18 August 2014

Anything goes: asking in the cortina

Him: “Would you like to dance afterwards?”
Me: “Let’s see what the music is first.”
Him: “Oh that’s right, you listen to the music!”


When asking for dances during the cortina, several outcomes are possible: 1) you get to dance with someone who wants to dance with you. 2) you get to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you, but couldn’t say no. 3) you don’t get to dance at all. Instead, you get rejected. A rejection of a verbal invitation is a true win-win situation: you’ll both feel awkward *and* make people annoyed at the same time. Remember that it’s actually uncomfortable to say no. If people feel forced to say no directly, they will feel a bit bad about themselves, and to get rid of these negative feelings, they’ll seek to blame someone else: you, because you were the one who initiated the discomfort. It may not be logical, but it’s how people work.

From my point of view, there are two reasons to keep the cortinas free from direct invitations. One reason is the music. If you ask for dances in the cortina, it could be because you 1) love all tango music and will therefore dance to any music at any given time, or 2) couldn’t care less about tango music and will therefore dance to any music at any given time. Either way,  it somehow conveys a message that you don't think the selection of music is important, and that you don't realise that it could be important to others. Waiting until the tanda starts shows respect for the music itself, for the DJ’s work, and for the fact that people have musical preferences.

Then there’s respect for the community. Asking for dances in the cortina is a bit like jump-starting in a race. Better dive in to get the ladies before anyone else takes them. Never mind that they haven’t had a chance to rest or drink or savour their previous tanda. Never mind that they haven’t had a chance to look around and make an independent decision about their next partner. Never mind the guys who don't ask in the cortina. It's their problem that they don't want to compete with you.

And to all the well-behaved ladies out there: Is it possible that you miss out on dances you really want because “someone else asked first”? Well, you’re not a fruit, so don’t just let people pick you when you have other plans or hopes.

Personally, I’m not sure that everything we do in modern society needs to be super informal. We are so worried about losing our individuality and personal freedom that we don’t notice the collective clutter we create. Maybe a bit of old-fashioned etiquette can actually be nice: a clutter-free zone in our stressful lives.

(Yes, I know that girls hog, too. But there are more guys that hog, so forgive today's generalisation.)