Tango Argentino > Finding Partners at Milongas

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Gssh, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I was starting to write this in the other thread, but it got a bit rambly, so i thought it would be better to start a new thread.

    I think an important point to remember is that we are dealing with a symmetrical problem: both leaders and followers want to have "successful" dances - what criterion makes a dance "successful" varies from person to person, and leaders and followers know that their partner plays a crucial role in that. There are no differences between leaders and follower there.

    This is somewhat obscured only because a lot of us seem not to be in a "cabeceoning" environment (where looking for a partner is again symmetrical (which is one of the reasons i like it), but in a "leader asks, follower accepts/rejects" environment. So we get threads about "why am i not asked by leaders" and "why do followers not say yes", and the recommendations interestingly very different (i am especially fond of the suggestion that followers who do not get asked should ask themselves - i.e. short circuiting this matching process by exploiting the asymmetry of the expectations - leaders are not usually condemmed by the community for not asking people they don't want to dance with in the same extent that followers are for rejecting dances from people they don't want to dance with) (one could argue that is a question of statistics - in the average milonga (4 hours of dancing, 5 tandas an hour) a leader can ask/dance with a maximum of 20 followers, so they naturally can't ask everybody, while a follwer in theory can agree to dance with everybody who is fast enough to be the one who asks first - so this is active rejection - but this view obscures the fact that the leader _PICKS_ the 20 people he asks, while the follower doesn't get to pick the 20 people who ask them - i.e. the leader implicitly rejects 99% of the room when they ask somebody).

    Any discussion that does not offer symmetrical advice that applies to followers and leaders equally is not addressing the underlying question, but hacking/exploiting the conventions around asking/accepting.

    So what is symmetrical advice?

    First i think one has to realize that different people have different criteria for successful dances. These criteria are all valid, just not shared - if dancer is at a milonga to have a romantic date night with their partner they will not want to dance with other people. If they want to dance a specific style they will want partners who dance that style. If they want to hang out and dance with their friends they are not going to be interested in dancing with people who are not part of their circle of friends, and so on, and so on. And similarly every milonga is a shared, layered space where multiple different events go on at the same time, and everybody takes part in a subset of them. There will be people who are just at a different event than i am.

    BA milongas solve at least part of this problem by having assigned seating that identifies if you are there primarily for dancing, or for a date/spending time with friends/having dinner/getting drunk, and each milonga is supporting a specific crowd dancing a specific style.

    But most of us dance at places where it is not so easy to figure out why people are there.

    The only thing one can do is to try to communicate why we are at the milonga. That is one of the reasons i tend to start my nights at milognas i don't know by cabeceoing, even if the rest of the place does not do it. It marks me as "old fashioned, probably CE dancer", and whatever local dancer wants to dance with me after that identification will probably enjoy what they are getting. After people have seen me dance and got some idea how i dance then they can base their impression if i am there for the same thing as they are on something more substantial. Dressing up/down, the time one arrives, and so on fall in the same category. It is admittedly shallow, but until everbody learns telepathy we have to throw out signifiers to communicate.
  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    What I believe I and others can do:
    -promote better organization of milonga space (from enough comfortable sitting to assigned sitting to specified zone sitting) by talking to students and organizers about the role and importance of such; leading by example if one is a milonga organizer;
    -promote mirada-cabeceo culture by explaining a significance and advantages of such; leading by example by telling your (prospective) partners about your preference to invite/be invited that way.
    The latter has worked out over the few last years in my community from quazi non existent to almost universally accepted.
    The former is a bit trickier, but I see it slowly catching up.
  3. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    The point is, an answer to a question "how a new (new to tango or new to the milonga/area) person gets partners?" does not lie entirely in a personal strategy/behavior. Tango is a social phenomenon, and introducing a new member is a community endeavor. The whole organization is supposed to support that, and have certain mechanisms in place. A teacher brings a student to a milonga, introduces and guides him/her into the new environment. An organizer receives a new guest and makes introductions, informally to some guests or as an announcements to the whole congregation. Etc etc. It is not supposed to be a solitary battle. The whole milonga organization is supposed to facilitate connections with a suitable partner.
    In Buenos Aires I often know who is who and whether they may be interested in dancing with me (and I, with them) by the mere fact of where a person is seated. :)
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  4. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    I think you meant Finding Partners to dance with, not partners in life... But to the point - I find that we, the Tangueros/Tangueras tend at time to over analyze the paterns of behavior at Milongas. We, my wife and I go to a Milonga to dance. I try to spot followers who seem to follow well and seem pleasant. Successful dance is an enjoyable one, and dancing with a partner you click with makes it happen. If we want a romantic evening we do not go to a Milonga.
    We just came back from Buenos Aires where Cabaceo is the norm. I find this system to be rigid, confusing and in some ways counterproductive to socializing. It may work well for the Portenos but I find that it prevents people from being able to socialize in a more conventional way. I find it's easier to ask someone to dance after I had a conversation with her. My wife tells me that it's demeaning and it feels like a "meat market" on the dancing floor. Also, having men seated on one side with women sitting across requires good eye sight. It happened to me that two women got up as a response to my cabaceo. I felt bad.
    The least rigid and structured the system is, the easier it is to find a dancing partner and enjoy the Milonga.
    itwillhappen likes this.
  5. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Firstly, it is spelled "cabeceo", and secondly, no woman was supposed to get up before she was absolutely sure it was meant for her. :) So, you are not to blame, it was lack of understanding how it works. And thirdly, mistakes happen, it is not the end of the world. Just laugh it off, dance with a woman you meant to ask, and next tanda with the other one.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    If you go to a milonga to dance why is facilitating socializing important to you? A milonga is not for socializing, it is for dancing, and the codigos are at least partially designed to make it difficult for men to impose their presence on women who are not interested in their presence beyond dancing, or even at all.

    Thats what why i am a bit confused about the meat market comment - at a traditional milonga it is basically impossible to even try to pick somebody up who is not interested in being picked up. The mirada/cabeceo keeps men from chatting up women who don't want to chat with them at all, and even if a man manages to cross that hurdle and then behaves differently than she expected she has the assurance that he will leave her alone after the tanda (and if it is really bad she can leave during the tanda, and it will be viewed as evidence that he did something very wrong). A lot of my friends told me that they felt much safer at a milonga in BA than at a festival - sure there were many,many attempts to sweet-talk them during the few bars at the begin of a song, and many offers of coffee, but nos were always accepted. In comparison to that the whole system of "leaders ask for dances, and followers have to accept" is sometimes toxic. Two common failure modes are for example leaders who don't take a no for an answer, and start to argue their case and get passive-aggressive when the follower is not interested in a dance with them, and the other, more insiduous one is "claiming" a follower. The pattern goes roughly like that: the leader walks up to the follower and asks for a dance. The follower is polite, and declines with an excuse - something like "im resting", or "no milonga for me" or something like that. The leader then proceeds to sit down next to her, and chatting, knowing that he has created a triple bind - no other leader will ask her till he leaves, she can't leave easily because she is at her own seat already (and if she goes to the bathroom/to get water she knows that he will be waiting for her to come back), and she can't tell him to leave because he "has done nothing wrong". So after one or two tandas in tango purgatory she is going to suggest that they dance, just so she is able to get rid of him without "being a bitch".

    How do you start the conversations after you have spotted her? You are describing a two step process to get to dance with somebody - first you have to find somebody that wants to have a conversation with you, and then she also has to want to dance with you afterwards.

    I am always amazed when people talk about the cabeceo as something so artificial and weird - this is exactly how everybody connects with people in all kinds of social stations - you look around, see if your eyes meet with somebody elses, walk up, start chatting (or dancing as it were). I don't know anybody who talks to strangers at bars or parties without making eye contact first, and establishing that we perceive each other, and are actively maintaining that contact.
  7. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I wish to add that people do socialize in milongas in Buenos Aires. If I want to chat with someone, I totally can do so, at the bar, sitting in the group area, or in the hall. Assigned sitting does not prevent me from that.
    However, it does prevent unwanted, imposed social interactions, as Gssh mentioned. And that is a good thing. When I want to dance, I go to my seat and make myself available to whomever I want to dance with.
    Besides, there have been many people in milongas I greet and chat with, but that social interactions do not lead to us dancing together, and actually, why are they supposed to?
    I have heard reports from some diasporas where is no cabeceo, but at the same time people are afraid to greet or make a small talk with others because if they do, it leads to a pressure to dance with that person. Therefore people just sorta being rude and ignore each other instead, and it spoils the general mood in milongas. So I feel mirada-cabeceo system is the opposite of anti social: when codigos are observed, the boundaries are in place, and there is no need for people to raise additional boundaries by acting unfriendly toward anyone. Everyone feels protected in their right to dance with who they want when they want, and more relaxed.
  8. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    Folks, the world is not perfect and many bad things can happen. Sure, there are rude people who create uncomfortable situations or worse. Mankind was not created perfect. That's not a reason to stop being social even in Milongas.
    We dance in New York and New Jersey and manage very well with a very limited cabeceo (apologies for my misspelling earlier). We danced in many cities on 5 continents and found that sometimes conversing with potential dancing partners and people in general was much more pleasant and led to more fun. I am not putting down cabeceo, just expressing (based on my own experience) how I feel about it.
    itwillhappen likes this.
  9. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    You and I view Milonga differently and that's OK. For me it's a social event, revolved around dancing.

    The "meat market" comment was how my wife felt, and feelings are feelings.

    As far as how do I start a conversation? I approach her and complement her on her dancing! Based on how that goes I know how to proceed. Can't remember making an error in judgement...
  10. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    How do you do that, I am curious, what do you say exactly?
    Do you suppose a compliment from you would be pleasing? Provided she sees you for the first time in her life, knows nothing about you or your dance history and background.
  11. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    As I stated above, I observe the dancers and spot ladies who I think follow very well and make the couple look good.
    Needles to say I also dance and that gives an opportunity to others see me on the floor.

    My background? It's my dancing that counts, not my history... we are only talking about a tanda, not a lifetime commitment.

    Did you ever object hearing how well you dance and how good you look when you are dancing? From my experience it always puts a smile on her face.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2017
  12. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    How compliment is taken and whether it even is appropriate to offer depends a lot on who it comes from, and to whom.
    It mostly pleasant when a person you are complimenting already had a look at you, and liked you and/or your dancing. Or somehow is aware of your background and holds it in high esteem.
    Otherwise it may feel neutral, presumptuous or even annoying.
    Yes, in some cases I would not care for a comment about how I look or how I dance, and rather not have it from a certain person. And I would have initially liked the person in question more if he/she did not lead with any such thing. Even if I know he/she meant well by saying it.
  13. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    It always boils down to who you are, whom are you talking to etc. In my world it works very well for me and the ladies I dance with.
  14. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    That is understood.
    It's once we venture a bit out of our world when it may get a bit more complex. :)
  15. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    "My world" does not apply to my physical location - it has worked for me in many different cities, societies and cultures on 5 continents - including in Tokyo, where the local Tangueras hardly spoke any English!
  16. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    By "our world" I was not referring to a physical location.
    However, it is clear that you don't have a problem getting enough suitable dance partners wherever you go.
    Good for you!
    This thread is more for those who does, or may have.
  17. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    My tango surrounding field is affected by a heavy shortage of leaders; there is obviously no symmetry in finding partners and the strategies differ.
    For me any philosophical or mathematical thoughts have to pass this reality check.

    I think with gender balance there would be no "leader invites, follower accepts" in these times, and maybe cabeceo would get used more.
    There is a balance of attractivity instead of that - sorry but (not) finding a partner is the instrument to adjust the attractivity to a common level.
    BTW: A role balance by female leaders is in my opinion the easiest way out of that situation.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  18. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    Maybe, but that's a labour intensive task. At most milongas I didn't get ever notified by the hosts.
    And seating arrangement is very sensitive:

  19. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    Cabeceo doesn't work well when the lights are dimmed too much in the name of creating ambiance. NOTE: The lights are completely on at BA milongas and I haven't seen dancers not enjoying the ambiance. (However, the lights are completely on at the practica I attend.) It's difficult to track the women I want to dance with when they change their seating location after every tanda.

    The other issue is body language. I'm not going to ask a women who's engrossed with her smart phone or talking to another woman. (Daniel Trenner explained that it's rude to ask a woman engaged in conversation because you put her on the spot: Decline and possibly upset the man OR accept and abandon the woman she was talking.) Yes, women are there to dance but not necessarily every tanda. I don't want to dance every tanda at the practica so I relax and read The New York Times.

    The most important part of an airline's safety message is "the nearest exit may be behind you." Well, at a practica or milonga, your nearest potential partner may be behind you or to your side so look around. I see a lot of women who just stare forward and miss opportunities. But maybe they don't want to dance that tanda and I misread their body language.
  20. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Sometimes people don't do themselves favours either: at one milonga I attend regularly, there are two well lit sides and then some chairs on the two other sides that are backlit by the lamps next to the floor. It's hard to cabeceo anyone sitting there, since you can only see a black silhouette...and you can't approach those chairs well without intruding on the dance floor.

    There are also ladies that expect potential partners to interrupt their conversations; they want to dance but they want to chat while they're not. That's asking a lot of the leaders: I will assume that anyone who chats without looking around for potential partners actively doesn't want to dance.

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