Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

Today’s #Tango Thought 099: Saying ‘No’.

The fact is that unlike other social dances, Argentine Tango allows for the dancer to say “No” to a request for a dance for a variety of reasons that we don’t need to discuss here. The reality is that some folks get all persnickety about this fact of Tango. Not that you can say ‘No’ but the fact that it exists at all. Shouldn’t everyone be able to dance with everyone ? Theoretically, yes, they should. However due to the reality is that some of you are a bit more forceful, arm-y, push-y, pull-y, squeeze-y, head-tilt-y, wobbly, waver-y (read that as unstable as the day is long) than some of us would like, this tends to create a situation where we have to say “No” to you. Sadly. Before we go any further it should be noted that these are ideas, and suggestions for both roles, and that it is not intended to be arrogant, spiteful, hurtful, or mean in any way, shape, or form. Further still is that for some people reading what’s below this post will seem like a godsend on how to handle ‘Y’. And still others will see this post awful, disenchanting, disenfranchising, disparaging, and disheartening of Tango. And still others that come from other dancers will see this as a ‘WTF’ ? Breathe deeply. Chillax.  So without further deviation, below is a 10 step process in “How to say ‘No’, and not dance with Y!” 🙂

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Let’s start with the Follower’s side of the equation because quite rightfully this is where most of these issues begin and end:

1.) The Unseen Cabeceo – Keep your eyes open and watch for the Cabeceos that are coming your way, if you don’t want to dance, you ‘pretend’ that you don’t see it. Problem not solved, sadly.

2.) The Headshake Cabeceo – Assuming said Unseen Cabeceo failed, and it does most of the time, we then progress to the ‘Head Shake’ of the ‘No’ variety. You have to make direct, clear eye contact with this person, and shake your head ‘No’. You may have to mouth the word “No” at the same time. Sadly this will not solve the problem for a variety of reasons, most notably, timing! You gotta nip this one at the right time before they start their ‘walk’ towards you. 

3.) The Changing Chairs Evasion – The Head Shake may not work, so you may have to get up and move, so go find another seat.

4.) The Bathroom Evasion – Head for the bathroom, hang out for 4 or 5 minutes. That should be long enough to evade the unwanted. Unfortunately if they’re persistent, they’ll wait outside the bathroom to ‘catch’ you. See The Verbal ‘No’.

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5.) The Bar/Refreshments Evasion – Assuming your milonga has a bar or refreshments counter, you can of course get up and go get something to eat or drink, and then quickly…very quickly engage in a conversation with anyone until the unsuspecting target has been successfully evaded. However, now you have a new problem, the person that you’re talking to, assuming they’re the opposite gender may ask for a tanda right there. So use this one sparingly. 

6.) The Verbal ‘No’ – It’s come to this, you didn’t want to have to do this, but you have to actually say the words, “No, Thank You”. Look the asker directly in the eye. Don’t cower, don’t waver in your resolve either. You must be firm, and clear, and say, without a break in your voice, “No, Thank You.” This is an ouch, no one likes to reject someone directly, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. And saying ‘No’ is one of those things. Sadly this is not the end of the problem though….

7.) The Conversational ‘No’ – Some folks can’t take the hint with a verbal ‘No’. So they’ll sit down and chat you up a bit. Mostly this is done to hide the ouch of the fact that you just rejected them, but some folks are oblivious to the awkwardness of this, and they’ll sit right down and engage in a conversation with you. While it’s entirely your choice to engage in the conversation, what that person doesn’t realize is that they’re taking you off the market, there may be other people that are waiting to see if you’ll dance with that person and if you say ‘No’, then that means that you’re available. So you have to be very clear at this juncture and say the following words, “You know I’d love to chat with you a bit later, but I’m waiting for X to ask me to dance”. X being who you’d rather dance with. As rude as this sounds, you really do have to be crystal clear with some folks. You can phrase that statement any way you like but the end of it should be a clear “I don’t want to chat right now”.

8.) The Little White Lie – “My feet hurt”, “My fingernails ache”, “My eyelids need to breathe”,“I’m sorting my lint collection”. The fact is that to avoid a direct and clear confrontation with someone, you may have to engage in a bit of subterfuge, and that means engaging the little white lie. The common one is “my feet hurt”, “my back hurts”, “my feet are tired” and so on. These statements may be true, but if you then immediately get up and dance with someone else right after saying them, then it’s a lie. So use these sparingly and mean them when you say them.

9.) The ‘Later’ Dance – If this is someone you may (operative word in the sentence) want to dance with later, then you could add the following to the verbal “No”. “No, Thank you, perhaps later ?”. And later in this case, so that we’re absolutely crystal clear, does not have to be that particular night but in fact weeks from that point forward. If this is someone you don’t want to dance with then you can say the same thing and mean it that later in this case is when hell freezes over. It’s later. Yes that’s mean, and yes it’s harsh, and yes it sounds arrogant but the simple fact is that some of you just can’t take a hint! Hence…

10.) The Repeated ‘No – You’re going to have to do this a lot. The fact is that some of these folks are completely oblivious to the fact that you have said “No” and meant it. So you’ll have to say “No” several more times, and with each time that you do this, you’re reinforcing the previous negative responses. But there’s one thing you have to do here, and that’s to say “No” with a bit more force each time. Eventually….they’ll get the hint. Eventually. It’s going to take a while, but it will happen, eventually.

From the Lead’s side of the equation, all of the same things apply from the Follower’s side of the equation. All of them. The only difference is that for you, you’re more than likely not going to use these tactics all that often. But occasionally you’ll get the Follower who just can not take a hint to save their lives and you have to resort to these sorts of things.

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The Tango Topics Opinion. The fact is that like it or not Tango does allow for you to say “No”. And for whatever reason you need to say “No”, and you need to have that respected. Some folks aren’t going to take kindly to this, or be able to hear it at all for whatever reason. They’re going to think you’re snobby, or rude. They’re going to think all kinds of awful things about you and/or even say them to you. That’s going to happen. Remember that it’s a story they’re making up in their head. No one likes to be embarrassed or to be rejected. No one. So the best thing you can do here is to smile, nod, and speak kindly.

However, there’s one thing that you absolutely must do in all of this to negate the nastiness that some people may have about being rejected repeatedly: You must show absolute kindness and graciousness at all points along the curve. And not the fake kindness and graciousness that you can generate now and again, but genuine kindness and softness about this stuff. Because the simple reality is that you’re going to be in their shoes (literally, factually, and figuratively) one day, and what goes around, comes around. You’re going to get a taste of your own medicine soon enough, and more than likely you’re not going to like it very much. So practice kindness wherever possible, it’ll go a long, long, long way to easing the tension that is going to happen.

To put this clearly for you: You are under absolutely no obligations to dance with anyone you do not want to for any reason that you deem valid. The acceptance of a dance is always, always, always your choice. They can ask, and you can always say “No”. It’s just going to be a bit awkward for a moment or two. The more truthful kindness that you apply to that moment of awkwardness the easier things will go.

There’s one more thing you can do, and that’s assuming that you really do care, invite them to a practica, and then when you’re both there, ask them for a dance, and then explain during the course of that dance what’s going on and why it’s not desirable to dance with them as nicely as you can. (See: Giving & Receiving Feedback.)

  098: Rejection | 100: The Seasoned Dancer 

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