Breathing, Talking, Chewing
Breathe, Talk, Chew. In case you’ve been living under a rock, and haven’t noticed, Tango is a very intimate dance. It requires concentration, coordination (which can be learned and trained), timing (which can be learned and trained), time, patience, and money to learn, to practice, and then to execute. It requires your full attention at all times. While Argentine Tango is a musical and technical dance. It is also a "Social" Dance . While this site has detailed what that means, the definition supplied left a few things out quite deliberately, which are somewhat bothersome to some folks, which is what today's Practical Tango Advice deals with specifically.
Today’s Practical Tango Advice deals with three types of dancers: the Heavy Breather, the Talker, and a personal not favorite of the author’s - The Chewer. It is an open PTA, which means that it’s open to everyone, no registration is required, and is an example of what’s behind the paywall. One more thing before something else is said, while some of this stuff may seem obvious to you, there are some in the Tango world that quite honestly think this stuff is “ok”. There are some that may believe that this post is about being the Tango Police, or the Tango Etiquette Police. Neither is true. There are reasons why these things need to be called out, and stated clearly, as you’ll see. Practical reasons.
The Heavy Breather, let’s get a few things out of the way first. 1.) This topic isn’t about someone who is out of breath. No. Nor is it about the person who is out of shape. Although if we’re being fair, the fact that they’re out of shape does contribute to the later aspect, not the creepy one. 2.) Some folks are completely unaware that they breathing is labored or stressed. They can’t really help what they’re doing. 3.) This isn’t nitpicking, it's calling attention to a fact of a personality type that believes or thinks that this is “ok” to do. The Heavy Breather isn’t necessarily doing this to breathe heavily, it’s a state of excitation really. They may not even be aware that what they’re doing is invading someone’s space and it’s freaking and creeping their partner right out. The fact is that this behavior isn’t nice. It’s downright inappropriate for the setting. As well as it is crossing personal boundaries. While this kind of behavior is generally related to men of a certain age dealing with women of a younger age, it does happen in the reverse. So it’s not necessarily a gender thing. It’s just more prominent in one than it is in the other.
Aside from the creepy factor stated above there is the Heavy Breathing dancer (as both roles do this) that take the ‘breathe’ deep thing a little too deep. Meaning they're breathing deeply to point where it sounds as if they're being ‘creepy’, or you’re thinking that there’s something wrong with them physiologically. They not even aware that they’re doing it.
Is this a desirable thing to do ?
From the Creepy Side: Ummm no. Not ever. In other words if you think you’re doing this, stop it immediately. Don’t just ask your favorite partners if you’re doing this but in fact everyone. The more people that you check in with about the more well rounded you become. It should be clear, and it may not be from this point, that for some people, the Heavy Breather, is perceived as being personally or intimately invasive. And while Tango is a very intimate dance, we don’t want to cross someone’s personal boundaries when you’re in their intimate space. It just makes them feel, shall we say, awkward. You may think you’re projecting one idea completely innocently when in fact you’re doing the polar opposite. It is for this one reason alone that to check-in with the people that you dance with that you’re not doing this. Think of this idea as a helpful safety check. Nothing more than that.
From the Unaware Side: It’s what they’re doing, it’s not something that you can control, but it is something you can make someone aware of.
The Talker. From the moment the music starts through the cabeceo/mirada process, and then the salida and straight through the actual dancing part, the person you’re dancing with is talking the entire time. Yap. Yap. Yap. They’re asking about your day, how things are, or they’re continuing the conversation you were having before you started dancing with them, or they’ve crossed the ‘no-no’ line and are giving you feedback while you’re dancing with them! Let’s address that last one before we go any further: Unless the person you’re dancing with is your teacher AND you’re at a practica, this is a NO-NO. Tsk, tsk, tsk. This, in case you’re unclear on this one, should never be done anywhere except at a practica, period. Are we clear ??? Back to the topic. In other words, from the moment you begin a tanda with your partner they’re continually talking. And actually if we’re being honest, it seems like their talking gets even more intense as they’re dancing with you. First you couldn’t get them to say ‘hello’ to you and now they won’t shut the fuck up!
The fact is that some people are unaware of the boundaries of the social situation they find themselves in. They use the environment of the dancing embrace to engage in conversation instead of ‘dancing’:
1.) They believe or think it’s ok to talk to their partner while they’re dancing with them. That, for them, it’s just like they’re out on the street instead of a Milonga.
2.) They may be completely unaware that they’re doing it.
3.) They may do this as an affectation of being nervous. This is one way to ‘calm’ their nerves in dancing with you by talking.
4.) They may believe that this is the only time that they’ll get to know this person and this is their chance.
Those things may all be true. However the fact is that dancing requires concentration, and diligence. And when you’re talking, your attention wanders from music, technique (which is where it should be focused), and the application and execution of both, floorcraft, the embrace, and your partner. It shifts away from these very important things, and as a result they suffer. Let’s be absolutely clear about something, you may think or believe that your technique is spot on, you may think or believe that you are capable of multitasking, right ? Trust this: Tango, if you’re doing it right, requires ALL of your attention and running your mouth detracts from that needed concentration to the point where the execution of your technique can and will suffer!
Is this a desirable thing to do ? No. It’s not. Is a major 'No-no'. Some would argue yes and some would argue no. It depends on your point of view really. If your vantage point is the religious variety of tango (and the author falls into that category), then it’s quite rude actually. If not, then well..YMMV, but don't be too surprised if others don't see it as a 'no-no'. The fact is the person you’re dancing with is trying their best to dance with you. It is only good manners to give them the respect they deserve by allowing them the time and patience to execute what’s being asked of them. If you’re a Follower, stop asking questions of your Lead. If you’re a Lead, this is not the time to engage in getting someone’s number. In both cases -> The simplest advice is to stop talking, or to be very clear - “Shut up”. If you are talking, you are not dancing. Got it ? If you want to talk, take that off the floor. Otherwise you’re disrupting other people’s experiences. This is a time for dancing, not for talking.
The Chewer. This one is just flat out rude. Chewing gum while dancing with someone. If you’re in close embrace, more than likely you’re mouth is right next to someone’s ear. And if you’re one of those people that likes to chew with their mouths open…more than likely you are really annoying the fuck out of your partner.
Put simply: Chewing is NOT dancing, it’s chewing.
Simple advice: Before you step onto the floor, take the gum out of your mouth, and put it somewhere else.
From A Dancing Perspective. These 3 things annoy the frak out of your partners, in a myriad of ways, if you’re this kind of dancer, then the simplest advice is to stop doing it. Respect the space of others around you and your partners, and just stop. If you’re the person to whom this is happening, then here’s some simple tips for you so that you can continue in your tango bubble:
1.) If they’re the Heavy Breather that’s being ‘Creepy’.
Say ‘Thank you’ at the nearest exit point. Be that the end of this song or the tanda. Whatever you’re comfortable doing. The fact is that you’re feeling rather creeped out right now, and you need to listen to that. Tango is an intimate dance where trust is a major component to being able to dance with someone. And if you don’t feel safe, then it’s time to step away from that person. If you need to have the conversation with them, do so but not on the floor. Take it outside and away from the Milonga and explain it to them if you have to. Don’t leave this stuff hanging out there. They may be completely unaware that they’re doing it. A little judicious conversation of why they’re doing it will save you and them a lot of unpleasantness.
If they’re the Heavy Breather that’s unaware.
Ask if they’re ok, and to see if it’s physiological. Otherwise, tell them that they’re breathing in your ear. They may not be aware of it.
2.) If they’re the Talker. While you’re in the embrace with them, say something to the effect of “You know I like talking to you but right now I’m trying to focus on my dance”. Or something along those lines. Pick whatever phrase gets this across to them so that they stop talking. You may have to say this a few times to them. Yes it is going to shut them down or they may become upset, that can not be helped except by how you execute this phrase. Say it kindly and with compassion and then do the same when you reinforce it.
3.) If they’re chewing, remind them before you start dancing with them that you’d like a chew free dance like so “you know later on, I’d love a piece of gum if you have a spare, but can we put the gum aside for now while we’re dancing ?”.
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