Thursday, August 11, 2011
Don't Ask; Don't Tell TANGO
Don't Ask; Don't Tell* tango helps avoid feelings of rejection. Sure, among friends and when the answer will undoubtedly be "yes," asking for a dance might be okay. Otherwise, the rule of "don't ask, don't tell [a lie]" still reigns in tango.
A report from a friend in upstate New York tells me that a local teacher tells students that the cabeceo** is an old fashion idea. But when I think about it, many tango aficionados in my city are unwilling to practice the age-old wisdom of non-verbally requesting to dance with a nod of the head. Wisdom. That is right. It is wise to avoid verbally asking for a dance from a stranger or a person with whom you do not generally dance. Use the cabeceo! Why? In other dances, it is customary to dance only one dance at a time. In tango a man or a woman asks with their eyes because it is a commitment or 3 or 4 dances -- a tanda. And tango can be more intimate than other dances -- but not necessarily. Tango is a hug, but some dances are more connected from the waist down. So the intimacy "excuse" is not nearly as important as the time you are investing being with someone.
In the scenario above, the first verbal request spawns a verbal rejection because he asks. Sure, she may be irked that he is hoovering. He could have engaged in a conversation and that would have told him if the next step could have been to see how she is reciprocating. A nice song comes on and he smiles and does a nod towards the music. Instead, Tanguero #1 just asks out of nowhere and is surprised by the answer. The second tanguero asks over the head of tanguero #1. This, in turn, then puts her in the position of not wanting to grind salt in tanguero #1's wound, but she really wants to dance with the object of her interest. So she impulsively says "yes." Now, the milonga has created all sorts of bad feelings--all because of an "old fashioned rule" has been broken.
In a matter of moments, three instances of tango etiquette were thrown out. Two verbal dance requests, and a woman who is unaware that if she says "no, not now" that she is obliged to sit out the tanda. It is the equivocation "not now" that puts her in time-out. Miss Manners says so. Some will disagree, but "no, I am resting" is often a white lie, which is easily tested with the next request. Tanguero #1 is devastated, and tanguero #2 has gotten into the middle of something he didn't know about. Miss Tanguera now has bad karma and will have bunions early in life or some other curse shall come upon her.
Tango etiquette is not "old-fashioned": Manners matter.
PS: I realize that the cabeceo may be something that slowly becomes accepted in areas who are unaware of tango culture. For survival in these "cabeceo-free zones," I have a new resource page on the right margin of this blog, and there is a link to the this page (written by a woman who lives in both London and Buenos Aires) after a larger discussion on the pros of using the cabeceo and at the end of Chapter 2 of Tango Etiquette.
*One half of Tango-Beat's readers are outside of the US; so for my international readers, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a reference to a long standing rule in the US military for gays. The don't-ask-don't-tell rule was recently repealed by a concerted effort by the Commander and Chief of our military (President Obama). In the past if a member of the US Armed Forces publicly proclaimed that they were gay, the Armed Forces member would be thrown out of the military. Also the question could not be asked by the chain of command. Of course, here I am just playing with words, making up a new meaning for tango: Don't ask [for a dance]; don't tell [a lie, like, "I am resting"]. Just say "no thanks." No lie? No time-out!
**Cabeceo: From the word "cabeza" (head), a nod of the head, indicating a desire to dance. For more on this and tango etiquette, please visit this link: http://tango-beat.blogspot.com/p/los-codigos-tango-etiquette-made-easy.html
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