Tango Argentino > Isn't Tango appropriate for married men or women ?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Green, Oct 20, 2006.

  1. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    I just learned that the etiquette in the United States (and I presume Europe) has been for married people to switch partners for 300 years or more for ballroom dances.

    My understanding may not be perfect, feel free to correct me, but from what I have read married people generally don't switch partners at Buenos Aires Milongas. Friends of mine have told me stories that when they did Tango tourism to BA they would pretend to not be married to each other to the point of showing up at a Milonga at different times, and would ignore each other at the Milonga, or the locals would not dance with them.

    So if my understanding is right, the question that comes to mind is how and why did the cultures diverge in that regard? What are the ground rules for married men or women to be doing Tango with people besides their spouses?

    BTW, no slam is intended towards JanTango or my friends -- I'm just interested in understanding the cultural differences. As long as I'm on a roll here, people that have been to BA with their spouse: Did you have to enter Milongas at different times and ignore your spouse? Perhaps things like that just trying to put an adventurous twist on Tango by the dance schools?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Also in BsAs you can find different styles and different settings. Usually a part of the tables in a venue is reserved for couples or groups. Cabeceo isn't used in that part of the room, but you are free to go up there, introduce yourself, and ask verbally for a dance.
  3. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Depends on how formal the milonga is. But even in formal milongas they do still switch partners; they just indicate by the way they are seated whether they are to be taken as a couple with a do-not-disturb sign or as two singletons who are OK to invite even though they are married to each other. There are sometimes even transition forms (three couples at one table who'll dance with each other's partners but not mix with the singletons).
    jantango likes this.
  4. Vincenze

    Vincenze Member

    Why do you think it's different anywhere else?

    A man doesn't approach a woman who came with a partner, sits with him, and dances only with him.
    But it's super easy for her partner to leave and whisper to a good male dancer pointing at her, "Could you dance with her?"
  5. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    300 years is stretching it. Social dancing was a way to meet a prospective spouse. My parents met at a ballroom in Chicago and married three years later in 1941.

    Locals who are married go out on Saturday night to dance. They sit together and dance only with each other. No one approaches the table to invite one of them.

    It's true that foreign couples opt to enter a milonga separately and sit separately to dance with locals. Otherwise, they could stay home and dance with each other. It's not about pretending they're not married; the point is being seated in a "singles" section of the milonga to dance with others. If couples sit in the "couples" section, they are ignored by singles. It's usually obvious to the locals who is with whom as soon as a foreign couple dances a tanda together. If they look like they know each other, everyone can see it. Your every move is carefully watched in the milongas of BA. I'll attest to that after 18 years living in BA.

    I don't know your cultural background, but the only way to understand the culture surrounding tango and the milongas is by living here and talking with locals. I accept things as they are. My opinion doesn't matter if I want to dance. The cabeceo has been around since the 1940s because it works. There is a milonguero code of respect. That means, no dancing with another man's woman. That rule is bending with the constant wave of tourism. Tango is the only social dance which allows two strangers intimacy for ten minutes. If foreign women didn't appreciate the differences in BA, they wouldn't be traveling every year at great expense. Argentines love their tango. The milongueros love dancing tango. The best way they can share that love is by dancing with the foreigners who come to Buenos Aires. We write about tango on this forum, but the milongueros feel it.

    If you and your spouse want to sit together at a milonga and dance exclusively with each other, that is your decision. However, if you make the journey to BA to learn more about the culture surrounding tango and experience the feeling of tango, then you sit separately or go to different milongas. That's the only way to get a clear picture of the milonga culture in BA.
    c955 and itwillhappen like this.
  6. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Where did you ever get this idea?

    There is a reason for a couples' section at a milonga -- to be left alone.
    sixela likes this.
  7. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    somewhat agree - though somebody who is just watching a milonga without knowing anybody might get this impression - sure, there are people walking around and chatting at those tables, but these are usually friends who stop by their friends tables and chat a bit (and sometimes (rarely in my experience) dance) - this is quite far from an invitation for strangers to walk up, introduce themselves and ask for a dance.
    sixela likes this.
  8. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    I did it that way in BsAs, most likely in the same milongas you attend. I´ve always been welcomed and I always was asked to come over there and to sit down and stay at these tables !
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
  9. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Of course you can do it that way - but i think it is important to know what context one is moving when one doing this. A american equivalent would be joining other peoples table at a restaurant - in the majority of cases people will welcome you, and you will have a great time, but if somebody asked me about this i would not claim that it is customary to share tables at american restaurants.
    opendoor likes this.
  10. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Thanks opendoor, sixela, and jantango for the responses. Part of the fun of Tango is learning about a different culture. I think it has been clarified for me:
    • A BaAs milonguero will never ask a lady who is seated with another man
    • Often, but not necessarily, BaAs milongueros will dance just with their spouse
    • Couples sit apart if they want to dance with someone besides their spouse or date
    My question was more do married people dance with others in BaAs like they do in the USA. My friends had left me with the impression you had to pretend to not be married to dance with others in BaAs. Segueing to your question, I can only speak for my little area. Sadly, I think etiquette needs a little work in my area, so yes, Vincenze, I think it is different in my area!

    There are a few men that were surprisingly aggressive about asking my wife to dance. We would be walking hand-in-hand onto the dance floor and a guy would ask her; this happened multiple times. Once I even had both arms around my DW and a guy asked her! Another time we had just started dancing and a guy asked her! She would say yes to them. For the record I would be seated apart from DW most of the night, so it was not a case they had no chance to ask her away from me. After some reading, I realized it was promoting bad etiquette, not to mention DW was making me do the "walk of shame" sometimes. Interestingly, the USA men did this shamelessly. The men from South America at least had the decency to look guilty when they did it. An irony is the two worst offenders (USA) are always going on about the codigos of BaAs and how they need to be followed! I asked her to please not accept invitations when she was beside me -- that we should sit apart to make it clear when she was available. This has worked well, and is a reason why I'm a fan of couples sitting apart if they want to dance with others -- it is a very clear signal. An aside, this behavior occurred with an excess of females -- it wasn't anywhere near the case where a man needed to be very aggressive to hope to get a dance from one of the few ladies present.

    These men have mostly learned, but one man is still aggressive, needlessly so in my opinion. I have seen him sit through several Tandas, ignoring several ladies who are very good and have not danced yet, to ask DW as soon as she was free. He'll also regularly try to ask her for the last Tanda, even if he has been sitting for a long time, and it should be obvious by now that we finish the night together. BTW, if I sit by a lady he'll often quick ask her -- even if he has been sitting out for a long time, and/or there are several ladies that have not danced yet (but the lady has). The only positive spin I have been able to put on it is perhaps he feels like he is rescuing these ladies from a boring dance with the Tango Distance. There are other behaviors I won't get into!
  11. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    My mistake, I should have typed 200 years. Anyway, here is what I found online:

    Usually a married couple do not dance together in society, but it is a sign of unusual attention for a husband to dance with his wife, and he may do so if he wishes.
    All of these quotes are from Prof. Clendenen's fashionable quadrille book and guide to etiquette. (1895)

    In “The Laws of Etiquette; Or, Short Rules and Reflections for Conduct in Society” written in 1836 in the US by a Gentleman there’s this paragraph:

    If you accompany your wife to a dance, be careful not to dance with her. Such are some of the canons of the ball.

    So it appears as of 181 years ago it was established enough to be in an etiquette book that polite men were expected to dance with ladies other than their wives. Of course, the U.S.A. is a varied place, and this was for ballroom dance, so I'm sure there was a wide variation in customs.

    So it appears it was discouraged for men to dance with their wives in the U.S.A. It looks like BaAs evolved a culture where it is perfectly acceptable for a man to only dance with his wife. I was curious how/why the cultures diverged.
    Many thanks for the education!
    Would this work: Tango Distance sits by himself in the couples section, and my DW sits in the singles section? I assume then I wouldn't get any invites and my wife would get some? Or would I get ejected from the couples section? (Jan and others I know you are all cringing. Don't worry, I don't expect to go to BaAs for a long time, if ever. I know my DW would think it the greatest thing ever, but for me I don't think it would be fun to go to different Milongas or avoid dancing with her.) It has been fun to learn about the culture, though, so many thanks to all for the education.
  12. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    I would not take a bet on this one.
    Let's say the place is a BsAs milonga, let's say there are only portenos/nas and one young couple of just married tourists, sitting together hand in hand. Now let's ask, say Jantango, if she's absolutely positive that no invite will ever be issued.
  13. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Only positive claims need a proof - bad ones get believed immediately. :cool:
  14. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    (Sorry, not Jantango) ..the problem with the said situation is her double-binding: i.e doing the miranda while holding hands...
  15. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Nice one.
  16. Vincenze

    Vincenze Member

    I don't understand your problems.

    If your wife has accepted invitations of a guy, he will try to invite again and again. There can be other women, but it can be more exciting to dance with your wife.

    Guys usually don't approach a woman sitting with her husband or partner because she will almost always say "No".
  17. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    You'd get a lot of baffled looks. That is, unless you baffle the organiser enough so that he or she refuses to seat you there (at a formal milonga). But why would you need to go and sit at the couples table? You can always read a book if you're not interested in catching some miradas (although your chances of getting a good seat for the singles section next time you come will, of course, be slim to none), or hang out at the bar.

    Unless you are there to meet friends and sit at a table for couples with another couple you know (i.e. ask if they mind if you join X or Y) -- then people will indeed assume that you're there to chat with them _until_ you either move to the singles area or are joined by your wife at that table.
  18. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Quite the reverse, my post was "problem solved!" It was a triumph, a celebration of Tango etiquette, and a newer couple getting better at yet another aspect of Tango.

    The biggest problem, and the one that prompted me to research it and ask DW to apply the etiquette, were the two men from South America. If I was standing next to or seated next to my DW, they clearly were very troubled. They wanted to ask her really badly, but apparently realized they weren't doing it right, but this is the U.S.A. with a confusing mix of social rules... They would literally start walking up, look really worried and back away, and repeat this several times! The body language was very clear, these poor gentlemen felt guilty about how they were asking. Asking my DW to dance should be a fun experience. So I read up here and elsewhere about Tango etiquette, and learned about how sitting apart sends a clear signal your spouse is available. We now do this and we don't have any more guilty looking men.

    This actually spilled over into my relationship with one of the men. He acted afraid of me, and if I tried to engage him in conversation, he would give the shortest possible answers and leave as soon as he could. After DW didn't accept mirada/cabeceo when with me, and we sat apart to indicate readiness to circulate, this gentleman relaxed and now I consider him a friend, and our conversations flow easily.

    I just found it ironic and an interesting anecdote that the two men from the U.S.A. go on and on about how everyone should do things the BaAs way, but didn't follow it in this aspect. Not a problem in the scheme of things, and I realize the U.S.A. is a mishmash of cultural conventions.

    Finally, yes DW was a Tango newbie that didn't know all the etiquette. Yes, she is obviously very desired as a dance partner. A subtext to my post was empathizing with the ladies here on DF that complain guys will preferentially ask younger and beautiful ladies, even if they are not very good dancers. It is sad to observe a guy waiting upon my beautiful DW for several tandas and not take that opportunity to give a nice dance to any of several ladies that have been sitting (who are often better dancers than my DW).
    raindance likes this.
  19. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Thanks for the clarification. I was curious if the couples area doubled as an "I'm taking a rest" area -- apparently that is not the case!
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    That is one of the wonderful things about the cabeceo - it requires active participation by both prosepctive dancers. If you are not cabeceoing, you are not cabeceoing. It is no problem to sit at your table on the side of the dancefloor, have some snack and wine, and rest.
    Well, if you don't dance at all over the evening you are probably going to get no/a worse table the next time you go to that milonga.

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