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Asking for a dance with eye contact

Enjoy
Garrit

Garrit Fleischmann
Polo Talnir
Robinne Gray
Nina
Steve


Date:    Fri, 11 Oct 1996 11:41:28 +0100
From:    Garrit Fleischmann
Subject: How are your Milongas?

Hello all of you,

some of my tango-friends just came back from a "dancing trip"
to Buenos Aires (BsAs) and told me a bit about dance style in
Buenos AIres and about the milongas (dancing evenings) there.

[some lines deleted]

Another thing that I found interesting to hear was, that in BsAs
you kind of "agree on dancing together" by eye contact and not by
asking with words.
Here people go to a person they want to dance with pyhsicaly and
ask for a dance, and there are both, men and women asking partners
for the next dance.
Is this only common here in Germany, or has is become a general habit
on milongas (outside of Argentina perhaps)?


Good tango dancing!

Garrit
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Date:    Wed, 30 Oct 1996 11:00:26 -0800
From:    Polo Talnir
Subject: Re^2: How are your Milongas?

Garrit Fleischmann wrote:
>> >Here people go to a person they want to dance with pyhsicaly and
>> >ask for a dance, and there are both, men and women asking partners
>> >for the next dance.
>> >Is this only common here in Germany, or has is become a general habit
>> >on milongas (outside of Argentina perhaps)?

Mark Soekarjo responded:
>> Even in BsAs you can ask young people in a less formal way. This saves a lot
>> of time.

I write:
Maybe it save a lot of time, but also wastes a lot of what is behind the
tradition. And that is part of what made the Tango evolve the way it did.
That "eye contact" allows for painless selection of partners. The painless
part can not be achieved with "less formal way". If you ask face-to-face
if the lady says "no", you get hurt. If she does not want to dance with you
but for courtesy she says "yes", then she gets hurt. Saving time does not
seem to be the point here. Also, in this mechanism, in essence, both are
asking the other party to dance simultaneously, because a man can not catch
the woman's eye if she was not looking at him. And the other way around.
When a woman wants to dance with a given man, she can nail her eyes on
him, until he looks in her direction... So the point that "man asks woman"
becomes sort-of blurred. This is not new. It always was like this.

I am not aware of the young-people's custom that Mark mentions, though. In
the milongas in BsAs, as far as I noticed, the old "eye contact across the
floor" tradition is preserved. Note that that tradition did never work
among friends sitting together at the table. If it is your partner, or your
friend, you just ask, perhaps, yes, through "local", over the table, eye
contact that is a gesture that seems to me quite equivalent to asking verbally.

Mark may be confusing what happens in a practica with what happens in a
milonga. Perhaps in other cities around the world some day we adopt more
formally this healthy division. In the SF Bay Area, sort of it is what is
slowly happening. A practica is in essence an "informal" gathering, for
people to practice, forgive me the redundancy. There the codes are different,
much like Mark explains. And, in the practices that I went to there were
indeed many young people. I was happy to witness last Monday in my
"Milonguita" here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one man asking a lady
to dance by eye contact. They were both argentines though ...

-Polo
 "La Milonguita"
 polo@informix.com

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Date:    Thu, 31 Oct 1996 10:33:19 -0500
From:    Robinne Gray
Subject: Asking with the Eyes

Regarding the tradition of women "asking" men to dance with eye contact
only, Polo wrote:
>How much would I love it if this beautiful tradition of AT was followed
>by all. It has so much to do with its power, meaning and history ...

  While this tradition has sublime elements--the flirtation, the
understatement--I find I am still resistant to strict adherence to this
particular social code.  Let me explain a different perspective...


>That "eye contact" allows for painless selection of partners. The painless
>part can not be achieved with "less formal way".

  Painless for whom?  In practice, this can mean that the man retains the
power of choice, while the potential hurt and rejection falls upon the
woman.  A few times I have tried to be a good girl, and have fixed my eyes
upon someone who saw me looking, but did still not ask me to dance.
Meanwhile I am sitting and sitting, feeling foolish.  My request had
clearly been rejected, but in a way that absolved the man of any
responsibility--he could just slink away without acknowledging me.  I would
much prefer to have asked directly, even if it meant receiving a polite,
"No, thank you" in response.

  One time I had repeatedly tried to catch the eye of an older (and I
think, Argentine) gentleman, to no avail.  It was getting time for me to
leave, and I still hoped for a dance with this man, so I confided my wish
to a second older, Argentine gentleman, who laughed and said I should
simply go ask the first man to dance.  So I did, and he smiled, and we had
our dance.  The sky did not fall.

  I always ask men to dance, at milongas and other dance venues, and I
probably always will.  It is part of who I am, as a woman and a dancer.
And it is worth noting that I have *never* sensed any resistance or
disapproval from the "askees," even among the old guard. (Though I keep
expecting to encounter it, based on what I have read in this forum.)

  This is not a gender issue, or a generational one.  If you--man or
woman--are asked to dance, the asker is paying you a compliment.  And in my
view, the proper response to a compliment is to be flattered, wherther or
not you choose to accept the dance.  Are there really men out there who
would react negatively to being asked by a woman?  Shame on them.

Robinne Gray
Ithaca,  NY

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson



Date:    Thu, 31 Oct 1996 12:50:27 -0500
From:    La Vampiresa
Subject: Re: Asking with the Eyes

>Regarding the tradition of women "asking" men to dance with eye contact
>only, Polo wrote:

>>How much would I love it if this beautiful tradition of AT was followed
>>by all. It has so much to do with its power, meaning and history ...

Robinne wrote:

>  While this tradition has sublime elements--the flirtation, the
>understatement--I find I am still resistant to strict adherence to this
>particular social code.  Let me explain a different perspective...
>
Polo wrote:
>>That "eye contact" allows for painless selection of partners. The painless
>>part can not be achieved with "less formal way".

Robinne wrote:
>
>  Painless for whom?  In practice, this can mean that the man retains the
>power of choice, while the potential hurt and rejection falls upon the
>woman.  A few times I have tried to be a good girl, and have fixed my eyes
>upon someone who saw me looking, but did still not ask me to dance.
>Meanwhile I am sitting and sitting, feeling foolish.  My request had
>clearly been rejected, but in a way that absolved the man of any
>responsibility--he could just slink away without acknowledging me.  I would
>much prefer to have asked directly, even if it meant receiving a polite,
>"No, thank you" in response.

I've had a different experience with this custom.  When I fix my eyes on
someone and their glance, or a lack of it, clearly communicates to me that
the answer is "no", I am free to move on.  I also retain the power to ask
this person again, sometime in the future.  They, on the other hand, are not
so free with me.  Should they choose to ask me in the same manner, they know
that they said "no" to me, that my answer maybe "no" now.  When I am doing
the asking, I don't have that concern.  As long as it is a "yes" or a "no",
and not a "maybe".

The eye-contact "no" is a gentler "no" than a verbal one.

>  This is not a gender issue, or a generational one.  If you--man or
>woman--are asked to dance, the asker is paying you a compliment.  And in my
>view, the proper response to a compliment is to be flattered, wherther or
>not you choose to accept the dance.  Are there really men out there who
>would react negatively to being asked by a woman?  Shame on them.

You are absolutely correct about it being a compliment.  But it is also a
compliment when a particular sensitivity of the eye-contact is not only
given to another person, but is also expected in return.  It is not the same
when a person says, in words, "no, not this dance, but, maybe, another one,
later".  It is better said with the eyes.  The words are too solid, too well
remembered.

Best Regards,

Nina

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Date:    Thu, 31 Oct 1996 17:48:19 EST
From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
Subject: Re[2]: Asking with the Eyes

I may be confused, but I read Polo's message it seemed to refer
to either the man using eye contact to ask a woman to dance or the
woman using eye contact to ask a man to dance.

As Robinne wrote:

>  While this tradition has sublime elements--the flirtation, the
>understatement--I find I am still resistant to strict adherence to this
>particular social code....

To me, the contrast between Robinne's message and Polo's earlier message
underscores the dilemma in lifting Argentine Tango out of its original
social context.  The music and phyical motion of the dance can be
transplanted more easily from Argentina than the meanings of and the
traditions surrounding the dance.

I find that asking for a dance via eye contact has a sublime reward, in
that it is more private than a verbal request.  And it may be somewhat
less threatening, but as Robinne wrote, it won't necessarily work if the
person with whom I am making eye contact doesn't know it is the socially
agreed upon signal.  We here in the United States make eye contact so
readily as to negate any particular message.

In fact, making eye contact or not making eye contact can have greatly
different meaning in different cultures.  On a recent trip to Paris, I was
generally careful to observe the Parisian custom of not making eye contact
with strangers with whom I was not conversing.  On a beautiful Fall
afternoon, I walked down a street alone in a decidely upper middle class
shopping district devoid of tourists.  I noticed a few Parisian women
breaking the rule, and we in fact did make eye contact.  One even smiled.
In Paris, this silent exchange had a shared sense of sexiness that would
be completely absent here in the United States.

Interestingly enough, at the Tango practice Susan and I attended in Paris,
we found the French men asked the women to dance verbally or simply stood
in front of the woman with their hand extended.

Steve de Tejas
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Garrit Fleischmann 1.Nov.96
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com