Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Today’s #Tango Thought 084:  Men (Age)

Welcome to the Department of the Obvious Department. Today’s menu of the Obvious includes: Men not asking for directions when lost, Men over talking Women when women have point, Men squeezing the living daylights out of their female partners, and last but not least the Age of a Man has nothing to do with his ability to get dances!

Fact: As long as he has a heartbeat, is breathing, has two functioning legs, and at least one arm, a man is going to get dances.

This speaks nothing to the possible fact that said Man may have foul breath, reeks of body odor, that his shirt (and he, himself) are dripping sweat from every available orifice, smells like smoke (!!!), is chewing gum (!!!), is talking to his partner while dancing with them (!!!), can not navigate safely around the floor without hitting someone else or something else (floorcraft), can not follow a beat to save his life, can not place the Follower on either the 1st or the 3rd strong walking beat of the music, uses/employs the same rock step over and over and over again. Or that their dances consist of traveling ocho – traveling ocho – traveling ocho – looking at the follower’s feet – giro – looking at the follower’s feet – giro – looking at the follower’s feet – giro – looking at the follower’s feet – giro – painful volcada – painful volcada – looking at the follower’s feet – giro – looking at the follower’s feet – argentine cross – over and over again, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over….again. Uuuuuugh.

This also speaks nothing to the fact that said man will continually get dances from a host of Followers, no matter how old he is!

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Gut or No Gut. Along with the whole age factor is the reality that as some men age, they slow down. And as they slow down, that means they tend to eat the same amounts but burn off less of what they ate. Therefore, as a result, they put on more weight. And if their diets tended towards fried foods and meats and not a whole lot of green veggies (and no fried potato doesn’t count as a veggie) then they’re definitely more prone to putting on a little weight around their middles. Better known as a ‘GUT’. Some men see no issue with this, they’re in long term committed relationships, have been forever, and no one is complaining so why bother with all that exercise noise, and keeping the weight off. There’s no point to it. No one cares. Right ?

These statements are not a disparagement of the Man of a Certain age. The author is a man of a certain age. 😉

Why mention this stuff ? Because if you’re wanting to dance Tango, you’re going to wonder at some point why it’s the same Follower’s over and over again, or why some of the better Followers continually say “NO” and their reluctance anything to do with your weight. The answer to that is a qualified “Yes” and “No”. Let’s first dispense with the overweight issue itself. If you know that you’re overweight, then losing a few pounds certainly wouldn’t kill you and you’ll certainly feel better about yourself, not to mention, but we will anyway, you’ll also move a lot more easily. As to how this relates to Argentine Tango, you can dance no matter what body size and shape you are. But as a Male Tango dancer with a gut, there may be Followers who will not want anything to do with you no matter how lovely a person you are. This isn’t about being a nice person. It has everything to do with you being a good dancer. And while ‘good’ is a relative term, it generally means can you walk without pushing, pulling, or compressing the daylights out of your Followers in turns, ochos, and crosses, not to mention just walking. Do your lines while you’re dancing look nice or are they all screwed up ? Again, subjective but that’s a good starting point. Here’s a good litmus test towards your underlying skills: If you can Lapiz to Enrosque without wobbling, wavering, or losing your balance in any way, shape, or form, you’re on to something. Being “Good” has a few more layers to it than just that. But that’s a good starting point. However, having a gut can affect these things. It affects the quality of your movement which ultimately affects your dancing abilities and how you look and who you dance with! So yes, having a gut can work against you. At the same time, there are ooodles of female followers out there that absolutely love dancing with a man of a certain size. The reason is a simple one, they feel good. They like the gut. 🙂 There’s no rhyme or reason to it, they just do. Assuming that said Lead has mastered their foundation, and engages a non-compressive embrace as part of their foundation, and doesn’t push or pull or squeeze the living daylights out of their Followers and are exceptionally gentle with their embrace (lite as a feather, always) that’s going to get around to all the Followers in the room, and at that point, the ‘gut’ doesn’t matter at all. It should be noted that one’s weight and ‘gut’ may not have anything to do with one’s ability to get a dance, it may have something to do with personality, and more importantly one’s embrace! 😉

There’s one other place where a ‘gut’ doesn’t matter for a lot of female Followers, and it has everything to do with one specific piece of tango vocabulary: The Argentine Volcada. Better known here on Tango Topics as The Social Volcada. In this movement having a ‘gut’ is a really good thing. It means that the Follower is assured of being supported by the Male Lead’s body, instead of being pulled in with the Lead’s Right Arm which tends to compress (Squeeze) the Follower and pull the Follower into the L/lead. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Major no-no. In this instance the ‘gut’ is a good thing.

All said and done, there are pluses and minuses to having a ‘Gut’. The pluses are few, and the minuses are many. There is a happy meeting ground to being buff and gut prone. If you can find what’s comfortable for you, then do that. There’s no reason in the world to be man of a certain age and not to be comfortable with yourself. There’s no fat shaming going on here in this post. We’re just laying out what you already know and giving voice to it. It’s entirely up to you to lose the gut or to roll with it. We will tell you this though, and this may be a factor in keeping or losing it: Once you lose the gut your equilibrium will change for the better. 😉

The ‘Man’ Thing. Men of a certain age have a specific way of doing things. They learn X, and then that becomes the only way that things get done. Repetition…Good. Variation…Bad. Grunt. The reality of this is that variation is a good thing. And truth be told when it comes to Argentine Tango it’s a very good thing. Having the ability to vary how you execute your dancing skills is absolutely crucial to your ability to deliver a really good dancing experience to your Followers. Why ? The simplest reason is an old adage: “Variety is the spice of life!”. Let’s put it this way, if you had the same meal over and over and over again every day for weeks on end, you’d get a little upset, and long for something else. The same can be said of Followers who dance with the same L/leads over and over again. These Followers can literally set their watches by the Leads they dance with: He’ll take two steps to the cross, push and then pull me into an ocho cortado, and then turn the left, leaving me behind….arrrrgh! The same thing with every Follower they dance with, and very little variance. Very little. The kicker is that the Lead in this case isn’t even aware that they’re doing it. They’re not even aware of the fact that they’re not aware. They do what they do because they like doing it. What they’re ignorant to is that the Follower isn’t exactly enjoying the ride. And if they have the temerity to ask a Follower at a Practica, the feedback that they’ll generally get is positive. There’s a reason for that: No one wants to hurt their feelings if it isn’t a desirable experience! Still another reason is that the Lead will ask a general question like “How’s my dancing ?”. Which doesn’t exactly ask for detail or dig deeper beyond someone’s personal preferences. That’s assuming that the Follower was paying attention to what the Lead was doing at all. The Lead, in this case, really must ask for detailed feedback. For a treatise on what and how to do, please see our Article on “Giving and Receiving Feedback” for Both Roles. Moving on, the idea here is to stretch the Lead’s abilities to do the same thing over and over again but instead add some variation to the Traveling Ochos. Instead of the same 3 Ochos every single time, how about 2 or 4 ? How about generating a different type of Ocho, say a Milonguero Ocho, or adding an Ocho Variation.

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The Tango Topics Opinion: Men or Male dancers with oodles of testosterone can be a boon to a Milonga or a disaster just itchin to happen. Men of a certain age on the other hand tend to add a certain almost exotic flare to the Milonga scene. And that happens because these male dancers have learned one simple but immutable fact: A suitcoat hides a lot of sins! Meaning ? That nothing screams “I want” more than a man that is nicely tailored and coiffed. And a man in a suitcoat, or suitjacket or sports jacket ? That just ups the game. And then you have the older male dancer that actually dresses to the 9s! These gentlemen, and we need to call them that, they’re not guys, they’re gentlemen! These ‘Gentlemen’ are the epitome of refined cool. The suit, the tie, the ensemble of clothing, coiffed hair and nails, and of course refined lines of their dancing skills. Bam! This, gentleman, will always get the ladies. Always, always, always. Think of it like bees to honey. Think of the suit as the honey! And honey there’s a lot of bees buzzing when there’s a man of a certain age in a nice suit that dances well! Just sayin’.

There’s one more thing that we have to address here in this opinion section. Actually three now that we think about it. 1.) The Talking Lead. 2.) The Teaching Lead. 3.) Compressive Lead.  Let’s just get this out of the way. Men that talk to their Follower while dancing with them, are not dancing, they’re talking. They’re quite literally killing the vibe of the music. If you want to talk, take it off the dance floor. The dance floor is for dancing, not talking. Then there’s the Male dancer that will invite their Follower’s and then proceed to teach them when X, Y, or Z fails at the Milonga. Rather than think or believe that their lead was misunderstood, or that they executed it poorly, they’ll tend toward blaming the Follower. Hmmmm, got news for you. It’s not the Follower. It’s you. Stop it. No one likes to be told that they’re doing something wrong while they’re doing it. No one. And if your argument is to respond with “Well how is the Follower ever going to figure this stuff out if I don’t tell them in the moment ?”. That’s what private lessons are for and you are not their teacher! If you want to give them feedback, invite them to a practica, and dance a song with them, and explain your issue with what they’re doing usig “I” statements. I feel…I think…I know…I witness. Not, “You’re doing this wrong….”. Got it ? And lastly, stop squeezing the living daylights out of your Followers. No Follower likes a compressive embrace. They do not like ‘firm’, they do not like pulling or pushing, and they don’t need resistance. You know what they need ? Patience, time, and presence from a reassuring Lead that doesn’t squeeze them with their Right arm, or talk their ear off, or correct them while they’re dancing with you. Just stop. Got it ?

That said.

Men of a certain age ? Delight in this Tango time of your life. You can travel all over the world, dancing from one tango community to another. Assuming you have the means to do so. If not, enjoy your local community but do get out of dodge now and again to a larger tango community like New York, Berlin, Los Angeles, London, or San Francisco.

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