Tango Argentino > How to find other female dance partners at a milonga as a seperate male beginner?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Peter78, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. Peter78

    Peter78 New Member


    I'd like to ask for a recommendation as a leading beginner about social behavior in milongas.

    I just finished an introducing course with my dance partner and she and I went to a couple of milongas since.

    Especially as a leader, who's a beginner yet, I recognized that I am a little anxious to ask other, more advanced, women to dance with me. As we seem to be more or less the only beginning couple in some milongas, this seems to limit my selection of possible dance partners except for my regular partner.

    My dance partner on the other hand, being a young and fairly attractive girl, can get easily dances from other men on some milongas, although also from her own opinion some of these seem to be a specific kind of leader (relatively old, long-term dancers, yet not really advanced) looking for dances with younger starters. On other milongas, that lack these kind of leaders, it's the other way around and nobody asks her to dance, which may be (I guess) because people see her arriving and sitting with me.

    Of course we can always dance with each other, but apart from that, I am wondering a little bit at the moment how to really "get started" in social tango dancing as a beginner under the circumstances described above?

    How do I find suitable dance partners as a beginning leader in a milonga, when not already involved in a group (possibly of other beginners)?
    Also, how can I make sure, that we both would be kept reasonably entertained throughout the night, if I had a solution to my prior question, e.g. would she probably be asked by other dancers while I danced with other followers?

    Any hints and practical advise would be appreciated, as I don't really feel "safe" in the social setting of a milonga yet. I hope, I could make my problem clear enough in a few sentences.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    The best way to have leaders ask your follower friend to dance is for you to ask other ladies. If they see you two huddling they may consider her off limit.

    As far as you Peter, as a man I exactly understand how you feel - been there, done that... The key is to practice enough to gain confidence in your lead, and to keep coming to the same Milonga again and again. Once people get to know and recognize you, things naturally will become easier.
    opendoor likes this.
  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hi Peter, tango is a social dance and thus getting immersed in your dance community is an important part of learning tango. To put it flippant: In the beginning your perfume is more important than your steps.

    As far as I can see you do follow the right strategy, doing both, having lessons and going to milongas.

    At a milonga it is of minor importance to be a good dancer. It is important to be a pleasant dance partner on the floor and to be an entertaining conversational partner at the table. Simply widen the radius table by table without regard. I promise, soon your dance partner will be the one to wait.

    All the best so far!
    Mladenac likes this.
  4. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member


    This too.

    This part of the learning curve for the guy is named "the beginner's hell" for a reason.
    There is no way out but suffering in silence for a year or two. Then you'll feel more confident, while your partner will not be seen any more as a fresh blood by the other leaders.
    Tango Distance and Mladenac like this.
  5. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    Observe these types of people and don't be like them. That is the secret ;) The other thing is dress well. No jeans, ever.
  6. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    For men: no jeans, no sneakers, no"loud" t-shirts. For ladies: same + nice dancing shoes with some hills.
    The better you dress, the more likely you are to dance.
  7. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    I reserve the right to wear one of my two "DJ Spock" T-shirts. Though one of them is not loud at all, the other one is (but I tend to wear the loud one only when I DJ, when I only get dragged on the dance floor by consenting adults.)

    This is unloud, Captain (of course this is printed on the _back_):

    cornutt and Reuven Thetanguero like this.
  8. rain_dog

    rain_dog Active Member

  9. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    As for the original poster: try to find the milongas at which you like the vibe best. Stay after class, especially if there is a practica, and dance with your peers. Try to find "practicas" that are less formal and at which you'll come across your class peers and dance with them, expand your circle of dance partners, and slowly build up to 'proper' milongas.

    If you do stumble across a more formal setting where you don't know many people, dance first with your dance partner (so that other prospective dance partners can at least see you dance), separate (if you sit together between tandas people may assume you only want to dance together), and look at prospective dance partners.

    If you think a lady is a more experienced dancer than you and she does accept your invitation, _keep it simple_ and try to dance only what you do relatively well. These ladies will not be bored by someone who dance simply and well, but will be abhorred by someone dancing "mohves" that they don't master and can't lead well. Try to concentrate on expressing something in the music.
  10. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    As long as it isn't


    I shall feel free to ignore the advice ;-).

    Of course I only do that on home turf (which is a very informal milonga).
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
    twnkltoz and raindance like this.
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    My answer isn't what you'll want to hear, but I'm telling it like I see it.

    1) Develop thick skin. Expect to receive lots of rejections, but don't let it get you down, (I know, easier said than done). This is what guys have to deal with, especially in the beginning. Typically, beginners end up dancing with other beginners, (which is unfortunately not the best way to get better quickly).
    2) When you do get dances, expect lots of unsolicited (and contradictory advice). Take seriously the advice, when lots of women are saying the same thing.
    3) Non-crowded milongas tend to be more accepting of newbies, (and the floor craft / navigation) is easier too.
    4) Try practicas, as they tend to be a little more accepting of newbies, (but there's no guarantee anywhere).

    IMO, being a new/beginning leader at a milonga is very difficult, but sticking it out can (eventually) be very worthwhile.
    opendoor likes this.
  12. Peter78

    Peter78 New Member

    Thanks for all the advice so far.

    Honestly, to some degree it doesn't sound like the Tango scene is as "social" as the word "social dancing" implies (at least compared to some other interests like starting in a team sports for example), but I can understand from your responses that I'm at least not all alone with this sort of problems.

    Especially the very specific advices by sixela and dchester about selecting the right location and working out a strategy in these locations might be something I haven't really been thinking about by now.

    Still I'm wondering why this has to be the way it is?
    Shouldn't this lead to a lot of people leaving the community and therefore the dance (at least when a little younger than average)? I mean, when beginning leaders don't have enough opportunity to dance and learn, many will probably drop out after a while, right? And if the followers are then often mainly left with the sort of older, not really advanced leaders looking for young starters (and I haven't yet seen any unfamiliar actually advanced leader asking my dance partner or any other beginner for a dance, maybe because of what koinzell said above) wouldn't a lot of them loose interest as well after a while?

    Anyway, I'll take the advice given here and will try to evaluate different milongas for their suitability for beginners as well.
  13. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    You embrace a stranger for 12 minutes or so. You have to, since if it's truly going to be social you don't know him or her and you need to learn how you interpret the music (there aren't any set patterns). You invest a lot in it.

    So yes, that doesn't breed the same atmosphere as, say, salsa. And yes, in some communities the drop-out rate is high, especially for beginning leaders. The leaders have a much tougher job at first, having navigational responsibilities and deicsions to make that prevent them from just enjoying what comes. Mind you, the challenges for the followers do come as well, but they do come later (and by then they need very good leaders to properly express themselves and enjoy dancing).

    But really, a community with good practicas and in which the teachers manage to grow their pupils into a closely knit group of people who enjoy what they do and who have something to express with whatever technical means they have at their disposal (however limited they may be at first) does fix this. To keep people dancing it's actually more important for a teacher to foster a welcoming atmosphere and to teach people to enjoy dancing and to experience the joy in even their first bumbling tangos than it is for him or her to be skilled at teaching them technique.

    Yes. A community in which the teachers just give classes and everyone then scatters back home is destined to wither and die (in my experience).

    It's important for the teachers to play some music after classes (or to give a couple of CDs to whoever stays later if they want to leave early) so that people can continue to explore stuff with people they know (and hopefully appreciate as kindred sould on a shared journey) in a setting that is less daunting than a milonga.

    On the other hand, milongas are important too. You need to step out of your bubble (and your comfort zone) and discover new styles, new partners, and kindred communities as well. But they're less vital the first few years or so...

    Bottom feeders and long term beginners are the scourge of the follower novice and experienced alike. Mind you, as a leader you'll always be someone's long term beginner, or at least remain really incompatible with some people -- especially if you do not conform to a certain fashionable ideal.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
    itwillhappen likes this.
  14. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I invite more advanced follower mostly after some kind of eye contact during the milonga - greeting and chatting are eye contact.
    And I invite far more advanced follower only after immediate eye contact (mirada) and an affirmative nod (cabeceo).
    And for what it's worth: from day one to month fifteen now I got only very seldom a rejection that way.

    My advice for a couple:
    1) Come together, dance the first tanda together. Talk about how to signal if one would like to dance or to go home, maybe alone. Don't rely to much on a common last song or tanda (set of 3 or 4 similar songs) - that can go wrong.
    2) I suppose you as a beginner have enough stress if you dance every third tanda . And you can dance every third tanda with your partner. So consider carefully how strong is your motivation to dance more and who has the benefit.
    3) Move way from your partner at least before a tanda starts if you don't plan to dance with her. That time try an invitation you're comfortable with ... Go to the bar for a drink - for you, not your partner, so that you can stay and look around ... Leave for fresh air or the rest room ... Do something else.
    4) After the first song of a tanda ponder again whether a woman sitting around or your partner now would like to dance with you - or whether you simply like to watch the tango dancing.
    sixela likes this.
  15. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you don't have to dance every single tanda.

    Once you're old enough, you're not going to want to either.

    And not only because you don't like the music: I enjoy watching good dancers ("good" in that they tell a story, not necessarily because I'd give them a 10 on technical merit) on good music a lot too.

    It's just like music: playing an instrument is a very special act of subcreation, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy listening to a CD (or Spotify for y'all youngsters).
  16. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Hang in there! Despite being proximity-to-females challenged, I have found almost all the ladies have been very gracious about dancing with me. Here are a few TD (TM) ideas for you:
    • If "Mirada" and "Cabeceo" aren't 100% familiar to you Google on "Tango Cabeceo" and learn about them
    • I know you aren't supposed to interrupt a conversation, but it my area almost all the ladies talk in groups while they wait and you have to interrupt a conversation to ask them. They always say no problem, please do ask, I'm here to dance, etc. Caution: This might not be the etiquette in your area!
    • Ask the event organizer or one of the other men who they would recommend you ask
    • I have found some of the ladies will say yes but act a bit reluctant, but if I say something like "Hey I'm having a little trouble leading molinettes in both directions, do you mind if we try that?" they are suddenly very happy to dance to "help."
    • Be sure to thank and compliment your partner
    • If I sit near a lady men will suddenly start asking her -- walking past several ladies that have not danced yet that night to do so, asking someone I'm sitting next to that has not danced yet, either. I have even seen men that have been sitting out several songs or even tandas suddenly stand up and ask a lady when I sit next to her. This has happened too many times to be just random chance, although it might be subconscious behavior. I don't mind, as this generally happens when I'm waiting for DW or taking a break. If you want the dance, I suggest you ask right away, like sit down and say "May I have the honor of the next tanda" or something like that as you put on your shoes or whatever.
    • Obviously your partner should get your attention, however, if in the course of navigation you happen to notice a lady giving you a big smile she is a good candidate to ask.
    • If there is a severe man shortage (I have been at Milongas as bad as 8 women for every man), that is a good night to ask the expert dancers!
    • Divide the group: Ask the middlemost lady. This splits the group into two parts. If it is 3 or 4 ladies, then one of the parts is just one person and easier to ask.
    • This is not my idea, but it it seems to work. Work your way up. If there is a group of ladies, ask the least experienced one first. You bring her back, and she is all smiles and gushing about how great the tanda was -- this is good advertisement for your next ask, and they like that you made their friend happy. This is much better than asking the most experienced lady and getting a tepid "thanks" at the end.
    • Older ladies do not get asked as much that I have seen, but my experience is many of them are excellent followers.
    • Ask your lady friend to be sure to tell you if any lady complains about not getting dances or shows interest in you.
    Re: Tango culture. There are a small number of ladies in my area that will only dance with the most expert dancers, even if it means they get only 2 dances that night (sometimes both times with the same man!). I don't even bother asking them. I have not seen snobbery in Blues or Contra dancing, but I do see a little bit (< 5% of the ladies) in my local Tango scene.

    Your thoughts are interesting and could explain my area. For men my area is very heavily weighted towards old or very experienced dancers. There is a very poor conversion ratio from Tango student to Milonga attendee.

    FWIW I feel like I learn more in classes than I do at Milongas, I'd be surprised if beginner leaders dropped out because they felt they were not learning enough at Milongas.
  17. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Of course there might be an inner circle of highly experienced and active persons, and that can only exist with some kind of boundaries and delimitation. I perceive mostly a group of some older woman that work heavily on their social connections and tango technique to keep best dances at high-level-events.
    But I can register and dance there as an intermediate leader with a lovely intermediate follower by my side without all their tremendous effort.
    Maybe that I simply ignore some hidden rules - in that case they don't have to be really happy with that.
  18. JTh

    JTh Member

    I agree with the above..I am also a relatively newbie.. There is another post on another thread of what followers look for in a leader.. I can say it's very true.
  19. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    True. Look at the Youtube "Salsa vs tango" for an eye-opener dialog between two followers of the respective dances.

    Yes, we leaders here in this forum, are survivors. There is a pride in this, we belong to an elite of sorts.

    This dance has it that the ladies are very very quickly milonga-ready, sometimes in a matter of days. There are no really young starters, there are young followers.
    An advice such as "Discuss the matter with your partner and find some kind of agreement, maybe she will go on her own on certain days and when you go together then she will dance only with you" is not even necessarily a good one, as frustration and despair and injustice and betrayal are what the tango is all about. For the guy.
  20. Peter78

    Peter78 New Member

    Thanks for the additional advice.

    As my job involves frequent traveling all over Europe, I was hoping to one day being able to go to a milonga in a foreign city to just dance and have fun. Sounds a little like this is more something suitable for Salsa dancers, as Tango always seems to involve a lot of importance in some kind of social status and relationships? Unfortunately, I personally don't like Salsa music and don't feel the slightest connection to this sort of dance.

    Another thing that concerns me is the speed of progress in classes. I and my dance partner are younger than the average tango starters. I've also been doing ever since some sort of sports that need some degree of good coordination and balance as well, although not exactly the same as in dancing. In addition we go out more often (as described in this thread) than other beginners. That's why we already have less problems with the basics of leading and following while walking than most other beginners I've seen. I assume, this will continue in our upcoming course. Given, that the follower will probably be progressing faster to be able to dance with more advanced leaders, are there recommendations for accelerated learning as a leader in my case from your side? Could it make sense for example to start a course one level higher parallel to our upcoming course with a different partner once per week?

    @JTh: Could you please supply a link to this thread, you are talking about? I would be interested in reading it.

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