Dance and the fear of Rejection

Story | Opinion | Chrisa Assis | 11 Oct 2017 | 0 comments

Does any of this by any chance sound familiar?

Leader: “I go to the milonga to dance. I hate small talk… why we can’t just dance.” or “I just can’t deal with rejection.There are all these scenarios of what might go wrong going on in my head and I end up stuck. The cabeceo doesn’t work for me, btw…it just doesn’t!”

Follower: “I can’t say NO to someone, even if I know dancing with them will be unsatisfying. What if I end up sitting there all night?” or “I have been dancing for a while and I have been told to be a good dancer… I really put an effort to look good, happy and confident… but except for some leaders that I know nobody else asks me to dance…”


The fear of rejection, is in fact part of our genes. It is something we have inherited from our ancestors who formed and valued tribes. Being part of the tribe was extremely important since being a cast off could easily lead to death.

In those good old days, you had to actively pursue being part of the tribe if you didn’t want to end up in exile…and possibly…hm…dead!

Thankfully, that is not the case anymore! haha

Our bodies and our minds though being super clever have kept this very fear, still in us to keep us active AND safe.

Being afraid of getting rejected from a group we care about, is THE very thing that will make us take action to become better and stronger within our group.

You, right now…: “So this is a good thing?”

YES! But only if you don’t let the fear blind you.

The biggest problem for most of us though is that we started dancing for that very reason:
“it is a great way to overcome shyness, anxiety, insecurity, etc… The structured environment allows us to be someone else or a different part of ourselves, helping us work through these issues”

Only to find out that for us to successfully “work through these issues” we need to fight the battle with rejection face on.

Lets put a scenario together…

We have our leader, Tom, who walks in a milonga alone, rushes through to the bar, sharing some shy hellos. He is orders a drink and looks around on the packed floor, thinking: “Ok, here we go… You can do this!”

An hour and a few mediocre dances later… He is looking around on the dance floor, thinking I have no idea how to this… Why am I putting myself through this s@$t..?

Tom is now starting to feel bewildered… The place is getting crowded, his partners seemed unsatisfied and the last time he tried the cabeceo nobody matched his gaze.

Tom (thinking): “I don’t get it… There are followers here who look completely unavailable. If you don’t want to dance, why are you here? Or they would rather dance with some horrible dancers… I mean I am not great but I am not THAT bad! Maybe Tango is not for me…”

At the same time at the other end of the pista….

Mary, has been sitting for 3 tandas straight. She is feeling devastated. It is another Saturday night, that she has put in all this effort to find the perfect outfit, put make-up on, come in with a good vibe, smiling to everyone… And FOR WHAT? To get asked only by her friends and some horrible dancers who copy ridiculous patterns off Youtube and then push-and-pull you on the dance floor to show off..?

She is now looking around, half smile on her face, thinking: “There is no point to this… Nobody wants to dance with me”. Her eyes are glazing over as she is trying to figure out, what she is doing wrong…!


We have 2 dancers struggling with rejection.

Tom is afraid to step away from the bar, start talking and meeting new people or even just holding his gaze long enough until the followers get it.

And Mary is afraid to step away from her group, and start meeting new people. PLUS she is afraid to say no, in case she doesn’t get a chance to dance at all. Without realizing that she is missing the chance to say yes to other dancers.

In the end they are both so frustrated and bitter, that no matter how much they try to be part of the party, it looks as if they are not even there.

Tom and Mary have a choice to make:

1. Either they start poking their heads out of their comfort zone, taking action against being rejected

2. Or they sit there watching all those other people doing that very thing and enjoying their time in the milonga.

If you are a Tom or a Mary ask yourselves: “Cabeceo is hard. Getting more dances is hard. Becoming part of a community is hard. BUT what is the alternative?”

If you love Tango and therefore you still think it is worth becoming part of a Tango community, there is NO alternative. You need to deal with rejection and that means bringing in a strong combo of social and dance skills!


1. Change your mindset about what a milonga is. You shouldn’t think of the milonga as solely the place to dance. The milonga is where you see Tango in action. It is where you get inspired by other dancers and inspire other dancers. The milonga is the place to meet new people and reconnect with friends through a chat or a dance. Getting there with a altered mindset will help you reevaluate how you spend your time in the milongas

2. Find a good way to socialize, whether you are going with a group or without. Here is a video that could spark a few ideas: Tango Festivals Networking Vol.1

3. Focus on your strengths! What are your strong points, is it musicality, is it smooth embrace, is it a good walk…? What is it? Find it and bet on THAT! The milonga is NOT the place to practice or correct the things you are not good at, it is the place to have fun with the things you do well!

4. Find a way to bounce back from rejection. Nobody likes hearing NO, or sitting there for hours before someone asks them for a dance. Rejection SUCKS! It happens though to everyone and you have to find a way to bounce back from it. One way to do so, is to focus on how are YOU are feeling when you are dancing Tango. What YOU are doing to get better and why YOU are doing it. Instead of looking for other people’s approval. Here an article on how to deal with shame: Dancing and the fear of shame. And a video to make you feel a bit better: Focus on what you have

5. Practice smart! After you have pin-pointed what you are having trouble with, start building diverse practices around it. What I mean by diverse? Practices that are not strictly based on Tango BUT include elements from other activities that you do. This way you will get better, faster. A quick example: I have a student you has trouble with finding the beat. But he is a very good windsurfer. So I asked him: How to manage to follow the rhythm of the water and wind when you windsurf? And he said: “I listen to it with my body and then I let it guide me”. Then here is your answer, forget about downbeat, upbeat, 1,2,3… Listen with your body and let the music guide you.


I think it is… Obviously! haha

Jokes aside though, if you do want to learn how to handle rejection better, if you want to be able to connect with more people, battle shyness and get more confident not only in the milonga but in life, learning and doing a social dance is a great way to do that.

I think it is worth it therefore, not only because I love Tango and dance but because I think that it can open up doors for you to great opportunities.

Opportunities that don’t stop on the dance floor or the door of your dance studio. But expand to asking someone out on a date or asking for a raise by building up the courage to create change!

If you want to learn how to practice smart, in order to enjoy your Tangos more but also to get more confident, courageous and creative, join our community of Bautanz by subscribing below and share your thoughts, experiences and troubles. I will be delighted to help!


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Published: 11 Oct 2017 @ 19:23


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