|Line up ladies and wait your turn.|
It works like this:
Let's say that I am a new male dancer, learning tango in a class. My best chance to get better is to dance with my cohort of new female students. BUT THE TEACHER or some tango stud is taking the new female dancers and showing them the way to tango nirvana. Even if the good female dancers are willing to dance with me, I will struggle, as a new tanguero, with performance anxiety while dancing with the experienced tangueras more than with the new tangueras. So I drop out. I cannot compete with the tango studs. Many of the women will drop out from contact with Tango Tomcats, but later find their way back. But as for me, the male dancer, I will find a venue in salsa or ballroom that develops a much better cohort of female dancers, or just give up on the dance scene altogether. Now, this did not happen to me. But I came to tango as an well-established salsero and novice ballroom dancer. Also, I had a background in music. But I am sensitive to the poor new Tanguero Kittens who come and soon are gone.
Many women know how to keep them coming back and taking lessons, but others are just looking for the next great tanguero to take them for a ride. Now, that's my direct experience -- some pretty snotty tangueras helping do demotivate the young-at-dance. It's as if the senior tangueros are colluding to maintain a gender imbalance!
Thanks to Tango Tomcats (and to a lesser degree some pretty snotty Tango Felines), the community has a lack of new males that is much worse than the new tangueras. A smaller community will falter because of the built-in gender imbalance in that community. But this goes on because of senior men and senior women doing nothing about it. For their own good and the good of the community, it is important to do something other than wait for tango karma to strike the Tango Tomcat down with lightening as he is carrying his black and white tango shoes to his car.
When I wrote what amounts to a small book on Tango Etiquette, I did not think of it as a self-defense manual (for women) and tango community building manual (for new men) -- all in one -- but now I see it that way.
Los Códigos de Tango (Tango Etiquette) has been protecting new tangueros/tangueras for over a century. (Newcomer to tango will need to read "Tango Etiquette's Apendix B for beginners" for vocabulary explanations.) The community should not see Tango Etiquette as the finer points of tango; it is the starting point. Tango Etiquette is not "the finer points of tango" but the basis of tango -- what teachers and friends should be pointing out to newcomers about about tandas, cabeceos, and appropriate behavior at a milonga. It will protect their advancement and make it hard for inappropriate behavior from predatory dancers to harm them. Here is a brief review in reverse order of priority:
1. The cabeceo: The Tango Tomcat at his worse will not take "no" for an answer. Tell him that you use the cabeceo (even it is just for him), and then avoid his eyes.
2. The one or two tanda rule: Unless you plan on saying, "sleeping with me is an option," do not dance more than two tandas in a row. Make it one -- even better. Thank each other and get off the floor at the cortina. If you really liked dancing, make it clear that you would like another dance later on. Fellow blogger, Terpsichoral, tells me that in Buenos Aires one clears the floor, and that dancing more than one tanda is rare. Hmm, I wonder why! Buenos Aires is full of Tomcats, she says, but that's okay because the women know how to manage these furry creatures. Exactly my point! I am not out to neuter Tango Tomcats, just help communities neutralize them!
3. What to do when uncomfortable with a partner: If you ever feel uncomfortable with a dance, thank the person and sit down. Make no excuses or explanations. This is not just for creepy dancers; sometimes it is as simple as a hold that hurts or someone is way too bouncy. What drives me mad is the woman who is constantly behind the beat and hanging on me. It is a tanguera's right to politely end a dance, and it is tanguero's great opportunity to grow as a person to respect her decision without holding a deep resentment. I rarely have ended a tanda, but that is the tanguero's right as well.
4. No Teaching on the dance floor: I did not know this rule for a long time, but it is essential! why didn't anyone tell me! No, women were even asking to be instructed! New tangueras plead for instruction; so it takes a man with restraint not to say anything to this damsel in distress. But even though I say nothing, often I hear that I was a great teacher. Now, I take the time to say -- "No man should be instructing you on the dance floor. You and I were just dancing and we both learn a lot from that." Does explicit teaching make a person a Vulture? No. But he or she is breaking away from Tango Etiquette by teaching or even talking. What does the "conversationalist-while-dancing" tanguero have to say, anyway? One good-looking tanguero in DC is constantly teaching or talking about himself. I feel like asking questions about everything I over heard about his greatness between songs. He is a classic Tango Tomcat. He also does dangerous moves and goes from one favorite tanguera to the next. He is not really a predator, though. He seems to develop his newest love with women who really have seen his methods on seduction. I do not feel sorry for his lady-of-the moment them for a moment.
5. The no-harm floorcraft rule: Until I learned more from comments from women as I wrote about Tango Vultures, I realized that the biggest infraction on Tango Etiquette is the first rule of floorcraft -- cause no harm and protect (mostly the man but also the woman's role). The Tango Tomcat causes great harm in the community, and he needs to be declawed. If there is a true predatory individual in the community, his vulture talon's need to be clipped and he needs to be tarred and de-feathered.
Warning on the Package:
I have mentioned this before, but I will say it again: My ideas about tango tomcats and vultures could cause harm to the community which is not careful about using terms, such as "Tango Vulture" for predatory behavior and "Tango Tomcat" for inappropriate behavior. Some "red flag" behaviors are just a lack of knowing tango etiquette. For example, even now, someone could spot me as a Tango Vulture, I realize. "Ah, look there, the Tango Therapist is really a Tango Vulture himself!" Some women come to tango and have the idea in their head that they want to dance with lots of space between them and their partners' bodies, but then they find themselves in a milonguero embrace with me. They, in their own mind, might be dancing with a "Tango Vulture." They don't feel safe, and they think I am "causing" this feeling. I have the greatest compassion for them. They may have been sexually abused, and this is bringing up these body-phobic feelings, or perhaps they just might need to go back to their salsa lessons or ballroom dancing. But even there they will have to confront their body phobia when some accomplished International Style dancer puts his groin to hers and off they go on a lovely waltz. Argentine tango now seems pretty tame. I hope she comes back to Argentine tango, which with the right partners is therapeutic to the woman who has been abused. But this also underlines the need to protect the community for the very small minority of men who abuse the right to embrace another soul. Also, I have occasionally danced too much with a new tanguera, but since starting this series, I will have to avoid breaking the mostly unwritten "código" of one-tanda-at-a-time (which does not include friends and one's partner). Also, until I knew the rule, I was terrible about talking or teaching on the dance floor. I just didn't know! At first, I did it out of nervousness as a new tanguero and then later out of puppy exuberance for my new knowledge and love of tango. Tango etiquette now is my basis for making tango a Safe Place, especially for those new to tango.