How to decline dances gracefully...

Post date: Oct 23, 2014 5:03:57 AM

Sharing the following post by tango blogger extrordinaire - Terpsichoral Tangoaddict* about how to reject unwanted dance invitations.

It's well worth reading whether you're an 'inviter' or 'invitee'. I think we are often both - whether we lead or follow. By actively using the 'mirada' I am inviting a leader to dance. The mirada in this way becomes another form of 'cabeceo.' There is thus a fine line between the mirada and cabeceo.

So here are Terpsi's views on this rather delicate subject (the highlights are mine)...

"Several people recently have asked for advice on how to decline dances gracefully. I'm not sure I have a good answer to this question, but it seems worth opening up to debate. First of all, let's acknowledge that saying "no, thanks" can be very difficult. Setting aside the question of teachers (who are often under particular pressure to accept all dances requested in case they lose students or alienate organisers), refusing can be particularly hard in a number of situations. Personally, I don't find it at all difficult to decline a dance with a bully, but, of course, I find it difficult to refuse someone who I like as a person but dislike dancing with (this sometimes happens to me), someone I used to dance with a lot but whose dance has not developed well or has changed in ways I dislike, or someone who is innocently unprepared for the possibility of refusal. In addition, in some tango scenes, pretty much everyone accepts every dance that is requested and it's especially difficult to go against those expectations and be the first or only one to surprise an unsuspecting man (or, more rarely, woman) by saying "no."

My own strategies, for what it's worth, are as follows. I try to separate being friendly and sociable from accepting or declining dances and to be as polite or as warm towards those I don't want to dance with as those I do. At the milonga, I am focused on dancing and I don't usually spend much time chatting and socialising. When I'm not dancing, I usually sit peacefully listening to the music, sipping my glass of wine and watching the dancers. But what I *don't* do is deliberately snub, ignore or avoid all eye contact with someone, in order to deter him (or her) from asking me to dance.

If I want to turn down a cabeceo, it's easy. I just look away or don't react. And what do I do when someone makes a verbal request that I want to turn down? I almost always say a simple "no, thanks." In the unusual event of them asking for an explanation, I can be quite stubborn in refusing to give one. If the rejectee asks me a question like "so you don't dance then?" or "Are you tired then?" I'm liable to give them an honest answer.

I do give explanations sometimes: if the person asking is a friend or regular partner who I genuinely do want to dance with, but can't right at that moment ("sorry, I promised this tanda to X"; "actually, I was about to go because I need to get up early tomorrow"; "I'm not crazy about this music; let's wait for the next tanda") or if they announce to me that they are a beginner ("I'm just a beginner, but would you like to dance?" -- "I think this floor is a bit challenging, but I'll happily dance with you on another occasion, when it's not as busy"; "sure, but let's dance later, to less dramatic music"). Otherwise, I really find it best not to give any explanations or excuses or to apologise.

And, if someone else asks me afterwards who I do want to dance with, yes, I will get up and dance the tanda with them without any qualms.

I try to be friendly, regretful and undramatic in the way I say the "no, thanks". Like someone refusing a slice of delicious cake, not like someone declining to buy polyester knock-off Adidas socks from a panhandler (everyone who has visited Baires has surely been offered the opportunity to buy those socks, sometimes a dozen times in an afternoon). But, of course, people can always read things into a tone of voice or a look and can interpret them in a way very different from what you intended. And, occasionally, I *do* respond rudely: if the person asks me in a way I find arrogant or aggressive (this rarely happens). Then I might just shoot them a silent dirty look which says "really? you're trying that on? you think I'm an idiot?" So sue me.

It's never pleasant to hear the words "no, thanks" when you ask someone to dance. It's a rejection and rejections are awkward by their very nature. If you decline dances, you will hurt some people's feelings, you will upset some and even anger a few. In some communities, you might even be labelled a bitch or a snob (though I think the better dancers are highly unlikely to hold that against you). But personally I find it almost impossible to dance with people I strongly suspect or know I won't enjoy dancing with. Dancing for me is an intense, focused experience which I feel very strongly about and I can't bring myself to just go through the motions to be polite. Like kissing, I love it, yes, of course, but not with everyone. With the wrong partner, it can feel very bad. And I don't like to take too many risks on unknown partners, either (my general rule is no more than one per evening, unless the general level at the milonga is high or I'm at a practica). So, while saying "no, thanks" is difficult, for me, it's worth doing. And it's worth learning to do it as graciously as you can manage. This post is not about when you should or shouldn't say no. It's only about *how* to do it, if you want to."

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