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The power of desire

One of the most painful parts of tango for a revel is waiting, or sitting. It makes us feel passive and powerless when we wait for someone –anyone– to ask us for a dance.

This is a mistaken perception of the situation and revels can develop a deeper understanding of what is going on.

Your desire is powerful! You get to bestow it on particular marks. They will feel your interest and attention. Once I was sitting in a milonga and the only person I really wanted to dance with was seated far from me across the dark hall. He was chatting with someone who was blocking the sightlines between us. Nevertheless, I focused my gaze toward him. When his friend walked away, my target closed his eyes and rested his head on the back of the chair. I had nothing else to do, so, as he rested I kept returning my gaze to him. Less than a minute later, he sat up abruptly and walked across the floor, close enough for a clear cabeceo. He said to me

I was almost asleep and I felt like I was shot by a gun.

That’s the power of a woman’s desire.

Fabian Perez tango paintings
Fabian Perez tango paintings

The key is that you need to feel truly desirous and of a small number of specific men. You can’t “just want to dance”, or “anyone will do”, or “they’re all good, I’d be happy to dance with anyone.” Explore your actual desire. You will be attracted to some because of their appearance, others because of their dance, others because they seemed like a nice person that one time you chatted in the hallway. Make a little list in your head, and show your desire to them with your attention, your eyes, and your smile.

Once you have figured out who they are, don’t stare. Just keep returning your gaze when you get a chance. And keep the eye contact long, if you get it. And remember that you don’t even have to get eye contact to show desire. They can feel you from behind.

They may not react right away, don’t give up. Their awareness of your desire will reorganize their own. Depending on how well they know you and how they feel about your dancing, they may wait a few tandas for the right music or the right conditions on the dance floor before asking you. But far more often than not, you will get your mark.

I have a rule. I do not change my shoes until I have identified desire for two leaders who are in the room (one for each shoe). I don’t feel passive if I’m not even ready to dance because I’m not waiting for anything! I’ll sit for 20 minutes in my street shoes, waiting for my desire to show up. That’s how I avoid passivity.

On my 2014 trip to Germany and Switzerland, it was rare that there would be two marks in the room who I wanted. I was lucky if there was one. With my desire this focused, I got my man every single night.

One night recently, I had a high priority to dance with a mark who was leaving town the next day. For the first hour in the milonga, I did not give my attention to any other. Then I walked over to the mark’s part of the room, approaching from behind. When I was about 2 meters away, the mark whipped around, looked straight at me and invited me to dance.

Update 2017: I was in a large milonga (100 dancers) and there was ONE guy I wanted to dance with. He danced with his eyes lowered and stood around far away from me, so I couldn’t get eye contact with him. But I gave him my attention anyway. When my dance partner got up to go to the bar, my target came directly to my table and asked me to dance.

If you are traveling or dancing in an unfamiliar room and community, here are some tips:

As you enter the room, make eye contact with and smile at as many marks as you can, everyone who you pass. This is an initial contact and sign of interest. It makes them feel that you might be open to a dance with them, and the truth is that men need that encouragement.

Don’t be in a rush to find a seat! Before choosing a seat, stand around for a tanda. You should be more curious to check out the dance floor than rushing to get ready (to wait). Or go to the bar and order something and stand there drinking it for a bit. You’re not in a hurry. Really what you want to check is the circulation in the room between tandas. Where are most people exiting the dance floor? Is there a food/water area, or a place where a bunch of marks are milling around? These are the best places to sit if you want to dance a lot. Carefully choose a seat where you can make eye contact with marks in these areas.

Don’t change your shoes right away. You don’t want to appear so eager. You’re not even sure you want to stay, you need to see if there’s anyone you want to dance with, right?

If I haven’t changed my shoes yet –because I haven’t got my desire firmly organized yet–  but I think some desirable marks might be checking me out, I’ll slowly and absentmindedly pull my shoes out of the bag and hold them in my lap, like I’m too interested in what I’m watching to even be concerned about my own dancing. That way marks see that I am a revel, but I still maintain control over my power – and over my passivity.

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