Ask Arlene…Why do I say no to a dance?

Dear Arlene,

Thank you for your reply and your honesty which I appreciate greatly.

Surely if a woman decides not to dance with a man it would only compound the problem if the man demands a reason for her refusal? Surely you cannot be condoning what could turn out to be an uncomfortable confrontation?

As you have so kindly set up this forum which embraces honest exchanges of views, surely this blog is the perfect arena to discuss tango etiquette and issues?

As you so rightly point out you do not have to answer to me – or any other leaders out there. I can assure you when I asked you to dance I did so with politeness and sincerity. But I would respectfully like to ask what reasons you might have for saying ‘no’ to a dance, as I and I’m sure many of the other leaders who regularly read these pages could learn much from your comments.

Rightly or wrongly I believe that everyone who enters a milonga has made an unwritten agreement to dance as well as they can while they are there. Would you not agree with this? Or is it acceptable not to try?

From Mr. Milonga

The above is in response to my response to a previous comment from Mr. Milonga on the Ask Arlene page.  While I will be outlining my reasons for refusing a dance, I am sure that my reasons are not exclusive and are shared by many women.

When I first started to learn to dance Argentine Tango, I danced with anyone and everyone.  I was a slut for Tango.  I never said ‘no’ to a dance.  As far as I was concerned at the time, it was part of Paying My Dues. I danced with the good, the bad, the ugly, the smelly and the creepy.

After awhile, I would sometimes say ‘no’ to a dance.  I have been actively encouraged by more experienced dancers to be selective.  Actually, I don’t just say ‘no’.  I usually say ‘no, thank you’ with a smile.  Before I go into my reasons for saying ‘no’, I will start off by saying that I don’t have to give any reasons.  I am a grown woman and can do whatever I want to do.  Just because we are all at a Milonga, that doesn’t mean I have to dance with you and vice versa.   If a woman says ‘no’, then just accept it and move on.  Don’t argue with her.  No means no; and that is that, end of story.

I will say ‘no, thank you’ to people I do not want to dance with and I am usually very nice about it.  The only time I might not be so nice about it is if someone starts to argue with me about not dancing with them.  I won’t argue.  I don’t owe you an explanation, but if you ask me, I will tell you.  I don’t have issues with confrontation.  People know where they stand with me.  Not all women are like me and prefer to make excuses and will avoid confrontation.  As I don’t know who Mr. Milonga is, I cannot answer why I said ‘no’ to him and I don’t know why he is making an issue about it here.  I told him if he wanted to know why I said ‘no’ to him then he should ask me next time he sees me.  Judging from the last two paragraphs of his previous comment, it is highly unlikely I will be changing my mind soon.  Any man that ‘demands’ to know why a woman won’t dance with him deserves the answer he gets and it is probably indicative as to why she said ‘no’ in the first place.  If a man asks nicely and doesn’t try to embarrass her in front of others, then he should receive an honest and polite answer.

There are many reasons why I would say ‘no, thank you’ to a dance.  I may not like the way you are dancing.  I might not like the way you are asking me.  You may have been rude to me.  You may have BO, BB or are sweaty.  You might be a beginner and I might not be in the mood to be dancing with a beginner.  I just may not like you.  It just may not feel right to me.   I may be trying to avoid eye contact with you and yet you may still come up to me to ask me for a dance.  ‘No, thank you’ is a definite no.  If I keep turning you down and you really have to know why, just ask and I will tell you.  Just make sure you really want to know the reason.

If I don’t like the music, but I like to dance with you or would like to dance with you, then I will tell you that I am not crazy about this music, how about later. ‘Later’ is not ‘no’ –  later means later.

I am not crazy about dancing to a Milonga as the first dance with strangers.  I will usually ask to wait for a Tango.  That also means ‘later’.

Sometimes I am taking a break.  If I say that I am taking a break, then that also means ‘later’.

I really do not like to dance in the middle of or near the end of a song.  I will sometimes do this, but I really do not like it.  I have asked men to wait until the song is finished and they have gone and found someone else.  I don’t dance with them.

If I am tired, I will tell you that I am tired.  Sometimes I like to go to a Milonga just to get out of the house and listen to the music and have a dance or two with some men that I really like to dance with and socialise the rest of the evening.  Sometimes it might be the end of the evening and I am too tired to dance but don’t want to leave yet.  Not everyone goes to a Milonga to dance, see my last post.

The men that are my friends, or that know me, usually don’t have a problem with me if I don’t want to dance and the same goes for me with them.  That is because we are friends and we communicate with each other off the dance floor as well as on the dance floor.  We know where we are with each other and know that if we don’t dance tonight, we might dance together another time.  Since we also dance with other people, we may not be able to fit everyone in, especially if there are visitors we may want to dance with too.

I have accepted dances from men that I don’t know or that I haven’t had an opportunity to watch.  Sometimes it is good and sometimes not.  If I say ‘yes’ to a dance, I have to accept my decision and see it through.  If I didn’t enjoy it, I will say ‘no, thank you’ next time.

Rather than having to say ‘no, thank you’ to a dance, I usually try to avoid eye contact.  Some men don’t read body language very well and will insist on coming up to you even if you avoid eye contact and are having a conversation with the person next to you.  I really like using cabeceo as a means of asking for a dance.  .

A few weeks ago, a man asked me to dance that I did not want to dance with.  I was enjoying a conversation with a young man and tried to avoid eye contact, but this man came up to us and still asked me.  I said ‘no, thank you’ and thought that would be the end of it.  He said something else to me about dancing and I told him that I was having a conversation.  Still not letting it go, the man said something else, but I really couldn’t hear him very well and just ignored him.  To put it politely, that sort of thing really annoys me.

I don’t make excuses to people for not dancing with them.  I am not one of those women.  I will not tell you that I don’t like this song only to be found dancing with someone else to that same song.  I won’t tell you that I am having a break and be dancing a moment later.  If you ask me for a dance and I say ‘no, thank you’ and you see me dancing with someone else, well, it is because I didn’t want to dance with you.

I like to choose who I dance with.  I usually prefer to be asked and I will let you know if I want to dance.  I may try to catch your eye so you can ask me or so I can ask you.  If you are not paying attention, I may have to reposition myself in order for you to catch my eye.  I prefer to be asked by cabeceo.  I can tell if someone that I would like to dance with is not interested.  I have always used cabeceo with men before I ever started dancing or knew what cabeceo meant.  It is a handy dating tool!  The men here are not very good at eye contact or reading body language.  I might have to give some lessons on that.

Sometimes, when the Milonga is really busy and crowded and I just can’t get the eye of the one I want, I will walk up to them and chat them up for a dance.  It usually works well with strangers that I want to dance with or people I have seen but haven’t had the opportunity to get close to them to talk to before.  Sometimes one has to be bold.  I am not ashamed to say that I did this recently.  I had some really lovely dances and even managed that Tango Feeling!  I went home after that on a high.

Women talk to each other about who the good dancers are.  Good doesn’t mean the most experienced.  There are good beginners out there that are going to be Really Good Dancers.  I tell them to look on the dance floor and may point out a couple of good examples of what I look for.  I tell women that it is ok to say ‘no’.  We say ‘no’ to other things in life.  If it isn’t right for you, just say ‘no’.  If the men don’t like it, they just have to try harder.

I am grateful to every man who has ever danced with me (the good and the bad) as it has made me a better dancer.  And to every man who will dance with me in the future, I say ‘Thank You’.

32 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Voice of Reason
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 22:56:55

    Not particularly encouraging Arlene.
    What about the poor bloke or woman who lives for the milonga just for the human contact with another warm body. I don’t mean this in the creepy sense. I mean the spiritual connection they get from the physical contact. Surely what they need is an understanding that the protocal is always to say yes at least for one dance.
    The norm being three. After all its just a dance not a trip outside to their mobile love nest.

    What we really need is a way of knowing there are people who will dance with every one even good dancers.

    Let the love flow.


  2. Voice of Reason
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 23:05:12

    PS. You are welcome. Thank you for all the dances we have had. I think you know who I am.

    VOR x

  3. tango totty
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 23:33:52

    Hi Arlene

    Totty here! After reading your blog I am now really alarmed at the subtleties of being asked to dance. Anyway Arlene never mind about US! I think it’s the men WE ask to dance we need to worry about. With the tango laws of supply and demand far favouring the men (whether they can dance or not) and their penchant for the more fresh faced tits and arse, Ive got an idea – LETS CALL ON ALL THE LONDON MILONGAS TO BRING BACK THE OLD DANCE CARD SYSTEM.

    Another idea I have is the badge system. Do you think that we should be given out badges at the entry to the milonga ranking our tango position:

    • Expert Teacher from Buenos Aires (Hey too many women, too little time) badge
    • Teacher from London (Im blagging it) badge
    • Very Good Dancer (Hey Ive paid my tango dues – I know where I am and what I want) badge
    • Very Good Dancer cos my partners an Argentine tango teacher (and Ive had loads of free lessons) badge
    • Tango Nuevo (Im shit at the music but Im so flexible I can kick my own arse) badge
    • 2 years (ok steps aren’t important – it’s the music and the feeling) badge
    • 1 year (Ive just been to Buenos Aires to see what all the fuss is about. Im still not that good but haven’t worked it out yet cos Im still too busy thinking you’re all crap here) badge
    • 6 months (ok Im now a tango whore – ill dance with anyone and everyone and your all Tangasmic!!!!!) badge
    • Beginner –(Im a tango virgin – take me gently – don’t hurt me!) badge

    Perhaps we could have it like the Irish dancing where people wear medals to denote their tango standard. I think that this would be really helpful because everyone could look at the badges to find their level.

    What do you think ?

  4. Mr Milonga
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 00:54:40

    Dear Arlene,

    I seem to have stirred up quite a hornets nest with my question.

    I’ve read your reply several times as well as VoR and Tango Totty’s comments.

    There seems to be many possible reasons why you might refuse a dance and you have my full admiration for giving a very frank reply.

    I think VoR made a very important point. I dance tango because I enjoy interpreting the music, feeling a connection with my partner and engaging in an active conversation of ebb and flow through the dance. I have enjoyed thrilling dances with all sorts of women, young and old, fat and thin, smelling of heaven or reeking of B.O. I’ve danced with them all

    I don’t discriminate. Just like VoR I believe it is important to enter into the spirit of the evening grant three dances to anyone who would like to dance with me.

    I was enthused by VoR’s comments because he appears to be a supporter of tango protocol, which if everyone subscribed to it would make many milongas much happier, friendlier places.

    Tango Totty made a fine point with her dance card idea. I would welcome such a system in the milongas of London.

    Sadly the amount of time someone has been dancing is no gauge to how well they can dance. Maybe Tango Totty’s badge system should be like the ASA Swimming Badge system.

    Elementary survival – I can do the basic step with cross

    Bronze medal – I can successfully lead or follow forward and back ochos and half a giro

    Silver medal – I can lead or follow a full giro, forward secada and volcada

    Gold medal – I have good musicality, can lead or follow a back secada, colgada, dance milonga on the beat without getting a nose bleed…

    I echo VoR’s words – Let The Love Flow

    Mr Milonga

  5. Voice of Reason
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 01:01:52

    Hey Totty

    I like it. What about the I’m only going to dance with you if you have a better badge – badge.
    I too would be interested in a badge sytem. However who decides what badge you get? Is it something you request at the door? would we need validation from someone?

    Is there an option for a danger badge which can be awarded to poor leaders. Perhaps there should be someone or a group who oversea the badges at each milonga. At UK race courses there are stewards who have authority. Who should be the stewards in milonga’s and do they get a different badge? Should we have this?
    What say you Arlene?

  6. Mr Milonga
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 09:41:41

    Dear Voice of Reason,

    What about a ‘TangoWiki’? An online database where one can research various dancers, their likes, dislikes and various foibles?

    The Wiki would be useful in giving an up-to-date appraisal of how each dancer is viewed not only by their competence on the dancefloor, but also by their attitude towards other dancers?

    Do you think this could possibly work Arlene?

  7. Evie Abat
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:51:12

    I don’t think a TangoWiki would work, Mr. Milonga. The choice in partners is such a personal thing. I may love dancing with a gent, but, for whatever reason, another woman may hate it. Maybe he’s too tall; his hands sweat; he’s too skinny; he’s too fat; he’s not available to date. Who knows.

    When I go to a milonga for 2 hours (which is a really short time to squeeze in a couple of tandas), I want to make sure these are dances that I will enjoy. This is MY time to dance and to share myself with someone with whom I know will enjoy himself with me. Frankly, there are men who are perfectly nice guys who just aren’t good dancers. So, my choice is: a) dance with them because they’re nice guys so I could spread the love b) not dance with them because I really want to be able to have a CHOICE in how I want to spend my 2 hours.

    The truth is, at least here in Buenos Aires, the milonga isn’t a charity. This is a cold, cruel fact. People are there to either pick up other people and/or to dance with the partners who make them feel beautiful on the dance floor. This is why most teachers, when they’re at a milonga, don’t like dancing with their students. Why? Because they want to enjoy themselves; they want to relax, to be transported to another world in those 2-3 minutes. Dancing with their students–who may be quick learners and wonderful people–is just too much work and is too much reality.

    Now, a practica is a different story. People are there to learn and have fun. Dance with as many people, learn as much as you can.

    Hope this wasn’t too harsh, but I just wanted to get my two cents in. Take care, and happy dancing.

  8. Morteza
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 19:52:18

    Dear Arlene,

    I’m quite new to this London tango society and tango dancing.
    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for assembling this web site.
    I’ve found it quite useful. I understand that you’ve put a lot of effort
    to make this web site running.

    I’ve gone to some of the milongas in london and seen almost two thirds of
    london tango dancers. Most of them are senior people in their forties or fifties.
    Some are sixty or more, and some are between twenty to
    forty (the group which I belong to). So far, They all look mature in mind
    and behaviour. They are polite, reasonably well dressed and comply with mutually
    agreed tango dancing codes. At the same time, I’ve found them significantly
    reluctant to accept new dancers (irrespective of dancing experience) into their
    society, for some unkown reason (I should admit it is unkown to me, maybe there
    is a really good reason). That’s why you see so many people coming to
    tango classes, but not many of them being able to make it into the milongas.
    The reason? For the ladies: they aren’t being asked to be
    danced with. For the gentlemen: their dancing offer is being declined by
    the ladies. It looks a little bit odd. Apparantly those who come to milonga,
    are keen in dancing tango. But the opportunity seldom properly arises.

    I was reading the “Ask Arlene…Why do I say no to a dance?” section and I
    decided to write some brief comments to the people in this string.

    For Mr. Milonga: Dear sir, there is no accounting for taste. One should not
    criticize another person for her personal preferences. By the way, ther are plenty
    of fish in the see. If Arlene said no, go and ask someone else.

    For Arlene: Dear Lady, although honesty is a good thing, sometimes one should
    not go through the details of her reasoning for declining a dance. I found it
    a little bit derogatory to men.

    For the voice of reason: Honestly, I didn’t get your point. Please elaborate
    a little bit more.

    For tango totty: Tango cards? It is a good idea if it has the dancer’s name on it.
    Because then one knows that he/she is dancing with a genuine person.
    Regarding ranking, I believe it is a milonga not a military campus.

    For Evie Abat: I liked your conclusion. It really makes sense.

    I hope nobody is offended by my comments. If that’s the case, please accept my
    sincere apologies in advance.


  9. Game Cat
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 20:55:48

    [Arlene, I’m about to rant. I apologise. Feel free to delete if you think I’ve overstepped my bounds].


    I agree with Evie. The milonga is like the world. You pay the entrance fee but that doesn’t guarantee you will get as many or as good dances as you want. People can exercise their choice.

    In London, I have not found any milonga that strictly enforces any rules of conduct or etiquette. Any “norm”, “spirit of the evening” or “tango protocol” exists only in the heads of the people asking for a dance and those being asked, and they need not be the same, nor does anyone have a right to expect others to share that. That’s not cruel, that’s just life.

    If one wants to “spread the love” then that is at one’s own discretion and may not be reciprocated. However I am all for like-minded people finding each other and I understand that that can be challenging. The right question to ask is not “why does everyone not behave like I expect them to?” but “how do I identify the people I want to dance with and persuade them to accept?” (And that’s worthy of a whole different post).

    London in the next few years at least will never have as well-established a codigos as BA on a widespread basis. The people are too diverse in outlook and there isn’t the history to back it. That is NOT a bad thing. It is what it is. The only thing one can do imo is to watch for other people’s signals (verbal and otherwise) and try and send the right ones. And of course behave like mature adults. While I recognise the merits of dance card or badge systems, I don’t think we need them.

  10. Voice of Reason
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 22:13:52

    Dear Morteza

    Your sincere apologies are accepted. I am sorry if you didn’t get my point. Don’t worry about it. Perhaps I was just being a little too polite and dancing around my genuine grievances.

    My point was not about personal choice but about protocol at milongas.
    In the London milonga’s I was led to believe that it was impolite to refuse someone a dance. If I am wrong then I will not complain further. However, I will no longer feel obliged to consent to dance politely with many women I dance with purely out of politeness. However, if you email me a code word at I will look out for it in the milonga. Keep it clean as I don’t want you to think I am easy. You did say you were in the 20 -40 age bracket. Are you by any chance a tango nuevo dancer? Can you kick your own arse as you step?
    Please don’t think I am being rude its just I want a picture in my mind. Perhaps a photo of your dancing shoes will tell me everything I need to know.


  11. Voice of Reason
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 22:16:21

    Mr Milonga

    I like your thought process. I think a wiki would be wicked. Start it up.


  12. tango totty
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 00:50:14

    Game Cat

    Tango milongas, like life, may be Darwinistic at base level “red in tooth and claw”. But at a higher level should we not be promoting a more humane approach. Do we not all have a responsibilty to set up tango rules and protocols to protect people from the savage tango subculture that exists below that polished surface ? That dog eat dog world has left many people I know feeling hurt and excluded by their age or their lack of dancing experience. The Art of the tango doesnt have to reflect the nastier and harsher aspects of life. The original dance was supposed to be an escape from this wasnt it ?

  13. Game Cat
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 13:26:24


    I never meant to convey that protocols are bad. In fact I agree that they can serve a useful purpose…..specifically, to allow like-minded people to find each other efficiently and without causing undue embarassement (e.g. cabaceo).

    My point is that protocols are what people make them up to be, and we can’t force them on to others while we are in civil society. So we shouldn’t be disappointed when others don’t share them. We should just adjust our expectations and/or approach, and move on. In your analogy, I suppose, let the dogs find the other dogs, and cats find other cats.

    Moreover, I think we don’t need arbitrary rules for this to happen. They should be used in only the last resort when people cannot settle differences without others getting hurt. There is much one can do to improve one’s own situation, and we should look to that first before deciding more explicit rules are needed.

    Imo nothing is served on a platter. The milonga is a long haul. If you plan to stay, you will work out who are your mutually satisfactory partners. London is diverse enough for you to find them….and for them to find you!

    All right, that’s enough from me. Happy dancing this weekend.

  14. Mr Milonga
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 13:50:03

    Dear Arlene and Morteza,

    I would like to make one thing perfectly clear, I have only ASKED why a dance may be refused. I have also never criticised Arlene for refusing me a dance.

    My question was posed because I am genuinely interested in why a dance may be refused. To suggest I am or have criticised anyone for doing this is wide of the mark. It’s like algebra – I may not like being turned down, but if I understand it I’m less likely to get it wrong in the future.

    I also have to disagree with you Morteza criticising Arlene for outlining her reasons. To be fair Arlene states in her ‘Ask Arlene’ intro that she will answer all questions. It would be unfair to criticise her for doing something she has promised to do. Even though I fully take on your point, I found the answer to be enlightening.

    Evie, even though a TangoWiki may be problematic, all of those potential problems you allude to – sweaty hands etc would be there on the Wiki and as someone improves/takes care of their personal hygiene/invests in a packet of mints, this could also be noted.

    Tango Totty, not only do I like your name but I also like your attitude. I think it is imperative that we are all reading from the same hymn sheet if only to protect us from ourselves. We are all active participants in this wonderful dance which can empower in one moment leaving us vulnerable the next. Beginners need to know who the more experienced dancers as much as the experienced dancer needs to know who the beginners are.

    If someone is tired and doesn’t want to dance, is there someway this could be made clear to the rest of the room? E.g should there be an area of the room non-dancers/the tired brigade should sit? I can hear readers of this comment saying ‘ah, but what if that area is full’… ‘or what happens if I want to dance but my friend doesn’t’?

    Obviously no system is fool-proof, but the truth of the matter is as people with a common goal it is up to us to try to make sure that we keep unpleasant experiences to a minimum.

    VoR I totally understood your ‘spreading love’ comment and I support it 200%. Wanting a collective hegemony of harmony and good times, should be the right of anyone who enters a milonga.

  15. Wildcard
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 16:28:25

    Everyone has their own motives for dancing tango and for refusing and accepting dances: Some just want a sexy squeeze with anyone willing; some want a squeeze with someone they really fancy; some are hoping they’re on for it ; some just want to show off steps ; some just love the music; some just want to dance with a friend; some might be genuinely trying to improve their tango. And all these reasons can change on the whim of the moment.

    Bearing in mind that the milonga is meant to be a social dance, here’s a truly old fashioned but much more democratic dance system that I have think would fit very well into the traditional 3 dance milonga system. It should be embraced by the London milongas

    After each set of three dances –
    • The men make a big circle.
    • The women make a big circle.
    • One circle goes inside the other.
    • The music starts and the circles rotate – one anticlockwise, one clockwise.
    • When the music stops, the circles stop. Sometimes the music will play for be 2 beats, sometimes 10 beats – so you cant be predict
    • You then have to dance with the person facing you. If theres not equal numbers it’s the ones with the fastest feet gets the partner.
    • You dance 3 dances and then go back to the circles in the middle

    What do you think ???

  16. Game Cat
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 16:55:34


    That is ingenious!

    I’m perfectly happy if some milongas in London want to start implementing that system. I strongly suspect some will not, which is also fine with me.

    Then the dancers who actually pay good $ to the milongas can decide which ones they prefer.

  17. tango totty
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 21:18:08

    Great idea Wildcard!

    Another ploy to ensure a good circulation of dancers would be a Tango Happy Hour. During that hour anyone can request one dance from a partner of choice and they cannot refuse!.

  18. Mr Walker
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 03:57:18

    Hi Arlene i would just like to say i am a recent visitor to your pages and i have enjoyed your blog very much…….Please continue this policy of choosing who you wish to dance with and only dancing when you feel like a dance…..There are to many people dancing already at milonga’s who look like they are not enjoying it…leader or follower, sometimes times both…. Then it would make for a better tango experience….. if people chose tango dance partners more carefully….

  19. Caroline
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 15:11:28

    Thank you Mr Walker for your comment.

    Seriously, I find the “spreading love” concept totally creepy.

    Nobody or any system should not force you to dance with someone with whom you, for whatever reason, do not want to.

    I even think that the reason you don’t want to dance with someone is not relevant: the important thing is you answered “no thank you ” and your choice must be respected.

    And if someone feels offended by your answer it’s his/her problem not yours .

  20. tango totty
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 16:45:38

    Caroline and Mr Walker

    How egotistical, hedonistic and totally selfish an attitude. Is tango only for the young, the beautiful and the good dancers then – should everyone else stay away? We know the milongas are not charitable events but common kindness costs very little!

  21. Arlene
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 17:37:31

    Dear Totty,

    Although I have found some of your comments highly amusing, I think you are missing something with regard to Walker and Caroline, with whom I agree wholeheartedly.

    I am not young, except in my heart and mind. I am not particularly beautiful, but some of you feel happy to disagree. I am not a good dancer, it is subjective depending on whom I am dancing with. This is a good place to disagree and boost my ego too cause last night I thought I was rubbish and feel grateful to the men who I danced with.

    Tango is for anyone and everyone. No one is debating the issues of common kindness. On the whole, most people are generally polite. The issue was saying no to a dance, which everyone has the right to do. When I first started, I didn’t really know the protocol and had ideas about how things should be, the perfect world and all of that. Well, it isn’t. A social gathering such as a Milonga is only a reflection of the real world, but condensed. In some ways it is nicer than the real world, but it is the real world none the less, and honey, it can be a jungle out there and that’s just the way it is.

    I am an observer and I have been observing what has been going on in the London Milongas since I started dancing. I write about what I have observed. Things are what they are. Good or bad. Navigate around it and you will get to where you want to go. Nobody owes you anything. In all of the time I have been dancing, this is only the second time anyone has ever queried why I have said no. The first time was to my face and I replied that I just didn’t want to. This second time is on my blog. No decency to ask me directly, in person and if asked I would say the same, I just didn’t want to, end of story. I gave reasons why I or others would say no when no reason is really required. The men are not stupid and most just go and ask someone else without a second thought. If a man asks you out on a date and you say no, you don’t have to give him a reason. Same here.

    If you want to dance every dance take up Ceroc. It is encouraged to say yes there. However, I have had men be rude to me when turned down because I am really resting and sweaty from a high powered disco number. I am not a dancing machine.

    I find it is the people with big egos or low self-esteem that generally take the most offense when being refused a dance.

    I have found my way of surviving in the Tango Jungle and part of it means looking at yourself and don’t complain. Good vibes go a long way.

    This my last word on this topic and am now working on something else to be posted in the next day or two.

    Try and go out and have a good time everyone.

  22. Voice of Reason
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 19:59:12

    Dear Caroline,

    I am saddened that the thought of being compassionate and inclusive at milongas is creepy to you. I often dance with women for whom I feel no real affection or emotion. Yet, without this I fear few dancers would ask these women to dance. I don’t feel that I am doing them a favour since they are competent dancers and it is just that they are being overlooked by typically libidinous males. I believe firmly that social protocols have evolved for a reason. I dont regard tango as a jungle. If I wanted to hunt and gather I would do so at salsa or ceroc where you can drop the pretence of refinement. However at tango we are not just there to find partners in life or at all. Some of us simply want a polite and well ordered social environment where all dancers are welcomed and encouraged. If its all a sham and its just about surviving then forget it. Who needs that sort of thing when real life presents enough of a survival challenge for most people.
    I don’t want to force anyone to dance with anyone else. I just want to be clear when I say that my aim is to hurt no-one and never go out of my way to spoil their evening. I apologise unreservedly if I ever do so. Caroline you have pounced on an expression and corrupted its intention. Have some consideration for those who may suffer if your attitude was to be considered the norm at milongas. I think it would stifle tango. This is London, we do not have a history or culture of arrogance in our social gatherings. Lets not let it grow. Thats what I mean by spread the love,
    Totty you are on my wavelength. Keep up the interesting and witty stuff.


  23. Caroline
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 20:04:10

    Dear Tango totty,

    As Arlene pointed it out you missed totally my point and I agree fully with what she wrote.

    And no my tango criteria have nothing to do with the young and the beautiful: it’s about the dance.
    Either I like to dance with someone or not and my like and dislike can be different for each of them. And I’m not going to do an exhaustive list for each of them.
    By the way, most of my favorite dancers are older and shorter than me.

    And regarding the very good dancers, of course it’s nice to dance with them … when they invite me …

  24. Mr Milonga
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 20:13:27

    Dear Arlene,

    I don’t think it is a coincidence that this whole discussion has attracted so much interest as it is a subject we all have an opinion on.

    I have read all the entries in reply to my initial query with much interest and it appears there are at least two schools of thought at work.

    The first school of thought seems to say ‘if I don’t want to dance, I don’t dance and that’s it I don’t owe you an explanation’.

    The stance of the second school of thought appears to be ‘I’ve come out to dance tango and if someone is going to ask me to dance I am not going to discriminate against that person. After all, they’ve come out like I have for a good time’.

    I think it is sad that by bringing the subject up on a blog denotes that someone doesn’t have ‘decency’. Surely to avoid any potential confrontation by accepting the decision and walking away in a milonga is the decent thing to do?

    Mr Walker do you really want to encourage discrimination at milongas? If that’s the case very few women under 40 would ever dance. I am 32 years old, is it right for me to refuse a dance with an older dancer simply because of their age, or to refuse a dance because of the colour of that dancer’s skin or because they are Jewish or eastern European or any number of other arbitrary reasons?

    Occasionally I am asked to dance by some women I would never ever consider asking to dance myself. I know that by saying yes I am not losing anything, but potentially have much to gain. If they are not very good and the dance is unsuccessful the chances are that she will never ask me to dance again. If we have a good dance then I feel blessed to have another person I enjoy dancing with. It’s going to cost me less than ten minutes of my life.

    Caroline, you seemed to have missed the point with the ‘spread love’ comments which have been made. No one is suggesting anything tacky or sleazy, what is being suggested is that once you enter a milonga you enter into the spirit of the evening. If you’re not there share your love to dance with other like-minded people, don’t come out. We should rejoice in the fact that we share a love for tango, rather than turning up with an attitude looking to operate some ridiculous, petty checklist of worthiness.

    Tango Totty you have my respect, because yours is a milonga I want to go to.

  25. tango totty
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 21:10:14


    I really dont mind if people for genuine reasons decline to dance. What I object to is the ‘No Im tired excuse’ being used when what it really means is

    a) Youre not a good enough dancer
    b) I really dont like the look of you

    This attitude can only help to keep the tango exclusivity and hierarchy that exists in the milongas. And lets face it favours the men much more than the women however good or bad the men may be!

  26. Mr Walker
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 01:18:52

    hi tango totty

    i’m sorry that you think i might be egotistical, and or hedonistic. When i go to a milonga and i ask a lady to dance if she says no…i accept that fact and move on without giving it a second thought…….i am not one of those as you say good dancers…and i’m not 1 of the beautiful people, just a guy mid forties short who likes tango…..and i will dance with any woman at any milonga as long as she wants to dance with me……

  27. Game Cat
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 17:59:14

    TT, MM, VOR –

    The right to refuse a dance does not equal unfair “discrimination” or a “survival challenge”. In fact, being able to say No is important to tango because:

    1. It gives the person being asked to dance (almost always a woman) a comparable level of power to the person asking (almost always a man). It is highly disturbing when a woman has no right to refuse a man in any context, whatever the reason. Being able to control how intimate you want to be with a stranger is NOT “selfish”. It gives women power over men, it doesn’t favour the men, unlike what TT said.

    2. The right of women to refuse made tango what it is today and will keep standards high. Men will try harder to improve. Women will have better dances. Win-win. This doesn’t “stifle tango”. Alternatively, non-selectiveness will keep standards mediocre. The “exclusivity” is OPEN to anyone who wants to invest effort and passion in dancing well.

    Moreover, any forced partner system is impractical to enforce in London. How many milongas in London will like this idea? Does giving women no right to say No to a stranger make tango more appealing to them? Better to live in a “jungle” than your “well ordered social environment”!

  28. Caroline
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 17:59:57

    Dear Mr Milonga,

    I am not turning up with an attitude looking to operate some ridiculous, petty checklist of worthiness.
    I am not looking for dancers who match a laundry list.

    I am looking for dancers I like to dance with: it is that simple.
    And each of them is cherished for different reasons because they are unique as dancer as they are unique as human being.

    When someone I have never danced with invites me, I always responded positively because as you I believe that there is nothing to lose and much to gain.
    But if at one point I have to take the decision to decline further dance with someone, I never make this choice lightly.

    And if because of this decision I am judged as an egotistical, hedonistic, totally selfish and arrogant person, so be it.

  29. Mr Milonga
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 22:36:39

    Dear Caroline,

    The choice is of course always yours to dance or not to dance.

    If what you have said is true and you share my view that there is nothing to lose and much to gain from dancing when asked, then I presume that when you do refuse a dance you are in the process of taking off your shoes and reaching for your coat.

    If that is the case, you have nothing but my total respect and I look forward to dancing with you often and well – unless of course you have refused me a dance in the past, as I won’t be asking again.

    Despite what Arlene has said about dancers who do not enjoy being refused dances, I don’t suffer from an over-inflated ego or low self-esteem.

    Like most men, no matter how macho they may appear to be, I do have feelings. This is something I hope you and all the other women who might say no to a dance in the future will remember.

  30. Voice of Reason
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 22:39:21

    You are perfectly entitled to your views. I just don’t agree with much of what you say. I can see that women are perfectly entitled to say no to a dance. However, that is not the main point I was making. I am more concerned that there is a danger that this will become an accepted norm of the culture in London Milonga’s. Far from encouraging a growing community this will put a lot of people off coming back to some milongas.
    Mr Milonga is on my wave length and he appears to have grasped the concept of community and encouragement to the benefit of all. I think that this is also what Tango Totty is looking for. In this way the balance of power can shift away from men but not to anyones detriment. Unfortunately your view which is couched in language drawing on our individual views does not really help women. The idea that if women say no to men it encourages us to work harder is flawed. In Buenos Aires in the early 20th century when there was a lack of women this may have held true. However, time has moved on, this is London and tango is not the only show in town. Tango must be Market oriented; it must deliver to the people who go there. If you adopt a selfish attitude then don’t be surprised to find yourself falling foul of this attitude.
    Anyway I think I have had enough of this topic sit, dance, drink, chat and socialise as you please. Make friends, we are all nice really. Just think about what you do. We are all human beings. Peace Out. Voice of Reason.

  31. tango totty
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 00:53:14

    Caroline. I think we all go to tango to enjoy the dance. And of course everyone has a right to refuse a dance if they want to. I am not masochistic! But what I mean is that refusing dances is really not in the spirit of the social dance which is surely what milongas are supposed to be. It seems to me that many of the milongas in London, despite having the label of being ‘social dance’ forums are in fact from it – they are closed shops promoting a cliquish culture where its all about people just vying to get the best dance they can for themselves. This is all very well but its definitely not social dancing apart from the fact theres a lot of people together in the same room! Game Cat – Where are all these high standards you are talking about ? All I see is a small group of self styled exclusive dancers who only ever really dance with each other. The rest are just shuffling about amongst themselves at a fairly low level and never the twain will meet. No ones got much hope of improving here have they – not unless of course they can afford private lessons !

    I know some people are better dancers than others. And noone likes dancing with beginners. But quite frankly if the organisers of the milongas made it a bit more friendly it might inspire the rest of the tango plebs to become more proficient.

  32. Travis
    Feb 26, 2009 @ 15:03:02

    Hello cousins! A note here from across the pond in New York. I must admit to favoring tango totty wit fueled idea. As a tango-nuevo freak, it does kill me to see all my fellow nuevo totally absent musicality in favor of gumby inspired moves. Too bad because they miss the whole point. What gives me over to madness is the abuse of the embrace. There is nothing that will kill a dance quicker than a follow who hangs off me like a saddlebag off of a horse. Ditto for clucking my arm, back, or neck like the dancers in the Titanic after the big ice cube ordeal. You know, a nice, soft embrace where we are both following the music…

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