Tuesday, March 6, 2012

GenTANGOman (gentleman)

Off to the milonga.
Being a gentleman does not make you a good tanguero, but it helps.  What is most needed is to be a full-witted man and a gentle man at the same time.  That is a gen-tango-man.

Unfortunately in our society we lose positive terms.  Wits.  What in the heck are “wits”?  Surely you must  know about the negative terms “half-wits” and “nit-wits.” 

A full-witted gentleman I call a “gen-tango-man.”  He knows and practices “tango etiquette.”  He can help a lady in OR out of her coat, but also protects her from evil dancers.  I recommend going to this link on tango etiquette (it is one of the "pages" permanently on the right margin of this blog).   At least you should know the rules before you break them when you are in a foreign culture -- and that is what tango is for most of us.  Most of the woman at the milonga are fairly fluent in tango culture.  Are you?   I am not saying that I am perfect or am the perfect gentleman.   I just try.   I am not the rule maker, but I was interested enough in the science of tango that I put together an overview of ideas on tango etiquette – the rules for men as well as women tango dancers.

You will spot a few gen-tango-men at every milonga.  No one is perfect but a full-witted gentleman starts and finishes accompanying a woman to and FROM the dance floor.   Most men I see outside of Latin America are good at taking her out for a spin on the dance floor, but then dispense with her as if she were a dancing leper after the last song of the tanda.  This is an example of doing it half of the way right – half-witted.

Half-Witted is better than the Nit-Witted man:  The nit-witted gentleman lets her lead him onto the floor.  She runs into my partner or me because she is so happy to have been asked or just is not thinking.  Perhaps it is her fist time out with a Nit-Wit.  It isn’t her fault that HE doesn’t know how to catch my eye and keep her at her side.  Then he drops her like a hot rock after dancing a tanda.  Nit-Wit (inherited from the German influence “Nicht / Wissen”  (“no knowledge”).

Neo-Witted Gentleman:  He need more space.  He has been dancing a lot and has the RIGHT to take up three times more space than anyone else.  He has paid a lot of money for those cool moves.  Back up, gentleman, so the neo-ladies can watch and behold his awesomeness.   You get what you pay for, and now you have a free performance to watch (or cringe at what accidents are about to happen).  I am a drummer, and I love neo-tango as a music genre; however, it also promotes some pretty anti-social dancing.  If you need a lot of room than everyone else, gentlemen, then go with a boom box to the gym and dance at half-time.  This is an excellent venue for you:  Lots of room and lots of eyes upon you.

Cloud-Nine-Witted (sleepy-witted):  These are somnambulant Tangueros (dancers with a sleep-walking disorder).  They close their eyes and dance!  What the hell?  These gentlemen are rare but cause fully awake men horrifying nightmares for those of us who are awake on the dance floor!  Do they wish they were women who can snuggle up and get lost in another’s arms?  Wake up, Cloud-Niners!  You are menaces to the well-being of men and woman alike!  In every case that I have seen this happen, the men (or women leaders) were good dancers.  I imagine they believe they can dance and use acceptable floorcraft in their sleep.  I hope they guy from Frankfurt am Main can read English and this somehow gets to him before he runs into me again.  J

The solution for becoming a full-witted gen-tango-man:  Tango’s first rule of dance is NOT listening to the music and/or to move with grace.  The first rule is to do no harm:   DO NOT HURT ANYONE.  That is not easy on a crowded dance floor full of frail people.  Almost all of us come to the dance floor with some weak point – perhaps an old injury or some genetic frailty.  Men, protect her and those around you!  Women, keep your feet far away from others and only take big steps when they are suggested (marcado) by a full-witted man – a gen-tango-man.


  1. You have the same first rule of tango as me: First Do No Harm.

  2. Terpsi... I stole this idea from ambulance drivers. :-)


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