It is summer in Europe. Tango festival time! But what to do if you imagine thousand dancers as in the festival of Tarbes and you fear you cannot get a dance? After all, the rumour goes that for women it is quite hard to get a dance there. You imagine yourself already setting there on the top of the grandstands of Halle Marcadieu in Tarbes all by yourself. I will give you six tips and trics to prevent this and then also an afterthought.
Tip 1: don’t sit down
To begin with: do not sit down if you want to dance. Certainly not at the top of the grandstands. Sitting down at these festivals is perceived as a sign to other dancers that you want to be left alone for a while. You are tired or like to chatt to a friend. So you will be left alone. Make sure instead that you are near the floor and standing.
Tip 2: keep moving
You will look pathetic and what is worse feel pathetic if you are standing still at the same spot all the time. So keep moving. It all happens in the action, so be in action yourself and walk a bit around.
Tip 3: look the part
This point you need to prepare before your trip and here I need to differentiate between the sexes. For women: wear something that is elegant, sexy and nice to touch, especially during the evening milongas. The point is that a man, if he needs to choose amongst strangers, they will choose a woman with whom he can imagine himself being a tango king, a Maestro. So wear an outfit that will attract admiring eyes. Apart from a tango man, he is also a man, so he wants to see and almost feel your body. So wear an outfit that shows your silhouette (or an optimal version of that) and a skin-like texture that breathes and does not hold transpiration. For men: wear black, you always look like a pro (and dry) in this. When it is hot, a black polo is fine. But wear shirts that keep dry or go and change for another shirt when it is no longer so. For both sexes: shower in advance, brush your teeth and smell nice. Good for follow-up dance.
Tip 4: stand where the movement is
Observe carefully what the point is where most people go off and on the dance floor. You should stand nearby. This is where the action is. Be mentally prepared. It happens in fractions of seconds during the cortina, the pauze between tandas, when people are getting off the floor. Then men’s and women’s eyes are searching for new partners. And that is when they will meet your inviting eyes and smile.
Tip 5: be active with a mirada or cabaceo
Do not just stand there, waiting to be asked. Instead, when you see a man or a woman you would like to dance with: raise your eyebrows, smile and if it is dark also tilt your head sideways in the direction of the dance floor. It is like flirting with your head. If you receive an invitation like that, nod and smile and wait till the other appears in front of you or raises an arm towards your to avoid confusion with someone else. If you don’t want to dance with that person, ignore completely and move your face completely into another direction. Never feel compelled to dance!
Tip 6: in emergencies…..
If you still cannot get a dance, and I know for shy people or those who cannot play a role it can be hard, there is an emergency measure. You walk upwards to one of the side passages and join the last crowd coming off the dance floor going to the main passage. Then the moment before you leave the floor, you wipe your front head off any so-called transpiration. After all, everyone there wants popular dancers, who have just been asked. So act like one of them and then through eye contact invite a waiting person in the passage. Want to dance?
For some years this was an easy and succesfull strategy for me because I could see it as a role play. I only had to learn the rules and play by them. As I love games, I could do this and had a good time. As if it had nothing to do with me, with my core or my soul. Just a game and I played it like a child and enjoyed it. Yes I could do it and needn’t sit still one tanda as long as I played it by these rules. So you don’t need to hesitate. You can just head off to Tarbes or another festival and have a good time if you use these six trics.
Recently however in the heat of the afternoons of the Tango Postale festival in Toulouse, I noticed a change within me. Suddenly I found it humiliating having to stand up and be smiling in the heat on my heels while the men were gladly sitting down. They just came and ‘took a waiting girl’ when they felt like dancing. And once that thought ‘humiliating’ flung into my head, I could no longer play the game. My miradas were not working, no one responded to a woman sitting down inviting with her eyes. So I was almost without dances. Very annoying, but I could still not bring myself to stand up and play the game.
In the future
So perhaps in the future I may have to go to ‘ tango encuentros’ instead of going to tango festivals. I dread this, because I do not like their exclusionary character. I do not know. I will give festivals another shot in other, I hope more favourable, conditions and see how I will feel this time. At the end, all I can say is that it will be a thousand times easier for yourself if you can see it as a role play. So good luck and enjoy your summer!