Navigating the social part of tango can be tricky. Navigating as a teacher comes with additional management. Up until now, I had never really set any "rules" or boundaries with my students or even my friends during a milonga. I always made decisions in the moment as how I was feeling and what kind of night I wanted to have, and I think to a certain point, I need to retain a part of that flexibility. But after last weekend's milongas, I was left feeling agitated, and guilty, and agitated that I felt guilty! My students, my friends, and my dancing partners are not always the same, they overlap or stand alone.
My students see me sometimes two or three times in a week, they have a lot of access to me, and in the classroom and practica setting, we are building trust and dancing more and more with each other. I also want their first experiences in milongas to be fun and as stress free as possible, so sometimes I sit with them, or tell them they can sit with us if they want, chat with them during the milonga, and dance with them. Here is the issue...theoretically milongas are my leisure time, my time to dance and to hang out with friends. At some point I need to be "off the clock." If they always have access to me, I may find myself in a position where I want to have a certain type of night that doesn't involve fostering my students, and having that access cut off, may come across cold or mean.
My core group of friends are my friends for a reason, we enjoy each other's company and have other things beside tango in common, and usually like to chat and hang out outside of tango. The rest of my friends, just like everyone else, ranges from acquaintances to kindred spirits that you are happy to see at the milonga, but aren't necessarily making plans outside of that. Here is the issue...I do not enjoy dancing with all of my friends. But because we are friends, or even just really friendly towards each other, they feel more confident in asking me to dance with them. Or maybe they think, if we get along as friends, then we should also enjoy dancing with each other. I find this category the most difficult to navigate, because now the person who has my friendship notices that we didn't dance, and will come up to me to let me know, as if I wasn't aware of the conscious decision not to, and why? To make me feel guilty? They put me in a strange position to make an excuse to not hurt their feelings and potentially damage the friendship, or to corner me into promising a dance next time. It's friendship blackmail. And usually if I can break the habit of them wanting a dance, the friendship does get damaged along the way and is lost, which is always a shame. One should not have to be tied to the other.
Sometimes the people who challenge me, inspire my dance, and have an out of this world connection with on the dance floor does not translate in between milongas. If there is a language barrier or can't find common ground other than tango, then it just lives in that state. Here is the issue...In the perfect world I would make a deeper friendship connection to these people, but if it needs to be forced, then I won't push it, and will limit when I choose to dance with them because I don't want them, or I, to feel that we are just using each other for a good dance and have an uncomfortable silence in between songs.