Ask Arlene…About Lectures on The Dancefloor, Again!


Dear Arlene,

I haven’t found a better place on the website to ask the question, so here goes: I have been dancing tango for a couple years, and have found myself at a disadvantage because I look young! While I’ve had some wonderful partners in the milongas, I also have had a fair share of rather unpleasant experiences with men who, having decided that I must be *very young*, proceeded to lecture me on my mistakes etc (this happened in a couple places). I have no problem with constructive criticism, nor am I a terrible dancer (at least I hope not), but it is the tone that has bothered me. It can put a dampener on an otherwise nice evening. Has anyone encountered a similar issue, and is there an etiquette about a partner commenting on the lady’s performance?

Many thanks,

Dear Delia,

I have addressed this topic here and here.  It seems as if it might need repeating.  There is no real etiquette about this sort of thing that people follow, otherwise they would only use the cabeceo, etc., just some common sense about how to deal with people.

There are some people on the planet that feel the need to tell others what to do in order to big themselves up.  It comes from a lack of self-esteem.  It has nothing to do with how young you may look.  It can happen to anyone at any age.  Sorry if that doesn’t make you feel special, but that is how it goes.  I don’t look my age, but that hasn’t stopped some men from trying to tell me how I should be following.  If that happens, I just end the dance and leave them on the dance floor these days.  I am tired of playing nice and wasting whatever time I have left on the planet.

So, I will repeat: A Milonga is a place to relax and dance.  A class or a practica is a place to learn, where constructive criticism is acceptable.  End of.

No one likes being patronised when they are out trying to have a good time.  So, Diana, it is up to you to work out how you want to spend your evening.  It is NOT acceptable to be criticised on a fun night out.  Especially as most of the men out there don’t know what the heck they are talking about.  This type of behaviour can really put people off. It doesn’t only happen in Tango either.

The nice thing to say is what the gent said in the post about being lectured by a teacher: “I come to Milonga’s to dance, visit with friends, and have a good time. If I wanted a lesson I would go to a studio and take one. Now you can either let me lead and enjoy the rest of the tanda or I will say thank you and go sit down.”

Or as a woman to a man: “I come to Milonga’s to dance, visit with friends, and have a good time. If I wanted a lesson I would go to a studio and take one. Now you can either lead me (or let me follow) and enjoy the rest of the tanda or I will say thank you and go sit down.”

As I don’t dance much Tango these days, I tend to dance mainly with people I know that won’t do that sort of thing.  Try and be more selective with who you dance with and it will all work out ok.

Happy Dancing!

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.