Ask Arlene…Competing for Dances

From Planeo

Me and my best friend always go to the milongas together. My best friend always has the men falling all over her asking for a dance while I often sit out on the side for much of the evening. She is very flirtatious and her clothes are very revealing. I have talked to different people about it and says that shes not that attractive and that I am much better looking. We are both in our thirties. How do I get whats shes got and get all the dances?

Dear Planeo,

There is no reason to be sitting out dances unless you choose to.

There are a number of reasons why you may not be getting the dances in, and the first question that comes to mind is how good a dancer are you?  Granted, being good looking might get the men over to you to start with, but may not be enough in the long run if your dancing skills are not up to scratch.

Now let’s say you are a competent dancer and an attractive lady but you are still not getting the dancing in.  Did you ever think that your friend might be onto something here?  If she is not that good looking and maybe relying on revealing a bit more flesh to get the dances in, perhaps you might want to take a leaf out of her book and do the same.  If you have issues about what to wear, please have a look at my post on Tango Fashion.  Just remember to leave a little bit to the imagination.  There is nothing wrong with highlighting your assets.

You also mention that your friend is very flirtatious.  Have you ever thought about putting on a smile or happy face while waiting for a dance?  How about moving about the room and being sociable?  Make friends with other women instead of seeing them as competition.  Go to classes before the Milonga and get to know some of the men.  Network like hell at the Milongas.

How do you think I’ve managed all these years?  I’ve worked hard to get to know people and develop my dancing skills.  I make an effort with my appearance.  I am pleasant to people.  I am always smiling.  There is a phrase about being the flower to the bee.  If you want to attract people to you, you need to make it worth their while.

Did you ever think that the reason your friend is getting all the dances is because she might be actually be a better dancer than you?

Maybe you should sit somewhere else.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. irenicon
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 07:37:42

    It would be interesting to discover what kind of dancers chose your friend compared to you and what she feels about what is on ‘offer’ for her.

    Perhaps she too has some struggles going on.

  2. anon.
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 09:37:02

    I very much agree with everythingbeing said. for me, I don’t look for revealing outfits, but I do look for a smile or at least a woman who is awake and interested. I don’t invite a woman to dance if she looks grumpy/fedup/bored. (i especially like to see a woman who is enjoying the music, when it’s obvious that she actually wants to dance). I hope that helps.

  3. Deby
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 12:32:46

    There are two types of dancers who do not dance – those who can…and those who cannot. Count your dances by the how good they are, not by the quantity.

  4. Fatty Arbuckle
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 19:07:21

    Dear Planeo

    There is a lot going on here we don’t know about. For example is your friend a particularly approachable woman? Does she ooze warmth and leave you in her shadow? Is she just a fantastic dancer who has cultivated a circle of friends? Perhaps she will introduce some of these dancers to you? Or is it down to you? Are you the woman who judges a bloke as he comes to ask you to dance without giving him a chance? Perhaps you are the cause of your own misfortune? I can only say that if you see me in the milonga I will give you the benefit of my experience and who knows I may let you treat me to a sumptious meal or snack. Do you know your empanadas from a pastie? That could be the start of something wonderful.

    I won’t tell you what I Look like, you will have to guess. But don’t be shy, give it a try.

    Fatty xx

  5. El Chupacabra
    Apr 16, 2009 @ 01:13:51

    The following are factors that seem to apply to most leaders I have spoken to:

    1. Approachable. If you look unapproachable then you won’t get asked except by the most brazen. The most brazen aren’t always the nicest …

    2. Men, not just ladies, watch. If you dance and look like you enjoy it and get into it, then men will ask you to dance. Especially ones who appreciate a quality dance more than flesh and fancy footwear.

    3. Sitting. This is something to learn from other ladies who do it well. Sit somewhere where you can be seen and approached. Sit with body language that is inviting. I’ve seen frustrated ladies with very negative body language sitting in dark corners behind tables and chairs getting visibly angrier and angrier. Tapping feet to music is good, Humming or something is also inviting. Crossing legs and arms is not. Chatting with friends, especially men, can put some leaders off asking as they feel they are interrupting. Some ladies even say that they don’t sit with their friends when they want a dance.

    Think about it from a leader’s perspective. If you are a terrible leader who is interesting in your clothes (or lack of) what will you seek out? What signals will you read? And if you are a decent chap who is interested in a deeply connected musical sincere dance then what kind of follower will you look out for?

  6. El Chupacabra
    Apr 16, 2009 @ 01:21:30

    Also I don’t think your dance ability is so high up the list on most men. Sincerity and feeling is much more important to most men I speak to. Only a few elitists go for ability because they want to be sure they don’t look bad on the floor. But remember tango happens when you dance together, a good leader can lead a very connected and musical dance even with less able followers.. fancy pants can’t lead less able followers. And in the good old days, good leaders could lead almost anyone for a successful dance.

  7. Mr Walker
    Apr 16, 2009 @ 13:06:09

    As a leader i always seek followers who enjoy the music..and then the level of their ability is not a issue….and neither is mine…fancy foot work doe’s not mean a quality dance experience.
    And if the follower dresses in very small outfits i’m going to form the opinion that they are not there for the music…if you are waiting for a memebr of the elite(i’m guessing that they are the teachers and star pupils) to ask you for a dance i’m afraid you will not be dancing.So enjoy the music and talking to your friends.

    Sincerity and feeling is more important than ability to leaders who want to dance with you…
    So look for these types of dancers.

    or sit and talk with Arlene instead of your friend….:)

  8. Game Cat
    Apr 16, 2009 @ 19:23:53

    Re how important is dancing ability as a criteria for leaders – I think this is high for many men, certainly for those who want to enjoy a connected, musical dance. I don’t understand how it can be easier to connect and lead musically a lady who is less technically proficient than one who is. To clarify, I’m equating “dance ability” to technique = good posture, connection, footwork; and NOT breadth/ complexity of steps she knows.

    Yes, I agree that really good men can lead not so good followers well, but 1) they will have to adjust considerably and 2) they will be more constrained to express the music. To what extent good leaders are willing to do this of course, is a matter of personal preference, and will vary depending on their mood and the lady in question.

    So I would suggest ladies don’t think being approachable and nice and friendly is enough for you to get good dances. It’s still worth your while to practice and become a good dancer. Even if your frequency doesn’t improve, you’ll enjoy what dances you do get even more.

  9. Tango Totty
    Apr 17, 2009 @ 13:28:30


    Your friend may be getting all the dances but have you looked at the quality of the dancers she is dancing with. There are many women I see in the London milongas who do dance all night but that just may be because they are very easily pleased – glad to dance even its with a toilet brush – so long as it can move!!!! When I go out I would rather sit on the side all night rather than dance with a toilet brush. In my book the only justification for dancing with a weak dancer is to try and hone your own technique. But this needs a careful balance so that in the process you do not acquire bad habits.

    Game Cat, I totally endorse your philosophy. I dont think anyone can afford to be complacent about their standard in tango. As I have said in a previous comment being a good dancer is not just about being musical. This is ok for a certain level. Its also about constantly honing and improving your own basic tango technique so that you can respond better to your partner and the music. Also by becoming more empowered you increase your own enjoyment.


  10. Voice of Reason
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 17:45:59

    Planeo -don’t worry about it. Totty even toilet brushes have a use. Just remember which way to hold them and dont forget to wash your hands. VoR

  11. Tamarin
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 22:24:28

    I have enjoyed reading the comments and cracked out laughing at all the gem moments – you are such a wonderful bunch of contributors to Ask Arlene – there should be a book written, you all would make very vivid and colourful characters. I have my favourites of course. Long may all your posts continue. I am a beginner who just got bitten by the tango bug downunder. You all have made this newbie more in love with tango.

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