The milongueros I love – The Gift (Part 1)

After a two week break from the arms of my milongueros, I am pining — big time.

I miss the thrill of hooking a favourite guy with the merest glance; I dream of melting into a familiar chest; I need the moment just before the tanda ends, when I never want to leave his arms. Ah, the passion for tango has not left me, you see. No indeed.

I wish that tonight at the milonga, some of my most-desired regulars will be there. My favourite boys always sit in the same seats, and lately I’ve noticed how when one of the seats stays empty, I feel a little pang of sadness. I’ve been asking myself why. What is it about those particular guys that makes me want them more than the others? What makes them the milongueros I love?

I have a theory that the milongueros I love the most of all, share a secret. And, it is the secret of how to obtain the gift. The gift is unbelievably precious, is given by women in the tango embrace, and once tasted by a man, cannot be resisted: it will keep him dancing tango, in pursuit of bliss, until the day he dies.

What is the gift? If you dance tango, you’ll probably know what I mean, or maybe you will by the time you’ve finished reading this post. Let me describe the 6 classic bliss-seeking behaviours of all the milongueros I love the most: various combinations of these things guarantee that I will give the gift to them, and these guys know it, the clever devils.

  1. The mystery. He’s that tiny bit aloof. I know him; we dance together every week, maybe one or two tandas. But, he often makes me wait a while for his cabeceo. And, although once we are dancing, he might chat to me between the tangos (like most Argentines do), his first cabeceo in my direction will probably bear no hint of a smile, and sometimes neither will the moment before the embrace, when we stand facing each other on the dance floor. He plays the seductive ‘tango-strangers game’, you see. And, he does it knowingly, because he is a master in the art of tango foreplay; he knows I’m longing for his embrace, and he’s holding every hint of warmth back for the bliss of the hug.
  2. The hug. Others may love the tango embrace. I am a hug girl. I want to snuggle in. I want to feel him shift to fit me, and I want him to let me shift to fit him. When it’s perfect, I call this meeting ‘the melt’, and after it’s done, we are one. I remember one of the first lessons I had with an Argentine, long ago. He made me dance with my arms around his neck. Hug me, he said, and then, No, I mean really hug me. I’m British, was a beginner and was definitely most comfortable in an open hold: I blushed bright red and giggled too much. But, I hugged him anyway. He was probably my first tango crush. Why? Easy. He let me fold into him, breathe with him, become one with him — sometimes I describe it as ‘getting into him’ because I just can’t say it a better way. If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, just think of the thrill of the tails fusing. In tango, unless this fusion (for want of a better word) happens, for me, there will be something missing. If you dance with me, and your embrace offers me the possibility of the hug, then for the three minutes of the tango that follows, I will be completely and utterly yours. But, for the most exquisite execution, the hug requires the pause.
  3. The pause. This is obvious isn’t it? If I am to feel his heart beat, he must give me a moment to find it. If I am to breathe with him, then I need time to tune in. When the guy gives me space to adjust to him before we move an inch, he’s telling me that I am worth finding and that so is he. He’s telling me that he is unafraid to be discovered — exciting, no? He’s also prolonging that foreplay I mentioned earlier, and it’s tantalising. With the achingly lingering drag of the pause, he is also letting me know (so that I’m smiling inside, even before we dance a step) that he understands the art of perhaps the most crucial behaviour of all, the slow reveal.
  4. The slow reveal. The first time I dance with someone new, this is what seals the deal for me. If he’s been dancing a while and he still hasn’t mastered this one, I probably won’t want to dance with him again. If he has mastered it, in short, he knows how to listen. To me. He starts simple and he finds out what I can do. He listens to my body, my degree of relaxation, my level of confidence, my ability, and then, he makes me feel like a Goddess — regardless of what I might appear to be able to offer him. As he works out who I am, and feels me relax in his arms, he gradually reveals his dance, his ability, his character, his little musical tricks and treats; as he does so, I can’t help smiling. It’s like his soul starts chatting to me, or loving me, or soothing me, or celebrating me, or calming me… depending on the music, his mood (and mine), and on how I respond to every tiny thing he does. He knows there will never be a moment when I don’t understand what he asks of me, because he only ever dances what he knows I can handle, and if he is really clever, what he knows I desire. He never allows me to feel that I made a mistake, he is far too wise. The smart milonguero knows that the slow reveal can get him straight to the soft heart of the gift, fast, and so it would never occur to him not to use it. He knows it is the certain route to tango gold. It is also part of the courtesy.
  5. The courtesy. He treats me like the precious jewel that he knows I long to be. From the moment he first looks my way, he has eyes for no-one else. He makes certain there are no cabeceo cock ups and that I am not stranded on the dance floor without a partner (and I help him by staying in my seat until there can be no doubt). He keeps me out of danger at all times; if there is even a hint of a collision, he checks I am OK. He asks me if I’m comfortable between tangos. He knows I might be disorientated at the end of the tanda (a direct consequence of having given him the gift), and he always escorts me back to my table. He tells me that dancing with me was a pleasure, because it was. If he’s an especially crafty character he also delivers the punch line (and leaves me smiling, for a bonus point).
  6. The punch line. Him: How long is  a tango? Me: Um, about three minutes? Him, almost whispering, so that I have to lean in a bit and his mouth breathes close to my ear: Let me tell you something. For three minutes you are in my arms, and you are completely and utterly mine, no? Me, laughing, but feeling like the most irresistible tango dancer on the planet: Tenés razon (You’re right, but said with the tone of You might just have a point there, you wicked old tango wizard you!). OK guys, I’ll be honest, you’ll probably only be able to pull this sort of thing off if you can do it without sounding like you say it to everyone, even if you do. A few of my boys can deliver these entertaining (and I admit it, slightly smarmy) lines as if they have heaven on their tongues, and they know that I will love them for that final smile they put on my face. With these remarks they are saying, You’re a beautiful woman. Or they might choose to compliment my dance as a safer option: my musicality, my walk, my lightness in their arms. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about annoying, phoney remarks here. I know when the compliment is genuine, even when it’s delivered in Castellano, and so will most women.

You might be wondering how I presume to know about the intoxicating nature of the gift. After all, I’m not a male milonguero, am I? And I’ve never danced a tango leading a woman in my arms either. No. But the proof of the gift‘s existence is in the sparkle in the eyes of my guys, when they reluctantly pull away from me, as the final notes of music die. They cannot hide the truth from me. I know their bliss exists, and that the gift of it comes from me (though, oh so masterfully conjured by them).

I’m becoming fascinated by the behaviours that prove to me that the milongueros I love know the secret to getting exactly what they long for in their tango — something that I am absolutely certain includes the captured heart and soul and longing of the woman in their arms, the gift itself.

Now, I’m doing a spot of research on the matter, for a future project, and I need your help. Even if you’ve never commented here before, go on, be brave!

Tango dancing guys reading this, have you experienced the gift that I speak of, for yourselves? Do you understand the secret to getting it and would your behaviour show me that you do?

Tango dancing girls, do you know when you have given the gift? And what, in your favourite dance partners, ensures that you can — any of the behaviours I’ve listed above ring luscious-sounding bells?

I’d love to hear what you think. And if your tango dancing friends would be interested to read and comment too, please pass on the link to this post, with my love from Buenos Aires: you can use the Share/Save button, below, to wing the link around the globe: blog it, Twitter it, Facebook it, email it, tango-forum it, help it fly far and wide. I’d love as many of your thoughts as possible, and when I’ve got a few of them, I’ll write something more on the subject if I can, in The milongueros I love  – The Gift (Part 2). Thank you, my friends with generous hearts and great connections. Gracias.

And, in the interests of passing on good things myself, in case you want a little more inspiration before you comment… in a synchronistic twist (so marvellously common in my life these days), my attention this morning was drawn to this wonderful post, by Mari at My Tango Diaries. Cool.

Meanwhile, all this talk of milongueros, secrets and gifts is too much damn foreplay, even for me.

I can hold back no longer. What time does La Milonga de Los Consagrados start? Look out boys, here I come.

73 Replies to “The milongueros I love – The Gift (Part 1)”

  1. My God! I’ve learned more from reading this then the dozen tango lessons I’ve had..
    If there exists a ‘Tango Bible’ this should be both preface and epilogue!
    Well written SB

    1. Hey, Neil! This article is the start of my new project. Am so glad you think its content so useful – and brilliant to have such positive feedback on the subject from a guy who is setting out on the tango path. I believe that a man who learns this stuff early on, will be the most popular dancer in the room before he knows the meaning of the words ‘back sacada’, and indeed, he may never gain the desire to know the meaning of such words, because he’ll be far more interested in pursuing the gift and the complete and utter bliss it generates in his inner being. Whaddya reckon?
      Maybe I should give you a private lesson chico, it would be my pleasure 🙂
      SC (or SB will do just as well!)

    1. Nancy, isn’t it just?

      Last night I was highly attuned to it all because I’d just written about it. This is what I noticed.
      Two of my favourite ‘milongueros I love’ were not in the room (I secretly longed for them, and actually felt my energy slip slightly lower because they were not there); Two of my top favourites were in the room, danced with me, made me feel like a Goddess – those men alone, made the night wonderful;
      I found a new ‘milonguero I love’ – have admired him from afar and heard about him and now I know why… he had so many of the qualities I mentioned in my post, right down to the punch line: ‘if I’d known you danced like that, I would have asked you long ago’ – of course I will now be looking for him next week – it is so amazing when I add another who knows the secret to my list of possibilities.
      All the men I danced with were Argentine, but one, but they weren’t all ‘the milongueros I love’. Why? A couple of them did not listen to me or to the general state of the dance floor (lots of bumps), even a jot. One was horribly grumpy, despite appearing to look to me for another dance later… don’t really get that one. And then there was the guy who I danced a tanda from heaven with, a few weeks ago (in a different venue) who just doesn’t remember me at all… and it breaks my heart a little, and of course I long for him!
      Buenos Aires has led me to men who truly know the secret, and I suspect my search for those men (known to me, and as yet unknown to me) will keep me going back for more, until the day I die. What a marvellous prospect 🙂
      Un abrazo, SC

  2. Wonderful Sally
    I think that sums it all up. I am not sure if I have mastered the gift, but something I speak of often is the ladies inability to accept it (although before reading this I did not realise that that is what I was saying).
    The ladies who never sit out are the ones who graciously accept and together we find Nervana.
    I think I have learned somthing here
    Thanks Bob
    .-= tangobob´s last blog ..Arguments 2 =-.

  3. Bob, I am happy that you enjoyed what I wrote. I hear what you say. My way of looking at it is very simple and it is this:

    When a man knows the secret it gives him the magic powers required to conjure the gift (that in turn grants him his bliss) out of any and every woman (provided, as you say, she is herself ready to release it to him – on that point, I would argue that the ‘true master’ of the secret can conjure the gift from ANY woman at all… it may be a gradual process, but I think it can be done – this is the greatest gift ‘the master of the secret’ can give to a woman – the moment that she ‘gets it’, releases, lets her soul join his. No?)
    I agree it is easier to stick with the partners who can already release their souls and give and receive bliss. I do it too – as I say, I love to dance with the men who already know the secret. But recently I have longed to have the power to assist men to ‘get it’ for the first time, too. What greater gift could there be, than to know that you have been instrumental in creating the one magical moment when a partner is set free to give or receive bliss for the first time?
    I know a man can help take a woman to that heavenly place (I have experienced it myself), but Is it possible for a woman to do the same for a man? That is what I intend to find out, because if I can do it, I will have those men in the palm of my hand, forever!

    If I can work out a way to unlock the ‘inner milonguero’ as I like to think of it, even in tango beginners, I am planning to teach it, and thus have a queue of boys who know ‘the secret’, wanting to dance with me for the rest of my life.

    Method in my madness you see 🙂

    Will look forward to hugging you on the dance floor soon, SC

    1. Oh and also, if I can teach those men, the secret, then they will be able to unlock the gift in all the women that they dance with, and then… oh God, the mind boggles – just utter nirvana all round!
      Think I’m joking? I am deadly serious… I think I can change the world!


  4. Hey Sally,

    What a brilliant post! You have put into words some things I kind of felt but never analysed. Of course, it does now mean I have even more things to think about when dancing tango, especially with you!

    I wonder if the old milongueros ever think about this stuff or if it all just comes naturally to them? Or if they perhaps thought about it years ago, worked it out, and now just do it (either consciously or unconsciously)? Now if you could get a few of them to answer that question it would be good research for your new project.

    I have felt the bliss a few times, maybe more through accident than design, though not yet in BsAs. It is definitely irresistible.

    It’s funny that you referenced Mari’s post. I planned to refer to it too in the post I’ve been trying to articulate for the last couple of days!

    Hasta pronto…

    1. Hi Mark,
      I’ve thought a lot about talking to some of ‘the milongueros I love’ about this stuff, but I am very reluctant to do so, because I do not want to break the spell. In writing about it, I tried to to do it with beautiful words rather than make a colder-style analysis of it – in short I tried to retain the magic. If I take my favourite milonguero and start asking him this stuff, especially in Spanish (where I may be clumsy rather than convey my meaning with the sensitivity required), I will no longer be the mystery I once was to him, and he won’t be to me either, will he? Perhaps something will be lost, rather than gained. Maybe I will change my mind at some point, but for now I am very cautious.
      What I am thinking of doing is working with a few guys (both Argentine and visitors) I know here who are just discovering what it feels like to receive the gift and know the secret to unlocking it – ah, perhaps one of those guys could be you, whaddya reckon? Fancy an hour working with me sometime on some ideas I have? I mean it. Let me know.
      Meanwhile, please don’t let all this put you off dancing with me – you see how even talking about it with you can change the dynamic, and that is exactly why I am reluctant to talk about it with ‘the milongueros I love the most’.
      Thank you for sharing that you have caught glimpses of the gift already. How wonderful.
      I will love to talk to you about that.
      Maybe see you for a dance this afternoon, yeah?

      Hug, SC

  5. Hi Sally,

    I was actually idly googling “tango crush” when I came across this post. I’m always looking for people who can describe the phenomenon well and I loved your post. The “gift” as you describe it is something I’ve been thinking about for a week or so. For me I think it is something that unfolds over time with deepening trust and comfort. Slowly the connection deepens and you start giving everything to the leader, and the intensity of that becomes a shared secret. Restraint and care on the man’s part allows the woman to feel and then express her own desire – the more restrained the leader is, the more our desire compels us to give. It is almost a competitive instinct – we want the man to lose control, and the more control he appears to have the more we want him. Sort of like a cat – the man must let us come to him.

    1. Ooooo wonderful comments alrussa!
      Gonna think on them and reply properly later when I’ve got a bit more time as am heading out, but just wanted to start by saying thank you for reading and sharing your experiences. I love what you say!

      Till soon, SC

  6. Interestingly, there was a man to whom I had given the gift, my favorite milonguero. He left town for several months and in a strange twist one night I danced with another man of similar height and build. I pretended that I was dancing with my favorite and I just sank into it. I absolutely think the gift exists. Even though it was one of my first dances with this other man, I feel that I gave him the gift in that dance because I transferred all my feelings onto him. And he definitely had a sparkle in his eyes afterwards. Since then we have become close dancers and mutual favorites.

    1. Morning alrussa!

      “Sort of like a cat – the man must let us come to him.”

      Oh gosh, I love that.

      There is a moment when I first go into the arms of my most favourite milonguero in Buenos Aires when (after we have embraced initially) there is the most utter stillness and all I feel is him drawing me to him a little more than before… it is so confident the way he does it, and so masterful. I look forward to that moment because I know it is the moment that he unlocks the gift. I am powerless to stop him.
      He knows me well now of course, but he didn’t in the beginning, and he still had the confidence to do this snuggling-in thing – he never doubted that he could make me his, and I feel that in that lies part of the secret, too.

      He has taught me something because now when I go into an embrace with a stranger, I try to do the snuggle-in thing too – especially if I feel the guy doesn’t really know the secret yet. I try to go that bit deeper into the guy in my arms, because I think that way, I can give him a glimpse of the gift anyway.
      Once recently, a lovely visiting man (who definitely does already know the secret) told me after the first tango that he actually felt me doing it, and that it felt good. How wonderful is that? (Never mind the fact that in delivering that compliment he was delivering a wicked and brilliant ‘punch line’. How could I resist him after he told me that… guys, see how knowing the secret works???)

      You mention the guys with the same height and build, and there is definitely something in that too. I know that I have the best chance of giving the gift with guys of a certain height – in my case, short rather than tall. I can ‘get into them’ best of all. I always choose them over tall guys if I can, and they often choose me.

      Thank you for sharing some personal stuff here. It’s brilliant!
      I wish you bliss on your tango journey.


  7. Oh Sally, that’s spot on! Just reading it makes me want to go out dancing right now…

    I think some of the best dances I’ve ever had have started out with that ‘mystery’…when I’ve thought, ‘oh no, he’s already looking a bit bored, and he’s just going to be disappointed with me…’. Or ‘is he a good dancer, I don’t know, I didn’t really get to see him dance, I hope he is, but he looks a bit disinterested…’

    But then the second they’ve taken you in their arms, you feel a true embrace that you sink into, one where you know they’re completely with you, and that with that hug you become a part of them. And then the breath, and the pause, and as you move you’re lost for 3 whole minutes of bliss.

    I don’t know if I have ‘the gift’…I know there are men who enjoy dancing with me, and who are always very lovely and complimentary, but, as a beginner just a year into dancing, I don’t think I have the confidence in my own dance, or self, to think that I’ve actually given them a great dance. Maybe that’s one of the keys to giving the gift, having the belief that you are a lovely dancer…but who knows how long that will take for me to get…

    Besos x

    1. Hello mavis! Great to hear you.
      Confidence. One of the keys… see what I wrote in reply to alrussa above.
      I think any awkwardness, tension, lack of confidence, shyness, reserve, embarrassment, fear, anxiety, pre-occupation, not being fully present in the now… can acts as potential blocks both to being able to give and receive ‘the gift’. The masterful, confident man who knows the secret can break all that down in the woman in his arms and enable her to give the gift. Perhaps too, the masterful, confident woman can do a little of that for the man – that is what I am journeying to discover.

      Mavis, of course you have ‘the gift’! If you have allowed yourself to let go and feel ‘lost’ for three minutes, you have it. Big time.
      Believe it, own it, enjoy it – any blocks will fall away, you will give it more freely and the guys will love you for it.

      Go out dancing chica! Give that gift, and change the lives of men 🙂
      Un abrazo, SC

  8. a wonderful post sally

    interestingly and revealing for me was that what you writ has never been a conscious act for me, just a physical aspect of dancing with the women. note that i do not claim to fully meet all of your 6 points, but probably touch on most of them most of the time.

    now that you have brought it to the surface for me, i hope i can focus more on these nuances that enrich the dance for the mujer and by logical extension for me too

    dance with you soon chica
    el tangoroo

    1. Ah dear Antoin,
      As you know, I adore dancing con vos, as do many women – there is always a long queue these days and frankly that speaks for itself. In general, I think men who have lines of women looking their way can be fairly certain they have ‘the secret’ in the bag, no?
      Since I have know you and danced with you, I have felt you change and open wider (so to speak) and I think you may have felt the same in me.
      Personally I think you are a bit of a natural in this regard these days, and that you reveal you don’t even have to think too hard, is telling.
      You also bring the music to life through your dance, in a way that stirs my soul – something that a friend has mentioned to me and which I didn’t really mention in the post, did I?
      That’s a massive part of it too.

      And when it comes to Canyengue, you are a God – as you know 🙂
      Hasta la pista this arvo, baby!


  9. Wow Sally, where do I begin? Such an amazing post!

    I recognize those 6 qualities, though I don’t have access to very many Argentine men. I have found that gift, and given it, in leaders with all sorts of backgrounds. These dancers I look for at every milonga, the ones I miss sometimes desperately when they’re not there, share the qualities you listed, except maybe a little less the first. One or two make me wait a little, or are very cool before we embrace, but not the majority. Of course this is Texas, and if anything, we do tend to be exceedingly friendly (which others might regard as “in your business” – level of friendly lol).

    I noticed that I started receiving the gift (which I refer to in a similar manner in talking about entrega), when I stopped waiting for leaders to somehow prove themselves safe enough for me to offer myself fully to the dance.

    It’s been a little controversial, that bit. To surrender first with no idea whether it will be reciprocated or not. To trust first, to give first. Sometimes, especially if I haven’t gotten a chance to watch a leader a dance, or of course if he’s brand new to me, it feels like diving off a cliff. Exhilerating – but risky. Sometimes the outcome is not so good. Sometimes I can’t pull it off – I can’t relax enough, frequently due to things completely unrelated to tango. But sometimes, it changes everything.

    Among my favorite leaders, there are a couple who know let me know when they’ve noticed I’m holding back. They never chide me verbally of course, but there is that slight change in the embrace, a different kind of sigh, something in the look. that says, ‘you need to be here now, in the moment. Come back to me.’

    A common thread, based solely on my own narrow experience, is that it takes a certain kind of life experience, to enter into this kind of exchange – this level of connection. Maybe it’s just a respect of time, and how important every moment is. No rushing, no wandering mind, this moment between one step and the next.
    .-= Mari´s last blog ..Abrazo =-.

    1. Hi Mari
      Great to hear from you on this topic. Just back from my amazing Monday afternoon milongueros. I felt fired up by all this talk of the secret and the gift. It pushed my ‘magnetic energy’ (a topic I discuss in the book Happy Tango) sky high, I therefore attracted and danced with a string of boys who know the secret – utter tango heaven 🙂

      I pick this from what you say:

      “To surrender first with no idea whether it will be reciprocated or not. To trust first, to give first.”

      Ah yes, at last I have found the confidence and ease to step up to the guy and do exactly that, though, like you, sometimes things get in the way and it doesn’t work.

      Could I have done that in the beginning of learning tango? I am not sure, but maybe, had the whole idea of putting a relaxed, easy heart-and-core-connection before even walking (and thus having to worry about getting something right) had been put to me first – basically, hugging, pausing, waiting, searching for and finding the core of someone to beautiful tango music, before moving a single step at all.
      I was given a big glimpse of it by that teacher who made me hug him and dance… it worked like a charm, but I’d already got onto the treadmill of perfecting steps and moves, so it’s impact was limited. How could things have been if he had been the first lesson I ever had? Mmmmmmm. Am enjoying pondering that. Or even if he had taught me alongside the other stuff – I did have to learn to walk backwards, after all.

      Now, yes there is the question of whether everyone would be able to give this a go from the start… our life experiences, our degrees of reserve, embarrassment, awkwardness, shyness might all get in the way. I think it can be so much easier to focus on the mechanics and technicalities of the embrace… we humans love things we can copy and measure and correct don’t we? But with every single attempt to produce perfection, we might be actually creating a block to discovering bliss, or at the very least, postponing its discovery. For months I was so worried about getting it wrong that there was no way I could have relaxed enough to surrender to anybody… ‘stiff as a board’ was how I was once described by an early tango partner – and I was, simply out of fear of getting it wrong.

      I would love to explore whether I can get the ‘stiff as a board types’ (like I was) to discover their own potential to ‘release’ earlier in the journey. Even talking about it here is good. I am thrilled by the responses I have received today while I have been out. It’s a very exciting topic and I am excited to see where it journeys to.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I really appreciate it.


      ps. To all the marvellous people who have commented below, I am sooo grateful and I will reply individually to you all tomorrow I promise – just so shattered now, after hours walking backwards on the marble of La Ideal, that I have to sleep 🙂 SC

  10. Yes, I know of the gift… Once experienced, all other dances are a poor second to the real deal. I will take all the hints I can get to encourage such generosity from tanguera-kind!

    As for creating the opportunity, that is a truly black art. Often I cannot see past the appearance that most dancers around me are not even slightly interested in giving. Where I dance now, it seems clear that most girls do not like to embrace, do not like to wait, and care little for safety. They respond to my subtle overtures with uncertainty and doubt, and stand awkwardly with wooden embraces. But for a precious few special girls in a nearby city, I would have literally quit tango until I could move somewhere else. Me! Not dancing!

    I gather that my dancing is often “brain-melting” rather than “dreamy”, so I guess I may need to adjust my priorities a bit.

    There is one fascinating thing I have noticed. The women that really consciously know about “the gift” can be identified within seconds of first contact. I have some very clear memories of encountering such women for the first time (and they are fully women in the most positive sense). It was a new dance, and one I was not very good at! Learn fast, or get dropped…

    Sallycat’s efforts to enlighten more leaders must surely factor in stopping the feedback of negative reactions to each other. Rigidity in the body stands out in my mind as a major blockage to our ultimate goal. Good luck, and keep up the altruistic tango!

    1. Hi K.
      You were I think one of the people that I first danced close embrace with – memories a bit vague at this point, but I think you offered it to me in Archers and i was pretty terrified (because I’d only learned open embrace in the classes) and I am sure that I was one of these, as you describe:

      “They respond to my subtle overtures with uncertainty and doubt, and stand awkwardly with wooden embraces. ”

      I was a very very very new beginner and I confess that at that point I was looking to all men I danced with, for a bit of encouragement… instead I usually got a fair degree of criticism – ‘stiff as a board’, doing my ochos ‘wrong’, blah, blah, blah. Back then I was an emerging bud that was capable of blossoming (as those who persevered with me – as you did, had the chance to find out), but the words of many men I danced with back in Blighty, had the effect of frost on my tender petals. I do not think that ‘the milongueros I love’ would ever want to chill me, only to find a way to warm me, to find a way through my walls, a way to melt my icy barriers built up over years in a culture of reserve and holding back. Even in the beginning, the tiniest of compliments or even a smile, goes a massive way to opening the door to bliss – and yeah, maybe it should all come from within in its own time, but I’m telling you, it’ll come a damn sight faster with a bit of encouragement!

      A man who works out how to make the woman in his arms feel like a Goddess, will be rewarded a million times over for his efforts. She will not be able to resist. It might take time, but the blocks will eventually fall away. My dream is to find a way to help them fall away more quickly.

      “Sallycat’s efforts to enlighten more leaders must surely factor in stopping the feedback of negative reactions to each other. ”

      Rest assured, it will.

      Smile at the ‘wooden’ dancers, with the joy of potential discovery – who knows what lies buried under years of conditioning, within their souls? Well actually I know already, ‘the gift’ lies there, just waiting for you to set it free.


    2. Hi Kieron,

      I wanted to reply to your comments because I have always observed you as a lovely dancer who has really worked hard to dance tango with all its nuances. I also speak as one whom you left after 2 dances into a tanda in the final tanda of the evening! As that has never happened to me before or since, you can imagine I wondered what on earth had gone wrong. I guess you found me to be one of those rigid partners you mention. That may be because all the signals I ever got from you were that I was not up to the standard you had set yourself in partners. So, when you did finally ask me to dance, I was completely unable to relax and the result further underlined that perception – a self-fulfilling thought. If you are encountering girls now who respond awkwardly, look within – maybe they are reading the same signals that I did – maybe you don’t mean to convey negative signals, maybe it’s shyness. Whatever – I’d be more than happy to try and dance with you again and see if between us you can make me surrender the gift that I certainly know I have and I can respond by trusting you with that gift.

  11. Brilliant Sally, spot on! I’ve had very similar experience with skilled blues (ceroc/wcs) and ballroom dancers, that hold,the timing, the play, the eyes can be very powerful… mutual trust and connection in a dance partner is a wonderful thing. I also know some male dancers who do very well out of this secret! Look forward to your next article!

    1. Hello Lynda, thank you so much for your comment.

      “I also know some male dancers who do very well out of this secret! ”
      Oh yes, indeed. Of course they do. The bliss is on offer to all. What keeps men and women who have been dancing tango for more than 40 years coming back week, after week, for more?

      And, the eyes. So powerful. Aloofness, desire, request, relief, gratitude, joy, bliss, sadness, longing… I saw all those things in the eyes of ‘the milongueros I love’ yesterday in the space of one tanda with each of them. And I know they saw them in mine.

      Un abrazo, SC

  12. Smashingly put Sally. Yes, go on, teach it, because it’s desperately needed. Particularly here in Blighty

    It seems more inherent in the Latin male and this is why I keep on going back to Barcelona; gifts in abundance. Can’t wait to get to BA!

    1. Hi Marianne!
      I am very excited to see what may be possible, as I long to set a few trapped souls free a little more speedily than might have otherwise been! Is that rather bold of me? Maybe. But you know what, what’s there to lose?

      I have no desire to ‘teach tango’, in any sense of the word that I have ever witnessed. I’m just interested in the idea of whether it is possible to help people (and especially those with a British reserve) discover their ‘inner milonguero’, and so become the most popular dancer in the room (with buckets of bliss thrown in)!

      Warm hug, and thank you for your warm encouragement


  13. On the flip side of “The Gift,” I find a woman’s response to a really good dance experience is “The Giggle.” Yup! After a great dance, some women, young and old and otherwise quite sophisticated and highly articulate, will just giggle. No words, nothing said, just this ear-to-ear smile accompanied by a happy giggle. I’ve been the fortunate recipient of it on occasion and it is absolutely delightful – the equivalent of a tango orgasm – the giggle!

    1. Hi joe tango,

      OMG you have just stolen a bit of my thunder 🙂 Guess how I reveal, quite out of my control, that I have given the gift? The GIGGLE!!! I just cannot help myself. Guys if I dance with you and I giggle as we pull apart, or even as we are dancing – hey, you have me, utter putty in your arms!

      If it’s a soft smile, then it’s been good – that’s a kind of giggle, but not quite… we’re still on the way, but oh God, the giggle is indeed my sign.

      Joe tango – you’ve heard the giggle, you’ve released the gift!
      Thank you for sharing.

      Girls out there, what are your giveaway signs that you’ve given the gift?
      Another of mine is that the guy can actually feel my heart thumping into his chest. It’s such a huge giveaway that I am sometimes embarrassed by it. One or two men have commented on it in a kind of knowing way… in my case, at least, my greatest tango orgasms cannot be hidden.

      Joe tango, what do you think are your own giveaway signs? I usually see it in the eyes of the guy afterwards, perhaps feel it in the way he holds my hand and moves his hand on my back, during the tango – he can’t help himself make tiny sensitive movements, and also he gives it away in the revelation of extra little musical tricks and treats – he lets go, experiments, plays, pushes his dance in ways I have never felt him do before… he has fun – and in a way, this is his giggle!!! Plus his words afterwords. If he has had a tango orgasm himself, he usually can’t resist some honey words to me (the punch line).

      So, brilliant comment! Thanks. Thanks.
      Un abrazo, SC

      1. “Joe Tango, what do you think are your own giveaway signs? I usually see it in the eyes of the guy afterwards, perhaps feel it in the way he holds my hand and moves his hand on my back, during the tango – he can’t help himself make tiny sensitive movements, and also he gives it away in the revelation of extra little musical tricks and treats – he lets go, experiments, plays, pushes his dance in ways I have never felt him do before… he has fun – and in a way, this is his giggle.”

        And, you Sallycat, in return, have stolen a bit of my thunder. 🙂

        You description above is spot on! With the Gift firmly in place, it’s no longer necessary to impress you and the world with back sacadas, tight enrosques, by leading whipping boleos, or gravity-defying volcadas. We need only to dance, to communicate within the framework of the embrace. A whisper of a touch here, a squeeze there, that little stutter step you like so much, these are all we need between us to keep it fresh and exciting. The intimacy is revealed but it is kept between us. And YES, afterwards, it’s in my smile and in my eyes that say, “we’ve been to that spot.”

        “Tango is our secret danced by two”(Raul Julia in “Tango Bar”).

        1. Dear Joe tango

          ‘A whisper of a touch here, a squeeze there, that little stutter step you like so much, these are all we need between us to keep it fresh and exciting. The intimacy is revealed but it is kept between us. And YES, afterwards, it’s in my smile and in my eyes that say, “we’ve been to that spot.”’

          On this matter, you and I think as one. We have never met (have we?) but we know. We KNOW! From each side of the dance, we each know how it is for the other. That, to me, means that it is not just my imaginings. It is the truth of how tango can be. I am smiling.
          From what you say, I think the ladies that you take in your arms will be smiling too.

          Thank you. Thank you.


  14. Have I experienced the gift? I think everyone who dances close embrace will have some experience of it, but compared to your milonguero partners, we are all beginners. We are still trying to listen to the music, keep to the compas, lead clearly, avoid other dancers (and in London that can keep us busy!) Until these things are second nature, our attention is at best divided. Until then the gift might come slowly, precious moment by moment.

    I was thinking recently: this embrace should always be a very personal contact, it mustn’t become a routine dance position, because there’s a difference between dancing in a routine dance position and dancing with a specific human, and that human will know the difference.

    I was struck that local partners in Buenos Aires seem to fall straight into embrace, in a very immediate and trusting way, almost casually, even younger women who don’t have many years of experience. That was quite new to me, and I felt I was put immediately into a position of emotional responsibility, and that all the six areas you mention (although I’d never been able to count them!) were involved.

    & do I understand the secret of getting the gift? Well, now that you’ve summed it up, I think I might! The six behaviours are all familiar, but perhaps I never realised how they add up, what they can lead to. They seem instinctive, normal, but to draw attention to them like this is really valuable. Perhaps other women will come up with other factors: it’s a real inspiration to look at the embrace in this way.
    .-= John´s last blog ..Tango con dos =-.

    1. Hi John! Brilliant to hear from you.

      “I was thinking recently: this embrace should always be a very personal contact, it mustn’t become a routine dance position, because there’s a difference between dancing in a routine dance position and dancing with a specific human, and that human will know the difference.”

      So, so true. I mean, an example for me is simply with respect to the height of the man – my favourite position (for locking in on his heart) is with a short man and my arm right over his shoulder and my hand quite a way down his back, kinda curling around his side: our bodies have to be perfectly matched in size/build for this and when I dance like this I get the sensation that we mirror each other – two halves of a whole. Honestly, I can’t get any closer to a guy than this, except, in the bedroom. If the guy is the perfect height and build, I can lock in to him in probably one second flat. It’s so fast, it is scary, and honestly I think I can do it, with or without his help! I know I have surprised a few men by doing this!

      Taller guys, including my own beloved Carlos, I feel beautifully in tune, with my arm lower, around the side – I feel stretched up if I try to embrace in my usual way, so I seek another way where our hearts can be relaxed and free…
      Very tall and wide guys are trickiest for me and with them I can really feel a wall – especially if they are intent on presenting me with a ‘perfectly taught and learned position’, yet solid as a rock, embrace… how can I ever snuggle in?
      Lots of Argentine men are short – perfect for me.
      Lots of foreign and British men are quite tall – tough for me.
      In the milongas here, I avoid giving the mirada to tall men, because I know that there is a good chance that both they and I will struggle just for practical reasons. When I dance with tall friends I sometimes explain that I am going to try different embraces in an effort to connect better – it’s worth it, because, I usually feel them relax immediately, and we sometimes manage to find a way together. By telling him this, I let him know I care about him, that I want it to be good for us both.

      I think you are spot on about the responsibility for the man, all the things he is trying to do at once… just, Wow! You know what? That’s why this matters to me so much. Men have to work hard in tango, they deserve the gift in return. The problem is that sometimes they are kinda wasting energy working far too hard in things that just do not matter to me when it comes to me releasing the gift to them.
      I know I talk a lot about the Brit boys, but it’s because I love them and feel for them: Some apologise to me every five seconds for their mistakes, some are so worried they will get it wrong that they stumble in the effort of trying too hard and then apologise some more, some are scared to show me that they are human at all and instead present me with a “Don’t you even know what a gincho, guncho, gencho, gancho is?” type attitude… when all I long for is that they hold me like a lover might and walk in time to the music!

      I just want to shut up the apologies, hug them, show them bliss and be done with it.
      Possible? I don’t know, but I mean to find out!!!

      Thank you so much for the article you posted on your blog linking to this post of mine. I am truly grateful. Welcome everyone who found me via this:

      And if you didn’t, go and read it. What John says there, is FAB!
      Un abrazo fuerte!


      1. Actually I meant,

        I just want to love them enough to be able to stop the apologies, hug them free, show them bliss and be done with it.

        (I do not want to sound in any way critical because I am not really asking for something, I want to find a way to give something)


  15. Hi Sal
    I agree with John, initially so much to think and do when you are learning but… having said that, just recently it has been changing and the feeling of being ONE and almost dancing on clouds within the music (well my version anyway) has been happening with sometimes the most unlikley ladies
    i.e. not always the most experienced.
    So it is for those moments that we all come back and keep striving to improve not just our steps but our connection and musicality.
    Great Great post and I look forward to walking with you soon
    Luv JB

    1. JB!
      Great to hear this from you, that you are experiencing

      “the feeling of being ONE and almost dancing on clouds within the music”

      Once, I think I really did dance on clouds with a guy… just once.
      In Maipu 444 on a Tuesday night, vals, and it was as if my feet did not feel the floor – at all. Incredible.
      I could not dance for at least two tandas after it, because I was struggling to work out how he had achieved it – I have never found him again, but I will search for him until the ends of time.

      Being ONE – ah I have felt that many times now, and it keeps me going back for more. Isn’t it amazing that in tango, we are able to be one with another, in full view of the rest of the world, out there on the dance floor… and then go home to the one we love. It’s such a privilege in oh so many ways, and such a precious gift, whoever is the giver and whoever is the receiver. I am thankful every day to have felt the things I have felt in the tango hug.

      Yes, soon we will hug on the dance floor!
      And by then, that bloody book will be born 😉 I know you think Happy Tango is all a Sallycat illusion! But no, my friend, I will be placing a copy in your hand!!!

      Much love, SC

  16. This is beautiful sensuous writing about something that I really struggle to put into words and still struggle to release in my dancing, but that I recognise on the page here and on the dance floor when, occasionally, it happens for/to me. I think us Brits are particularly likely to miss out on this exchange, which for me is the essence of tango. I know that as a relative beginner I am still very vulnerable to anxieties about whether I am doing things right and whether my partner is a bit bored by my lack of adornos or judging my stiff legs.
    You talk about the problem of teaching the mechanics of the dance before introducing the idea of exchange of energies and I think that is a huge issue. I also wish technique was taught from a slightly different perspective: not, learn this in order to be a ‘better’ dancer and impress more people but learn this in order to free your body and your soul. Close embraces, pauses, an attitude of tuning out everyone else in the room and listening to your partner, these are gifts that both men and women can give to their dance partners.
    I know I have a long way to go before I can confidently expect to participate in the gift for even most of the time, but I catch glimpses on a good day and I know I am opening out and moving towards it. Thanks Sal, I really hope your mission to help us all unlock the gift is a huge success. I’m sure it will be! xx

    1. Oh H.
      Lovely words and an extension of my thinking:

      “not, learn this in order to be a ‘better’ dancer and impress more people but learn this in order to free your body and your soul”

      Your words make me think of this:

      I came to BsAs wanting to BE a great dancer, and ended up wanting to FEEL great when I danced – to both myself, and my partner.
      What turned out to be required for that shift in thinking and understanding?

      1. Solid technique classes over an intense initial period, gave my body sufficient skill to dance with confidence – thus my soul could fly. Thank you Ariel!

      2. Dancing to music that I knew, loved, and that resonated with my soul… being in the milongas here in BsAs means that I heard the same music over and over and found out what tunes had the most power to touch my inner core. Thank you the DJs of BsAs!

      3. Time in the tango hugs of men who know the secret – and that is by no means everyone here (as you know only too well), so there was much time involved to work out who they might be, and even begin to get dances with them! Thank you ‘the milongueros I love’, but all the other men along the way too – every single one, taught me something… Thank you every male tango dancer I have ever touched!

      4. Sharing the blissful experiences with other women, like you. Helping each other move away from ‘Am I good enough?’ towards ‘I rock!’ and thus unlocking the ‘magnetic energy’ that is one of the keys to attracting the men who know ‘the secret’… look at us yesterday kiddo, we were on fire, weren’t we? We all knew that we had lovely up energy to exchange with our guys out there on the other side of the room, and they knew it too. Thank you my tanguera friends!

      Here’s to the exploration to come and the bliss that we know it will bring!
      I’m very grateful to be sharing my journey of discovery with you.

      Sorry, because I know that I went off track a bit there, but somehow your comment made me feel grateful to all along the way who have helped me free my gift 🙂


  17. Sally, I love this post. I started to realize that I could give this gift when a leader told me that I danced differently while relaxed and smiling. I didn’t quite know what it meant at that point, but I knew that my attitude was integral to the dance.

    The moment when the gift became totally apparent was after dancing with a particular milonguero. He walked up and gave me an absolute bear hug. It was a real hug. Genuine. He held me, and then we danced. All I had to think about was hugging back and enjoying it. The music and the walk became crystal clear, as long as I paid attention to that hug. And at the end, he told me that he received my gift.

    That hug is the most important thing to me. The mystery and the punch line aren’t necessary for me, but the hug and the pause and the slow reveal are crucial. The courtesy is a cherry on top.

    1. Hello Modern Tanguera!
      Thank you for sharing.

      “He held me, and then we danced.”
      When you say, he told you he’d received your gift, do you mean he actually told you, or that you saw it in him? I’d love to know.

      Yes, the hug, the pause and the slow reveal are the crux of it for me, too. The essentials. The other things can add to the magic of it in my case, and perhaps spellbind me a little more…
      Thank you for telling me what matters most to you, and in doing so, that the way I have described it makes sense.

      Warm hug, SC

      1. The way you described it makes perfect sense. 🙂 And it has resonated with a good number of your readers, too!

        I did see that he received the gift—in the hug that followed the tanda, in his eyes, in his smile—but he told me, too. Not in those exact words, but he told me. He talked about feeling how much I could feel the music, feeling the music through me, the feel of my embrace…talking around the edges of the gift. But I knew he had received the gift when we parted ways, and he said to me, “From now on when I think of [this city], I will think of you.”

        1. Modern Tanguera,
          Oh wow. That is so wonderful. Everything you say, but extra special has to be,
          “From now on when I think of [this city], I will think of you.”
          I know you said that the punch line wasn’t necessary for you and I completely understand that – and it only adds something for me, when the crucial hug, pause and slow reveal are already there, but hey, that was a pretty amazing punch line, no?
          I love your story, and I am so happy I asked you to tell a little more.


  18. An excellent read, thanks Sally. I couldn’t resist commenting. The gift and the secret, powerful catalysts of emotional alchemy.

    In more than just a superficial sense, your description of the secret reads like a guide to seduction (with the benefit of certain boundaries that tend to go with tango). I feel the ‘secret’ is something that can be shared to encourage that liberated state in the follower, without necessarily being so affected by the ‘gift’ (hence those heart breaking occasions where someone you gave it too has forgotten you the next week). This fact indicates that leaders seek a variety of qualities from followers (and of course vice versa), that not everyone’s gift holds the same appeal.

    That liberated, surrendered, molten state of simultaneous closeness and openness is a massive attractor, for those who have tasted it. However, character and technique are also major factors. When someone makes us feel like we’re at the top of the world we have different ways of expressing it, sometimes with a lot of gusto, sometimes with a reverent stillness, or we get more playful or aroused or fiesty and all shades between. Sometimes the emotion can overcome us and we lose our balance 🙂 So it is with followers when they give the ‘gift’ (according to how I understand you mean it, basically ‘tango love’).

    So I think the gift tastes a little different for each follower who gives it. And for a leader who knows the secret, the more skill they have to mould that open state and to keep it within the bounds of current ability, as you point out, the more chance of meeting emotionally there is.

    I’ve had some beautiful surprises with the gift, of sudden understanding and flow. I’ve also had some ‘interesting’ experiences, where a follower’s good technique begins to turn into mush, which is a sign to scale back the tango for a while.

    I really beleive that, like encouragement, the ‘gift state’ enables rapid development as a dancer. In the right hands the ability to just ‘flow’ without question opens up so many possibilities, besides the emotional.

    I ask myself who I don’t try and use the secret (beyond treating the follower with respect and sensitivity) with everyone I dance with who tries to meet me. I suppose the frank answer is that it takes effort. There’s no question that it always feels nice to help someone into that gift state, to see that radiant smile and feel the gratitude. However, if the chances of getting what I really want (for me at least feeling a real meeting of character and creativity with the music, with all the delishousness of unclipped playfulness, energy and sensuality) seem pretty slim compared to the effort it might take, I often don’t try that hard. Such is life. I’ve noticed it’s easier to share the secret with a follower who doesn’t have a shed load of fear and is willing to wait.

    If you’re in an area where your prospective partners don’t quite tick your boxes, I guess it pays to take a longer term view and make more effort with the secret (and the encouragement)!


    1. Hi Joe, thank you so much for all that you have written.
      You have said much, and I’m going to have a good read of it, and then reply, if that’s ok. My week is turning out very hectic, and I don’t want to rush off a quick response… hope you won’t mind 🙂

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thinking on this topic. It has been quite overwhelming to receive so many amazing and personal responses. Just brilliant!!!

      Warm hug, SC

    2. OK Joe, I’m back.
      Again, thank you for all you say!
      I’m especially interested in the theme of when it’s worth ‘the effort’ (for men) to give their all to unlock the gift in a partner and in my case ‘the effort’ to try to ‘get in to him’ enough to find him, melt into him, and so create the conditions that enable me to give ‘the gift’.
      I guess that here in BsAs, in the milongas I enjoy the most, the conditions are such that the people who dance with me choose me because they really want to dance with me and vice versa. There are always a lot of strangers, you see, and I watch them to work out who might be ‘best matched to me’, who I most want to choose. If any of those men choose me back, then we’re on, and our mutual desire plus other factors, such as the fact we will probably well matched in body shape and height, creates ideal conditions. In these circumstances I will always give everything I have.
      For me, it’s less straightforward in circumstances where either party feels under pressure or obligation to dance with someone (for whatever reason), because then I might know before I begin that it is going to be less rewarding, or I might suspect that it will be. I might hold something back from the start, or I might try to ‘get in to him’, feel a wall of ego, or sense that he has no clue of the existence of ‘the secret’ and decide to dance at a more superficial level than I am capable of.
      This is one reason I love the use of the cabeceo in a milonga, because it means circumstances are created where both people dance with each other because they have observed each other and truly, truly want to dance – perfect conditions for giving and receiving ‘the gift’.

      In Buenos Aires, if I find myself in a milonga where there are very few men that I really want to dance with, I will prefer to dance just a few tandas with those men, than settle for less than I want… and that is the Buenos Aires way. I am happy to sit out, rather than have poor experiences on the dance floor – for a start in Buenos Aires, it’s polite to dance a full tanda with a partner, and there is no option to just dance say one or two tangos (unless you begin very late in the tanda) – so I think hard before choosing a partner… four lengthy Pugliese numbers can be hell in the wrong arms.

      In England conditions might be very different. I respect that. When I visit and men (many of whom I know as friends or acquaintances) ask me verbally to dance, I will be unlikely to turn them down the first time they ask me, but (if there are no tandas) I might dance less than four tunes with them, or I might make a decision that I’d prefer not to dance with them again… though I do honestly find that a bit tricky when they ask me verbally – I still find it hard to refuse a British man I know, to his face. Ah but this is getting on to a whole other subject!

      Basically in a milonga in BsAs where I go to dance for pleasure, I try to seek the conditions (and I actively look for all the behaviours I mentioned in my post to help me do that) that enable the giving and receiving of the gift, because this is why I go out to dance. And I am very fortunate, because, in BsAs, the range of available partners is such that I have a great chance of bliss, each time.

      Have I expanded on one of your points? I hope so!
      Thanks so much for your comment, it is great feedback, and I will reflect on it further.


      1. thanks Sally for your response. You make a good point about the cabeceo, how using it ensures a good chance of having the right conditions to ‘give the gift’. Although things are certainly different in England, the benefits of the cabeceo remain the same, to those who use it. I also find it hard to refuse a dance when a follower asks me and sometimes there is a sense of obligation. It’s a tough one. I know it’s hard for followers when there’s so many more of you than leaders and so many leaders that are a little way off the mark (which is why I feel more followers should learn to lead over here). For me as a leader, what makes being asked verbally feel slightly better is if the follower does it in a relaxed, friendly, unpressured way.

        Thinking about it some more (I’ll try to avoid writing another essay 🙂 ) I think there are several routes to me ‘opening up’, and different ways of doing it. Two ways come to mind.

        1) I’m primarily focused on building confidence in the follower, helping her find the music and find me, to feel safe and good in her movement. As this happens a mutual sense of musicality comes into the dance. Like writing a poem to a strict form, the restriction on use of language can inspire creativity. The richness in this dance is in the gift I give the follower and then in the gift she gives me: trust in both her own and my movement so we can start forgetting about whether we’re understanding each other and just have fun with the music. I feel warm after such dances.
        2) She is at least my match in technical ability and playful, inventive character. We meet at many points. The music and the moment soon fill up the world and the boundaries of the field we’re meeting in start to roll back until I am no longer aware of them. There is always a quality of respect and sensitivity, willingness to wait, etc. But it feels like no recipe is needed because we are a natural match. We are equal partners. Although our roles are still slightly different, there’s a lot of overlap and it’s beautiful. Sparks fly.

        What encourages me to pursue 1)? A follower’s attitude. Can she overcome her fears enough (and also respect my responsibility on the dance floor) to give me a chance of leading? Is she willing to be still? Also very important: does my body hurt when dancing with her? That may seem like an extreme way of putting it, but when you dance a lot, if there are some small but common things that put strain of your body, then over time they’ll begin to hurt. Most of it comes down to being able to hold an axis without relying on the leader as a prop, and not pulling the leader around to do your ‘moves’. Yes it takes some time to learn, but it’s also something you can practice on your own. Actually sparks can still fly with 1), beyond the nice warm feeling but it depends for me on there being a little chemistry present, independent of the tango.

        As for 2), what lets me know that it might be possible? Her confidence and sensitivity, how she balances my energy (in terms of compression and expansion, engaged elasticity, smooth and calm resistance), combined with a friendly warmth in her embrace. That opens the door, I feel confident to express my feelings freely with the music now. Then if our characters, which includes the way we most like to interpret the music, and bodies are well matched, it’s on.

        You make a great point about body compatibility. For a long time I’ve felt that there’s a sense of closeness I can only get when I’m of a similar hight to a woman and my arm fits snugly all the way around her back. I still feel this way. There’s something very ‘right’ about it. A well fitted hug, you can’t beat it. That’s not to say I can’t have great dances with followers who don’t fit that description, it’s just an ideal.

        For some reason I feel like separating the things that help me give my best in a dance into experience or ‘ability’, relative to me. In summary:
        Followers newer to tango: it’s really just the core technique of waiting for a clear direction and impetus, along with not worrying about what is and isn’t possible in terms of where your feet go next. Focus more on the quality of your embrace and maintaining the connection. That’s all, it’s magic.
        Followers better versed in tango: The more light hearted and relaxed you are in your attitude the better, it makes me feel more confident – especially if your embrace gives me a sense of affection and support, much like a hug (although it doesn’t always have to look like a hug).

        So really, whether it’s the leader or the follower doing it, the first thing is to build or encouage the calm confidence of your partner. Then they are more likely to give there best, at least in my experience.

        Oops, another essay, haha. Thanks for inspiring me to write. I plan my own tango book before too long and I expect I’ll use some of these musings again then. all the best! x

  19. I do not know whether I’ve ever given The Gift (it seems pretty likely that I have, in all probability), but oh my God, Sally, oh my God! You’ve described the best dancers exactly! I can feel myself in the arms of my own favorite partners just from reading this!
    .-= The Accidental Tangoiste´s last blog ..Embodiment =-.

    1. Hello Accidental Tangoiste!
      Welcome to this marvellous subject, and thank you, thank you for posting about it here
      (everyone, go and read) on your own blog. I am very grateful.

      Oh, I am so delighted that I hit the mark for you with my description! You know what? I can even read my own post and BE in the arms of my guys all over again…
      If you recognise all this stuff, hey, you must have given ‘the gift’, no? If you think you have, what are the signs in your guys that tell you you have? What are the signs in you that you have?
      The ways we show that we have given or received ‘the gift’ – for example ‘the giggle’ as mentioned by Joe-tango above, and the things I mention in my reply to him… fascinating to consider, I reckon! (ps. When I ask you about the signs that you have given the gift… I mean, apart from the giggle! I just read on your blog that you giggle! Brilliant… me too. Me too, and I just can’t help it!)

      Thank you so much for commenting. I have added your blog to my links page 🙂
      Warm hug, SC

      1. I’m not sure what signs I may have seen in my partners, without noticing, if I’ve given the Gift. But I know in myself, I may feel literally light-headed or weak in the knees after a sublime dance. I smile helplessly–friends tease me that I’ve become drunk. 🙂

        Oh wait, I remember–once a favorite partner kissed me after we’d danced (on the cheek, and he’s Italian, so I tell myself it doesn’t count as a kiss kiss, alas for my giddy tango-crush on him ;). That was a good sign. 🙂 Others give me big bear-hugs. (I like to give hugs after the embrace or squeeze their hands between songs, to show my own gratitude.)

        Generally I take partners’ remembering me, especially if I don’t see them very often, and enthusiasm for dancing with me again as a sign that I’m probably doing something right. 🙂

        I was so happy to hear that you giggle too! I’ve worried, in the past, that it must mean that I don’t understand tango, because it’s supposed to be sad, right? 😉 (I gave up on that line of thinking; I just enjoy it too much to try to be artificially sad about it!)

        Hugs back to you, and many thanks,

        .-= Accidental Tangoiste´s last blog ..Saying yes to myself =-.

        1. Ah Accidental Tangoiste,
          Yes, the squeeze of the hands. I recognise that one. And yes, sometimes a hug after the embrace too, though maybe here in BsAs with ‘the milongueros I love the most’, more likely is the lingering embrace, rather than an overt hug… neither of us really want to let go when the music ends, and we stay for a moment, perhaps with a slight squeeze, that no-one else would see.

          I confess I have surprised some milongueros with my giggle. A couple of the older ones have asked me why I always laugh! Now they know it’s a compliment, I’ve got them laughing too!

          And yes, of course the ultimate test is in whether they come back for me, a second tanda perhaps, or looking my way the next week.

          Weak at the knees, dizzy, drunk on the buzz and unable to dance the next tanda – I know them all. Heaven!

          It’s lovely to think about these joyful things. A great start to Monday, and I’ll be noticing everything when I go out to dance this afternoon.
          Thank you so much for sharing more of your experience. Brilliant!


          1. Mmm, the lingering embrace… Yes, never wanting that feeling to end! Rarer, in my experience (maybe the men I mostly know, here in the States, are less comfortable with just holding a woman after the music stops, or maybe I myself am too quick to pull away)–but so delicious when it is allowed to happen!

            I’ve been thinking more about my Italian partner–he was also one of the first times I’d consciously experienced a leader waiting for my relaxation, the pause.

            We’d danced beautifully together the very first time I met him, but the second time, during the first song of the tanda, something was off, and I was very tense by the end of the song. When we resumed the embrace for the second song, I stood for a second, in that instant before the first step. I took a deep breath, from my belly, and slowly let it out. And he just waited to feel my body relax, until we could feel each others’ heartbeats. Only then did he take the first step. And then, as I remember it, our dancing was together again.

            As I said, it may not have been the first time that had ever happened to me, but it was among the first times I realized it was happening. This kind of attentiveness and patience–irresistible!

            Look, I’m starting to gibber just thinking about how good it feels. 😉
            .-= Accidental Tangoiste´s last blog ..Saying yes to myself =-.

            1. Yes AT (ah now I am abbreviating your fab name as I often do, hope you won’t mind!),

              “When we resumed the embrace for the second song, I stood for a second, in that instant before the first step. I took a deep breath, from my belly, and slowly let it out. And he just waited to feel my body relax, until we could feel each others’ heartbeats.”

              I love doing that deep breath thing. Kinda telling my guy I am there, and that I care enough about him to really tune in and focus on the physical connection… if he gives me time to do it, I love it . I love it when they too breathe deep before moving off. My favourite ‘milonguero that I love’ does it every time – not in an overstated way, you understand – but I feel him there, and I know that he feels me tune in with my breath too.
              Attentiveness and patience. You said it. And it is wonderful.

  20. Sally — great mentorship for those of us who listen to what women want. Reading your blog is like listening in on a ladies-only conversation. I have my ear to the air vent! And the secrets I find out through blogs! The tanguera-blogs help me also find my own talents; so that I may share the “gift” with my milongueras.

    Early on I discovered the embrace with my tanguera from México in EL Paso. But I learned how to dance with others in the milongas of Germany and France. I was hooked. I gave up all my “moves” to the embrace, dancing “simply,” musically. Then I started discovering the power of tango having similar elements of a therapeutic technique I had learned for PTSD of combat vets. The gift (theologically said is “grace”) — the gift or grace-full-ness has a powerful therapeutic effect. Grace-full-ness is a type resonance with the soul of two breathing, moving and embracing in harmony.

    Regarding courtesy: I am so glad that you wrote this part too. I started feel unsure of myself. I wondered if I were the only man escorting her back to her chair at milongas near me — at least I am a minority. I was wondering if I was being überfreundlich. One thing I would add to “courtesy”: Nearly every woman has dressed up for the milonga. I would never come in jeans or rags. It dishonors ladies who took the time for us. Yet this is typical problem in the US. I never saw it in Europe.

    I am going to copy-and-paste your sage wisdom. Please check out my reflections on tango therapy for rejection. The current reflection is the third of a series; however,the present published topic is all about the embrace.
    .-= mark Word´s last blog ..Pneuma-Tango: Solution Number Five =-.

    1. Hello mark Word,
      Thank you so much for commenting, and for sharing your blog – added it to my Links page.
      Courtesy is very very important to me. I cannot stand being abandoned on the dance floor to fight my way through the crowd at the end of a tanda… in Buenos Aires, the escort back to the table, is the norm – thank goodness, as I am often a bit dis-orientated having just awoken from a state of deep bliss. I agree with you too about the dress code – I don’t need flash or mega-glam, but I do appreciate elegance and care. I try to give it, and I like to receive it too.

      “I was hooked. I gave up all my “moves” to the embrace, dancing “simply,” musically.”

      This is music to my ears. Unless the moves are a seamless extension of the guy’s soul, and are shown to me gradually as part of his ‘slow reveal’, then I find that his ‘moves’ can be a block to his soul and however hard I look, I just can’t ever find him… these men might have fun dancing with me, if I manage to follow their moves, but they won’t hold me in the palm of their hand, or ever know who I really am. Sometimes I have even heard via others that such men (usually visitors from outside Argentina) have said things about me like, ‘she isn’t a very good dancer’. Mmmmmm. What does that mean eh? I wasn’t doing what they wanted? I mis-stepped on some weird move that was led from the mind and not from the heart? I chose not to follow a high gancho on a crowded dancefloor? Those men never had a chance of knowing what sort of a dancer I really was. They shut me out from the start with their jerky ‘head generated’ repertoires and their egos. What a shame.

      Anyway, that’s what your comment pulled up for me! Thank you again for joining the discussion. I am overwhelmed by the number of great comments that this post has generated. I feel blessed.


  21. Sally, I added a poem to my blog, truly inspired by you. In the poem, I reference “the gift.” For shorthand of what “the gift’ means, I have a link to this wonderful post of yours. The poem is called, ‘the Older Woman.”

    Anyway, you have in me a true fan.

    Let me add to your experience (in reply to my comment to your blog), regarding hearing from others who criticize your dancing. I have female “informants” who tell me that certain men criticize my dancing. It would hurt my feelings if I did not know that although these men may look good, they don’t feel good to the women they lead. Maybe one day I will ‘look good’ too. 🙂 If I can only have one or the other — “feel good” has my vote.
    .-= mark Word´s last blog ..The Older Woman (poem) =-.

    1. Hello again mark Word
      Wow! A poem, inspired by me. That’s a pretty special way to start the week! Thank you for sharing it with me. How wonderful that you were moved to write something beautiful like that.

      I am struck that when we do something from our hearts (like me writing this post) so many other good things flow from it. Things the original person could never have dreamt of. This is what I believe, and it’s why I follow my heart and create my art. It’s lovely to see my belief in action.

      “Feel good” has my vote too. Yet, I understand completely that we won’t feel good to everyone – that’s one thing, and completely normal, as we are all unique and different and may not resonate with each other’s energy.
      The thing I feel a bit sad about is that some men (and they can be from any nation) do not ever give either them or me the chance to feel good, and I will add, that once upon a time, I was right there with them – before I exchanged wanting to ‘be great’ with wanting to ‘feel great’. I won’t repeat myself now, because I wrote about this theme long ago, here Anyway, from what you say, I think you know what I mean.

      Once again, thank you for sharing your poem.

      Happy Monday!

    2. Mark! “these men may look good?”. I wonder who they are, I don’t think that you should worry about that my friend, since you always seem to dance with so much passion. You seem to dance who you are, and that with time will lead you to your own individual style, as oppose to trying to look like someone else.

  22. Thank you Sally for writing another inspiring post that touches the hearts of so many. Here’s my contribution, sorry it’s taken a while for me to get some words together.

    Recently I’ve found that some of the Leaders I know have started to ask “What is it that makes him so popular?” and “what do you feel the difference is between Leaders?” and even “What can I do to get woman to want to dance with me, like that?”

    It’s made me have to stop and think about why my heart skips a beat when I see a particular favourite…..what is it about their dancing that makes them a ‘favourite’?

    I hope that your blog will help those Leaders and they will be inspired to seek ‘The Gift’ that is such a pleasure to give. How frustrating it is when I meet a lovely Leader and, however much I try, they just aren’t able to ‘take’ what is being offered. But I agree with what you are saying, with these guys I make an extra effort to make them feel comfortable and secure in the hope that they will open up and accept what is on offer.

    For me there are two special Pauses.

    The first, like you say, is the moment when we settle into the embrace. My best compliment was from a Leader who said “When we embrace, I feel I could spend the whole track without moving my feet and I would still have danced with you”.

    The second Pause is the little ‘secret’ that is shared at the end of the tanda, just before separating and walking back to the seats. It’s that fraction of a second where, without words, we can let each other know that the dance was particularly special.

    As for the ‘giggle’,for me it’s a smile that expresses everything….

    Look forward to the release of the book.

    1. Hello ChristineH

      Time is not of the essence… comments remain open on this post, and I am delighted that you have added yours now. Thank you.

      I love what you say about the pauses.

      “The first, like you say, is the moment when we settle into the embrace. My best compliment was from a Leader who said “When we embrace, I feel I could spend the whole track without moving my feet and I would still have danced with you”.”

      Exactly! I would love all men (who feel unsure about their ability to unlock ‘the gift’ in a woman) to try this (or at least the first 20 seconds of a favourite tango) with a woman in their arms… actually I’d like them to do it over and over again until the heart to heart part feels natural (since writing this post, I’ve heard of a tango school in BsAs where this is done – and the guy (a young Argentine) I spoke to about it told me it was a powerful and wonderful experience that taught him more than he could ever have imagined about connection – brilliant!

      “The second Pause is the little ’secret’ that is shared at the end of the tanda, just before separating and walking back to the seats. It’s that fraction of a second where, without words, we can let each other know that the dance was particularly special.”

      Yes, this is a precious moment indeed. Oh God, I confess that occasionally I am stuck there with him, two magnets attracting and it requires real force to pull away – and I feel the same in him too. In that moment I silently say thank you to him in my heart and if I know it’s the last dance of the day with him, I wish him well – I sometimes even visualise him walking out into his world (whatever that is, as with the guys here in BsAs I never know them enough to know their worlds outside), and I pray he will come back to me next week, as some of my guys are quite old in body, and well, who knows what can happen in the days ahead… All that in a split second? Yes. This second pause is so special because it means that we have given and received the gift.

      Thank you for sharing and for making me remember this second pause, ChristineH.
      I have started my day with gratitude to ‘the milongueros I love’! Perfect.


  23. Hi Sally. This is the first time I have commented though I have read your blog before. I like a lot about what you wrote – it is honest, eloquent, has integrity and has clearly touched a nerve with many people, judging by the responses!

    To your question, as a leader, the answer is Yes and Yes. It doesn’t happen often. It needs the right lady, time, place and music.

    I have a question back to you too: is the giving and receiving of this Gift the main reason you dance tango?

    Okay I have a second: How important then is the music?

    I agree what you described is important, desirable and would be great if more dancers do it (and do it well). It is for a man and woman to connect, share, have a conversation. But perhaps this is only part of it?

    I want to say to her what the song is making me feel, without the words to get in the way. And for this, she must be willing to give herself up to it for 3 minutes. Personally, there’s no point having a conversation if there’s nothing to say – the wonderful music is what makes me want do it.

    1. Hello Game Cat. I am delighted that you have commented now, and such a thought provoking comment too. Brilliant. A few others, outside of the commenters on this post, have mentioned the question of the music to me, too.

      So to your questions:

      “I have a question back to you too: is the giving and receiving of this Gift the main reason you dance tango?”
      Yes it is.

      “How important then is the music?”

      I believe that the best possible conditions for giving and receiving the gift are when both partners are dancing to tango music that resonates with their souls. Most important of all though, I think, is that the man’s soul resonates with the music he chooses to dance to… if his soul is truly soaring to that music then he can give the woman his all.

      With respect to this post I wrote on ‘the gift’ I think that I kind of took the finest musical conditions for granted! Here in BsAs I have, over time, discovered that I only want to get out of my chair to dance to music that moves me to do so. I have noticed that ‘the milongueros I love the most’ only get out of their seats to dance to the music that moves them. Thus between us and the music we choose (or the music that chooses us!) we create the perfect conditions to give and receive ‘the gift’.

      One of my favourite milongueros once said to me, as we pulled apart at the end of the first tango in the tanda, “This is the music that makes me tremble, and I have saved it for you.” The truth is that I know he loves it, because it’s one of the few orchestras that he will leave his seat for, and the fact that he cabeceos me for it, and the fact that I love it too… well, see how we are heading for potent conditions before we have even embraced!?

      I believe that a milonguero’s soul will be freed to dance his heart out when he is dancing to tango music that he loves. I would go as far as to say that some of my milongueros have opened my mind to begin to love certain music, because they love it, and their soul, their dance, has shown me how to love it too. I do not have their experience of the music, and when I arrived in Buenos Aires I had zero experience of it. These amazing men, who have been listening to tango music for all their lives, have taught me to love it over time.

      In my book Happy Tango in the A to Z section entitled Music, I have attempted to explain something of my story (from the beginning of me learning tango to a time closer to now) with respect to tango music. I won’t repeat all that here.
      Today, the music that drags me from my seat and insists I dance tango is a subset of what is played in the traditional milongas of BsAs and includes some (but not all) of Calo, D’Angelis, D’Agostino, Biagi and D’Arienzo… and some valses whose orchestras I couldn’t reel off (I am one of those people who knows what she loves when she hears it, but can’t always name it… a feely girl rather than a trivial-pursuit-winning girl, I confess!).

      I cannot speak for others, and I know that many people love to dance tango to non-tango music, but in my case, I believe I can only give my one true gift when I am dancing to tango music in the arms of a man who is dancing to tango music that makes his soul ‘tremble’, and that my one true gift may shine brightest of all, if the same music makes my soul ‘tremble’ too.

      Does that answer your question?
      I feel another post coming on!!!

      Thanks so much for adding the wonderful music to the conversation. It is after all the tune to which our Argentine-tango souls sing.

      Let me know what you think of what I say.
      Un abrazo, SC

    2. Quite accurate, funny and also true!
      Clever girl ! It’s best to have a few favourite milongueros than just one! What a vaccine against falling in love with someone in the middle of so much passion that tango has. I already felt a bit of what you said: one of these days, I found myself a bit sad because someone wasn’t in the room, it looked a bit empty … Well, the wonderful thing about this dance, is that after a while another gifted person will eventually show up, of course nobody really replaces no one but you feel a bit more compensated… Don’t you think?
      I’ll keep an eye on your great blog

      1. Hi Paulucha, yes it’s good to have a few favourites… and for sure, I love discovering new ‘milongueros I love the most’ too!
        I always think that lke anything in life, my milongueros are just lent to me – maybe for one great tanda or maybe for many (if I am lucky!), but one day they will move on, or disappear, or tire of me… so I must enjoy every second I am in their arms!
        Thank you for reading and commenting. Am delighted you enjoyed this post 🙂


  24. Wow. I didn’t expect such a fulsome reply. 😉

    I’m glad the music is important to you. What is interesting to me is that, unless I am mis-interpreting, the music seems for you to be the precondition to engage in Gift giving.

    I’ve always thought of it the other way round (rightly or wrongly): I learnt to connect intimately as a precondition to be able to share the music. Yes, only tango music.

    Once, for some external reason, I “lost” the music – for a few weeks I couldn’t feel it anymore when I listend to it. It was like losing your faith. It was very lonely.

    1. Hi Game Cat

      My reply was a bit fulsome, wasn’t it?! Enthusiastic, you could say… 😉 Me, all over.
      Thank you for following up!

      Is the music ‘the precondition’ for me to engage in Gift giving?
      I guess what I wrote in the original post means that it is not that simple, for me. So many other things play a part. And at the centre of it all is ‘the hug’, the intimate connection (as you mention).

      And yet, yes, the music has a say, ’tis true:

      If music I can’t stand is playing, then I might not make it to ‘the hug’ at all.
      If I make it to ‘the hug’ and the intimate connection is there, then it’s possible that music that resonates with our souls might take us to the absolute peaks of giving and receiving the gift.
      If I make it to ‘the hug’ and the intimate connection is there, the experience can get me loving music I haven’t loved before!
      If there’s no connection happening (for whatever reason), then all the beautiful music in the world won’t help.

      To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I know all my own answers yet. And maybe I never will. Maybe there is a part of tango that will always be a mystery to me. And perhaps that’s the part that keeps me dancing.


  25. What more can I say? Your last sentence captured it all. It is beguiling, it is elusive, it has moments of perfection. It is all there in the music, waiting for you to find it.

    Do drop a line when you’re in London.


  26. Hey Sally,
    had been forwarded this blog and forwarded it to others;

    last Saturday after some amazing dances:
    ‘Mmm, thanks for the gift :-)’
    ‘:-) thanks for earning it…’

    all the best,

    1. Wow! KG, that’s so cool! What a wonderful comment to wake up to on a Monday morning.
      Am delighted to hear of beautiful exchanges of ‘the gift’ on the dance floor. Heart warming stuff.
      And thanks for forwarding my blog around to other tango dancers. I really appreciate it.

      Un abrazo from Buenos Aires, SC

  27. Ah, the gift… truly a sublime experience. For me it seems to come from a depth of connection, with the partner, the music and the moment.

    But as for a parting compliment? Sometimes there aren’t words to meet those moments, and the gift is acknowledged through a glance or a touch on the arm as we part at the tanda’s end.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Russell,
      It is sublime, isn’t it?
      Yes, I totally see how the parting compliment can be or not be… I just love the way the old Argentine milongueros manage to pull it off with such aplomb and that always makes me smile a little more… but you are right, the look in the eyes sure is another marvellous way to pay that compliment, and if the gift truly has been given and received, the eyes cannot hide it!
      Warm abrazo, SC

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