Respect on the dance floor

Do we really need to say that dance floor relationships need to be the same as real life relationships need to be about respecting other persons’ choices for themselves?

Each moment, every moment.

Greater chances for confusion can arise on the dance floor where we may hold a partner in intimate closeness; but only when we allow ourselves to forget that every situation, every time, requires us to respect the other person’s choice in that moment.

When we offer or accept a dance, it is for a dance, not for a sensual encounter with any implied invitation to grope, nuzzle, caress, murmur, smooch, or use force.

In this essay the word I is you, a dance partner, a teacher, an organizer, regardless of gender identity or role.

One, Personal

Respect on the dance floor, whether of a sexual, sensual, performance, capability, ability, or experience nature, all comes from a consistent approach that we would wish for any meeting of people, on the dance floor and off.

In initiating a dance, conversation, or other interaction, I want to have a clear intent that respects the boundaries of that individual. I want to hold awareness that individuals have personal boundaries that may well, even often, differ from other individuals, and may even differ for the same person at different times and in different situations.

I want to listen to the other person’s signals–whether verbally or through body language–with an intent to not merely hear, but to understand what they do or don’t want from me.

I start slowly and simply, building as our connection grows in comfort and range.

If I feel any uncertainty at any time, I either back up, making things simpler and slower again, or I ask, or I do both.

I respect my own boundaries, and I am prepared to assert what I need from my partner to respect those boundaries.

I am generous in what I am willing to accept, while scrupulous in being careful with what I do and say. That is, I do not automatically assume bad intent from one example which may be explained by accident or incompetence. Nevertheless, I am always within my rights to make my own judgment for myself based on what I experience, my response, and my partner’s response to my response.

I dance within my capabilities. I do not lead by force but by clear, calm intention in my own body movements. I do not follow with abandon but seek connection to my partner, who has primary (but not sole) responsibility for the safe conduct of our dancing.

Two, Educational

We are brought up from childhood to be polite to others, but this serves us poorly if it leads us to disregard or suppress our reactions to threat or abuse. Much as with the kata repeated forms of martial arts, we may have needs to practice our responses to situations that we expect to encounter (or have encountered).

As a teacher I want to know the kinds of situations that can cause confusion or problems, not merely with the dance itself but with the situations that can arise in dance. I want to equip my students to recognize such situations and respond resourcefully to them with words or actions.

As a teacher I seek to both model and explicitly teach respect and empowerment in my classes and workshops. At the milongas and prácticas, in the same way that I seek to exhibit exemplary dancing, I also model exemplary behavior.

I teach my students in a caring way. I hear and respond to them in a caring way to imbue them with the respect to care for themselves and others.

Three, Organizational

As an organizer I am open to feedback on inappropriate words or behavior on the dance floor, and I seek to remedy the problem.

As a participant in an organization, if I see something I will say something. First, I will seek to understand, then I will seek to support.

I will seek to both create and, when necessary, enforce an atmosphere of respect for one another.

Respect is a shared responsibility.

Finally, Your feedback

On my computer calendar I have a repeating event set to every nine weeks show me the following guidelines for right living with others:

THINK, is it:

T – True
H – Helpful
I – Inspiring confidence
N – Necessary
K – Kind

1. Never tell a lie.
2. For every physical, verbal, emotional, and mental action, Focus before, during, and after to make sure nobody gets hurt.

A. Is it necessary to say?
B. Is it necessary that I say it?
C. Is it necessary that I say it now?

How about you? What are the ways you help yourself and others as a dancer or a teacher or an organizer or … a person! Leave us a comment with your thoughts?

Other resources

A possibly helpful wall poster

Honor each person’s right to make their own choices.
Be shiny and clean in your actions, body, breath, dancing, intent, and talk.

Codigos De Milonga

Tango Etiquette On The Dance Floor

Never-ever beginner class script

Point A to point B, Left-Right

The Sunday, February 4, 2018 issue of Parade, the Sunday newspaper supplement, had a couple of articles with notes for teachers of Argentine tango.

Sunday, February 4, 2018 | PARADE.COM

First, in the Personality section Bode Miller, the most decorated US Olympic alpine skier, talked about advice to young skiers. “Ski racing is, fundamentally, a very simple sport. It’s about going from point A to point B quickly. I think it’s easy to get distracted and start thinking that you have to look a certain way or have to do a certain thing.”

Argentine tango (escenario, stage/performance tango aside) relies on natural, functional movements. It’s either shifting our weight from one foot to the other (forward/backward/sideways, over a long/short/no distance, walking/momentary), or it’s pivoting over a foot. Teachers can confuse and drive away newcomers by insistence on a particular posture, look, manner, and style of walking. Let’s first get them moving comfortably and naturally alone and then with a partner.

Then in the Ask Marilyn column Marilyn Vos Savant weighed in on gender differences in left-right confusion. Let us as teachers make it simpler for all (including ourselves) regardless of gender or left-right awareness, by avoiding relative references (“My left or your left?”) altogether. I like talking about the hand-side of the embrace or the arm-side of the embrace. These are clear and obvious, and the same for either partner.

I’m still looking for the best way to refer to Inside-Outside positions. You are aware that it changes relative to which partner is stepping into the space, yes? “Is that inside/outside the circle (la ronda),” and “Is that outside the inside of my partner?” The DVIDA syllabus refers to LOP (Left Outside Position) and ROP (Right Outside Position), which have the benefit of being unambiguous for either partner stepping in any direction, but also have the left-right possible confusion factor.

When it’s necessary/useful to orient students in the room we prefer to have them face or face their back to some prominent feature of the room (our front windows, the mirrors, the paintings, the Exit sign).

Setting up la ronda: “Everyone spread out to the edges of the floor, with equal space between you and the person on either side of you. Raise your right hand to point to the person on your right side. [Right, it’s not perfect.] Now turn to face in that direction.”