Apologies - let me clarify. I wasn't comparing eye contact on the dance floor in relation to off the dance floor at all.
Are you talking about choreographed or social dance? Staring someone in the eyes the entire time is downright creepy and can be send mixed messages as others have noted on this thread. There are plenty of psychological studies that show that we don't only look at the other person's eyes when we talk to them (and more evidence to suggest that too much eye contact makes others think you're untrustworthy), hence my use of the word 'natural'. As I said before in response to a question about the differences between AT and salsa: social AT dancers don't make eye contact, but salsa-types do.
Perhaps my use of the word 'should' read as too prescriptive. Let me try again…
"Because there is some distance between the dancers, eye contact probably feels quite natural…" etc
Malena, I´m also a tango dancer, and I do not make any difference between salsa and tango concerning eye contact, at all. I dance as often in open and in close hold in either style. Eye contact is part of the flirty atmosphere and attitude. Even if you dance tango in close embrace: taking a girl into my arms can be expanded up to 30 seconds with plenty of time for meaningful eye contact. I really don´t mean to offend you now, but as soon as the eye contact isn´t possible any more, I will continue that dialogue by breathing. Dancing isn´t about steps, it´s communication with bodies, with eyes, with breezing, with hands, with your head position, mouth corners, and so on...
Perhaps it's different in the UK then. I'm concerned you're taking me literally when I said AT dancers don't make eye-contact. I didn't mean we NEVER make eye contact EVER - I meant we don't while we're dancing. As I've said before, the physical positioning of close embrace doesn't allow for it. If we're in open embrace and you're staring at me in attempt to maintain the 'flirty atmosphere and attitude', and not keeping an eye on traffic we are going to crash. Most likely I will have my eyes shut anyway, so it would probably go unnoticed. And I thankfully don't know anyone who would attempt 'meaningful eye contact' on the AT dance floor - I think such a leader would quickly gain a reputation as a bit of an oddball at best. For me it's not the allure of dancing with you, but immersing and interpreting the music together that intrigues me.
I'm not offended at all - just have never seen or experienced it in AT socially (perhaps I haven't noticed it). Everything you said from 'I will continue that dialogue by breathing…' I agree with. I would possibly amend it with 'the dialogue begins with the embrace'. Why did you think I'd be offended?
Here's the rub (pardon the pun) - I think there's a real difference in attitude towards a 'flirty atmosphere' in salsa and tango. It's partly why I rarely dance salsa, but that's a topic for a different board... I'm experienced enough to know that simply enjoying myself in the presence of certain men leads them to believe I'm solely there to pick them up. If I were to find myself dancing salsa with a stranger who attempted 'meaningful eye contact', I would find myself avoiding it more and more to hopefully curtail the awkward conversation that would inevitably follow afterwards.
When I go out to dance, I go out to dance. For me the atmosphere is created by the dance and not the other way round. I know plenty of places in town to have 'meaningful eye contact' with strangers
As a social AT follower there's not much of an advantage to maintaining eye contact with the leader. Unless I want him to crash into other couples as we're travelling round the room. The position of heads in close embrace doesn't really allow for it and I've seen most followers close their eyes anyway - it's pretty intense stuff anyway without staring at someone.
lol! I did not think of close embrace. You're right in that close embrace does not allow eye contact, but how about when dancing with an open embrace or when the embrace opens for an ocho or some fancy moves? Some girls in this thread mentioned that eye contact makes them feel dancing with their partner, so I'm wondering how it feels in AT when eye contact is possible.
Once a female tango instructor told me to look ahead, but my gf and other female friends like it when I look at them.
That's the key though - the women you know like eye contact - you can't account for strangers. I've never seen anyone do it except in show tango, or beginners who gaze unblinkingly at each other as they collide with all the others doing the same. Your tango teacher is correct - you are responsible for keeping your follower safe and maintaining the flow of traffic in the room. You and your partner are not an island. At the best milongas the room dances together.
Personally I feel that I'm 'dancing with my partner' in the embrace and in our interpretation of the music so I won't be looking for eyes. In a hypothetical situation: on an empty dancefloor (no danger of bumping into anyone) and in open embrace I'm still not going to stare in someone's eyes! Just try standing that close to someone you don't know that well, look at each other in silence for about three minutes and enjoy the awkwardness...
I don't really understand why you would look for opportunities to make eye contact (simultaneously too) in a dance which doesn't really allow for talking without putting you off the beat (believe me, I've tried it). In other partner dances you're not in such close proximity, sharing an axis (if you do), improvising every single step, navigating a dancefloor etc, so there's lots of room for eye contact in practically every other dance. We can talk and look at each other between songs in the tanda if you like.
I just thought of a dodgy metaphor - imagine I'm driving an unfamiliar car on a beautiful mountain road. I keep looking at you and insist you look at me. Wouldn't you be irritated that I wasn't allowing you to enjoy the scenery? Wouldn't you be worried you were trapped in the car with a psycho who was going to drive off the mountain at any second?
This assumes it's not possible to look at partner and navigate safely across the dance floor. If that was the case, then dancing with a girlfriend or complete stranger would result in the same kind of accidents, would it not?
And for "staring", I though you earlier said it's not the eye contact we are discussing. Even in salsa, you cannot look in the eyes all the time. I'm talking about the natural eye contact (and other kind of looking at partner) which comes from confidence and trust when you share any kind of activity with another person.
I like your metaphor though, and see there's more than one way to look at it
You said your female friends 'like it when I look at them'. I assumed you were talking about comfort levels, not safety.
I think it's always difficult to discuss movement of any kind academically. I certainly don't deliberately avoid a partner's eyes but when I dance AT I prefer to either have my eyes closed (kind of happens automatically to me if the dance is amazing) or look straight ahead at or over his right shoulder. I'd have to turn my head to the right and up to look at him, which feels off balance to me. Fair play to anyone who can do it, but personally there's no real point doing that when I'm concentrating for my life!
Do you practice cabeceo where you are? I've noticed the more English-speaking countries don't do that so much, or they mix it up with asking people to dance. Cabeceo has all the eye contact you could ever want!
Edit: Look what I found! "FINALLY!" shout all the regular forum posters: please search for a thread called 'Connection and Eye Contact' in the AT forum. They won't let me post a link :'(
Perhaps somehow we ended up each on a page, but I think I understand all what you've said.
And yes, you're right. I've never brought up a question about safety. I've been only interested in finding out how other dancers find eye contact in relation to the dynamics between the 2 partners dancing on the dance floor in salsa vs. in tango. The earliest replies about salsa were to the point.
Anyway, it's good to know a reason why some girls avoid eye contact in tango, which is what you said about feeling off balance. I don't tango that often, so it's useful to know that from you here.
When I think of the too-formal cabeceo, I like to do something naughty to feel more relaxed and happy.
I'll read the other thread later and let you know. Thanks for finding it!
when I have the chance to make eye contact (parada, alternative embraces, etc.) I avoide it. I'm just shy about eye contact in general. I absolutely do not feel it is necessary for that "mythical tango connection."
I do not seek or expect eye contact. If the leader is looking in my eyes, he's not watching the room and that scares me. ONE of us needs to be watching the room and its much harder for ME to do it since I'm facing the other way! I would never interpret you looking forward as anything other than correct leading technique...
The rest of Zoopsia's post and her other posts are very informative and rich in expression.
I have a impression that the almost-constant position of the embrace in tango with the follower walking without seeing the road on her trust in her leader is giving a similar feeling to when a woman is leading on a man's chest seeking comfort or love
On the contrary, salsa is more about performing artistic moves with the upper body, and massive and quick changes in positions between the 2 bodies and 4 arms, which makes it a kind of play that produces a great variety of intense yet sudden emotions. Eye contact and a smile or laughter often improve the dynamics between the 2 dancers and give them a more enjoyable experience.
Not for everyone... And, eye contact ,or more to the point, visual awareness ,in dances where partnership separates , is very important. Just staring into someones eyes on a dance floor, for no specfici reason, would be very strange. A casual glance, can speak volumes .In addition, much depends,with whom the partner is dancing .