Thursday 15 November 2012

Praise of Other Women

Sometimes, men open their mouths and innocently say things like who they really, really like dancing with, and occasionally - very rarely - why.

Sometimes they even do this where you, madam, can hear it. And sometimes it's the case that you are not that person - someone else is.

Let me give my point of view about this somewhat unusual situation. I have always thought this was obvious, and indisputable, but it's not.

This information is gold dust. It is actionable intelligence.  

You should treasure it and you should be all, discreetly, politely, in moderation, ears. It would have been delightful, if it had been about you, but it is much more interesting and useful when it isn't.

But if you throw it away, like a soft-headed lady and not a woman of sense with a genuine respect for her own role in the dance, you deserve to stay where you are and go nowhere.

Anyone who's done more than a few weeks of tango classes at an intermediate level knows just how difficult it is to learn anything at all about what makes a good (as opposed to competent) follower. How impossible it seems to progress any further, to guess what's out there or what the next step might be, or to get any feedback that isn't misleading, useless, or irrelevant. Because there are so many little things and big things, subtle and hard to describe, and the people you dance with in classes have rarely experienced any of them.

Who wants - really, spontaneously, wants - to dance with you is the most reliable feedback you have about your own progress, and your only route to improvement. Going around chasing dances that don't specially want you, or getting offended at offhand praise of someone else, is logically equivalent to wiping your bottom with cash.

Rant over.

Okay, reality check. I realise that everyone's human. I don't really blame anyone for feeling a bit dashed or unconsidered by thoughtless or ill-timed praise of somebody else. It's destructive to be hard on yourself just for feeling anything. It's what you do with it that counts.

I'm also totally against *asking* for any kind of feedback in a social dancing situation. I just think that's super rude - it puts people in a very awkward position. Exceptions only for personal relationships that allow it. Asking for information about other people is a darkish-grey area, and generally speaking, I wouldn't do it unless I was sure the person I was talking to wanted to tell me whatever it was.

I also wouldn't blame anyone for making an rule for him or herself never to answer such a question or make any such remark - or never to do so in certain contexts, like at a milonga. You might decide that it's one of those practica-only things, or one of those things that you'll never volunteer. There's nothing wrong with that.

But sometimes we just have to notice how we think and feel, and not let it get in the way of our actual desires.


Lynn said...

I'm so much in agreement with this super useful post I'm afraid I'll gush. I love its astute observation and its pithy, witty, ass-kicking sanity. Beautifully seen and very well said.

Anonymous said...

totally agree :-)

Anonymous said...

I was treated to such a praise of another dancer just after my dance with a particular leader. I listened nodded "Oh yes really?" said I, as he proclaimed "She's astonishing, she covers up all my mistakes!" I just smiled, but maybe more wryly than in agreement.