Ask Arlene…What makes a good dancer?

Hi Arlene,

On a different subject; who are the best male dancers around?  Are they all South American or do some of the Limey’s get a look in?  What makes a good lead apart from the hygiene issues and attractiveness?  In short is there really a market for the less aesthetically blessed?  I am afflicted with a bald patch and I am over forty.  Also my six pack has now become a party pack.  Is there any hope for me in tango?


Dear Tanguero,

It is generally known that the Latin men are more forward in there attention (intention?) to women and that Englishmen are a bit more reserved.  However, with some careful thought and consideration, I do not see why the English male ‘couldn’t get a look in’ as you say.

When I am asked what the difference is between dancing with an Englishman and the Latins (Spanish, Italian, South American) I say:  “My feeling is that when an Englishman holds a woman in his arms, he is usually a bit stiff and will hold the woman a little bit away from him or in an open embrace.  I am thinking that he is thinking, “I have a woman in my arms!  Oh my goodness, what do I do with her?! – When a Latin man holds a woman in his arms, he holds her close, in a firm and protective embrace.  I am thinking that he is thinking, “Ah, I have a woman in my arms!  What shall I do with her?  Hmm!”

When it comes to dancing, I can assure you that looks aren’t everything – if that were so, and people only danced with each other because they found the other attractive, the dance floor would be practically empty or the women would only be dancing with each other.  Look at all of those old Milongueros one hears about.  Most of them are past middle age with paunches and bald patches, yet they still are dancing with lovely ladies.  Part of it might be because they are good dancers, but any woman with self-respect wouldn’t dance with a man if he wasn’t respectful and considerate, regardless of how good a dancer he was.

Which brings us to another question – is it only a matter of technique that makes someone a good dancer?  There is a man that I love to dance with that doesn’t have the best technique, but he has great musicality, he smells great, and when he is dancing with me – he is dancing with me.  He isn’t English or Latin.  I have danced with a few Englishmen who are skilled dancers, hold me nicely, and I felt that they were dancing with me.  I have recently danced with an Argentinean – skilled and clean smelling as he was, and although the dancing was very nice, I still felt there was something lacking as I didn’t feel he was really with me.  For me, the feeling between two people on the dance floor is the most important thing.  I would rather dance with a beginner who was charming, clean and had some musicality, than with someone who was skilled, clean and had the personality of a wet dishrag.

I have been told by a number of men that dancing Tango is all about the woman.  It is the leader’s responsibility to protect the woman.  To make her feel comfortable he must dance at her level and slowly bring her up to see what she can do.  By doing that she can relax and not worry about what is going to be asked of her. He takes his time with her and doesn’t rush her.  It is his responsibility to make her look good – and when she looks good, he looks good.  When he gives to her in this way, she is happy to give back, and then two can become one, on the dance floor.  Well, that certainly works for me!

A very good English friend of mine, not the handsomest of gentleman, has a really beautiful and intelligent wife and people often wonder how he ever managed to be with someone so lovely.  Well, he is the most charming man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He once said to me, “Arlene, I know I am an ugly man, but I just love and adore women.”  After being in his company for a while, one forgets about his looks as he is so charming, intelligent, witty, and the sweetest of men.  At dinner parties, all of the women want to sit next to him and the men really like him as he is just a  really nice guy.  You always feel good being in his company.

So, in answer to who the best male dancers are, I think they are the ones that have musicality, they don’t try to be too tricky with their moves, are clean and smell good, are really considerate, sweet and engage with their dance partner.

As for there being any hope for you in Tango, of course there is!  Just trade that bald patch into a sign of virility, the party pack into something comfortable and cuddly, that over 40 bit into experience and maturity, and use that English charm we hear so much about but see very little of these days, and you will be dancing away in no time!

Happy Dancing!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The voice of reason
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 21:35:16

    Thank you Arlene. I can look forward to the future with the comfort and reassurance of this article. I was expecting you to name some names though.
    VOR x

  2. Arlene
    Dec 25, 2008 @ 16:26:23

    Dear Voice,
    It will never happen.

  3. Mr Milonga
    Feb 11, 2009 @ 22:24:58

    Dear VoR,

    I found your question to be an interesting one. Just because the dance originates from Argentina, there seems to be an extra cache the Argentines carry around with them simply because they are from the home of tango.

    For me the best dancers are those who can make the three connections – to the music, to their partner and to the floor. If you can’t interpret the music then the dance is unlikely to be harmonious. If you don’t listen to your partner, then the hallowed tango ‘connection’ is unlikely. And if you’re not connected to the floor then it is likely that your partner is in for a bumpy ride.

    Personal hygiene should be a given.

    I think the Argentines might shade the overall ‘best dancer’ title at the moment, but times are changing. As English people become more familiar and comfortable with the dance – less worried about steps and getting it ‘right’, the standard will inevitably rise.

    Many Argentinians suffer from some very bad habits. Poor posture and selfishness being two very common ones. A lot of Englishmen suffer from impatience. They want to be maestros before they’ve mastered leading the cross, and in many cases are unwilling to put in the time and work into getting better.

    How often have you been to a class where there have been more men than women? Not often I bet?

    By the sounds of it VoR, you’ve got the right attitude towards the dance. I’m sure there are many Argentinians who could learn from you!

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