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!


The Dome Xmas Party 2008

the-dome1Having arrived at The Dome just after 9:30, I was surprised to see how crowded the dance floor was already.  But then I remembered that David Benitez and Kim Schwartz had been giving the lesson earlier.  They are obviously very popular.  Everyone I spoke with that took the lesson said that they enjoyed it.   They also gave us a lovely performance later in the evening, and as usual, it was a pleasure watching them dance together.

The dance floor was very busy all evening, as to be expected on a party night – and  Punto y Branca, the DJ from Buenos Aires, did a great job of keeping the dance floor full.  There was a nice little Salsa break and I was fortunate enough to find a dance partner and use other parts of my body that don’t normally move when dancing Tango.  While taking time to recover from the Salsa dancing, I couldn’t help thinking how I ever managed to dance a whole evening like that years ago!

There was some lovely food laid out for us as well and that disappeared almost as quickly as it had arrived!  I had eaten earlier, so I just admired it from afar.  There were also mince pies and fruit set out on the tables – the polo mints were a nice touch!

I did my usual round of dancing and socialising – fluttering around the room.   There were so many people that I hadn’t seen in awhile, and so I ended up chatting more than dancing.

I had an interesting conversation about floorcraft, a topic that always seems to come up at every Milonga.  As the floor was particularly busy, it was difficult to avoid the odd bump and kick here and there.  I must say that I prefer the staying on the edge and moving in the line of dance school of thought.  However, a new one was mentioned to me – the having spatial awareness school of thought.  Interesting as that may sound, I don’t believe that there are very many out there with spatial awareness – so the jury is still out for me on that one.

I prefer to dance with my eyes closed and enjoy the music if that is possible, but on really busy evenings, if my eyes are closed, it could be because I am too scared to see what is going on behind my dance partner.  I figure if I have to keep my eyes open to safeguard my partner’s back, then I might as well sit out.  It just ruins the whole experience for me as I can’t be fully in the moment.  These days, I have come to appreciate the quality of dancing over quantity.  So I was just as happy to listen to the music and had an enjoyable evening.

Things eased up on the floor after midnight when people left to make the last train or for other personal reasons.  This is when the music got a bit funkier and there were a few fun and unusual tracks that were played before it went back to being traditional.

I didn’t stay until the very end, but I managed pretty close.  I think Carolina and her team created a great party atmosphere and I look forward to seeing them again in the New Year.

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