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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Just follow the leader

Have your ever heard the expression: Ladies, all you need to do is follow the lead ?  In this day and age of gender equality you might perhaps sense that the woman's role in the dance is diminished through this terminology - such an inadequate descriptor of the woman's role in tango, which is quite different to the man's role, but no less significant.  (By the way, I do believe that the complementary [man-woman] roles in tango may be a major factor in the popularity of the dance.  Perhaps western society's political correctness and inclination towards gender neutrality may be nudging people to the traditional gender roles in tango, as described by Paul Yang.)

Probably not all women in tango will agree with me, but when the music calls, and I'm in the embrace of a dance partner whom I trust, I love being taken on a short but memorable journey courtesy of my partner.  He is the principal guide to the music, while I contribute to that tour in my response to him and to the music.  But for him to treat me to his personalised insider's tour, he needs to feel my appreciation of his efforts by relaxing in his embrace, and by being present just for him and the music.  A delightful quality of Golden Age tango music is that it is multi-layered, so, each tour guide will show me different highlights of his appreciation of the music and perhaps some hidden surprises.  How good is that?  Every tanda offers the potential for a new journey.  Why wouldn't I enjoy the woman's role?

I am curious to know what men feel about their role in the dance.



  1. I completely agree. Vio (Tangoforge) has put it neatly - in tango we are able to experience the essence of gender roles. I believe this is something we actually need as part of our wholeness.

    I see, in this respect, "political correctness" as something which has become outright dangerous as it deprives us of our connection to our nature. While a small dose of it may have been beneficial, it has grown into something which is not more than a ecosphere, where a lot of people benefit with funds or influence they otherwise would not have, and of course have any interest to uphold and ever expand it. PC is, in its core, an attempt for mind control by defining what is right or wrong thinking - which has never been a good idea as it makes people partially blind.

  2. After reading the article, “Gender roles in Tango”.
    As a woman I felt that this was written by belief and a way of thinking that is out date.
    I am referring to the first comment regarding woman 1 complete surrender
    The woman must entrust herself to the man. She must let go her ego, relax her body, melt in his embrace, be obedient, and move in unison with him. By her surrender she dispels his misgivings and gives him permission to be her leader. Just like when a baby is born the young parents suddenly become grownups, she makes him a man by being a woman.
    I am not sure if you read the article being a married woman and being faithful in my relationship. I found the article disconcerting, I also felt embraced that my husband, who does not dance, had read the article and questioned me and the motivation of the men. I am a woman who is happy and vibrant in whom I am. I do not make a man feel like a man whatever the writer was referring to seems, very one sided. As to being obedient as a woman, I respond to the music and the leads that the leader may give me I do not melt in his arms, the embrace is firm and strong. I am glad that you raise these articles and I am now questioning the motivation of the men and the type of people that actually believe this thinking. I hope this is not the type of thinking that men have in today’s society where we have equality and the woman’s roles is not to server a man.
    Like you PP I am looking forward to what men are thinking.

  3. After 20 years of tango on my feet, for me it's not a matter of only following the leader. Simply said, its a matter of DANCING half a second after the man's proposal. I think this is more difficult than the man's proposal !!!!
    To whom is interested I have literature about this (sorry, only in spanish).

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Paul Wang's "Gender roles in tango". In our society, these roles in tango understandably raise questions, such as which dance-partner to trust, to what extent does the woman "melt in his arms", and how others in particular, those people who are not tango dancers, might interpret this.

    Robert, my partner, made a most interesting comment. Often tango music is very romantic, but the romance is within the music,and it is the dance which allows him and a woman to experience the emotion of that music together.

    Certainly, there will be some men and women who may be looking for more than this when they come to a milonga. But if we don't feel comfortable with a person, we have a choice regarding whether we dance with them. The traditional codes of the milonga are there to protect us.

    If I do not or cannot relax in the embrace of my dance-partner, I know that I will not be able to lose myself in the emotions of that tanda. The joyful experience of unison with the music and my partner simply won't happen. Sure, I will be dancing, but with limitations.

  5. Dear Andy,

    The woman's role is a lot more challenging than some people imagine. For a start, at any point of this improvised dance, the woman usually has no idea what the man will propose, including the dynamic of any movement. Yet, she needs to respond elegantly in harmony with the music and her partner. And each partner will be different!

    Andy, I would be very interested in reading the literature. That's very kind. I wonder if the article also refers to the timing of the man's proposal?


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