Tango Argentino > "I don't know this song."

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by twnkltoz, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Question for leaders: If a lady asks you to dance (let's omit discussion of social mores about asking for dances for the moment), and you like dancing with her normally but don't know the song, would you decline based on that, or would you give it a shot? Or is that a cover-up for "I don't like this song" or "I don't want to dance right now/with you/etc."?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Dancing unknown songs should be the rule in social dancing (only the old milongueros of BS could only dance to songs they have consciously heard a hundred times, at a minimum).
  3. NZ_Guy

    NZ_Guy Member

    I have a terrible memory for music. After three years of tango, there's about 5-10 songs that I'll recognise as I dance it, and maybe a couple that I'll recognise before I dance it. The rest feels 'new'. I generally listen for a while to decide whether I like it or not and whether it's too difficult to dance to or not (mood, level of floor chaos, level of tiredness/sweatiness, pool of available partners and my ability are all factors in this). Then I'll listen, predict the music (which is easy with all the 30s-40s songs I think) and dance.

    So "I don't know this song" is fairly meaningless for me. Nearly all my dances are mirada/cabeceo initiated so I wouldn't generally verbalise my reasons. With one partner with whom I dance a fair bit with, I do though convey through facial expression that the song is not one I like.
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Bottom line, it means "This music does not make me want to dance".
    "Right now/with you" may or may not be a factor. Who knows?
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I routinely turn down people if there is a song that I don't want to dance to.
    I don't think it takes very long to get an idea of the overall feel of a song.
    "I give it a 9 because it was easy to dance to."
    I will also usually not go on the floor if there is no obvious beat, something that often happens in the intro to songs. And not leaping into motion is something very OK where I dance AT.

    Almost always, though, a refusal comes with an offer to dance with them later, with the understanding that I will seek them out.

    Within the context of AT, we know that songs are generally grouped into tandas, and are similar to each other.
    Outside of AT this happens most often to me when someone wants to do West Coast, and I don't find anything swing like in the song.
    I recently asked someone to dance (again non AT), and when we got on the floor, I realized what I had in mind wasn't working. We settled on cha cha and I struggled through "ballroom" cha cha. And I realized that before I do that again, I'd really better brush up.
    Next time I saw that gal, I joked with her, saying "No ballroom cha cha tonight!"
    bordertangoman likes this.
  6. Lui

    Lui Active Member

    When classic tango music is played (Canaro, D’Arienzo, …) I don’t need to know the song, I just need to check if I could handle the first bars after the introduction. That’s enough, since classic dance music is organized in the same way: It’s mostly structured in triplets.

    A musical motive is introduced and repeated two times. The last time is usually a little bit longer variation “wrapping up” the triplet. It also works as a connection to the next motive.

    The design of dance music is pretty consistent in style, tempo rhythm, etc. If I can dance the first triplet, I won’t have any problems with the rest of that song. The same goes for the whole tanda: If I can dance the first song, there will be no big surprise down the line.

    Modern “western” musicians can hardly withstand the temptation to break that consistency. Let’s say there is a German and a Japanese in that band and they are just rolling in a vibraphone and the bongos. I can be sure: I won’t know that song no matter how often I’ve heard it before. In such an instance I might ask for a later chance to dance.

    I usually skip a dance if
    • I’m sure that the difficulty of the music is way beyond the skill of my partner (Absolute beginner and Piazolla).
    • I should have a mint or fresh shirt before being close to any lady.
    • the proper interpretation of that tune calls for a show and I don’t want to draw any attention to me or the dance floor is too crowded for that kind of music (La Yumba).
    • I’m the host and have already danced with that lady several times, but there still plenty ladies sitting unasked.
    • I really don’t like to dance Tango to that music. (Putamayo. Tango Sampler)
  7. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Yeah, it's a bit different in AT because of the tanda structure. But I dance to music I don't know all the time. Occasionally I have to beg off if I just can't find the beat in a song, but then I promise another dance later.
    opendoor likes this.
  8. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Dancing to music I dont know, is like walking blindfolded through a forest. In the first moment you are kind of confused. After some minutes you can hear the birds, the wind in the trees, the cracking of branches under your feet. After a while you can feel out the track with your feet.
    Mladenac likes this.
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    For me, not knowing the song would not factor into my decision. If it was someone I normally like dancing with, I would accept her invitation. I would only decline if I knew the song and couldn't stand it (like a Tom Waits song, or some other clown who can't sing any better than my beagle).

    Now if I were doing the asking, I would assess the emotion I get from the song (which would influence how I'd likely want to dance to it), before deciding who to ask, whether I know the song or not.
  10. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your thoughts...I was just curious how other leaders felt about it.

    I lead in all the genres I dance, and I'll dance to any song, whether I know it or not. Even if it's challenging, I'll try to make something of it. I might warn my partner with something like, "This is a weird song, but I'll give it a shot!"
  11. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    "only the old milongueros of BS could only dance to songs they have consciously heard a hundred times, at a minimum"

    Old milongueros, and DJs (at least for the 500 or so most popular tracks, that is).
  12. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    How inspired are you dancing tunes you don't know, guys? I'd rather dance when you're inspired by the music you know and love.

    I call them tunes because tango includes instrumentals and vocals. Tandas are often arranged with two instrumentals and two vocals in Buenos Aires milongas.

    Milongueros viejos have heard tangos more than a hundred times, probably thousands of times. Many began dancing in the late 40s and still dance today. They hear the first few bars of a tune, recognize the orchestra, and choose a partner if they're inspired to dance. That is why a man initiates the invitation in social dancing. Most women always want to dance no matter what music is playing and with any partner who invites them.
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    While I understand your point about being inspired, I can be inspired by a tune I don't know, just as I can be inspired by a tune I do know.

    The thing I've never gotten is how so many people line up their next dance before hearing the beginning of the song, to form a judgement.
    opendoor likes this.
  14. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I am often inspired by music I don't know.

    As a variation on the theme, last year I asked a guy for a WCS at a swing convention. He declined, saying he didn't like the song. Fair enough, but he never asked me to dance to make up for it, so I take it as a "I don't want to dance with you."
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "I give it a 9 because it was easy to dance to," is something the kids on American Bandstand would always say when Dick Clark would ask them what they thought of a new song. I always though, is that all you have to say?

    I wouldn't use the term "inspired," but I have to admit if a song has a feel, or beat, that makes me want to move, I'm good to go.
    There ARE songs that I nearly ALWAYS want to dance to, and I guess "inspired" would be a good description there.
  16. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Of course, music we've never heard before can inspire us to listen. Dancing well is another matter.

    It's obvious that we can't overlook the long-standing customs of social dancing where the man invites a woman. He didn't have to make up for declining your invitation. He doesn't like being invited by women. That's the way most men feel, especially in the milongas of Buenos Aires. WCS swing isn't an intimate dance like tango.

    I have no problem ignoring a stranger who invites me to dance at my table. I never tell a man that I want to dance with him. It's his call to invite me if and when he chooses.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  17. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    WCS is a very different culture. It is very customary for women to ask men, or vice versa. And I didn't say he "had" to make it up to me. That was just my signal that he didn't want to dance with me, so I won't ask him again.
  18. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    I danced West Coast Swing in the early 90s and never asked men to dance. If women choose to do so, they have to be prepared to be turned down. A woman may forfeit the opportunity to dance with someone simply because she initiates an invitation. Men are men. They prefer to initiate the invitation in any social dance situation.

    As a professional dance teacher, I taught social dance customs and music basics in dance classes. The American culture is focused on instant gratification and not on respect. I shared what I learned about dance etiquette. People made their own choices.
  19. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    And I have been a part of the wcs community for the past 14 years. You are incorrect. In fact, some men never bother asking anyone to dance, because they know the women will come get them. In due there are a few like what you describe, but that is the exception.
  20. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

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