully) done this numerous times and everytime followers have stopped their conversation or put their drink down and danced with me..even if they had said 'later' or something like that..no problem... There are plenty if fish in the sea...works for both leaders and followers.
    The only suggestion I'd make is yo have this mindset before you go... And stick to it..this is not of those things that is easier said than done- it really is easy to do.
    Guys are there to dance and meet girls. Opposite is also true. It shouldn't be that hard for either.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
  15. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi lovetotango, welcome to DF. Your question isn`t easy to answer, because it touches the personality and character of a person. As far as I can see there are three main types with own strategies:
    • the natural born diva,
    • the skilful climber,
    • the networker.
    I find that the latter strategy is the easiest. She has a dance partner, but not for dancing in the first place, but as a ticket to group lessons, classes, and prácticas. There she unfolds her activities, starting with baking cakes. She asks and organizes who will come to the milonga. At the milongas she sits at a group table dancing mainly within her "family".
    The skilful climber has traveled for some distance. She forgoes and refuses dancing rather than to be seen with a γ-male on the dance floor. So she works along the pecking order up to the α-gazelles.
  16. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    That's a nice sentiment, and I generally dedicate a couple tandas a night to being a welcoming leader.

    However, a tanda of tango is 10-15 minutes of physical intimacy with a person. It's ok to be cautious. Giving yourself a little time to observe people's behavior before deciding whether to dance with an unfamiliar person is compassionate to yourself and the person with whom you could potentially have an awkward, discouraging dance. A bad dance can ruin a new follower's night.

    As a new leader, I experienced milongas where I couldn't get a single dance the whole night. Those nights suck. But I am also grateful for the qualities of patience, perseverance, and rejection-tolerance that I was able to practice and strengthen as a result.
  17. Bailango

    Bailango New Member

    I agree that if a potential partner for dancing, whether a leader or a follower, is indulging in eating/drinking, much less likely that other than their friends any one will ask them for a dance.

    I will respectfully disagree here. Tango may be complex dance, but as far as matching partners go, it is the same no matter what you dance. Some partners will be at your level or better than you, some partners will be below your level. It will suck to dance with some partners who exhibit poor technical skills. Since the circle keeps getting narrower, is the very reason that we should keep increasing the size of the pond.

    These are all very well put. Personally being a semi-regular dancer, while I agree with the last #7, it may not be always possible (for non-dance reasons) to be a regular.

    #3, where you seat in the room and how the seating is arranged is important factor that many forget or don't realize, unless you are used to inviting others. I have been to milongas where a row of chairs is placed right next to dance floor within a couple of feet of line of dance. It is often the case that there will be ladies seating on those chairs. Unless they care to look sideways or behind them, it is almost impossible for a leader to extend an invite. Most of these ladies are often looking straight ahead at the dance floor. It doesn't seem they are doing that because they want to seat out the tanda. I think the people seating in the front row right next to the dance floor expect to be asked but that is only possible during cortina or at the end of the cortina. Which means, usually you don't get the choice of whether you want to dance to that tanda or not. I always want to listen to the first few seconds of the music before deciding if I want to dance that tanda. At crowded milongas, often the dance floor will get packed by time those few seconds pass.

    In my empirical observations, many introvert type personalities gravitate towards partner dancing. If someone is an extrovert it is far easier to do one of the above. I can vouch, that for introverts the above can be intimidating or not worth expending energy on.
  18. Bailango

    Bailango New Member

    While generally true, most of my local scene is where the gender balance tilts slightly towards more men than the women. I still hear complaints from some ladies who are competent dancers about not getting dances. A case in point:

    Last night was an exception, there were more women at the milonga. Unusual for the particular milonga. I am very selective about the music I dance to. The DJ played very good sets and I ended up dancing far more than I usually do. Near the end of the night, I asked the lady I had danced first tanda with, on how the night had been. I was very surprised (or shocked), when she mentioned she had danced only two tandas the whole night. Mind you this was at a fairly large milonga. She wasn't complaining. It was still a bit of a surprise to me that she didn't get to ask more than twice the whole four hours she was there. She is a regular and knows enough men. She joked that for some men she is a fourth option.
  19. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Of course, in the reality it is never about sheer numbers. To dance a lot we need a lot of desirable partners for whom we are also a desirable first (or at least a second) choice. :) And desirable partners/first choices do not coincide for different people.
  20. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    A newcomer in Buenos Aires danced every tanda for two hours on Monday. She was visiting from NYC and knew nothing about the codes and customs. How did she do it? She hired a local taxi dancer for $200. She dances another tango style in NYC, so I suggested she try an embrace with him. He held her in an embrace, not his usual way of dancing tango. Both of them made an adjustment. She liked it. She told me her age -- 87; then I pointed out Mario who is 88 and Roberto wo is 96.

    I'm not suggesting that the OP hire a local to dance all night with her. There were lots of good suggestions offered.

    I dance twice a week in Buenos Aires, at the same place with the same organizers on Monday and Wednesday. There are always different dancers so it remains a mystery with whom I'll dance and to what orchestra. Tonight I was with a girlfriend. She danced two tandas in three hours, and I danced three tandas. We both are residents of Buenos Aires for many years and known in the milongas. We respect the codes and wait to be invited by men from their table. It's not a popularity contest or a numbers game for us. We want to dance with men who we know and enjoy dancing. It takes time and patience. It's worth it.

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