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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Diaries from BsAs #4 - How to say "No"

From her:

While explaining the cabeceo to a non-tango dancing porteña, I realised that while a lot has been written about the cabeceo (especially strategies on how to initiate and accept invitations), not much has been said about what to do when you DON'T want to dance.

The current music may not inspire you to dance.  You may not have had a chance to see the available partners dance yet, and don't want to take a chance of an unpleasant experience.  Maybe you've just danced a particularly satisfying tanda and simply wish to bask in the glow for a while.  Or, perhaps you wish to avoid a certain person with whom you feel uncomfortable.  These are a few of the reasons why I might not want to engage in the cabeceo at any one time.

I found myself explaining a few different approaches to"No" to this fascinated local woman.  The strategies for NOT engaging in the cabeceo invitation in a traditional milonga are ideally subtle and highly effective, but occasionally one has to resort to more direct methods:

Invisibility:  At traditional BsAs milongas, the men I have no desire to dance with are effectively invisible to me.  I hardly direct my gaze at them, because to do so would suggest to them that I were interested in dancing with them sometime.  Consequently, they generally won't look in my direction seeking to dance.

Focus elsewhere:  If I simply don't want to dance at all for a while, I find the best strategy is simply to watch the activity on the dance-floor.  That takes the pressure off trying to avoid any inviting gazes.

Gaze away:  The tricky part, I find, is when I want to dance and am therefore looking towards a potential partner, but a different man (sitting close to my intended target) tries to gain my attention by looking at me intently.  People are seated very close to one-another in these busy milongas, so meeting the gaze of the right person can be problematic at times.  To avoid confusion, I ensure that I don't hold his gaze and  I look away.  The "wrong" man should immediately see that I'm not interested in dancing with him.  He would normally get the message at this point.  (Most of the people here understand that there's no pleasure in dancing with someone who doesn't really want to dance with you. They also respect the woman's role in choosing a dance partner.)  Shortly after, I may try looking again at my intended target, if he's not already dancing, of course.

Direct refusal:  As a foreigner, I occasionally have been approached by a local man asking me to dance.  In my opinion this is a very bad sign, as it means that the man is unable to secure a dance using the preferred cabeceo  method, hence is probably an inadequate dancer.  Yet, his intention is to pressure a woman into dancing with him.  It shows a lack of respect for the woman, as his behaviour assumes that she will accept.  He completely deserves the refusal he gets, albeit with a smile.  He won't try that on me again. 
Luckily, the direct approach to invitations doesn't happen too often in traditional milongas, but it's best to be prepared!

I refuse to be the victim depicted by In Search of Tango  and would love to know about other helpful strategies.

From him:

 ....... and the same strategies apply equally to male dancers in search for partners, and in avoiding others. 

However, should a man, with all his gentlemanly history forever on the surface, refuse a direct request from a woman?  Well, at a most traditional milonga in Buenos Aires the other night, my worst case (milonga) nightmare happened - a local woman, complete stranger, tapped me on the shoulder and roughly asked, "quieres bailar?" 

All my thinking regarding the issues above came to mind, but I was particularly conscious that, in this milonga, the codes of behaviour were totally respected.  The lady should have known better, and anyone watching would have been judging the situation, and assessing my response.  I felt that to say "No, gracias" was the only appropriate response, but to soften it, I said "No entiendo".  She repeated her question, this time in English.  To that I said, "yo tengo que bailar con mi pareja y mis amigas".  She accepted that, went away to talk with some friends, and that was that ...... except I was left knowing that I had refused a woman's request to dance with me.  Not a good feeling, but under the circumstances, the right thing to do.

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