I Gave My First Tango Lesson

No, I have not suddenly become a ‘teacher’.  That would be a bit hypocritical of me, so let’s not go down that road.  After months of hints, I gave in and gave my man a Tango Lesson.  In the kitchen.

Things came to a head last week when we went to a Tea Dance in Eastbourne, where I now live.  The details stated that beginners were welcome.   My man had danced ballroom in his early teens before he joined the Air Force.  How difficult could it be?  It was like riding a bike, surely?  Well, let’s just say that it was very interesting and we weren’t the youngest people there.  I didn’t know you could do sequence ballroom dancing.  I have never done any ballroom dancing, but I can follow in Tango.  Could dancing ballroom be that difficult?  Well, only if you have a leader who forgot what he learned those many years ago.  While trying a waltz, which we were not quite getting the hang of, I resorted to Tango Tactics – the premise being that if you can walk, you can dance Tango.  However, in this case it was if you could walk, you could waltz.  So I stepped back into an open hold, and started to lead my partner into a walking waltz  – all in time to the music.  We ended up dancing without looking like complete idiots. 🙂

After that, we watched people doing all of the different dances: Rumba, Waltz, Foxtrot and Ballroom Tango.  That last one made me cringe a little bit.  I couldn’t bear to stay and watch them dance Argentine Tango, especially after the people at our table thought that the AT on Strictly Come Dancing was really amazing.  It was, but not in a good way.

After the mad rush for the tea and biscuits (I never knew old people could move so fast!), we called it an afternoon, but not before giving my details to the nice couple at our table who were going to give me some numbers to call for ballroom lessons.   Not ever having done ballroom dancing, and being impressed with the many elderly people who were doing it, I think it might be a good idea to try something new this year.

So, what does Ballroom dancing have to do with giving a Tango Lesson you may ask?  Well, nothing, except that my man wants to dance with me.  He will learn any dance just to be able to dance with me.  Oh, and he does dance, just not couples dancing (not since school).  He isn’t shy about dancing.  Put on any Motown or rock and roll track and he will be up dancing and singing with the best of them.  He has a great sense of musicality and timing.  So, after the tea dance, while we were walking on the Promenade, my man asked me for a Tango Lesson.  He felt badly about not being able to lead me around the dance floor.  And that is just what I did.

So, working on the premise that if you can walk, you can dance Tango, we walked/danced around my kitchen to DiSarli (A La Gran Muñeca).  At this point I could care less if you like my choice of artist (or song) to dance to, but it worked for us.  I also like DiSarli.  In fact, I like most Tango music, except for Hugo Diaz.  Not crazy about the harmonica, but I digress.   We listened to the song so my partner could get a feel for the music.  Then I explained posture and showed him how to walk in a Tango way.  I went in for a close embrace.  In this case I think it is better to start as you mean to carry on.  We walked around the room experiencing shift changes in balance before I put the music back on.  Then we walked, in time, to the music.  That’s it.  It was one of the nicest dances I have had in a long time.  I am no stranger to dancing with beginners.  I just can’t stand dancing with beginners that try to do tricky moves or that don’t listen to the music.

So that was the first Tango Lesson I ever gave, and it won’t be the last, for my partner.  I won’t be branching out and teaching others to dance.  That isn’t my thing.  Walking the Tango is just a start.  The rest is up to my man.  He will need to listen to hours of Tango music (which I have) in order to get a feel for it and know the songs.  It is fortunate he likes the music.  He will most likely watch videos on Youtube.  He knows how I feel about that, so I might have to educate him in this area.  It will be a while before we get to a Milonga, but in the meantime we have the kitchen floor to dance on.  Nothing like dancing in a small space, kinda like in a Milonga.  Start as you mean to carry on!

Happy Dancing Everyone!

Ask Arlene…About Lectures on The Dancefloor, Again!

Ageism?

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,
Delia

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!

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