Monday, 8 November 2010

Good news. Really.

Men are visual beings. That‘s no news. You‘ve only got to sit with one of them in a cafe: each time a good looking woman will pass by, their focus will shift from you, the meal or their friends to this female. That‘s OK and women exploit it by wearing make-up, high heels and sexy dresses to attract attention. The Tango setting is no exception and there, it is even more obvious, as this kind of make-over is very compatible to Tango traditions and imagery. So, if you come to a Milonga, you will see a huge number of women, nicely made-up, in the most stunning outfits, wearing the highest and latest Comme-Il-Fauts. I‘ve never seen so many gorgeous women as in Tango and lots of them are quite decent dancers as well!

Unfortunately, I‘ve never seen so few gorgeous men as in Tango. Men are in a minority, often dress very carelessly and the average level of attractivity isn‘t breathtaking. Also the dance level is much lower amongst men, than amongst women. And this is why every semi-decent male dancer can feel like a kid in a candy-shop and choose freely amongst the female population according to the check-list:
- Age
- Level of attractivity
- Make-over and shoes
- Dance qualities 

And yes, dance qualities come last, because A, they don‘t matter so much and B, many men just assume, that good looking women, who wear high heels will be good dancers as well. (That‘s totally in accordance to scientific findings, as I recall from early psychology classes: attractive people are given higher ratings in skills and positive personality traits, than unattractive people.) And let‘s not forget, that a high dance level in a female, quite often is perceived as being threatening for male dancers. So dance quality will be the least important factor for the majority of men, when choosing a partner.

The funny outcomes of that kind of selection procedure: Even good male dancers (some of them quite near to me) repeatedly end up dancing with way below average dancers, who can hardly walk, because of a comically bad decision based on looks, heel-size and age. I won‘t mention names now... OK, once, it even happened to me. There was this good looking guy in Niño Bien Milonga in Buenos Aires... but that‘s another story. ;-)

The not-so-funny results: The majority of women over 40 or those not being of ideal proportions are sitting most of the time, no matter how they dress or dance. In Buenos Aires, this is even more crass: Lots of the eldest Milongueros dance as a principle only with the youngest Tangueras, often even choosing them as lovers. And don‘t tell me about age being honoured in argentine Milongas! The elder Tangueras may be put on a pedestal, but it‘s the young girls, who are invited to dance. It‘s kinda sad, all of it, and it creates a lot of frustration amongst women and a high pressure on men.

I started out as a beginner, being fairly attractive and still young enough, so that I was chosen as one of the favourite partners by the better local dancers. And being a little talented as well, they could do all kinds of fancy stuff with me and show me the world, as men like to do.

As I grew older and gained some kilos and became - at last - a professional Tango teacher, I was much more rarely invited. So I sat, watched my partner dance and - as I valued quantity higher than quality - was frustrated most of the time.

But over the years, my priorities shifted. Having developed musical preferences and a high quality approach to Tango, nowadays, I don‘t care to dance, when the music does not inspire me, when I‘m tired or when there are no interesting partners for me. Very often, I even refuse invitations. I choose not to dance. (I will write about „making choices“ in one of my next posts.) 

So most of the time, I'm still sitting, but contentedly listening to the music and having the leisure to observe people and notice an interesting development over the last two years.

The young men are coming! And they are different.

I watch these guys in their 30‘s emerging from the crowd as real nice dancers with a pleasant embrace. They are dancing a social Tango without fancy stuff and focus on quality and musicality. All the young attractive Tangueras love to dance with them. But I notice, that these young men are dancing with all kinds of women: those being double their age, double their size and those wearing homely dresses. And I see both partners smiling and enjoying the dance, because it‘s not about what you see from the outside, it‘s about what you feel on the inside.

Some of these young men are amongst my favourite partners and we had lots of fun at some recent events, that attract close-embrace social dancers: the Festivalito Rural in Celje (Slovenia), the Festivalito con Amigos in Saarbruecken (Germany), Autumn Tango in Eton (UK) and the Raduno Milonguero in Impruneta (Italy). And I‘m gonna meet some of them in Bramshaw (UK) soon!

I don‘t know much about the Nuevo community, but I presume, that with the focus on athletic movement and flexibility, age and weight will remain constant selective criteria for this style of dance.

But it seems, that with an increasing higher emphasis on quality of movement and embrace, the selective criteria in social Tango could change over the years. Women might be perceived as attractive dance partners because of their experience in the dance and because of their ability to really commit to the embrace and not because of their looks or age.

And, as society is getting older and all the young women in Tango as well, this is actually a very positive outlook. Isn‘t it?

I want to thank all these nice young men, for being who they are and helping to create a much more agreeable Tango community.

Note in reaction to a comment on November 9:
What I am talking about, is a general situation, not individual personalities.
If you are a nice guy with a nice embrace (no matter what age), who respects women and will choose your partner because of her dancing skillls, then I‘m not talking about you in the first half of my post. And of course, there are more guys like you. I know, because I dance with them. But unfortunately, you are not in the majority, because if you were, there would not not be so many nice, talented women at the Milongas, who have to leave frustrated.


Unknown said...

Hi Melina,

it was a pleasure to read this. Same kind of concerns are the ones that left me skeptic about dancing tango for a long time.

I still am skeptic about tango community :); but being around (the same) people that seek quality over glitter makes me optimistic, and continue seeking quality myself.


Melina Sedo said...

Thanks Amanda. We're talking about the same guys and I can tell you: there are more of them out there! :-) Hope to see you soon again.

Unknown said...

Oh, yes, i just met one over here, and it was a real pleasure (which i couldn't say about the rest of the evening, unfortunately) :). Hope to see you soon, too.

Mikamou said...

Very interesting and well described! I see it in a quite similar way and I hope the "new groove" you mention persists even if these the younger men have their mid-life crises. But there is hope ... mid-life crises shifted closer to the 50ies these days.

Marika said...

I am so glad you have this blog - what a pleasure to read! I noticed many of the same observations you mentioned in my community. It was frustrating at first because I was, as a beginner, neither young or pretty enough to be asked on that account, nor good enough to get asked based on my skill. I was just somewhere in the middle, sitting rather more than I would have liked.

Lately though I've noticed many more leaders of all ages (and experience levels) asking followers of all ages and experience levels, as if some sort of switch has been turned on. It's wonderful and so encouraging. I don't know what happened, but it's spreading and that's such a good thing for our community!

Thank you for writing this, and for starting your blog!

Kirra said...

Nice post, so well said.

We can only hope that the more dancers learn, the more they will see quality and choose dance partners based on this.

I love a night where I have one or two beautiful tandas and then I am happy to let the music wash over me while watching the dancing. Quality vs. Quantity.

I look forward to more posts!

Melina Sedo said...

Thanks you all. It's so kind of you, to encourage me to go on.

Just one word: of course, there are young, beautiful, well-dressed women. Lots of them. And I never said, that men should not invite them.
It's just about setting the priorities to quality instead of looks. ;-)

Cheers to all.

Unknown said...


Keep up your blog, I enjoyed your thoughts! I found your words to ring true. When I was in Argentina I was a beginner who looked the part, but I couldn't dance well. So, I got asked to dance, and I felt horrible. False advertising always leaves a certain sad emptiness that I quickly observed in my dancing. I call it "shallow dancing". I thought through the years that as I aged and "they" aged the depth of dance would of course grow. What I've found is that the depth of dance knows no age limit. Leaders who possess pleasant embraces and leave the fancy stuff out to connect deeper, and truer are the golden strings that weave us into the music and unto each other. Come to the Northwest, USA, we have lots of these wonderful dancers here.

Saeed said...

Very nice post! I'm a young man dancing tango for three years now. I'm so in love with tango, the music and the embrace...
However, I have one problem: I like to be creative with music so much so that I hate to be told what kind of vocabulary I should/shouldn't use in social dancing or what kind of music I should/shouldn't dance to (actually, most of the time, I have problem with DJs too, over the same music they play all the time!). Thus, one of my criteria for asking women (which is missing in your list) is how much that person is ready for adventure! Some people (including young and old) are very "conservative" in this respect such that I don't ask them for dancing very often.
I would like to know your opinion on this as an experienced tango teacher.


Melina Sedo said...

Dear Anna: I've had some lovely dances - and quite often with younger men - in Portland and in Seattle. Great communities! Have a nice day, M.

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Saeed:
Creativity and musical interpretation free of fixed patterns are very valuable abilities for both men and women. So it is totally understandable, that you choose partners who share your ideas.
I like interpreting the music in a modern way, as long as nobody is disturbed by my movement. So, I will adapt my movements to the requitrements of the dancefloor and community. This is why we call it social dancing. ;-)
Apart from that: have fun and be creative!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy hearing the views of other tango dancers . It is interesting to see how people come to perceive situations in tango, because of all the complexities that arise in the world of tango. One does not know in the beginning how complex things get

Christine--RHP said...

Melina--great post! I have observed much the same thing out here-- I'm at the point in the game where I really enjoy the dances where I have a good connection with my partner, but I'm at the age/appearance where my chances of getting dances are going to be getting slimmer and slimmer....something to think about. (it definitely has made me more aware of staying in good shape!) At one particular milonga I frequent most of the women are between age 45-60, and I notice the women who've clearly had a facelift (or 3!) and wear the highest shoes, lowest necklines, shortest skirts, blondest hair etc. (but are not the best dancers) do get the most dances. And the others seem to be sitting much more. So yeah, you're right. But there is one gentleman who says he always prefers dancing with me because of the connection. So there's hope!

I look forward to reading more of your writing. (and I travel to Germany once in a while!!)

Theresa said...

Dear Melina,

I agree so much with your thoughts. I'm one of those women who are sitting a lot when arriving at a new place, and this seems to be 90% due to my grey hair (and no, I don't want to dye!). But very often I finally meet one of those dancers who really connect with the music and the partner (and I use to get less bad dances than the young and attractive women).

But I'm still dancing less than I would want to with the great ones ...


gyb said...

I believe one of the motors of this change is the appearance of milonguero-focused blogs (like tangoandchaos) and the greater availability of videos from traditional BsAs milongas. For me these made a huge difference in my outlook on tango and where I want to go with it. So viva tango-blogs!

Anonymous said...

Personally I have always found this ageism very annoying. I can understand it in novice dancers but it's sad when experienced dancers do the same thing. They really should know better..

The one thing you dont mention however is the very fact that you are a well known teacher. That label - "teacher" - will always make it more difficult for you. My experience there is that younger people have less fear. Older men are more reserved and more inclined to put the teacher on a pedestal. Or perhaps they dont want to ask you because they think you are "tired"/want to rest after a long days teaching.

Personally I will only ask a teacher if they sit amongst the other dancers. If they sit in the DJ area/away from the other dancers, I assume they are not interested in dancing. Or are tired. It's not fair maybe, but I want to see the teacher as a "normal" dancer, and treat them as I would treat any other dancer.

Melina Sedo said...

@ anonymous: yes, being a little more known, does not help to get dances. But I can assure you, that I never sit away from the other dancers - exept from the days, where I'm djing or real tired and want to show, that I'm not up to dance. But these are obvious exceptions.
I'm actually going to write about teachers in the Milonga context in one of the later blogs. This post focused on women in general.
And: yes go on treating teachers as persons- they are (usually). ;-)

james michael said...

Oh Melina.. So so true..what a great start to your blogging. You tell it how it is and how you see the Tango scene. Please continue, never compromise, and I look forward to your future posts with interest.

Tango Therapist said...

Melina...Bad news. Really. At least the title said it would be "good news, really." But for whom? Not for me as an older tanguero. I would have like just one of the list of women to speak up for men in this blog. I am just an effeminate man, I guess. Because, Melina, you hurt my feelings. According this "good news," I cannot carry on a conversation without chasing women with my eyes. Because I am a tanguero, I am less likely to be good looking. You write: "Unfortunately, I‘ve never seen so few gorgeous men as in Tango." Tangueras you go on to say are stunning. "Also the dance level is much lower amongst men, than amongst women." And what do all these ugly, awkward, creatures do at milongas? They go for the unimportant things, as you make clear: "And yes, dance qualities come last." Let's not forget about the weak, male ego. (The female ego may be suitable for my own blog entry -- as not being remarkably different from the male ego.) Oh yes, the male ego, you describe well: "And let‘s not forget, that a high dance level in a female, quite often is perceived as being threatening for male dancers." Really? It seems that if anything I could suggest to ladies is that women too often wait around for a man to take them beyond their own level. Performance-focused females are relying on a good ride, or they don't even allow the cabeceo of the new guy unless his looks like a stud, or they look annoyed and chew gum in my ear. Great social skills! Women and men are remarkably the same, not remarkably different, as you seem to confess about meeting a great looking guy at Niño Bien who didn't dance at your level.

Then you finally get to the good news: "But it seems, that with an increasing higher emphasis on quality of movement and embrace, the selective criteria in social Tango could change over the years. Women might be perceived as attractive dance partners because of their experience in the dance and because of their ability to really commit to the embrace and not because of their looks or age." This is happening everywhere, especially in the hearts and lives of women who fully appreciate men and avoid making them as the primary reason she is not dancing. This describes me, the evidently effeminate man who has hurt feelings, dresses well, works hard at dancing well with women of all ages. On bad days I would like to quit. I get tired of carrying the blame and being considered a dolt as the default of a tanguera's opinon. Ladies, I think you all need to go hug a tanguero. But go look in the mirror first -- the mirror of self-reflection on how you see men may give you a hint of how to make a walking-embrace something you tenderly do throughout your life.

Melina Sedo said...

@ Tango Therapist:

I like men. A lot.
I dance with them and if you knew me, you‘d know, that I do everything, to make them feel comfortable in the dance.
But I don‘t blame them, when they choose a better dancer over me. Or one, that has a nicer embrace. And if this better dancer is younger and prettier than I am, there‘s nothing I can blame anyone for! I don‘t want any charity dances, because I‘m old and neglected and I don‘t think, that this is, what I am referring to.

What I have been observing is, that no matter how good a woman dances, how alert she tries to catch the men‘s eyes for a cabeceo or how nicely she committs to the embrace, a majority of men will more likely choose the younger, better looking woman, even if she does not dance so well.
And yes, I‘m also saying, that there are less men than women in Tango and that this group is (in average) less attractive and has (in average) a lower dance level. And it is obvious, that this fact is creating a „power difference“: a minority with (in average) lower abilities can choose freely amongst a majority with (in average) better skills.
That's everything I'm saying in my first part of the article and please don't tell me, that this is wrong!

So, what I am talking about, is a general situation, not individual personalities.

If you are a nice guy with a nice embrace, who respects women and will choose your partner because of her dancing skillls, then I‘m not talking about you. And then you should not feel insulted.
And of course, there are more guys like you. I know, because I dance with them. But please accept, that you are not the majority of men, because if you were, there would not be so many nice, talented women at the Milongas, who have to leave totally frustrated.

Please note also, that I give a positive outlook. Coming from a younger generation of dancers, values amongst (the big majority) of men seem to be changing. That‘s good news.
If you are ahead of your time and generation, that‘s a good thing too.

And one last thing: please understand, that I do not write out of the perspective of being frustrated and thus full of hate or unfair: my situation changed completely within the last years. Nowadays, I ususally dance with all the men, I want to dance with at a Milonga. But very often, there are only very few, that I‘m interested in (and it‘s not about looks), or the music does not inspire me or I am tired. And I don‘t blame ANYONE, if I‘m sitting and watching. I actually like it.

I‘m going to write in one of my later posts about woman as active partners in the dance. Because - yes - women can do a lot, to make the dance more interesting and being a more attractive dance partner. We do not want to sit and complain about the men without trying our very best, don‘t we? ;-)

Raxie said...

Did any one of you ever observe tangueras and tangureros inbetween two dances? When a dancing couple let´s go of the embrace for a few seconds till the next dance starts? Do that. I find that very interesting. The men don´t do anything. They look at the women, smile maybe and basically they feel very comfortable and are at ease. But the women! Wow. Most of them start to pull and tear at some part of their clothes. All skirts have to be pulled down, the tops have to be readjusted and the hair doesn´t quiet fit... most of them are not totally comfortable but think about their outfit or their looks. Interesting to observe.

And yes I do agree with Melina, the women are most of the time more spectacularly clothed then the men. But: The price for that is high! The women can´t relax like the men can. Because the men choose clothes they feel comfortable in. Women often wear extra-dancing-outfits they usually do not wear in their normal life. So it´s special, and they are not used to those clothes. And they can´t quite relax...

I like the tangueros! Those who feel totally comfortable I like most of all! And all of them do the basics like take a shower, have clean t-shirts, use a deo and stuff like that. So nothing wrong with jeans and normal t-shirts or whatever they choose to wear! I hope I can be as relaxed as they are. Because I love it! It´s a different dancing if complexion and looks are not important. Way better than anything else!

Patrick said...

Melina, it's always problematic to generalize personal observations. Are you really sure that most women choose their male dancepartners because of the quality of dance, and not because of....body, face, status and other things?

I consider myself as a very good looking man, but i also know that maybe 95 percent of the woman disagree with that. And that is exactliy what i experience in many milongas: it's hard to attract attention.

So men are visual beings. And woman...say that there are few gorgeous men. Aehm...where is
the difference? :-)

Melina Sedo said...

By the way: thanks for all of your commentaries and discussions. You all are great!

Melina Sedo said...

@ Patrick:
The problem is, that most women don't choose their dance partner actively, they let themselves be chosen and thus stay passive in the whole process. But that's something, I'm gonna write about in one of my next posts.
And sure, women do love a goodlooking male. ;-)
But you will still see them dancing with the bald,old and rather round guy, if they think, that he's a good dancer. I know, that I will! Because being physically gorgeous, is not was matters for me, when choosing a dance partner.
Whereas the round or elderly lady will sit most of the time, no matter, if she's a good dancer or not.
And there's the difference.

And if all the approving commentaries of women aren't enough, please look at youtube-videos of famous dance couples: you'll find lots of rather homely, round or old famous Maestros, but very few of their partners will weigh more than 55 kilos or be elder than 35.

As for generalizing personal experiences: sure, I don't say, that I own the truth. I can just describe what I see since 10 years all over the world. And there seems to be a pattern. ;-)

Tango Therapist said...

Melina, thanks for your comments in answer to my concerns about over-generalizations about the problems of Tangueros. It is not easy to write a blog, but if it builds up the tango community that is a great thing. I have addressed the issues of rejection, jealousy, a woman taking responsibility in getting more dances in my blog. My main desire is to lessen the droves of people who leave tango for this or that reason. What a sad thing! So I hope that all tango blog writers will focus on helping each other stick with it. BTW, I do know you; you mentioned that I did not. Wir haben alle in Sankt Wendel nach Tango-Unterricht was gegessen, und ich habe auch deine Unterricht in Heidelberg und Kaiserslautern teilgenommen. Der Tango-Welt ist doch klein. Tschüß, Mark

Mikamou said...

@Patrick and Theresa: Self-perception is often different from what an observer may perceive ... it may not only be the gray hair or the 95% that disagree with you.

Christine--RHP said...

I think you hit it on the head, Melina, stating one of the biggest contributors to the issue is the fact that generally speaking, the men are 'choosing' the women. So that makes it important that the women outshine one another in attempt to get dances.

Anonymous said...

just a possibility...
could it be that men and women have completely different opinions about what a good female dancer is??
IMHO it is not true, that many of the sitting ladies are so gorgeous dancers. The ability of looking good while dancing has nothing to do with the feeling the man has while dancing with that lady. Women judge other women by the movements they see, posture, adornos, shoes ;-) Why do the run to all these "Adornos para mujeres" classes? Because they believe this makes them better dancers. The opposite is true. They may become better dancers in the eyes of other women, but not for the men. I hate dancing with ladies directly after such workshops. They are trying to do what they have learned, make an ornament after each step, concentrating on the shape of their hand, back, feet or whatever body part, and totally destroying the flow of the dance.

Melina Sedo said...

@ Anomymous: you are partially right:

Lots of woman think, that doing adornos all the time, makes them good dancers. Of course this is totally wrong. Actually, Im am going to address this topic later, as I'm rather opposed to decorations. When you watch a video of me dancing, you will rarely see a decoration. (Apart from that ONE video at Salon Canning, where I wanted to annoy Detlef by doing decos all the time and this turned out to be kind of a fun demo. But that was an exception.)
In my "elegance & decoration" class for women, I do at least 1h techniqie (posture, walking...) and then maybe 1/5 hour decos. hihi...

So, my point being: when I talk about good dancers sitting and not being invited, I EXCLUDE the freaky-adornos-woman, because they AREN'T good dancers.
Problem is: lots of males fall for decoration-heavy females. Again: it's a visual thing. A woman in high heels doing all kinds of sexy decorations LOOKS good. And when you ask them later, how they found it, you get : oh... well.. not soo much...

So, unfortunately this goes perfectly with my thesis. ;-)

Plain Jane said...

I enjoyed your post on tango gender differences, Melina ... to the extent that I copied the paragraphs relating to appearance into my own blog.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised to find this unequal relationship in tango when it's rife in the wider world. That doesn't prevent one from sighing over it, though.
Best wishes,
Plain Jane

feuerfreund said...

Melina, I think you are right, most men tend to go for young, good-looking + nicely decorated partners. And yes, there are a few younger men, who are really interested in the dance, not so much in "how do I/we look" but in "how does it feel".
But still there are far more women who want to dance than men. And I, being 56 now ( spectacularly good looking! considering my age, that is ;-))... at one point I knew that if I wanted to dance and not sit around, I would have to learn to lead. And that is what I`ve been doing for 2 years now. In the beginning it was very hard, but nowadays it really feels like dancing sometimes...
I have met quite a few women leaders at workshops lately; most were more competent than I am. And from followers I have had a lot of encouragement.

Theresa said...

Right, my self-perception might be wrong. Impossible to clarify this from computer to computer. But the grey-hair effect does exist, as I've been evaluating thoroughly over years, not only in myself, while sitting and observing what's going on in milongas in different parts of the world.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

It is simple biology. It is not a judgement on men that they look to young (i.e fertile) women. Us old gals just have to be good at dancing, good at getting dressed, nice, and have some confidence. They come around. Many of them are in love with dancing, and that is why they are there. Instead of worrying about things that cannot be changed (your age!), change what
you can (your dancing, your fitness, even your hair color if so inclined), and move on with life, and tango.

Melina Sedo said...

@ All: I am really happy about the number of comments on this post. Although it's not a newbie topic, somehow it seems to be important enough to trigger a discussion. Even I discussed the post at home with my partner and with my friends and there are differing opinions. That's good. :-)

Elisabeth said...

Melina-You are a beautiful dancer. If you want to dance you could always Lead another woman. Some of us get tired of the men standing around the water cooler and will Lead when that happens. Some of the men get the message. Others Lead because they want to. I was recently Lead by a woman in a community I had not visited before. She was one of their best Leads. She understood the weight shift better than anyone I had ever danced with before and I learned so much from her.
There is no reason why straight woman cannot take Tango full circle. A dance once danced between straight men now danced between two people of any gender and any sexual persuasion who love the dance and enjoy the connection two people can share.

Melina Sedo said...

Thanks, Elisabeh.
Yes, more and more women do lead at Milongas and very often they are beautiful leads. Might be, because the experenced the d'S and Do-Not's some time before they started leading. ;-)
I lead in classes and sometimes at Milongas - but only at the end, when I've already taken off my heels. You cannot lead in 10 cm stilettos and I do not want to change shoes constantly at a Milonga. But I definetely enjoy leading, if I find a nice partner! :-))

Elisabeth said...

Hmmm-sideline business--designing a shoe that women can both lead and follow while wearing--we could both be ex-therapists!

Melina Sedo said...

Wow.... good idea. Maybe with extendable heels... ;-))

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

Congratulations on your new blog, Melina!

I've found that ladies' age and physical attractiveness tend to be much less of an issue at some traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, such as the ones which start in the afternoon or early evening. The challenge for a newcomer - even a good dancer - at those milongas is the understandable obligations felt by locals to dance with their friends who are regulars. But then again, that challenge can be part of the fun!


PS. I've just linked your blog to ours:

Melina Sedo said...

Thanks, Patricia and greetings to Autralia! I'm happy to be connected.

LeadingLady said...

I became lady leader 2004 and soon later I became a masculinist. Men/leaders do not have many ways to defend themselves when followers were frustrated!

There was time I saw men/leaders as dance slaves - even if we were dancing all the tandas it was never enough! You must dance with your partners - several tandas, friends, ask your friends friends, someone will test your dance, be kind to people who visit your town, take loving care of beginners and.. and …

The tandas are unevenly distributed also because of the followers - there are the followers who never go of the pista but asks on the floor for the next dance or uses other effective strategies. The result is that some more quiet, gentle followers are seldom getting up to the pista.

I wonder if there is differences between countries - in Nordics the followers are very active, asking for dances for example.

Tango Therapist said...

@LeadingLady: What a great thing to walk in a leader's shoes. My great desire is to learn (like men once did) to be a follower. That is on my must-do list. Here a man's observations of women who dance (having nothing to do with beauty or ability alone):

Anonymous said...

Meline wrote: "Lots of the eldest Milongueros dance as a principle only with the youngest Tangueras, often even choosing them as lovers."

This statement caught my attention, so I'd like to share my personal experience because the milongueros aren't around to defend themselves.

I know quite a number of milongueros who have told me personally they do not want to dance with young women at the milongas and prefer dancing with women closer to their age. That said, there are a handful I know who have/do.

Carlos Gavito seems to have set the trend when he performed on stage with younger women. He carried that practice to the milongas of BsAs and when he did exhibitions. His last partner was Maria Plazaola who was in her 20s when she danced with him.

Ernesto "El Flaco Dany" Garcia followed Gavito in that regard by selecting young partners like Luna Palacios and Silvina Vals. It's rare to see him dance with a milonguera, like his ex-mujer La Turca.

Ricardo "El Chino" Ponce usually dances exhibitions with someone who has studied with him since milongueros don't have regular dance partners.

Pedro "Toto" Faraldo is another who dances in the milongas with young women, so they learn while dancing.

Leonardo "Petaca" Lehrman danced with Eugenia Ramirez to train her in his style for teaching in Belgium.

Julio Duplaa is the only one I've seen recently dancing at a club de barrio with a younger woman, namely Natacha Poberaj, when his wife was there as well.

All these men are in their 70s. They may want others to believe they have young lovers, but that isn't the case.

Melina Sedo said...

@ Jantango:
Please note: I never said, that it is ALL of the elder Milongueros, wo dance with young women. But I've been to a large number of Milongas in BA and saw LOTS of them (the elder Milongueros) dancing preferably with young women. And yes, it's especially those, who teach and perform, for whatever reason that may be. ;-)

Anonymous said...

We can't make the assumption that just because a man is old and dancing tango that he is a milonguero. There are very few of them still dancing in the milongas. They are the men who began dancing as teenagers and went to the confiterias every night. The milongueros are a vanishing species.

There is also a handful of milongueros who teach or perform exhibitions. Those I mentioned above are the only ones I know who dance regularly with young women. Jorge Manganelli is another one who danced with a young partner at Club Glorias Argentinas for Noche de Campeones y Milongueros. It's like Juan Carlos Copes dancing with his daughter -- tango is between a man and a woman, not between father and daughter. For this reason, milongueros dance with women closer their own age.

Above all, a true milonguero wants to dance well with a partner who dances well. That takes years of experience in the milongas.

Case Roole said...

I recognize much of what is discussed in Melina's words and in the many comments.

But I want to turn something around. Melina wrote: "[A] high dance level in a female, quite often is perceived as being threatening for male dancers. So dance quality will be the least important factor for the majority of men, when choosing a partner."

I wonder what is threatening here. When dancing with a woman much better than myself I tend to tremble a little, get tense and be fearsome of making mistakes. I feel myself being rude as I sense that my lead could be lighter, that I'm following predictable patterns, that it is me that throws her off balance at specific moments, that I trample on the subtleties of the melody of the music. Painful, but just what I need to become a better dancer!

But the majority of ladies will dance only with men better than themselves. This has two results. First, these ladies will become better dancers. Second, new men will not get to dance and thus will not get the chance to improve themselves. Ladies, if you spend more than 50% of your dancing time on men better than yourselves you shouldn't complain that there aren't enough men of quality.

Male dancers are taught early that female dancers value quality above everything else. If you are not a superior dancer who can teach the ladies a lesson you are out.

The result? Male tango dancers learn early on that they shouldn't ask ladies who are better dancers than themselves. In other words "high dance level in a female" is the first criterion. Albeit a negative one. Male dancers might like the challenge of dancing with a better female. But they learn that female dancers will not waste their time on this purpose. And that many of these females aren't very gracious about this.

So when you're a tango dancer and you don't feel like receiving one of those sour "I do cabeceo and you are non-existent to me" non-looks or any of those "How dare you ask me!" looks, you are likely to embrace one of those young unexperienced girls that at least are happy to be dancing with you.

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Case Roole,

thanks for your post. I would like to comment on one aspect.

You write:
"Male dancers are taught early that female dancers value quality above everything else. If you are not a superior dancer who can teach the ladies a lesson you are out."

If this is, what men learn, it's really sad. I think, that both women AND men should be taught very early: Yes, it is all about the quality of the movement. And this is why everyone should stick to the simple things he/she can attempt to do well: embrace, walk, connect to the music...
Men and women should realise very early, that constantly showing off new movements, teaching someone a lesson, dancing only with the technically best dancer in the room... is actually very uncool and will not result in much joy, unless you have got massive self-confidence issues, that need to be resolved in Tango. But even then, I would not recommen such a behaviour. ;-)

But actually, I think you are wrong, and the reality out there is not so bad: Most women, just want to experience a nice embrace and move in harmony with the music and the man. This applies especially to all those very advanced female dancers, who have been pulled around the dancefloor for many years by insensive leads who want to impress or teach them a lesson.

So, if you are able to walk with the music and have an agreeable embrace, please dare to cabeceo the good dancer. She will appreciate it. Believe me.

If not, she's really not worth it!

Then go dance with the unexperienced girl. But please, do not try to impress or teach her, unless you want her to develop the same arrogant attitude over the years!

Anonymous said...

I am becoming increasing resentful of more experienced Leads knocking my legs into embellishments I would not choose to do otherwise. I focus on the embrace and do not do a lot of embellishments because they are not my focus. I have watched newer dancers do poorly executed embellishments and would rather do cleaner simpler steps and have a nice embrace. I know the difference between the gentle tap on my knee to send my leg around vs embellishments. It's my body!!! I'll embellish if I want to not to be showy.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many middle aged women are contributing to men feeling the need to dance with girls who could be their daughters. I went to a Tango community new to me. I had done my research. The teacher who sponsored the Milonga professed to believe in milonguero style. When I got there the dancers "embraced" in a hybrid ballroom, Salon, nuevo grip. I have been trained in milonguero and only know how to embrace in that style. When I went to embrace the men, the women almost had apoplexy. The message to men is they cannot embrace a woman of appropriate sexual age in a completely innocent manner but instead must be playful and show off with a child in a dominant manner.

beginner001 said...

If the majority of men do indeed choose according to the order you gave, is it not the case that the young and the attractive get to practice a lot more, and inevitably end up being better dancers? If so, a newbie is perhaps correct in assuming who, ceteris paribus, would be the better dancer?

One possibly long term solution is to make tango classes cheaper for those who'd like be leaders. I get the impression that there is a wide agreement that getting good at leading takes much longer than getting good following. The amount of energy, time, money a leader has to spend is considerably higher than what would be for a follower. (And it takes a good amount of self-confidence to go out there with beginner skills.)

If tango were made more accessible to men, surely the number of leaders would go up. And so would the quality...

Anonymous said...

And historically, the best way for women to create equality has been to start doing the job ourselves. As we learn to lead and can pick anyone we want, the men will be left to compete for the other dancers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Melina,
I just discovered your blog and would like to comment (albeit rather late). I definitely agree with you post, we have such men in our local community as well. I know that I myself am sometimes guilty. Below I want to explain why, and point out a few things which I have not read in your post or the other comments.

I am a man, among the youngest in my community (in my twenties). What I am going to say goes for regular local Milongas in midsized towns (not for festivals, festivalitos, ...). Apart from the obvious points for choosing a dancing parter which I will not discuss(women I know, friends, women I have seen dancing with someone else) I want to mention the following (some of them are quite trivial and not very important or crucial):

(random order, numbers added as a guide)

1. Size: I am 1.85 m. In my experience older women tend to be slightly smaller, and below some limit I have difficulties to dance in a nice close embrace.
2. Dress: Relatively rare, but there are itching/scratching dresses, which are bad (this goes also for some young women, but I feel that older women wear more itching dresses). At some level women seem to have learned this (I was at a small Festival this weekend and did not see a single itching one).
3. Hair: Some older women seem to prefer one of the many old style hairdo, where the hair is far from the skull (I hope you get the point). This blocks my sight or might get into my mouth and eyes. Some of them also put itching stuff in the hair to accomplish this.
4. Contrary to what probably all women believe (and I do not know how many men would agree): If you have a VERY low (or wide) neckline, this makes a bad impression. To me it seems like the women tries to convince men to ask them to dance by showing them their boobs. Of course I like a nice neckline, but be reasonable, please. The same goes for very short skirts (here, actually young women are more often guilty).
5. As mentioned above (by other commentators): Beautiful young women are dancing more often (and can often choose to dance with the good ones), so in my experience many of them are good dancers (though I have danced with many older good dancers, and bad young dancers). So if I am at a Milonga seeing two women, with no other criteria to choose from, I will of course try to dance with the more attractive one first.
6. It might be the DJs fault: Unfortunately some local "DJs" like to play a lot of Neotango and Nontango stuff. In my experience many older women cannot dance well to such music, so I will not ask them to.
7. Locally many of the old dancers started dancing many years ago, when apparently no good teachers where available here. So even if I am somewhere else I still am partially biased by the situation in the place where I "grew up", and assume the older women are not as good. This depends a lot on where you go to.
7. I have no girlfriend, so if I see an attractive woman I will probably try to dance with her. This goes for Milongas close to my hometown, if I am 500 km away from home I will generally not be looking for a girlfriend.
8. Dancing with a women my age feels actually slightly different/better from dancing with one being much older. The difference is often tiny, or not even present, though. I cannot really explain this. In general I am happy if I can dance mixed-age, i.e., during an evening with some women of my age, and some older ones. So this is not a point which would keep me from asking older women to dance.

Many of these points are not true for the really good/experienced older dancers, so sometimes this even helps in finding the good ones.

Comments are welcome,

Sean said...

Hugs from Pittsburgh Melina.

I have read your post, and I wonder about the nature of your yardstick that allows measurement the relative talents of male and female dancers.

There are so many different qualities that go into making a good dancer, that it is difficult to even compare dancers in the same role. I can't say who the best tanguera is in my community. I can say I like this one for DiSarli, and only that one for Biagi, etc. But to say overall one is better than the other: impossible.

So if I were to rank dancers, it could only be based on some specific quality. The two qualities that are most important to me are musicality and generosity, that is, the desire to dance to please the other. But I don't think these are the criteria that you are using, because in my experience, in the US, men are generally better at both, or at least aware that they should be trying to accomplish these things.

I don't think this is genetic, but rather a flaw in teaching. Men are told over and over that they should dance musically and for their partners. Women are not generally taught these two fundamental aspects of their role.

Many of the women I encounter sitting out in US milongas have been taught either to be passive, or to show off. Either way, they are not dancing for their partner, and are also not likely to be very musical.

There are often more women than men at a milonga. But the men worth dancing with generally outnumber and are are competing for a small group of those women. Not the young, pretty ones in come il fauts. Those are the second choices, when all the good ones are taken. Fancy shoes can't compete with the women who are warm, generous, confident, and who set boundaries before they surrender to the lead. These women do not submit, they are never docile, and they have their own "voice" to add to the dance. They are very precious and very rare.

Melina Sedo said...

Dear Sean,

thanks for your comment. Hope you are fine and the house in progress! ;-)

You are right that every "measurement" of dancequalities will be subjective and also momentary. You will love to dance with a specific Tangodancer today, but mayybe not tomorrow. And maybe you'll cherish him/her for Di Sarli, but not for D'Arienzo. So yes, I agree with you in this.

MY list of priorities:
1. Quality of the embrace and the connection
2. Musicality
3. Floorcraft / social abilities
4. Complexity of movements

As you see, I rate complexity of movements rather low.

But: I see the first three as a result of
A Personal Competences/Dispositions
B Technique.

Without the proper technique, all attempts to embrace nicely or to dance musically, will seriously limited in a partner dance.

I think, that all of these abilities (excluding complexity of movements, which are optional) should be part of Tango teaching. We've just come home from classes in Basel, where we have been teaching 6 classes. The contents were:
1. Embrace & social behaviour (1 class)
2. Communication & Technique (2 classes)
3. Musicality in the walking (2 classes Tango, ! class Vals)

As for men and women... Well... I do not remember all the dancers in Pittsburgh, but I can state, that IN GENERAL these qualities are more often found in women, than in men. Detlef will agree: he always finds nice ladies who are willing to embrace him and simply walk with him. My "spoil" values maybe 10% compared to his... ;-)

Have a nice day.


Melina Sedo said...

Dear Simon,

thank you for commenting.

I can very well understand your point and agree: You should not have to dance with a women that is too small, smelly, scratchy, a bad dancer or someone who repulses you with her improper clothing.

(Although I feel guilty of wearing low necklines... but what can I do? I am old, fat and short, the decoltée is actually my best asset. ;-))

No, seriously: What I was referring to is the fact, that even if all these issues do not apply, many men will still choose the younger woman. There are lots of nicely dressed, good dancers without spiky hair, who'd love to dance but will be sitting a lot, whereas the young women with low BACKline and the short dress will dance all night - even if the's a lousy dancer! I can even undrstanf this behaviour - but I don't have to like it, no?

But, as I mention in my post: Things change, and lots young men (and older too) now are able to lay aside their inherited predator instincts and choose their partner according to her dance quality. ;-)

Good day to you,


Chris S said...

Dear Melina,

I hope I am part of the second group of men you describe...

You forgot one very important item in your list of male criteria:
->does she have good social skills?

This is paramount for me - I want to have a nice relaxing evening out dancing, so I don't want to interact with people who
-are not friendly
-cannot hold a 3-minute small-talk conversation
-freak out over 'mistakes' while dancing
-don't give me the feeling that they enjoy dancing/talking with me

I can deal with lack of musicality, lack of dancing experience, lack of good looks, shyness, even a little bad breath (ok, pushing it here...) - but the above are non-negotiable for me. I won't ask people to dance who lack the skills to have a pleasant social interaction with (some people make a mistake on the dancefloor, or even a rejection of an invitation a pleasurable event!)

In my view, the BIG BIG advantage of older ladies is that they have much better social skills (on average) than the typical 20-year old girl.

And seriously, would you really want to dance with a guy who is going to a milonga mainly to feel down young girls? Yes, they do exist, but in any decent tango scene, they should be a marginalized species. So be glad that these creepy dudes don't ask you...