How not to treat a girl

Posted in Feedback, Leading, Tango on May 30, 2011 by tangobitch

I ended the agony after four months of a life devoid of tango. I went back to my old tango community a couple of weeks ago. To see if it was a good place to re-start. I attended the class and briefly stayed for a bit of practica. I survived. I even started to feel like I hadn’t been out all that long. I was welcomed with warm tango hugs from many nice friends. Felt good to be back…

Err, not so fast.  Today, I had an experience that reminded me why I left in the first place. More importantly, why I became the tango bitch.

First a bit of background..

Let’s call our hero SR. Many moons ago, SR had the fortune of being a regular tango partner for tango bitch while she was still finding her feet. It was fun and games until somebody started ignoring gentle feedback and repeating the very same things that made tango bitch unhappy. The unhappier she got, the bitchier she got. And, soon after, she had to gently put an end to the tango partnership.

One of the things that SR prided himself in was his self-proclaimed subtle lead. He somehow felt he was so advanced in his tango that he could just think about some move and the follower should pick up on it.. that is, if she was good enough.

Ok, yes, there are degrees of listening… yes, some leaders are much more subtle in their leading while others are quite explicit. But tango bitch has the degree of skill to detect no-lead versus subtle lead. And most importantly, she’s at a place in her tango life where she is pretty good at knowing when she’s missed a beat. And in her not-so-humble opinion, there’s a limit to how subtle *most* leaders can be while properly conveying their intention after only a couple of years under their tango belt.

So here comes the rant-worthy moment of this evening:

Tango bitch ends up having the misfortune of briefly practicing with SR when it’s time to switch partners. While practicing a particular move, he stops after a few steps and asks why tango bitch didn’t go into a cross. Caught off guard, she says:  “There was a cross?” He unexpectedly snaps back:  “Oh, you didn’t like the lead?” Poor puzzled tango bitch fears he misunderstood her tone as sarcastic. She says: “No, it’s not that I didn’t like the lead; just that.. I didn’t sense an invitation.”  (She did have to bite her tongue in order not to say “No, it’s not that I didn’t like the lead; just that there *wasn’t* a lead”)

SR is annoyed. Next he tries to be more explicit (“Must get her into that #*$! cross!”). After the third attempt, tango bitch realises this is some half-arsed hurried attempt led in double-time without much warning (and not quite in tune with the music, either). She says “oh, it’s a double-time cross… ok….” hoping to close this unpleasant discussion. He is not satisfied. He needs some kind of revenge. He mutters under his breath “Have to be heavy-handed then..”

Oh no, not THAT. Not the old ugly argument of “it’s not my lead that’s not clear; it’s just that some followers (read: tango bitch) want to be man-handled”……. Last time that topic came up was when she tried to explain to him that sometimes the leader needs to give the follower energy to be able to reverse her direction and achieve the desired effect. He didn’t get it then. He still doesn’t get it.

So much to say about this topic, but I lack the eloquence right now.  I had, by that moment, reached the limits of my patience anyway. Quite an achievement for SR to create this tension after less than a minute of dancing. So I said nothing. It was either that or I’d have to bite his head off. Of course, he would have been able to clearly read the displeasure in my face if he wasn’t basking in his moment of glory (!).

The situation just reminds me so much of that movie that I’ve been meaning to watch:  How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. I am sure SR and his kind could make a great tango version!

What next?

Posted in Tango on April 22, 2011 by tangobitch

I am having a tango detox. I was trapped, suffocating, unhappy. I paused my tango journey. Stopped where the roads diverged. Where to now? I know where (back to tango bliss and healthy ranting) but not sure exactly how.

This will no doubt be an experimental era with plenty new scenes and experiences to rant about.

So I’m not dead, this won’t be one of those blogs that dies after the avg 2.3 posts. So reader(s), if you’re still with me, I’ll be back soon.

Reality bites

Posted in Tango with tags , on January 11, 2011 by tangobitch

Archetypes from a recent milonga…

Lovely older man I know from practicas; started tango with his wife, about a year ago.  Has a musical ear.  He doesn’t attempt silly stuff. Mostly.  I avoid the ‘lean’ he leads — I am not a lightweight and it’s never going to work like that–I can feel it not happening.  He tells me while we’re chatting later (off the pista) how he and his wife want to go to Buenos Aires.  And how they want to learn ‘all the steps’ before they go.  *sigh*

A vaguely familiar face standing by the chair I had escaped to… asks me to dance; I take a chance. I think I danced with him a real long time ago, when he was a beginner.  We all have to pay our dues.  And, who knows.. since I don’t recall anything nasty, worth a try.  As soon as we’re on the dance floor, I remember.  He couldn’t care less — he’s just going through the motions.  He even tries to have a little chat while we’re dancing.   I shut him up politely by saying “I can’t dance and talk at the same time”.  Once the tanda is *thankfully* over, he thanks me (gee, was it that bad for you too?) and just turns around, away from me, to listen to the announcement by the band about the upcoming tanda. Leaves me standing there.  He’s oblivious to how rude this is.  I know he didn’t do it on purpose.  Nevertheless, I shall call him Mr NeverAgain.

I return to my table and say something about not enjoying being left on the floor just like that.  I am sitting at the same table with Mr ChattySweetAndConsiderate and his wife.  Mr CSC and wife know what I’m talking about — he also mentions how disappointed he is about how casually a lot of the men at this milonga are dressed.  This is not any old milonga — it’s a ticket-only event that’s been organised months ago, with a live band playing.   (Remember, this is not Buenos Aires… it’s an occasion in my neck of the woods to find a milonga with a live band.)

Oh, how can I forget Mr IKnowTangoMusicSoWell.  He asks me to dance when the band start playing Cafe Dominguez.  How I enjoy listening to it without the poem being recited over the music.  He, on the other hand, has no idea what the song is.  Leads some strange steps he must have picked up in some random class and ruins the song for me.  Not the first time he got carried away with trying “stuff” on the pista and ruined a piece of lovely music.  What a great way to kill the mood.  Oh, and how about having some garlic at  lunch while we’re at it?  Seriously… this is beyond inconsiderate.

In the end, it wasn’t all bad.  I did have a couple of nice tandas with a couple of lovely dancers.  But where’s the magic I live for?  Doesn’t have to be a whole tanda, just that one single dance that can keep me smiling for days.. making me look forward to  my next ‘fix’..

I shall not give up.  I just have to move on.  I used to like this community, because they’re a lovely bunch of people.  I started out a couple of years ago with most of these people.  Went through the worst of the newbie times together.  But two years on.. most of them are nowhere near where I want my tango to be.  They are still doing steps, not dancing from the heart.  Still trying to recite the one or two composers they know of, but not feeling the music in their soul.  And not paying attention to the embrace or anything else that really matters.

Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, Tango Therapist posts this:  I am going to print it out and hand it out to every tango dancer-wannabe I know.

It’s now or never

Posted in Tango with tags , , , on January 1, 2011 by tangobitch

I guess this is as good a time as any to start.  It’s been ages since I’ve had a desire to rant publicly about my tango experiences and tango in general, but that single best topic worth kicking off the blog never came up.  Or at least, nothing ever seemed important enough once a day or two had passed after I felt passionately bitchy about it.

So here goes my first rant…  it’s nothing new and it’s nothing exciting, but has to be my biggest tango pet-peeve:  non-use of  the cabeceo.  Tangueros in the UK, or at least those in the milongas I’ve been to, do not feel the need to use the cabeceo.  There are a few who do, but they are certainly the exception.

Lack of the use of the cabeceo is, to say the least, irritating.  How come so many men fail to  realise how tiring it is for a tanguera to have to constantly come up with a decent set of excuses to refuse to dance?  There may well be a set of reasons for any woman to not want to dance with a particular dancer for a particular tanda on a particular occasion.  The reason could be my mood, his attitude, the music, his dancing in general, the vibe he gives off tonight, his embrace, connection (or lack thereof), his style, my level, his level,  my self-confidence on the  day, …  or any combination of these or other factors.  Why put one or both of us  into the unpleasant situation of being refused, feeling bad for refusing, or, upon failure to come up with a creative excuse, putting up with a tanda because it was–for some silly reason–impossible to avoid?  I am very passionate about my tango; I never want to ‘put up’ with any tanda or have anyone ruin a single dance, let alone a tanda or even an entire evening for me.  That’s why the cabeceo matters.

It’s not only the tangueros.  It would be nice if the milonga  organisers made the slightest effort to promote the use of cabeceo.  There’s been a long  discussion thread about this on Tango-L if anybody’s interested.  The how and the why on what to do and what not to do was dissected at length, so I will not digress here.  Lack of encouragement in this direction is simply disappointing, although I feel the responsibility belongs primarily to the dancers themselves.  It has to start somewhere, though.  And that’s where I think the milonga organisers and other influencers (instructors, experienced dancers, etc) within the tango community can help most.

I think it will be a while, if ever, before the cabeceo becomes widely used here.  In the meantime, if I become a popular dancer, I might try to ruin my chances of ever getting any invites by demanding the cabeceo.  And of course, I’ll make sure to report the results of such an experiment here.

p.s. I read about this in countless blogs / articles, but thanks to Bora ( for describing so well ( in her latest series of posts about her Buenos Aires visit) how a woman can be in control.

Almost there

Posted in Tango on June 16, 2010 by tangobitch

The tango bitch will be here soon.