My second tango experience didn’t go quite as smoothly as the first. I still love the dance, but my first rejection on the dance floor smarts.
I have to tell you–tango is not easy to wing. While some men may be patient with beginners, most dancers want to dance with a woman of their caliber. I can understand this. I would too. With the right dancer, though, I can usually find the rhythm and improvise a bit, as long as my partner doesn’t try to turn the dance floor into a lesson.
At the beginning of this night, I saw a young man at the table next to me raise an eyebrow–an invitation to dance. He looked to be in his early twenties with stiff, gelled hair, a starched lavender shirt, and pungent musk cologne.
When he locked me in the tango embrace, I noticed that he had a tight, forceful way of dancing.
Our steps were more stuttered steps–tripping along at a fast pace. I couldn’t follow or even guess how to react, and I could tell that the more he led me around the floor, the more anguished he became, no matter how often I said, “Lo siento,” and furrowed my brow. I’m not sure whom was the bad dancer–me or him. Two songs within the tanda (a group of songs in the dancehall), he left me, grimacing and shaking his head.
In Argentine dance hall etiquette, it is polite to stay with a partner for the entire four tanda songs. My face turned ashen and I left the floor in terror. I turned my chair away from the fellow’s table so I could articulate my displeasure.
An old man asked me to dance a milonga, a tango with a specific cadence that is more measured to follow. This fellow’s style did not have much art or feeling to it, but I was thankful that he was open to dance with me without casting judgement. I have a feeling he chooses beginners because the regulars might not prefer his basic style. We knocked into other couples while seasoned dancers are artful dodgers, pausing to let others go by.
I joined my last partner in the middle of a tanda. We met each other better in age and height. At this point in the night, my muscles were at full attention. I just could not loosen up out of nervousness–alert as a prima ballerina. “Loosen up and enjoy the dance!” he exclaimed in English. I laughed and that helped me follow him. I enjoyed this dance and did not feel judged. We were just enjoying the music and that was the goal of the experience.
The thought of returning to the dance floor terrifies me a bit. There will be many rejections, confusion, mimickry, and humor, no matter what my skill level. I need to relax, loosen up my carriage, and smile.