Arlene's London Tango Pages

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

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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’.

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