Ask Arlene…Lectures on the dancefloor?

Dear Arlene,

I was dancing with a good friend of mine and he suddenly decided to give me a lecture on the dance floor about an apparent fault of mine.  (I say apparent because I go to lots of lessons and am aware of what my faults are).   I wouldn’t have minded if he’d been diplomatic about it, or even if he was a more experienced dancer.   But he was quite rude, and he’s certainly not experienced or skilful enough a dancer to be giving so called advice.  If he wasn’t a friend I would have told him he was rude or walked away.  I’m very sensitive and feel very hurt.  Why do men do this?

Lesson Junkie

Dear Lesson Junkie,

Why men do anything is beyond me these days.  Some men behave like idiots and it hurts my brain too much to even contemplate why.  There are times when they speak that my head wants to explode.  For example:

I think I had been dancing about 3-6 months when I danced with someone more experienced than me at El Porteño, and after a couple of dances he told me I had no style!  I had already told him I was a beginner – and during the dance he insisted on repeating a move that I didn’t get and giving me a mini lesson on the dance floor!  Needless to say, I haven’t danced with him since, even though he had asked me a few times.  Now he is teaching Tango!  Go figure!  If I was a lesser woman, I probably would have put away my dance shoes and not gone back.   All I could think was that this guy was being an ass.  The weird thing is, I never said anything back to him.  I think I was in too much shock, which is unlike me as I usually have an answer for everything.  It was early days.

Some men can be really insensitive, arrogant, selfish, or they have such low self-esteem that they need to make someone else feel worse than they do.  Or maybe, goodness knows, they probably think they are actually being helpful.  I can only speculate as I am not a therapist.

There are also men out there who think they know how to lead a move and when the woman doesn’t respond in the way he expects might say something insensitive.  A wonderful lady I know told me in that instance she says, ‘That isn’t how I read it.’  How great is that?!

An experienced dancer should always dance to the level of the beginner and then bring them up by adding new things when the follower is comfortable.  If a woman doesn’t do a move the man asks her, there is usually a good reason for it.  Or maybe that isn’t how they read it.  If a man can’t be civil enough to enquire nicely about it, then they should just be quiet.

There have been occasions when my forward ochos have not been ideal.  One of my regular dance partners and I now have a running joke about whether or not I am in a forward ocho mood.  The first time it happened, my dance partner very sweetly said, “I guess you aren’t in a forward ocho mood.”  I smiled and told him ‘I guess not’.   Now, if it turns out that my forward ochos are leaving a lot to be desired, he just doesn’t ask me to do them – simple as that.  He is one smart guy.

Lesson Junkie, you don’t actually state what was said.  However, as far as any kind of rudeness is concerned, friend or not, I think it is important to honour ourselves and not put up with this type of behaviour.

I am a bit flummoxed for an appropriate response as there are a variety of things that could be said.  I would normally try to put the onus on the other person and ask them why they think it is appropriate for them to speak in the manner they did.  Or you could say to them: “When you say such and such, this is how I feel.  I would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything and just dance with me.”   Complaint with a solution.  If they don’t get it, then maybe you need to distance yourself from them for awhile until they do.  If they are really a true friend, they would surely try to make amends.

There are a lot of women out there that put up with undesirable dancing and behaviour in order to have a dance.   Surely there are more important things to consider, such as being given the respect and consideration that you deserve.  After all, is dancing really more important than honouring oneself?

I do not think it is good thing to criticise the dancing skills of the person you are dancing with unless asked, and that must be done with absolute tact.  If you don’t like the way someone dances, don’t dance with them.  But be careful about being rude, some people actually improve and when they do, you won’t get a second chance.

As my momma used to say, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Jan 20, 2009 @ 04:05:12

    I used to have a great partner when I first started tango. Her name was Pascale. In those kind of circumstances, waiting in an ocho position (back leg bent, front leg straight), she would just say to the guy lecturing her: “Why don’t you just LEAD?!?!”, thus making sure the incompetent moron would not ask her again for a dance if he did not want to improve. Needless to say she was French…..You need a Latin approach.

  2. Caroline
    Jan 20, 2009 @ 18:56:10


    I have 2 different types of experience of teaching on the dance floor: good one and bad one ;-).
    In the case of good one, it was from a dancer that I really appreciate to dance with: for his good attitude and clean lead. So when he was making me repeat a move it was not bothering me since I was also asking him for repeating certain moves.
    It really depend of the attitude.
    In the case of the bad experience the dancer was , excuse me my French, but a prick so it was just extending to the dance floor …

    Andy, lol. I’m French myself and right now I’m refraining myself to blur something inappropriate … like the truth … because I reach my limit of tolerance for bad lead.

  3. Charl
    Jan 21, 2009 @ 12:57:44

    Every follower, or at least most, have experienced this. There have been times, in my case, that if I persist in not getting the lead, he would ‘endure’ the dance with me until the track ends and won’t ask me to dance with him again. This is annoying because there isn’t enough leaders out there as it is and you get these self-proclaimed maestros who, whether because it was a bad lead or an inexperienced follower, refuses to ask you again. On the other hand, there are those who will simply stop trying when they sense that the follower isn’t doing the move according to his plan. Giving you the chance to still enjoy the dance.

  4. Raquel
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 15:52:32

    It is frowned upon to talk AT ALL in the milongas in Buenos Aires. It is also given that the man offers a move and the lady accepts and interprets as she likes and within the limits of her skills, her energy and her mood. He in turn should be able to cope with her interpretation and so the dance goes on.
    There are always a thousand possibilities for what to do next. Anyone who has to tell you out loud what he is leading by definition has not led it… and anyone who cannot adapt his dance to that of his/her partner should probably try line dancing, which is more mechanical and predictable.
    There are very few men in London who can lead Tango well but a huge number who think they are the business!
    We all have faults, some persist after years whether we try to address them or not. The key to dancing good Tango lies in the grace to share the give and take and enjoy the experience.
    The response to your ‘friend’ might be “tell you what, you lead and I’ll follow. Maybe we’ll get it right next try, if not let’s just keep going and come back to this in a class or a practica where it might be appropriate.”

  5. julia
    Jan 25, 2009 @ 22:39:40

    unrelated but recurring subject SHOES.
    I want to buy some GretaFlora shoes. I like the look of them and what I have read about them. How do they compare (if you can compare them, to Comme Il Faut (which I have). I haven’t heard much about them?

  6. Voice of Reason
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 18:18:24

    Dear Arlene,

    I often dance with beginners amongst the women I ask. I don’t particularly discriminate. Some are very good and some are very bad but everyone starts somewhere. It has been the case where I have asked women to adjust their posture or hold, as they are knocking or pulling me off balance (and that is quite difficult). I have also had women apologising for their lack of skill and I simply try to re-assure them. In some instances when they are really struggling to do even a basic step I may ask them if they want me to show them away from the dance floor. I feel awkward doing this and I would only do this if they were unable to get around the floor. Lessons are really important but not on the dancefloor.

    I have noticed your ocho’s Arlene. However, when I have danced with you they have never got in the way of you feeling comfortable in your movement. I think it is because you have learned a lot about how the body should move and how muscles work.


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