It is officially summer time and Tango festivals have already started.
If it’s your first or your 50th one I think you will find some tips here that will help you get more comfortable while in those huge gala spaces, full of people and at the same time full of potential.
Most of us have a distaste for big festivals simply because they make us feel uneasy. Maybe it is because they tend to be too crowded, or because we have nobody to go with.
Or because we have spent a certain amount to entre the event and we end up sitting for 3 hours.
That is why I am sharing with you today:
Part #1 of the Tango Festivals Networking series
If you want to watch the video right right here in this article.
I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast last week.
Yes! I do listen to Tim Ferriss and he’s done Tango too…haha
So anyway back to the podcast.
The podcast was about networking in conferences and believe me the differences are very subtle between a conference and a Tango festival.
So here is the link to the podcast if you want to hear it: “How to build a world class network in record time”
Everyone is trying to get noticed by the VIPs. Everyone is trying to dance or at least chat with them.
Booze is involved though tangueros–especially in certain parts of the world–might consider adjusting their intake–adding or reducing…I personally though think it helps at a moderate intake..haha
And you always have the ghost- dancers who are the ones who attended every lesson possible and end up attending the milonga though they feel that death would have been the sweetest relief.
“Small talk is Big talk” Tim Ferriss
So lets start with how you spend your time in a festival’s milonga…
Some of you I am sure have already answered:
“You dance as much as you can with any possible dancer from outside your community”
Ok! here we go…
The milonga is a party, and when a festival happens it is usually a bigger party! In parties of course we dance but also we meet new people. We build new relationships that can be useful on and off the dance floor.
For example, I am in Toronto but during festivals people from all around visit the city. So in the last festival I met someone from the US, one person from Germany and one from Italy. They were wonderful dancers and people and we still chat on and off through facebook. They have invited me over to festivals happening in their countries and though I haven’t had the chance to take them up on their offer yet,I know that if and when I do there will be at least one person to greet me there, dance with me and help me feel comfortable.
How did I do that?
Small talk… between dances and after our dance. And instead of sitting at one spot when I wasn’t dancing, I was roaming around the room and chatting with new people that were standing alone too, by the bar.
If you are even thinking: I can’t do that, I am too shy!
I was shy too… very shy..! It is another skill you need to work on though and if at any point during the night you feel you had enough take a break. Walk outside, for a few minutes, spend sometime alone, take a breath and walk back in.
Some small talk rules straight from Tim Ferriss (I apologize in advance for the language ladies…)
“Don’t dismiss people. Don’t be a dick. Don’t rush”
Tango Chatting rule#1: Don’t dismiss people
This is what usually happens… We walk in a festival with our group of friends, sit at our specific table/ spot, dance with each other, and Tango-gossip about the rest of the people there.
Don’t tel me you don’t do it. I will not believe you! haha
Even though we want to dance with other people we don’t make the effort to get away from our group and meet them. Sometimes we even rationalize our behaviour by turning into a 5 year old saying: “Well they are not talking to me either”
Fine! They need to work on their social skills too but now we are talking about you!
Bottom line you need to break away from the group…
Fear (less) technique: The best person is waiting for you at the door…
If you are shy or introvert then you will find it difficult, to get up from your seat and go over to some stranger and chat.
But what if that stranger was already talking to you? What if that person wasn’t really a stranger?
Start with the person at the door, collecting the entrance tickets.
Lets see how you interact with them at a different level
If you haven’t been there before:
Introduce yourselves after you pay, saying something like this:
“It is my first time at your festival… I am Chrisa, I came in from Toronto. (pause) Are there lots of people from out of town?
If you know them already
“How are you doing tonight? How is the festival going? Lots of people from out of town?”
Well some people at the door are more conversational than others so if you are a bit lucky you might get right away to:
“Oh! yes! We have a lot of people from XYZ but especially the group from X are beautiful dancers”
Where you ask: “Really? I would love to dance with them, where are they sitting?”
Person at the desk: “Mmmm see this guy in the red shirt, he is one of them”
If you are not that lucky, they might stop at: Oh! yes yes, lots of people from all over.
Just ask: Anyone I should keep an eye out for a dance?
Now you are thinking…and how would they know?
Here is a person collecting entrances fees–aka seeing everyone who enters–at a Tango festival, not at the subway/metro/tub at rush hour…I think they probably have considerable down time… What do you think they do while waiting for somebody else to walk in?
Watch the dance floor and Tango- gossip!
So they know!
Shoe Change or Coat Hanging technique: Everyone is right there…
So maybe you are like me and you show up “late” based on your community’s standards at the milonga, and everyone is already there. Then you might have some trouble implementing this technique before the milonga BUT you can still do it after…haha
The shoe change or coat hanging technique is exactly what it sounds like, you chat as you change your shoes or hang/ take your coat…
If you know them the person beside you
Smile and say: Hi! How are you tonight?
If you don’t know the person beside you, it’s a great opportunity to meet them, unless they are creepy or disgusting…Hey it had to be said!
Smile and say: Hi! (Pause)
I don’t think I know your name? I am Chrisa!
It is all about the shoes…haha
Hi! Can I ask you where you got your shoes…they look beautiful!
Then introduce yourselves…
As you are leaving
Smile! It was a beautiful milonga! (Pause..they will say sth… hopefully)
I don’t think we have met, I am Chrisa!
Does it matter if you are talking to a leader or a follower? No
At this phase you only want to meet new people, firstly because it is nice to make new friends and secondly because you don’t know who they know! haha
Tango Chatting rule#2: Don’t be a dick
Avoid the VIP buzz! I have heard the craziest lines from leaders and followers when visiting dancers/ teachers are in town…
Follower being asked to dance: “No! I am saving my feet for so-and-so!”
Leader, while we were dancing: “So, how do you feel now that we are passing in front of the VIP table, anxious..?!?!”
Follower asking a teacher for a dance… when he said no, she turned to the teacher next to him and asked him instead..!
Do I need to go on? hahaha
Ok! It is a festival. Great people are there, people you probably look up to. To be excited is normal and expected BUT do you really need to forget any rule on politeness and social behaviour?
So what you should do before asking a teacher/ great dancer to dance:
Ask yourself 2 questions:
Am I prepared to hear “NO” and how will I handle it?
Can I add any value to this partnership? AKA am I good enough?
I am not going to answer these for you… You are on your own here…
But if you decide you are prepared and good enough, then you need to choose the proper time.
Because you might be great but if the timing is off then it doesn’t really matter…
So watch out for these signs:
Is the teacher dancing?
Have they asked or been asked-and-accepted a dance from somebody else?
Are they deep in conversation or enjoying their time amongst their peers?
Are they relaxing half-dead on their chair?
If they are not dancing and they haven’t attempted to dance with anyone other than fellow teachers. If they are enjoying their time having a drink or relaxing for a moment after a full day of classes, you SHOULD NOT go and ask them to dance or hover around their table.
Same rules apply to asking anybody to dance, or joining in conversations before or after classes or at a milonga.
If there are 2 people deep in conversation DON’T interrupt!
Different leaders have done this to me and I can assure you it is very annoying… I wanted to turn around and say: “Can’t you see I am talking?”
Lesson to be learned from this… “When you are dick, it makes nice people do mean things” Tim
If it is more than 2 people, you can join a table or group but make sure you ask first, saying something like:
“Hi guys, would you mind if I took this seat?”
Most of the times people won’t mind and then it is the tough moment…
DON’T just join their conversation abruptly. Listen, observe and at the right moment ask a question on something you are genuinely interested in. To try to be the smartest person in the group..!
It is very annoying and rude… Instead until you meet the people better and make some sort of connection, play the idiot and ask more questions than the answers you give.
When you actually feels like the right time for a dance with someone, with the above rules applying and if you like the music playing, ask politely and:
If the person says NO to your invite to dance, what do you think you should do:
Ask the person, right next to them?
Complain and make them feel bad?
Say, thank you and make a nice comment about the milonga?
If you guessed number #4, you are CORRECT!
Avoid all the rest or any other similar toddler’s reaction
If they say YES, you:
Walk with/ meet them on the dance floor
Make some small talk between dances, such as: what is your name? Where are you from? etc
Don’t ask what they do for a leaving, it makes people uncomfortable
Thank them and if you are a leader, walk them back to their seat.
Tango Chatting rule#3: Don’t rush
If you really want to make a connection with a teacher, it is better to do it after a class you take with them.
You have to be careful though, you might have the nicest thing to say but if you rush to them right after the class, they won’t appreciate it.
Give them some breathing space and after a couple minutes go to chat…
How to do that:
Acknowledge they are busy and tired, and get right to the point.
Don’t hover around their table
Don’t spend your time asking them about the weather etc
And if you have a question about the class to ask, ask when they offer time for questions and not when they have finished the class and sitting down for a breath between classes
Say your name without a full bio…
Honestly they don’t care, how many festivals you have attended, how many classes you have taken and from whom, and what you think about yourself or Tango
Don’t try pre- book dances
Don’t ask them out to chat for Tango…
I can hear some of you laughing…don’t! Things like that do happen… And believe me it feels strange and sometimes creepy too.
So we have something like:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I know you are very busy and tired, I only wanted to say I truly enjoyed your class and I am looking forward to rest of your classes and your performance”
Wondering whether you hug them or not? Wait to see what they do, don’t rush in for a hug!
If you didn’t take the class, and you see them walking around afterwards, don’t pretend you took the class, they WILL KNOW!
Sometimes we have a question that we didn’t get to ask, or we feel we didn’t quite get it when they explained, say something like:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I know you are very busy and tired, I only wanted to ask one question____(add your question)”
Make sure that the question is actually ONE!
Now in which other aspects you shouldn’t rush..?
When you join a class and you have no partner…
Don’t rush in and with panic in your eyes run to the organizer, to the teacher and to every person sitting around asking for a partner.
Go in a bit earlier… Scan the room for people looking like they are alone… Go and gently talk to the organizer without expecting them to do the search for you…
Somewhat like this:
“Hi! I am Chrisa (pause) I have registered for this class but I don’t have a partner, do you know if any of these people are looking for a partner as well?”
Notice how I am implying that I will ask around instead of just complaining to them…
Wait and see what they answer and be prepared to take action and the responsibility to finding someone instead of throwing the responsibility back to the organizer
If the actually say: “Oh! Yes, that person over there is also looking for a partner”
Then you won’t rush over and book them as your partner…
“Hi! (sit and start rearranging stuff) I am Chrisa! Are you here for the class? (pause)
I am looking for a partner, would you by any chance be interested?”
If they say yes, awesome… keep talking to them though!
If they say NO… Again keep talking to them! Don’t dismiss them and rush away!
When else should you not rush?
When you get to the milonga…
Many people go to the milonga as if it is a work project… They HAVE TO dance. If they are not dancing it means something is wrong with them.
So the minute they walk in, they change their shoes and off they go to races…
If you value your time in the milonga, I think you need to share your time with people you like as dancers and/ or as people.
There is more value in dancing 3 tandas with people you like than dancing 10 tandas with people you dislike or you are not interested in
The milonga is a party…
Walk in. Look around.
See if there is someone you recognize there. Go say hello to them. If they ask you to sit at their table, do, if not, keep walking.
Find a spot. Chat with the people next to you.
Go to the bar and grab a drink. Chat with the people at the bar.
Overall spend some time making new relationships off the dance floor which will lead to dances and new friends.
Go back to your spot and notice the dancers on the dance floor. See which people you would like to dance with and notice where they are sitting. Are they alone or with a group, are they dancing only with their partner or with others too…
If you have a chance to chat with them, it is in fact ideal, cabeceo becomes so much easier.
Cabeceo… here are a few things to have in mind:
Always use cabeceo–leaders and followers. Don’t just show up in front of someone and demand a dance
If the other person is NOT looking back, it means that they might not want to dance, at that moment. Try again a bit later… They are NOT looking back again? Forget about it!
If on the other hand, they do look back at you, do NOT complain about trying to cabeceo them before.
If despite all that I have said to you, you decide not to cabeceo them but to go and ask them right away:
Be prepared for a NO
Don’t tap them on the shoulder
Don’t spook up from behind them
When they say no, don’t ask the person next to them
Don’t shout and call them names (It has happened)
Leave like a decent person that you are!
For teachers, specifically, don’t ask them at the beginning of a tanda…
Instead ask them at the 3rd or max 2nd song. I know you want the full experience, but you need to think about what they want too.
Bottom line here is that festivals are a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends that might last you a life time…
Don’t throw the opportunity out the window… Optimize for happiness and full enjoyment.
Leave your comments below for extended chatting..!haha