Men Wanted!

by Don Rosenberg – Organizer – www.TangoNorthAmerica.com – 5/8/2017

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Some of the most common complaints I hear from my women friends are “there aren’t enough leaders,” and “there aren’t enough GOOD leaders.” or “I’m a good dancer, why don’t I get dances?” I also hear comments about trying to get better gender balance at events and how unfair it is when women have to be turned away from registering.

I’d bet that in 95% of our communities the ladies outnumber the men, sometimes significantly. Notice I am saying “ladies and men,” not “leaders and followers.” This article seeks to start a discussion about how we can attract, keep and develop more male dancers for Tango. So please pardon me in advance for anything that’s politically incorrect.

 

Face it, with a partner dance like Tango, you need partners. Having ladies learn to be leaders is fine, I don’t oppose it one bit, but this discussion is about male dancers…

Cultures vary, but, in my opinion, men seem to have less interest in dance overall than ladies. I’ve been to events where the ladies outnumber the men two to one. This causes all sorts of problems, ladies getting too few dances, men dancing with only who they think are the “best” followers, men feeling they don’t need to improve their dance in order to participate, etc.

I’d like to hear your ideas on how we can attract new male dancers, how we can retain them, and how we can encourage them to develop their skills.

Here are some starting points for our conversation…

 

My suggestion is to consider approaching men from their point of view, instead of a dancer’s point of view…

Attracting new leaders.

Almost all of our communities have outreach and beginner classes. Try to make those early lessons simple and fun. Let dancers feel a sense of success, instead of having them leave with the idea that this is a dance no man can learn without ten years of Olympics-style training. Manage their expectations and focus on ways to make them comfortable from an early stage.

Note: When I meet a new leader who has been bitten by the Tango Bug, I often take them aside and tell them that if they focus on the basics and not the steps, they can be successful more quickly and with less stress. I explain that in my experience, men are hunters and want to conquer five, 10, 15 and 20 different “steps or moves.” But the very best leaders can give an excellent dance with just five. I’ve heard from many women that a man who focuses on his embrace, makes his partner feel comfortable and safe, and has developed good musicality, gives a much better dance than a guy with lots of fancy moves who pushes and pulls you across the floor with no sense of music at all!

 

Retaining male dancers.

A big priority is trying avoid things that turn men away from dancing Tango. I have heard several stories where men with a few months’ experience were discouraged and wanting to quit. Why? Because a woman they danced with told them how horrible they were.

Note: When I had been dancing a couple of years I went out of town and looked for local milongas. The first one I found was very formal and everyone was experienced. I was not very clear on cabaceo, so I just went up to nice ladies and asked them to dance. I thought I did an OK job, but after the dance was over a fiery redhead came up to be and called me rude for not using cabeceo. I had been doing it wrong the entire evening and was very embarrassed. Needless to say, I didn’t feel very encouraged to continue Tango.

 

“Avoid things that turn off or discourage men.”

Don’t criticize. Leave the teaching to the teachers. If you encounter a new dancer who needs some help, quietly tell the teachers and trust them to approach the man with the necessary advice in the proper manner. Remember, we were all new once!

 

“Be kind and understanding.”

When someone is new to your community, (male or female) say “hello.” Ask where they’re from and how long they’ve been dancing. If they seem new, make sure they know the rules and traditions in your home town and make them feel welcome. I hear of so many communities who are branded as “unwelcoming” because they don’t reach out to (or dance with) new guests.

 

“Share the rules.”

Organizers, take a second to print up a flyer you can have available at your events that explain the rules in your community. It’s also a good time to share your organizers’ and teachers’ names and contact information and invite them to approach them with questions. If you have an example of a flyer you use in your town, please share it below.

 

 

Helping male dancers improve their skills.

 

“Be a Tango Angel.”

If you’re a good follower and you see someone who’s not as skilled as you are, say “yes” to a dance anyway. Be supportive and encouraging. SHOW them how a good follower dances and avoid critical comments. Go to open embrace if you need to. The beginner leader you help today may the excellent leader who dances with you in the next year or two. In my time as a Tango dancer I’ve had many supportive followers and I make it a point to always give them a great dance whenever I can.

 

“Change your approach to Tango classes.”

Teachers, all of you love to dance. After years of experience, you’re willing to work hard at it because you see the value in learning new moves and techniques. But to a man, especially a relative beginner, complexity is very uncomfortable. There is nothing more awkward than being in a Tango workshop and totally lost while trying to learn a series of steps. In a beginner class, try to focus on the basics and make sure everyone is on board before you move to the next section. I’ve seen classes where the more advanced attendees are invited to work with those having a hard time so the class can continue. It’s hard to only have two teachers coaching thirty people.

I know that some communities have tried to have “men-only” classes. This is a great idea, but in most of our cultures, men are very uncomfortable dancing with other men, and our attention span is a bit shorter. The idea below is an example of a possible solution worth considering, or just to illustrate a new approach.

 

“Men’s Insiders Mini-Class.”

Instead of an all-male, in depth class that goes for 90 minutes or longer, consider a short, 20-minute class that’s for men only that promises to give the “inside scoop” on how to be a successful leader. Instead of a stand-alone class, it could be held 20 minutes prior to a milonga or even a longer class. The teacher would take the men aside in a private setting and just talk with them about how they can be more popular with the ladies and give them good dances. Go over cabeseo, and even consider a brief mention of the value of good hygene in getting women to say “yes” to the next dance. Share tips on leading and ways to learn new techniques. Question and answer time might be the most popular part of this mini-class.

To encourage participation, you might tell them men “if you attend the mini-class you’ll get half-price admission to the milonga.”

 

Please share with us your approaches to developing male leaders in your communities.

54 Comments

  1. Samarra Burnett

    I think these are all good suggestions! I also think another answer is more internal, about attitude, especially for follows. I think that followers becoming more self sufficient is good for everyone. Unfortunately, I think the ratio leads many follows to feel needy for dances. I know I have. I think this attitude of needing to receive from the lead is not good for partner dynamics, though, at least not the kind I most enjoy. I also think it doesn’t support a dance experience that might encourage more beginner leads. For one, it leaves a huge gap to be filled by the lead, creatively, physically and emotionally. That feels daunting to me as an experienced lead and overwhelming to me as a beginner. In comparison, a follower who is centered in herself physically and emotionally and artistically is inspiring to me to dance with, and very encouraging, especially as a beginner. Additionally, I think this neediness discourages accurate feedback for the leads, and diminishes community growth, both of leads and follows. Needy feelings encourage women give to up their own comfort and adjust to awkwardness instead of gracefully upholding their own axis, etc. . I think this follower’s surrender of grace and tolerance of awkwardness thwarts communities from progressing as they could, and being more vital and inspired as well as technically functional. It is hard to stay in my own center when dancing with a beginner or someone I really want to please. But I think it’s a great goal, and gets easier with practice. Also, I don’t think it’s a great gift or genuinely inspiring to someone to be tolerated, or to tolerate. Its really an awful experience for most people I think. So much better to be embraced by someone generous and self sufficient, and to invite others in to something that is already full and beautiful rather than begging to fill a need. More women learning to lead would help with this. Also, taking more pleasure in and responsibility for one’s own dance. And community leaders encouraging all of this. Otherwise, it’s kind of a self perpetuating cycle, fewer leads contributing to more neediness and a less encouraging and appealing climate for beginners. That’s my perspective.

    Reply
    1. Olga

      I could never understood the concept of being self sufficient as a follower but yet required to succumb to the lead’s embrace. Dancing Alternative Tango has proven to be the test of my self sufficiency. Otherwise, in Salon Tango l’ve come to appreciate the responsibility the lead has in creating a wonderous experience in close embrace which inspires me as a follower to maintain the “cadencia” between us! However, when l dance with an inexperienced leader lm more aware of their movements. I can feel the hesitation, the awkwardness. If l want the dance to be more pleasurable for me l take over. Meaning l make sure my responds to his lead are clear & defined. I immediately feel a positive response & the dance turns from mediocre to at least pleasant. Now l understand the meaning of being self sufficient

      Reply
  2. Alex Tango Fuego

    Ideally contact leaders who have left tango and ask them why, or SurveyMonkey a short survey that can be disseminated around…most accurate approach but most difficult and what 10% response rate? Maybe 20? Also leave a survey up on a community website to harvest feedback over the years…

    Reply
    1. John Curran

      Why separate it? Contact ALL previous members and ask them why they no longer come. I did this for one group and found some very interesting answers and we also realized things like 8% of the local dancers had moved (college town), had families, etc.

      Reply
      1. Serena Lembach

        Good ideas about contacting all..!!

        Reply
    2. Randall

      Great idea.

      Reply
  3. Dennis

    Ive been dancing Tango for about 18 years, I’ve tried to get male friends to come to Argentine Tango events, those that have humored me, have usually said “Not for me, I’m not a dancer”. Single guys, that like sports and things like Golf or Tennis aren’t usually going to be willing to spend the time and money it takes to become a “Good Leader”.
    I liked the music, before I ever learned the dance, but it isn’t for everyone. A years worth of “Unlimited group Tango lessons at a good Studio in NYC can cost over $2,300.00, most guys that I know, would rather spend that on a set of Custom wheels or a new Exhaust System, for their Harley Davidson:-)

    Reply
    1. Kat

      Dennis is so right. It’s the same in the UK. A lot of English men simply do not dance. Period. It’s not part of the culture here any more. It ended when rock and roll took over and dance halls died a death. AT is too complicated, too much hard work and takes too long to learn – for most men. That’s what they tell me. And they will not pay for private lessons so that they can improve because they think the cost is outrageous. They saunder back to Modern Jive (Ceroc) because it’s easy, they can meet women that way and not know how to dance very well, but no one cares. AT takes a hell of a lot more dedication and hard cash and it’s just too much hard work for many.

      And telling women to learn to lead is all very well, but we don’t all want to dance with each other! If you told all the English men to do that because there were no women were available, they’d be furious, but we are expected (as good little followers) to live with it. Not for me, thanks. There are precisely two women I will dance with (both great friends and one a teacher) and that’s it. I am lucky in that I have been dancing long enough not to worry too much about sitting out that much.

      A few enlightened men do exist in the UK ,and they are a joy, but they are a minority. But then we do have gay, straight and mixed tango here so you can choose. My only message to reluctant men is, ‘women love men who can dance, even if they look like Quasimodo’ so if you want that kind of adoration – LEARN.’

      The situation is very sad really. Many good followers are excluded from festivals, milongas, workshops and weekends because they can’t drag a ‘suitable lead’ with them. They do get the worst deal. Meanwhile many, many mediocre leads – who only do a few lessons and then think they’ve cracked it – behave like Tango Gods, lording it over everyone and treating followers very badly – while teachers look on in despair!

      I’d love someone to start a business where busloads of enlightened European male AT leads could be ferried into cities all over the place and decanted at milongas to make up the shortfall! It would also be a very good way to get the more complacent local leads to improve their technique and manners! The competition could really show them up!

      Reply
      1. Miranda Anderson

        I love the imagery of decanting leads into milongas!

        Reply
  4. Steve

    “… instead of having them leave with the idea that this is a dance no man can learn without ten years of Olympics-style training. Manage their expectations …”
    I find this statement a bit contradictory. If a man expects to learn tango in 8 weeks, he will be disappointed and discouraged. For men, it will take a long time for them to become proficient and I think they should understand that.
    I agree that men should be encouraged to focus on doing basic steps very well, but unfortunately, lots of men are seduced by the fanciness of tango and will not listen to. or understand, that advice.
    How long does it take for a man, on average, to become a competent dancer? In my experience, two years of weekly classes and monthly milongas.

    Reply
  5. Steve

    Another thought: if my understanding of Argentine history is correct, tango developed when there was an overwhelming ratio of men to women, due to massive immigration, mostly of men. If a man wanted to ever touch a woman, one way to do it was to develop his skills as a dancer. We probably won’t see that particular demographic again soon, in our dance classes.

    Reply
    1. Samarra Burnett

      I think this was a huge influence on the dance. In a way women got to dictate how they wanted to be danced with.

      Reply
  6. Paul Downs

    In Louisville we are pretty lucky. Some nights/days at our 4 weekly tango classes at 3 different studios there are more men than women. I think it is because our local dance teachers emphasize the difficulty and importance of a good lead.

    So far (with fingers crossed) the registrations for the Louisville Tango Festival are pretty balanced between leads and follows.

    Reply
  7. Randall

    Excellent post, thank you. The points hit home to me. Where I am, there are always more leaders than followers. I am a leader, and I have tried to stick with local groups, but after 2.5 years of weekly lessons, countless group lessons, countless hours of practice, I am still “corrected” by followers 75% of the time I dance. I’m not a great dancer, but I can do a decent tanda, and my teachers are pleased. But why drive 75 miles to a practica to have followers complain about your dance (and ignore their own faults)? You’d have to be a masochist, and that is not why tango came along.

    Reply
  8. Lloyd

    Play Back beat music, turn up the bass all the way. This will attract young women. Don’t let the greasy haired old men with smelly breathe and 20 year old clothing near them. When the young ladies come, the young men will follow. The young men will stick it out despite getting discouraged because they are young and stupid still. The young ladies will have someone to dance with that doesn’t immediately repulse them. Then, after a few decades, there will be enough men to dance with.

    If you look at other dances like Lindy Hop and Salsa, Their are tons of young men and women dancing and learning those two dances. Why? because young women love loud fun music with bass in it. It’s not till they get old that they suddenly want challenging music and dance style.

    I think the main problem is women literally are waiting until they are 40+ years old to learn how to Tango.

    Sorry if this hurts anybody’s feelings but it is how it is.

    TL;DR;

    First you bring the bass, then you get the young ladies, then you get the young men, the young men stay in tango and become old men in tango.

    Reply
    1. Barbara

      The problem with that (well, one or the problems) is that Tango does not have “bass” the way you are thinking.

      One of my BA friends was talking yesterday about how Americans have this hangup about age, that just isn’t the case in BA (or in much of Europe). People of all ages enjoy dancing together, and age is just not an issue. That is also the case in most of the well developed Tango communities I have danced in here in the US, as well as in Canada.

      Of course, if your sole purpose in dancing Tango is to achieve a hookup I can see why it might mattrr.

      Reply
      1. Lloyd

        The classic Tango music doesn’t have bass the way I am thinking, but that’s what is missing. Young adults eschew Tango because the music is almost completely unappealing to listen to until you find a reason to listen to it.

        Age isn’t an issue in America either. You can see that people of all ages are dancing with each other and having a good time. You are conflating these ideas. You need more men. That means they need a reason to come. You can either try an attract men in their mid forties to suddenly want to learn tango which means they wont even be decent until they are in their late forties. Or, you can attract them when they are in the lower to mid twenties (or earlier), when they aren’t so worried about getting their fee-fee’s hurt. Then you can a build generation after generation of leads.

        And yes, I think the sole purpose of the millennial generation is to simply “hookup.” So why would any young male waste their time and money to learn a dance that they perceive has little value for them when they can just pull out their phone and get a hookup for free. Mind you, Tango is already very cheap. Although this is not where I was going but since you brought it up.

        Reply
        1. Barbara Warren

          We have never had that problem. We have tended to have extra men.

          Reply
        2. Barbara Warren

          That has not been my experience in 20 years of promotion in Rochester NY. Wr often have more men than women, and we have a very robust group of college and graduate students who are interested far more than hooking up.

          Reply
    2. Olga

      You must live in a small tango community. That’s not the problem in a larger city where you have a thriving young tango community blending in with the older generation.

      Reply
      1. Lloyd

        No, I live in Seattle, when I go to Milonga’s in Chicago, they say, “Oh wow, you’re from Seattle, tango is huge is Seattle.” Of course this is true, but what’s even more true, is that the tango community is even bigger then what you see, because there are 3x more dancers that stay at home because their are not enough male dancers.

        Reply
    3. Steve

      I never found that to work. I saw many talented and skillful women dancers show up at classes once or twice and never return after they saw the selection of leaders available.

      Reply
    4. zoya

      So, Lloyd, you actually suggest canceling all that tango is about in order to bring more male dancers?

      Reply
      1. Lloyd

        I don’t think it’s canceling, Tango has adapted many times. But if you look at it like this, maybe you are part of the problem. Sad 🙁

        Reply
    5. John Curran

      You’re trying to change a culture just to increase numbers. I’ve seen a few places go from Traditional to Nuevo and beyond (“Jazz Tango”???) and you get new people and lose those who come for the traditional.

      Reply
  9. Joseph

    In “Man Francisco” and “Man Diego” we have the opposite problem. Not enough women.

    Reply
  10. Barbara

    Great suggestions. I have always found that good, experienced leaders of all ages are the key to a vibrant community. I often teach “leaders only” classes for beginning leaders as a way to give them a bit of a head start.

    But friendly, encouraging followers are a must. American men have fragile egos, and just one disdainful follower can be enough to drive a new leader away.

    Reply
  11. Olga

    One serious problem is that teachers allow men to take advance classes before they have mastered the basics. I know many enthusiastic male dancers who are dying to dance “stage” tango & jump into advanced classes before time. I personally do not discourage them. However, dancing with them is not very pleasurable. The sacrifice is real!

    Reply
    1. Tango (Milonguero) Marlon of "why not dance? LLC"

      Agreed Olga and this is one of the reasons my classes are unique when I have them. I tend to have the same issues with followers as well. Everyone wants to do all the fancy stuff that once they really understand the dance, does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

      Reply
  12. Tango (Milonguero) Marlon of "why not dance? LLC"

    I’m 32+ years into Tango and I consider myself a decent dancer, nothing more and nothing less. Why do I say this you may ask, well, It’s an easy dance to learn, however, takes a life time to master. The discussion of the ratio of women to men or leaders to followers is a never ending saga. It likens a relationship when two people get up in the middle of the evening and begin to explain and complain as to what the issues are in the relationship. After this loooong discussion, the relationship tend to remain the same until its demise which is why we loose so many dancers, both men and women, leaders and followers. My adventure in Tango began in New York in 1985 and it has taken me to many places only to experience this dichotomy in leaders and followers. In 1985 Tango was at its infancy in NYC, as it still is here in Charlotte, NC where I now reside. I’ve seen the Tango community go from less than what it is here in Charlotte, NC to what it is now in the Big Apple and the ratio of leaders to followers are still similar to what they were in the beginning, however, better at times. One of the keys to remedying this ever continuing issue are the people in the community, period. There’s no secret here. This includes instructors as well as organizers and anyone involved in growing and maintaining a balance of dancers in the Tango Community in America and Abroad. With that said I must get ready for work now and will continue this blog towards suggestions in how to remedy this, not to end anytime soon dilemma. Have a great day Tangueros and Tangueras.

    Reply
    1. Jan

      I agree with Marlon, I have danced in practicas and milongas from New York to San Diego, and I can say each community is different.
      I have been dancing tango for 10 years and consider myself an intermediate dancer. I have led many times in class and practice because there are not enough leaders, and I feel women need to learn to lead to be a better follower, it gives perspective. I have stayed home from milongas which I used to never miss, because I know I won’t dance much.
      Leading tango is tough, I will admit. They say a woman can learn in 6 months what it will take a man 18 months to learn because of the difficulty of leading effectively and effortlessly.
      Try to meet all the newbies (I like to call them Tango Virgins, they are being reborn, lol) so they know we are a diverse and welcoming community. I encourage them to continue to practice in order to learn, and to dance with many partners so you don’t learn or impose bad habits on one Follower. I say, “Look around, if you stick with us, this could be you Big Fat Tango Family. We are a caring community and many of us have developed friendships, even a few marriages, within this group. You will meet women from all over the world of all ages and have the chance to dance with all of them.”
      Teachers, I think, help hold the community together and Attitude is Everything. You want students to come back every week and to sign up for classes.
      Some years ago when we first started our Candlelight Milongas, Daniel and the Host Committee appointed a dozen of us to be Tango Ambassadors. We wore blue and white ribbons and greeted guests, making them comfortable and introducing them to residents and each other. I’ve traveled a lot to dance and it’s hard when you don’t know anyone, you have to dance to be asked again. Table hopping might not be proper in Buenos Aires, but it works for me!

      Reply
  13. Tina

    “Don’t criticize. Leave the teaching to the teachers.”

    Thats the best sentence in this article for sure!

    Reply
    1. Tango (Milonguero) Marlon of "why not dance? LLC"

      Agreed Tina, too many want to bees are teaching a dance they themselves barely understand. This makes it more difficult for those who are learning and this goes across the board for all dances.

      Reply
  14. MIranda

    At many ballet schools, classes are heavily subsidized for the boys. I don’t know why social dance schools never do this. Also, I have always had a dream to have a men’s class. “Divorce Avoidance 101″… just to teach them their right from their left, teach them about music and balance, make them a little more comfortable with the idea of dancing before they try with women.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      Echoed. I have only four years of tango, but in the male leader/female follower environment prevalent where I live, I’ve accompanied women through on the order of 1,000 hours of classes, workshops, and private lessons because there are few paying men. As an accompanier, I do not pay. While I accompany only women learning material I’ve seen (if I’ve never been taught it, I’m no use!), it’s helpful to revisit material again and again – it’s huge part of why I’ve stayed. It would help if more schools told women in classes with few men, “If you bring a man who is ready for this material, he can be your partner for free.” Obviously, that creates the puzzle of how to encourage ANY man to pay (“I’ll wait until they need me and do it for free!”), but the almighty €, $, and £ are famous for overcoming social obstacles, which includes the negative programming men receive regarding dance lessons.

      Reply
  15. Warren Edwardes

    My first teacher, a woman, told us: “Men: Stick with Tango. How else can you have a series of wonderful women in your arms without buying them drinks and meals, having to listen to them or previously building up a real estate portfolio to give them all half a house each?

    Reply
  16. Warren Edwardes

    “Notice I am saying “ladies and men,” ”

    How about “ladies and gentlemen” or my preference which is non judgemental and does not require references – “men and women”?

    Reply
  17. Adam

    A great follower makes the leader feel amazing even when they are not and vice versa. I feel one of the problems is that many followers expect the dance to be made for them.

    A common saying I hear all the time is “I need to feel your lead.” This is true. But you also have to want to move as well. You have to have the initiative to create the dance as well especially as the follower. As a leader, we suggest the movements, but it is up to the follower to execute what is being suggested.

    I think it would also encourage newer leaders if followers had more empathy. At the very least, admit that being a leader especially in the beginning is far more challenging than being a follower. As a lead you have to think ahead, listen to the music, listen to your partner, navigate, move yourself, etc.

    I feel that if followers better understood how difficult it is for newer leaders than there would be more tolerance. Encourage and do not criticize. You can give feedback if asked. But give encouraging feedback.

    Reply
  18. Warren Edwardes

    At my first milonga bout a year after starting my follower said to me: “Is that all you are going to do?”.

    At my second milonga a few months after getting over the shock after the first song:
    Me: “I see you have been dancing for a while”
    My follower: “I see you haven’t”.

    Luckily I have a thick skin.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      Well, leaders get a lot of lectures about “learn a small number of steps and focus on your embrace and musicality, and followers will line up to dance with you.” Then we get to an actual milonga and see that the guys pulling off fantasy and show steps on the social floor are the ones with the lines, and hear, “Is that all you are going to do?” So there is certainly a culture of expecting leaders – who are mostly men, which is why this is relevant – to invest heavy hours in learning vast amounts of backbreaking vocabulary. It would certainly help immensely if followers were taught that small number of well-executed steps, musicality, and a great embrace make a good leader. But it seems that many are taught, probably informally, something quite different.

      Reply
  19. serena lembach

    I purposely don’t give any feedback on the floor unless asked; or unless they are hurting me.
    It’s a tough dance to learn,(both sides) but I agree; enough with the new steps.
    Less is more. Listen to the music and dance the inner rhythms. Breathe! Certainly some of the best dances I have had NEVER include barridas and back sacadas and colgadas, etc. Work on the basics. Beautiful embrace, good walk, and think about your partner and the music.
    Unfortunately some teachers are all about new steps, because they keep classes going. Teach from a perspective of “Where is my partner” (both sides) and how do I signal I want them to do such and such.
    I’ve
    just started learning to lead. There’s so much to think about; music, navigation, partner, music (what music?)
    I always try to dance with men who have not been dancing a long time. I always make sure to say something like; Your ______has really gotten smooth/better. You’ve been working hard, I can tell. Thank you.”
    Pick Something and give them a compliment.!
    Warren Edwardes, I’m sorry for the rudeness you experienced. Perhaps you shouldn’t say anything about length of time dancing.:-). It really means little ;it’s about desire and floortime and lessons. Just keep at it! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Warren Edwardes

      ” I’m sorry for the rudeness you experienced. Perhaps you shouldn’t say anything about length of time dancing.:-). It really means little ;it’s about desire and floortime and lessons.”

      It was just mid-tanda small talk suggesting that I was impressed by her dancing. Not that in hindsight I knew what I was talking about.

      I now get asked “For how long have you been dancing?” . So I laugh and tell that story.

      Reply
  20. Steve

    I wonder if we are asking the wrong question. In stead of, how do we keep attract and keep male dancers, what if we asked, what do male dancers who have not remained with tango want? Why have they left? Too hard? Discouragement with slight progress? Insults from partners? Didn’t like the music? Some men feel the attraction, and despite all the previous reasons, they stayed. Well, maybe they liked the music to begin with.
    Personally, I was touched by tango from the first class I ever took. I had much dance experience before that and was looking for something more in the world of dance, and I immediately knew that tango would offer it. I became devoted in a moment. I think it is similar for other men, maybe women, too. I think something draws people to tango, or does not. What is that thing? I only know for myself.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      Some other dancers I know also felt an initial attraction that pulled them in from the start. I have come to think that without that initial draw, their efforts are usually doomed.

      Reply
    2. zoya

      Steve, great comment. That is how tango is. It draws you…or not. I have met people who came to tango in order to find “a partner”, if they fall off it’s not a bad thing, tango is better off without people who come to it for all wrong reasons and bug DJs how boring the music is.

      Reply
  21. AdminAdmin (Post author)

    Great discussion. This is exactly what I wanted to see. Can some organizers share the flyers they use to help guests know the rules at their events? Also, please take a minute to join this group by clicking JOIN above or going to http://tangonorthamerica.com/register/

    Reply
  22. Erik

    I have been dancing tango for about 9 months and there have been occasions that I came close to quitting. However that was never because it was too difficult or expensive or I was too old. It were always rude and inconsiderate women that were the reason for me to reevaluate my tango “career”.

    On average I take one private lesson, one or two group lessons and go to one or two milongas a week.
    The following are some examples that I experienced in this nine month period:

    -Condescending tone when helping with (criticizing) your posture or moves.
    -Declining a tanta and 2 minutes later accepts the same one from a more experienced man
    -Stop after one song in the tanta
    -She tells me: I’m bored, are these all the moves you know?
    -Telling me that I’m not in the beat while being in the beat is my strongest trait.
    -Make the leading difficult by dragging and being heavy, and therefore making you feel to be an inferior lead.
    -Looking annoyed and uninterested when dancing with her, you feel she is just not in it with you. In essence she rejects you without saying a word. Then you see her dancing her shoes off with a more experienced man.
    -Avoiding eye contact by being on her phone or talking to her girlfriends all evening

    The women that did these above mentioned things, I never asked them to dance again. Unfortunately you only need a few of these followers in the community to drive many men away. And I have many men seen come and go in this short period.
    When you just start out all woman look very advanced to you, but after a while you start being able to distinguish who is good and who is not. Interestingly it are mostly the mediocre followers that are guilty of these practices.

    Luckily there many more fantastic women that give you a great experience, every tanta again and again, What keeps me going currently are the genuine big happy smiles on their faces when we finish the dance. (that just started the last couple of months :-))

    What these snobbish so called “good” dancers forget is that once they were also beginners that needed compassion and patience from the leader.

    Therefore my advise to women is to have patience, compassion and be gracious to newcomers. One day they could give you the best tango experience of your life. At least that is my goal.

    Reply
    1. Randall

      Well stated. The best teachers I’ve had, without exception, are supportive and understanding that some of us in this world are not born dancers, haven’t been dancing since age 6, aren’t gifted in fancy body movements. Yet want to share the experience of dancing tango. The best followers I know would never do/say the above. But there are plenty who do, and they are happy to avoid dancing with me, and vice versa. I’ve had some walk away after a song without a word. Of course, most potential leaders are going to run.

      Reply
    2. John Curran

      I’ve been in an area where all of the above happened and within a year, none of the men would ask those women to dance and they are all gone.

      Reply
  23. Michael

    I can speak only of the male leader/female follower situation prevalent where I live:

    The female contingent at a typical local milonga consists of N dancers who have taken classes and practiced, plus M women whose main qualifications are most of “young,” “slim,” “pretty,” and “well-dressed.” The men consist of approximately N dancers who’ve taken classes and practiced; handsome, athletic, sharply dressed non-dancers exist but are too rare to matter. Do the math: for M > 0 (and I’ve seen M > N), N + M > N. Right there, women outnumber men – possibly badly.

    What happens?

    The M attractive women get asked to dance over and over by men who know full well they’re inviting people who don’t know how to dance. Which means the N women who are there mainly to dance well don’t get invited, because there aren’t enough men to go around.

    It doesn’t stop there. The man asking a woman to dance based on looks soon discovers that his partner doesn’t know how to dance – or perhaps he learned that when he saw another chap dancing with her. Rather than let the woman’s lack of experience dissuade him, this switches him into “teacher mode.” I suspect the thought process here is along the lines of, “If I teach this pretty girl, she’ll be beholden to me and stay on the floor with me, maybe give me a horizontal tanda later on . . .” (only a guess, as I’m not hunting women).

    Consider the culture this creates over years of milongas: Women new to tango are not encouraged to study; they think, “I can learn everything from dance-floor teachers at the milonga.” This lowers the barrier to entry for them, and my number M swells, guaranteeing there are many more women at the milonga than men. In the meantime, men see that the only way to get tandas with pretty girls – and don’t think for a minute that milongas aren’t filled with men looking for pretty girls (they’re rather unsubtle about it) – is to learn enough flashy moves that they have something to “teach.” Men without the time or money or attitude for that get discouraged and leave.

    TL; DR: The problem is less “not enough men” and more “too many women” – or more specifically “too many barely trained women.”

    This isn’t theory or a guess. I’ve seen it play out at eight or nine different weekly milongas in my region. The floors are filled with experienced men leading far younger, inexperienced women in dangerous steps. Meanwhile, women who’ve been around for long enough to learn the dance remain seated because they’re older than the women on the floor, or because they’re dressed for dancing rather than for hunting men.

    The root of the problem – around here, anyway – comes down to men going to the milonga mostly to hunt pretty women. I’m not sure how to fix that. One thing that would help is for milonga organizers to restrict dance-floor teaching: a polite warning the first time, a not-so-polite warning the second time, and “Yer out!” the third time.

    Reply
    1. zoya

      perfect comment. and there is nothing can be done to change the situation. lots of women of all ages come to milongas just to fill the void…and show a new pair of shoes.

      Reply
  24. John Curran

    It’s not just in Tango, every style I do will be off week to week. A local ballroom event last month was “man heavy” by 17 in a group of 90. It was so bad, as I approached a regular partner, a guy did a Tom Cruise – Risky Business run and slide to get there before me. The difference is that women, being generally more social at dance venues, will either dance with another woman or engage in conversations until they get a dance or tanda. Men will tend to be less patient and after not being able to find a partner for 4,5, or 6 dances, they’ll find something else to do. Even if one sex or the other is assertive and asking to dance, if there are 25% more of one sex than another, someone will probably be sitting out a lot of the time. I run a ballroom dance group and post events, classes and workshops weeks ahead of time and will add notes as we go along “Could use 4 Follows (Ladies)” or “Could use 3 Gents to balance the class”. Cover a few media bases and update often. remember that overall group size matters as well. Being off by 10 in a group of 100 isn’t bad so grow the group to make the ratios closer.

    Reply
  25. John Curran

    One last comment. When I teach, after a chat on hygiene, I explain that this dance will not be easy. The I ask, “Ladies, do you know your goal is when you dance? It is to seduce every man, woman and child in the room.” “Men, do you know your goal? To make the Lady look that good. Then every man will want to dance with that woman AND every woman will want to dance with the man that made her look that good…” This will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

    Reply
  26. yumtango

    I wonder if the reason for gender imbalance and balance/quality of dancing/etc. has to do with the community leaders more than anything else….many of you are community leaders, so perhaps you can look around, and also look in the mirror.

    If I have a strong male teacher (young, intelligent, socially un-awkward, healthy, good, the ladies love him, etc), I, as a younger male, will look up to him for guidance. You can begin to compare what you have experienced in your community and abroad.

    If I have a strong lady teacher, I may not be able to find as much guidance (women don’t know what it is like to be a man, even if they lead well; and they cannot inspire in the same way). They can seduce…but that doesn’t last as long.

    We have all had great teachers (in other parts of life), and we have been inspired by them to pursue certain activities. Often, I look at the number of people in other dances, not surprised by the fact that their teachers are young, attractive and have charming personalities.

    I wonder if in places like California and Istanbul (so I have heard that there are more quality leaders/ratio wise), the community leaders are just that much better at retaining men given they are the mirror image of their community. And in others, more able to attract women.

    If this is true, then little bandaid solutions like discounts for men, or teaching men/women ethiquette will just make it worst…it wreaks of desperation. As leaders of a community, there may be some hard decisions to make, i.e. choosing your predecessor, cultivating a promising lead/follow, taking teaching classes (smart!)…perhaps the buck stops with you.

    Reply

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